Vilnius

The Television & Movie Wiki: for TV, celebrities, and movies.

Image:Vilnius 3crosses.jpg

Vilnius (Belarusian: Вільня, Polish: Image:Ltspkr.png Wilno, Russian: Вильнюс, formerly Вильно, German: Wilna; see also cities' alternative names) is the capital and largest city of Lithuania, with a population of over 540,000 in 2003. It is the capital of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the county seat of Vilnius County.

Contents

Geographic and population

Vilnius is situated in southeastern Lithuania (54°41′N 25°17′E) at the confluence of the Vilnia (also known as Vilnelė) and Neris Rivers. This non-central location can be attributed to the changing shape of the nation's borders through the centuries; Vilnius was once not only culturally but also geographically at the center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Initially it also formed the geographic center of Lithuanian settled areas, while the city's population was multiethnic through most of its history.

Vilnius lies 312 km from the Baltic Sea and Klaipėda, the chief Lithuanian seaport. Other major Lithuanian cities, such as Kaunas (102 km away), Šiauliai (214 km away) and Panevėžys (135 km away), can be reached quickly and easily.

The current area of Vilnius is 402 km². Buildings cover 20.2% of the city and in the remaining areas, greenery (43.9%) and waters (2.1%) prevail.

According to the 2001 census by the Vilnius Regional Statistical Office, there were 542,287 inhabitants in Vilnius city municipality, 57.8% of which were Lithuanians, 18.7% Poles, 13.9% Russians, 4.0% Belarusians; the remaining have indicated other nationalities or refused to answer.

Vilnius County includes the Vilnius city municipality, Vilnius district municipality, Šalčininkai district municipality, Širvintos district municipality, Švenčionys district municipality, Trakai district municipality, Ukmergė district municipality and Elektrėnai municipality, totalling up to 9,650 km².

History

Main article: History of Vilnius

Image:Wilno katedra.jpg

Initially a Baltic settlement, it was also inhabitated by Slavs and, from at least the 11th century, by Jews. Some historians identify the city with Voruta, a forgotten capital of King Mindaugas.

The city is first mentioned in written sources in 1323. The original center of Vilnius was then a wooden fort built on a hilltop by Gediminas, Duke of Lithuania. Vilnius was granted municipal rights by the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Władysław II of Poland (in Lithuanian, Jogaila; in Polish, Władysław Jagiełło) in 1387. The town's population was initially Russians,Poles,Germans,Jews,Lithuanian, but soon grew to include craftsmen and merchants of other nationalities.

Image:Vilnius St Anns church.jpg

Between 1503 and 1522 the city was surrounded with walls that had nine gates and three towers. Vilnius reached the peak of its development under the reign of Sigismund II of Poland (Lithuanian: Žygimantas Augustas, Polish: Zygmunt II August), who moved his court there in 1544. In the following centuries, Vilnius became a constantly growing and developing city. This growth was due in part to the establishment of Vilnius University by Stephan I of Poland (Lithuanian: Steponas Batoras, Polish: Stefan Batory) in 1579. The university soon developed into one of the most important scientific and cultural centres of the region and the most notable scientific centre of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Political, economic and social life was in full swing in the town. In 1769, the Rasos Cemetery was founded; today (known by the Lithuanian name Rasų kapinės) it is one of the oldest surviving cemeteries in the world.

Rapidly developing, the city was open to migrants from both East and West. Communities of Poles, Lithuanians, Belarusians, Jews, Russians, Germans, Karaims, Ruthenians and others established themselves in the city. Each group made its contribution to the life of the city: at that time crafts, trade and science were prospering. In 1655 Vilnius was captured by Russian forces, pillaged and burned, and the population was massacred. The city's growth lost its momentum for many years, yet the number of inhabitants quickly recovered and by the beginning of the 19th century the city was the third largest city in Eastern Europe.

