Lithuania flag 10 x 15 cm
Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Respublika) is a country in Northern Europe, and is one of the three Baltic states. Situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, it shares borders with Latvia to the north, Belarus to the southeast, Poland, and the Russian exclave of the Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. Lithuania is a member of NATO and of the European Union. Its population is 3.4 million. Its capital and the largest city is Vilnius.
During the 14th century, Lithuania was the largest country in Europe: present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were territories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. With the Lublin Union of 1569 Poland and Lithuania formed a new state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighboring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772 to 1795, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania's territory. In the wake of the First World War, Lithuania's Act of Independence was signed on February 16, 1918, declaring the re-establishment of a sovereign state. Starting in 1940, Lithuania was occupied first by the Soviet Union then Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end in 1944 and the Nazis retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. On March 11, 1990, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its renewed independence.
Present-day Lithuania has one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union. Lithuania became a full member of the Schengen Agreement on 21 December 2007. In 2009, Lithuania will celebrate the millennium of its name.
The flag of Lithuania consists of a horizontal tricolor of yellow, green and red. It was adopted on March 20, 1989, almost two years before the reestablishment of Lithuania's independence following the end of the Soviet Union. Before its readoption, the flag had been used from 1918 until 1940 while Lithuania was occupied and then annexed by the Soviet Union. This flag had lighter colors. After a brief occupation by Nazi Germany (1941–1945), from 1945 until 1989, the Soviet Lithuanian flag consisted first of a generic red Soviet flag with the name of the republic, then changed to the red flag with white and green bars at the bottom. The last alteration to the current flag occurred in 2004 when the aspect ratio changed from 1:2 to 3:5.