Golden Terraces shopping centre.
At the same time the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in Poland, not exceeding 3%, according to the official figures. The city itself collects around 8,740,882,000 złotys in taxes and direct government grants.
Exchange Building, home of the exchange from 1876 until World War II.
Warsaw's first stock exchange was established in 1817 and continued trading until World War II. It was re-established in April 1991, following the end of the post-war communist control of the country and the reintroduction of a free-market economy. (Dell Vostro 1014N battery) Today, the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) is, according to many indicators, the largest market in the region, with 374 companies listed and total capitalization of 162 584 mln EUR as of 31 August 2009. From 1991 until 2000, the stock exchange was, ironically, located in the building previously used as the headquarters of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR). The city is considered to be one of the most attractive business locations in Europe(Dell Vostro 1015 battery).
During Warsaw's reconstruction after World War II, the communist authorities decided that the city would become a major industrial centre. As a result, numerous large factories were built in and around the city. The largest were the Huta Warszawa Steel Works, the car factory FSO and the tractor factory “Ursus”.
As the communist economy deteriorated, these factories lost significance and most went bankrupt after 1989. Today, the Arcelor Warszawa Steel Mill (formerly Huta Warszawa) is the only major factory remaining(Dell Vostro 1015N battery).
The FSO Car Factory was established in 1951. A number of vehicles have been assembled there over the decades, including the Warszawa, Syrena, Fiat 125p (under license from Fiat, later renamed FSO 125p when the license expired) and the Polonez. The last two models listed were also sent abroad and assembled in a number of other countries, including Egypt and Columbia. In 1995 the factory was purchased by the South Korean car manufacturer Daewoo(SONY PCG-5G2L battery), which assembled the Tico, Espero, Nubia, Tacuma, Leganza, Lanos and Matiz there for the European market. In 2005 the factory was sold to AvtoZAZ, a Ukrainian car manufacturer which assembled there the Chevrolet Aveo. The license for the production of the Aveo expired in February 2011 and has since not been renewed.
The “Ursus” factory opened in 1893 and is still in operation today. Throughout its history various machinery was assembled there(SONY PCG-5G3L battery), including motorcycles, military vehicles, trucks and buses. However, since World War II only tractors are still being assembled there.
The number of state-owned enterprises continues to decrease while the number of companies operating with foreign capital is on the rise, reflecting the continued shift towards a modern market-based economy. The largest foreign investors are Daewoo, Coca-Cola Amatil and Metro AG. Warsaw has the biggest concentration of electronics and high-tech industry in Poland(SONY PCG-F305 battery), while the growing consumer market perfectly fosters the development of the food-processing industry.
Although today's Warsaw is a fairly young city, it has many tourist attractions. Apart from the Warsaw Old Town quarter, reconstructed after World War II, each borough has something to offer. Among the most notable landmarks of the Old Town are the Royal Castle, King Zygmunt's Column, Market Square, and the Barbican(SONY PCG-5J1L battery).
Further south is the so-called Royal Route, with many classicist palaces, the Presidential Palace and the University of Warsaw campus. Wilanów Palace, the former royal residence of King John III Sobieski, is notable for its baroque architecture and parks.
Warsaw's oldest public park, the Saxon Garden, is located within 10 minutes' walk from the old town. Warsaw's biggest public park is the Royal Baths Park, established in the 17th century and given its current classical shape in late 18th century. (SONY PCG-5J2L battery) It is located further south, on the Royal Route, about 3 km (1.9 mi) from the Warsaw Old Town.
The Powązki Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Europe, full of sculptures, some of them by the most renowned Polish artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Since it serves the religious communities of Warsaw, be it Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, Muslims or Protestants, it is often called a necropolis. Nearby is the Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery(SONY PCG-5K2L battery), one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe.
In many places in the city the Jewish culture and history resonates down through time. Among them the most notable are the Jewish theater, the Nożyk Synagogue, Janusz Korczak's Orphanage and the picturesque Próżna Street. The tragic pages of Warsaw’s history are commemorated in places such as the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, the Umschlagplatz, fragments of the Ghetto wall on Sienna Street and a mound in memory of the Jewish Combat Organization(SONY PCG-5L1L battery).
There are also many places commemorating the heroic history of Warsaw. Pawiak, an infamous German Gestapo prison now occupied by a Mausoleum of Memory of Martyrdom and the museum, is only the beginning of a walk in the traces of Heroic City. The Warsaw Citadel, an impressive 19th century fortification built after the defeat of the November Uprising, was a place of martyr for the Poles. Another important monument(SONY PCG-6S2L battery), the statue of Little Insurgent located at the ramparts of the Old Town, commemorates the children who served as messengers and frontline troops in the Warsaw Uprising, while the impressive Warsaw Uprising Monument by Wincenty Kućma was erected in memory of the largest insurrection of World War II(SONY PCG-6S3L battery).
In Warsaw there are many places connected with the life and work of Frédéric Chopin. The heart of Polish-born composer is sealed inside Warsaw's Holy Cross Church. During the summer time the Chopin Statue in the Royal Baths Park is a place where pianists give concerts to the park audience(SONY PCG-6V1L battery).