After the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, Vilnius was annexed by Russia and became the capital of a guberniya. Russian occupation policy resulted in destruction of the city walls and after the 17991805 period, only the Dawn Gate (Aušros Vartai in Lithuanian or Ostra Brama in Polish, also known as Medininkų Vartai) remained. In 1812, the city was seized by Napoleon on his push towards Moscow. After the failure of the campaign, the Grande Armée retreated to the area where thousands of French soldiers died and were buried in the trenches they had built months earlier. After the November Uprising in 1831 the Vilnius University was closed and repressions halted the further development of the city. During the January Uprising in 1863 heavy city fights occurred, but were brutally pacified by Mikhail Muravyov (nick-named The Hanger by the city residents because of a great number of executions he organized). After the failure of the uprising all liberties were halted and the Polish, Belarusian and Lithuanian languages were banned due to the russification policy.

20th century

Image:Vilnius HMG Orthodox church.jpg

During World War I Vilnius was occupied by Germany from 1915 until 1918. The Act of the Restoration of Independence of Lithuania was proclaimed in the city on February 16, 1918. After withdrawal of German forces for a short time Vilnius was controlled by Polish self-defence units recruited from the local Polish population; but very soon the city was taken by Bolshevik forces advancing from the east and proclaimed the capital of the short-lived Lithuanian-Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. On April 19, 1919, the city was seized by the Polish Army but on July 14 it was again taken by Soviet forces.

Shortly after the defeat in the Battle of Warsaw (1920), the withdrawing Red Army handed the city over to the newly reborn Lithuania. On July 12, 1920 a peace treaty was signed between Lithuania and Bolshevist Russia, that recognized Vilnius as the capital of the independent Republic of Lithuania.

On October 9, 1920 the Lithuanian-Belarusian Division of the Polish Army under General Lucjan Żeligowski seized the city after a staged mutiny. The city and its surroundings were proclaimed a separate state of Central Lithuania (Litwa Środkowa) and, after free parliamentary elections, in a result of the decision of the Central Lithuanian Parliament, on February 20 1922 the whole area was made a part of Poland, with Vilnius as the capital of the Wilno Voivodship. Lithuanian authorities in Kaunas declined to accept the Polish authority over Vilnius; diplomatic relations between Lithuania and Poland were broken until 1938.

In the meantime, for yet another time in its history the city enjoyed a period of fast development. Vilnius University was reopened under the name Stefan Batory University and the city's infrastructure was improved significantly. By 1931, the city had 195,000 inhabitants, which made it the fifth largest city in Poland. However, some Lithuanians dispute this picture of economic growth and point out that the standard of living in Vilnius at this time was considerably lower compared to other parts of contemporary Lithuania. Poles and Jews made up a majority in city of Vilnius itself; Lithuanians there formed a marginal minority (of less than 3% after WW1, and less than 1% later in 30s).

Following the secret protocol attached to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, dividing Eastern Europe into a Soviet and a German spheres, a Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland was staged by the Red Army. The city was seized on September 19, 1939. Initial Soviet plans were to make the city the capital of the Byelorussian SSR, but later decided to use the fact that Lithuanians claimed the city too and cede it to Lithuania in exchange for moving troops into territories of Lithuania (officially, this was to be called an agreement of friendship; such actions also were planned to help Lithuanian Communists gain more support). Lithuania, to the surprise of the Soviets, however, was not keen on accepting such a deal, as Soviet troops would be a threat to Lithuanian independence; then Soviets presented the deal as an ultimatum, by saying that the Red Army would enter Lithuania anyway, even if it refused the deal. After this, the deal was signed, although Lithuanians managed to bargain that less troops would enter Lithuania than Soviets had initially planned. On October 10, 1939 the city and its surrounding areas (about one fifth of Lithuanian claimed lands (Vilnius region)) were transferred to Lithuania in exchange for Soviet military bases established in various parts of that country. The Lithuanian authorities entered Vilnius shortly afterwards and the capital of Lithuania started to be gradually transferred there from Kaunas (allegedly however, this process was slowed down by Lithuanians due to unwillingness to have the capital very near to Soviet military bases). The process was not yet finished when in June of 1940 Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union and a new loyal Communist government installed (using both the troops stationed in Lithuania according to the agreement mentioned, and additional troops moved to the border of Lithuania). Vilnius was made the capital of the newly created Lithuanian SSR. Approximately 35,000–40,000 of the city inhabitants were arrested by the NKVD and sent to gulags at that time.

