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Lithuania General Information
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People, Language & Religion


Lithuanians are neither Slavic nor Germanic, although the union with Poland, German and Russian colonisation and settlement left cultural and religious influences.

Among the Baltic states, Lithuania has the most homogeneous population. According to the census conducted in 2001, 83.45% of the population identified themselves as Lithuanians, 6.74% as Poles, 6.31% as Russians, 1.23% as Belarusians, and 2.27% as members of other ethnic groups.

Poles are the largest minority, concentrated in southeast Lithuania (the Vilnius region). Russians are the second largest minority. They constitute sizeable minorities in Vilnius (14%) and Klaipėda (28%), and a majority in the town of Visaginas (52%). About 3,000 Roma live in Lithuania, mostly in Vilnius, Kaunas, and Panevėžys; their organisations are supported by the National Minority and Emigration Department.


Lithuanian, the official language, is noted for its purity in retaining ancient Indo-European language forms and has some remarkable similarities with Sanskrit. It is highly inflected, with seven noun cases. Like Latvian, it has rising, falling, and short intonations. Its Roman alphabet has many special symbols, including the hacek, dot, and cedilla. The majority speak Lithuanian for their first tongue. Polish and Russian are also widely used. Minorities have the right to official use of their languages where they form a substantial part of the population.


Lithuania witnessed extensive suppression of religious activities during the Soviet period. Although official statistics are not available, Lithuania is primarily Roman Catholic. A 2001 census indicated that about 79% of the population is nominally Roman Catholic. The next largest denomination, the Orthodox Church, has only about 141,000 members, about 0.04% of the population. The Old Believers (an Orthodox sect) have about 27,000 members. About 19,500 people are Lutherans, 7,000 are Evangelical Reformed, 4,000 are Jewish, 2,700 are Sunni Muslim, and about 300 are Greek Catholic. About 9.4% of the population claim no specific religious affiliation.

Lithuania is one of a few countries to have an active community of Karaites. The faith is a branch of Judaism, with tenets based exclusively on a literal interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures. The Karaites have two centres of worship in the country, in Vilnius and Trakia, with a total of about 250 members. The Karaites are considered an ethnic community as well. They speak a Turkic-based language and use the Hebrew alphabet.




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