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Nationality: Noun and adjective--Lithuanian(s).
Population: 3.476 million.
Growth rate: -2.5%. Birth rate--9.1/1,000. Death rate--11.6/1,000.
Ethnic groups: Lithuanian 83.5%, Poles 6.7%, Russians 6.3%, Belarusians 1.2%, Ukrainians 0.7% Jews 0.1% others 1.5%.
Religions: Catholic (70%), Orthodox (3%), Protestant (1%), Old Believers (0.8%), Jewish (0.1%).
Language: Lithuanian. A minority speaks Russian and Polish.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--7.8/1,000. Life expectancy--66 yrs. male, 77 yrs. female.
Work force (2002, second quarter): 1.73 million: Manufacturing industry 18.3%; agriculture 17.1%; wholesale and retail trade 15.5%; construction 6.3%; transport 6.3%; public administration and defense 5.1%.
People of Lithuania
The earliest evidence of inhabitants in present-day Lithuania dates back to 10,000 BC. Between 3,000-2,000 BC, the cord-ware culture people spread over a vast region of eastern Europe, between the Baltic Sea and the Vistula River in the west and the Moscow-Kursk line in the east. Merging with the indigenous population, they gave rise to the Balts, a distinct Indo-European ethnic group whose descendants are the present-day Lithuanian and Latvian nations and the now extinct Prussians. The name "Lietuva", or Lithuania, might be derived from the word "lietava," for a small river, or "lietus," meaning rain (or land of rain).
Lithuanians are neither Slavic nor Germanic, although the union with Poland and Germanic and Russian colonization and settlement left cultural and religious influences. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. Most Lithuanians and ethnic Poles belong to the Roman Catholic Church; Orthodoxy is the largest non-Catholic denomination.
Enduring several border changes, Soviet deportations, a massacre of its Jewish population, and German and Polish repatriations during and after WWII, Lithuania has maintained a fairly stable percentage of ethnic Lithuanians (from 79.3% in 1959 to 83.5% in 2002). Lithuania's citizenship law and constitution meet international and OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] standards, guaranteeing universal human and civil rights.
The Lithuanian language still retains the original sound system and morphological peculiarities of the prototypal Indo-European tongue and therefore is fascinating for linguistic study. Between 400-600 AD, the Lithuanian and Latvian languages split from the Eastern Baltic (Prussian) language group, which subsequently became extinct. The first known written Lithuanian text dates from a hymnal translation in 1545. Written with the Latin alphabet, Lithuanian has been the official language of Lithuania again since 1989. The Soviet era had imposed the official use of Russian, so most Lithuanians speak Russian as a second language while the resident Slavic populace generally speaks Russian or Polish as a first language.