In June 1941, the city was seized by Germany. In the old town, two ghettos were set up for the large Jewish population, the smaller one of which was "liquidated" (which meant the population was murdered) already in October 1941. The second ghetto lasted until 1943, though its population was regularly decimated in so called Aktionen. A failed Jewish ghetto uprising on September 1, 1943 was followed by the final destruction of the ghetto. About 95% of the local Jewish population was murdered by the Germans and Lithuanians (Ypatingas burys). Many of them were among 100,000 victims of the mass executions in Paneriai, about 10 km west of the old town centre. Most of the remaining 30,000 victims of the massacre were Poles: POWs, intelligentsia and members of the Home Army.

Image:Vilnius Ostrobramska.jpg

In July 1944 the Polish Home Army and then the Red Army seized Vilnius, which was shortly afterwards incorporated into the Soviet Union and made the capital of the newly created Lithuanian SSR.

Immediately after World War II, the Soviet government decided to expel the Polish population from Lithuania and Belarus. This decision was implemented during the so-called repatriation, organized by the Soviet and Polish Communist governments and which most severely influenced the population of Vilnius. These events, coupled with the migration of the Lithuanian rural population and Russians from other Soviet republics during the post-war years resulted in a complete change of the city's culture and tradition. They also had a critical influence on the change of the demographic situation of Vilnius. Only after 1960 did the growth of other cities in Lithuania and decrease in rural population caused a rapid population upsurge in the city.

Image:Vilnius ncc.jpg

On March 11, 1990 the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian SSR announced its independence from the Soviet Union and restored the independent Republic of Lithuania, which had been annexed by the Soviets back in 1940. The Soviets responded on January 9, 1991, by sending in troops, and on January 13 during the Soviet Army attack on the State Radio and Television Building and the Vilnius TV tower fourteen people were killed and more than 700 were seriously injured. Eventually, the Soviet Union recognized Lithuanian independence in August 1991.

Since then, Vilnius has been rapidly transforming itself in an attempt to erase its Soviet past and emerge as a modern Western European style city. Many of its older buildings have been renovated and on the north side of the river Neris the New Town area has been built, in which the most prominent building is the Europa Tower, which stands at 150 metres.

Coat of arms of Vilnius city

Image:Vilnius city COA.gif

Main article{{qif
|test={{{2|}}}|then=s}}: {{qif
 |test={{{1|}}}
 |then=Vilnius Coat of Arms

}}{{qif

 |test={{{2|}}}
 |then={{{else{{{test|}}}|{{{test{{{test|}}}|{{{then|}}}}}}}}}}|then=, |else= & }}[[{{{2}}}]]

}}{{qif

 |test={{{3|}}}
 |then={{{else{{{test|}}}|{{{test{{{test|}}}|{{{then|}}}}}}}}}}|then=, |else= & }}[[{{{3}}}]]

}}{{qif

 |test={{{4|}}}
 |then={{{else{{{test|}}}|{{{test{{{test|}}}|{{{then|}}}}}}}}}}|then=, |else= & }}[[{{{4}}}]]

}}{{qif

 |test={{{5|}}}
 |then= & [[{{{20}}}]]

}}

The Vilnius coat of arms depicts St. Christopher (Kristupas) wading through water with the Infant Jesus on his shoulders. It was granted to the city in the seventh year of its existence (1330).

In pagan times (until the end of the 14th century), the Vilnius coat of arms featured Titan Alkis, hero of ancient Lithuanian tales, carrying his wife Janteryte across the river on his shoulders.

Origin of the name "Vilnius"

It is believed that Vilnius, like many other cities, was named after the river on whose banks it lies: the Vilnia.

Tourism

Vilnius is a cosmopolitan city with diverse architecture. There are more than 40 churches in Vilnius to see. Restaurants, hotels and museums have sprouted since Lithuania declared independence, and young Vilnius residents are providing the city a reputation for being the most hospitable in the world as evidenced by the large membership of the Hospitality Club.

