Lithuanian History Earliest History BCE-1400s Between the 7th and 2nd centuries BCE, Baltic tribes established themselves within Lithuania's present-day borders. These tribes were made up of a distinct Indo-European ethnic group whose descendents are the present-day Lithuanians and Latvians. The name Lithuania did not appear in European records until 1009 AD, when it was mentioned in the German manuscript, the "Annals of Quedlinburg." During the period 1236-1263, Duke Mindaugas united the various Baltic tribes and established the state of Lithuania, which was better able to resist the eastward expansion of the Teutonic Knights. In 1253, Mindaugas embraced Christianity for political reasons and accepted the crown from the Pope of Rome, becoming the first and only king in Lithuanian history. After the assassination of Mindaugas and the ensuing civil war, Grand Duke Gediminas took control of Lithuania. He reigned from 1316 to 1341, during which time the long-term expansion of Lithuania into the lands of the eastern Slavs began. He founded the modern capital city of Vilnius and started the Gediminas dynasty, which ruled Lithuania until 1572. By the end of the 14th century, Lithuania was the largest country in Europe, stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. In 1386, Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania was crowned the King of Poland, which intensified Lithuania's economic and cultural development and oriented it toward the West. It was at this time that the people of Lithuania embraced Christianity. In 1401, the formal union between Poland and Lithuania was dissolved. While Jogaila remained the King of Poland, his cousin Grand Duke Vytautas became the ruler of Lithuania. In 1410, the united armies of Poland and Lithuania defeated the Teutonic Order in the Battle of Grunewald, the largest battle of medieval Europe. 1500-1800s The 16th century witnessed a number of wars against the growing Russian state over the Slavic lands ruled by Lithuania. Needing an ally in those wars, Lithuania again united with Poland through the Union of Lublin in 1569. As a member of this Commonwealth, Lithuania retained its sovereignty and its institutions, including a separate army and currency. In 1795, the joint state was dissolved by the third Partition of the Commonwealth, which forfeited its lands to Russia, Prussia and Austria. Over 90% of Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire and the remainder into Prussia. Attempts to restore independence in the uprisings of 1794, 1830-31, and 1863 were suppressed and followed by a tightened police regime and increasing russification, including the 1864 ban on the printing of Lithuanian books in the traditional Latin alphabet. A market economy slowly developed with the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Lithuanian farmers grew stronger, and an increase in the number of intellectuals of peasant origin led to the growth of a Lithuanian national movement. In German-ruled East Prussia, also called Lithuania Minor, or Kaliningrad, Lithuanian publications were printed in large numbers and smuggled into Russian-ruled Lithuania. The ban on the Lithuanian press was not lifted until 1904. WWI & Interwar During World War One, the German Army occupied Lithuania, and the occupation administration allowed a Lithuanian conference to convene in Vilnius in September 1917. The conference adopted a resolution demanding the restoration of an independent Lithuanian state and elected the Lithuanian Council. On February 16, 1918, the council declared Lithuania's independence. The Seimas (Parliament) of Lithuania adopted a constitution on August 1, 1922 and declared Lithuania a parliamentary republic. The interwar period of independence gave birth to the development of the Lithuanian press, literature, music, arts, and theater as well as a comprehensive system of education with Lithuanian as the language of instruction. However, territorial disputes with Poland over the Vilnius and Suvalki regions and with Germany over the Klaip?da region preoccupied the foreign policy of the new state. During the interwar period, the constitutional capital was Vilnius, although the city itself was annexed by Poland from 1920 to 1939. During these years the Lithuanian government was relocated to Kaunas, which officially held the status of temporary capital. The Soviet-German Nonaggression Pact of 1939 (also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact)  first pulled Lithuania into the German sphere of influence and then brought it under Soviet domination. Soviet pressure and a complicated international situation forced Lithuania to sign an agreement with the U.S.S.R. on October 10, 1939. By means of this agreement, Lithuania was given back the city of Vilnius and part of the Vilnius region was seized by the Red Army during the Soviet-Polish war. In return, the Lithuanian government was forced to accept some 20,000 Soviet soldiers into Lithuania. On August 3, 1940, Lithuania was proclaimed a Soviet Socialist Republic. Totalitarian rule was established, sovietization of the economy and culture began, and Lithuanian state employees and public figures were arrested and exiled to Russia. During the mass deportations of June 14-18, 1941, about 12,600 people were deported to Siberia without investigation or trial, 3,600 people were imprisoned, and more than 1,000 were killed. WWII-Current Between 1940 and 1954, under the Nazi and then Soviet occupations, Lithuania lost over 780,000 residents. In World War Two, German occupiers sent Lithuanians to forced labor camps in Germany. Almost 200,000, or 91%, of Lithuanian Jews were killed, one of the worst death rates of the Holocaust. After the retreat of the Wehrmacht in 1944, Lithuania was re-occupied by the Soviet Union, and an estimated 120,000 to 300,000 Lithuanians were either killed or deported to Siberia and other remote parts of the Soviet Union. At the same time, Soviet authorities encouraged the immigration of Soviet workers, especially ethnic Russians, to Lithuania as a way of russifying and integrating Lithuania into the Soviet Union.   With the advent of Perestroika and Glasnost, Gorbachev's programs of social and political reforms in the late 1980s, communist rule eroded, making it possible for Lithuania to proclaim its renewed independence on March 11, 1990 -- the first Soviet republic to do so. It joined the United Nations the following year. (Source: see the History section at   History Editor’s note: Lithuanian sources do not mention the part that many Lithuanians played in the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry during the Holocaust period. The misguided notion, reinforced by anti-Semitic attitudes, that all Jews were loyal to or apparatchiks of the Soviet government and were fifth columnists disloyal to the Lithuanian homeland, provided ample justification for the violence that was perpetrated on their Jewish neighbors.