Like most medieval towns, Vilnius has developed around its Town Hall. The main artery, Pilies Street, links the governor's palace and the Town Hall. Other streets meander through the palaces of feudal lords and landlords, churches, shops and craftsmen's workrooms. Narrow, curved streets and small cosy courtyards developed in the radial layout of the medieval Vilnius.

The Old Town, historical centre of Vilnius, is one of the largest in Europe (3.6 km²). The most valuable historic and cultural sites are concentrated here. The buildings in the old town — there are nearly 1,500 — were built over several centuries, creating a splendid blend of many different architectural styles. Although Vilnius is often called a baroque city, here you will find some buildings of gothic, renaissance and other styles. The main sights of the city are the Gediminas Castle and the Cathedral Square, symbols of the capital. Their combination is also a gateway to the historic centre of the capital. Because of its uniqueness, the Old Town of Vilnius was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. In 1995, the only known cast of Frank Zappa was installed in the center of Vilnius with the permission of the government. Zappa was immortalized by Konstantinas Bogdanas, a renowned Lithuanian sculptor who had previously cast busts of Vladimir Lenin.

Famous Vilnians

Economy

Vilnius is the major economic centre of Lithuania and one of the largest financial centres of the Baltic states. Even though it only contains 15% of Lithuania's population, it generates approximately 35% of GDP [1]. Based on these indicators, its estimated GDP per capita, based on purchasing power parity, in 2005 is approximately $33,100, above the European Union average.

Climate

Image:Lituania Vilnius.jpg

The climate of Vilnius is transitional between continental and maritime. The average annual temperature is +6.1°C, in January being −4.9°C and +17.0°C in July. The average precipitation is about 661 mm per year.

Summers can be hot, with temperatures above thirty degrees celsius throughout the day. Night life in Vilnius is in full swing at this time of year, and pavement bars and cafés are extremely popular during the daytime.

Winters can be very cold, with temperatures rarely reaching above freezing - temperatures below minus 25 degrees celsius are not unheard of in January and February. Vilnius' rivers freeze over on particularly cold winters, and the lakes surrounding the city are almost always permanently frozen at this time of year. A popular pastime is ice-fishing, whereby fishermen drill holes in the ice and fish with baited hooks, usually drinking quantities of alcohol to keep themselves warm.

Transport

Vilnius is the starting point of the Vilnius-Kaunas-Klaipėda and the Vilnius-Panevėžys highways. Though the river Neris may be navigable, no regular water routes exist. Vilnius International Airport serves most Lithuanian international flights to many major European destinations. Vilnius railway station is an important hub as well.

There is a trolleybus network for main public transport routes. An urban rail system is planned for the future. More information can be found at the Vilnius Transport website.

Trivia

Vilnius is one of the locations featured in the video game Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon (photographs comparing the game's locations with their real-life counterparts can be found here). However, although some of the architecture is relatively well-represented, it has to be said that most of the map is fictional and it does not feel like a particularly accurate representation of the city of Vilnius.

Lying very close to Vilnius is a site some claim to be the Geographical Centre of Europe.

Districts

The City of Vilnius is made up of a large number of districts, including:

See also

External links

ar:فيلينيوس bg:Вилнюс be:Вільня ca:Vílnius cs:Vilnius da:Vilnius de:Wilna et:Vilnius es:Vilna eo:Vilno fr:Vilnius gl:Vilnius ko:빌니우스 id:Vilnius it:Vilnius he:וילנה la:Vilna lv:Viļņa lt:Vilnius mk:Вилниус mo:Вильнюс nl:Vilnius nds:Vilnius ja:ビリニュス nb:Vilnius pl:Wilno pt:Vilnius ro:Vilnius ru:Вильнюс simple:Vilnius sk:Vilnius sr:Виљнус fi:Vilna sv:Vilnius th:วิลนีอุส zh:維爾紐斯 zh-min-nan:Vilnius

Personal tools