Also many references to Marie Curie, her work and her family can be found in Warsaw: Marie's birthplace at the Warsaw New Town, the working places where she did her first scientific works and the Radium Institute at Wawelska Street for the research and the treatment of cancer which she founded in 1925.
The 1659 coat of arms of Old Warsaw on the cover of one of Warsaw's accounting books.
Main article: Coat of arms of Warsaw(SONY PCG-6W1L battery)
The mermaid (syrenka) is Warsaw's symbol and can be found on statues throughout the city and on the city's coat of arms. This imagery has been in use since at least the mid-14th century. The oldest existing armed seal of Warsaw is from the year 1390, consisting of a round seal bordered with the Latin inscription Sigilium Civitatis Varsoviensis (Seal of the city of Warsaw). City records as far back as 1609 document the use of a crude form of a sea monster with a female upper body and holding a sword in its claws. (SONY PCG-7111L battery) In 1653 the poet Zygmunt Laukowski asks the question:
“Warsaw of strong walls; why was the emblem Mermaid with sharp sword, given you by the kings? ”
1855 bronze sculpture of The Warsaw Mermaid in the Old Town Market Place
The origin of the legendary figure is not fully known. The best-known legend, by Artur Oppman, is that long ago two of Triton's daughters set out on a journey through the depths of the oceans and seas. One of them decided to stay on the coast of Denmark and can be seen sitting at the entrance to the port of Copenhagen(SONY PCG-71511M battery). The second mermaid reached the mouth of the Vistula River and plunged into its waters. She stopped to rest on a sandy beach by the village of Warszowa, where fishermen came to admire her beauty and listen to her beautiful voice. A greedy merchant also heard her songs; he followed the fishermen and captured the mermaid. (SONY PCG-6W3L battery)
Another legend says that a mermaid once swam to Warsaw from the Baltic Sea for the love of the Griffin, the ancient defender of the city, who was killed in a struggle against the Swedish invasions of the 17th century. The mermaid, wishing to avenge his death, took the position of defender of Warsaw, becoming the symbol of the city. (SONY PCG-7113L battery)
Every member of the Queen's Royal Hussars of the United Kingdom light cavalry wears the Maid of Warsaw, the crest of the City of Warsaw, on the left sleeve of his No. 2 (Service) Dress. Members of 651 Squadron Army Air Corps of the United Kingdom also wear the Maid of Warsaw on the left sleeve of their No. 2 (Service) Dress. (SONY PCG-7133L battery)
Further information: Category:People from Warsaw
Maria Skłodowska-Curie was born in Warsaw.
One of the most famous people born in Warsaw was Maria Skłodowska-Curie, who achieved international recognition for her research on radioactivity. Famous musicians include Władysław Szpilman and Frédéric Chopin. Chopin was born in the village of Żelazowa Wola, about 60 kilometers from Warsaw, but moved to the city with his family when he was seven months old. Kazimierz Pułaski, a hero of the American Revolutionary War, was born here in 1745(SONY PCG-7Z1L battery).
Tamara de Lempicka was a famous artist born in Warsaw. She was born Maria Górska in Warsaw to wealthy parents and in 1916 married a Polish lawyer Tadeusz Łempicki. Better than anyone else she represents the Art Deco style in painting. Nathan Alterman, the Israeli poet, was born in Warsaw, as was Moshe Vilenski, the Israeli composer, lyricist, and pianist, who studied music at the Warsaw Conservatory. (SONY PCG-7Z2L battery) Warsaw was the beloved city of Isaac Bashevis Singer, which he described in many of his novels: Warsaw has just now been destroyed. No one will ever see the Warsaw I knew. Let me just write about it. Let this Warsaw not not disappear forever, he commented.
Vilnius ([ˈvʲɪlʲnʲʊs] ( listen); see also other names) is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 554,060 (838,852 together with Vilnius County) as of 2011. It is located in the southeast of the country. It is the second biggest city of the Baltic states, after Riga(SONY PCG-8Y1L battery).
Vilnius is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County. The first known written record of Vilnius as the Lithuanian capital is known from Gediminas' letters in 1323.
Vilnius is classified as a Gamma global city according to GaWC studies, and is known for its Old Town of beautiful architecture, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Its Jewish influence until the 20th century has led to it being described as the “Jerusalem of Lita" and Napoleon named it "the Jerusalem of the North" as he was passing through in 1812(SONY PCG-8Y2L battery). In the year 2009, Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture, together with the Austrian city of Linz.
Etymology and other names
The name of the city originated from the Vilnia River. The name of the river derives from the Lithuanian language word vilnis ("a surge") or vilnyti ("to surge"). The city has also been known by many derivate spellings in various languages throughout its history. The most notable non-Lithuanian names for the city include: Polish: Wilno, Belarusian: Вiльнюс, Вiльня, German: Wilna, Latvian: Viļņa, Russian: Вильнюс(SONY PCG-8Z2L battery), Yiddish: ווילנע (Vilne), Czech: Vilno. An older Russian name was Вильна / Вильно (Vilna/Vilno), although Вильнюс (Vilnius) is now used. The names Wilno, Wilna and Vilna have also been used in older English, German, French and Italian language publications when city was part of Poland. The name Vilna is still used in Finnish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Hebrew(SONY PCG-8Z1L battery).
The neighbourhoods of Vilnius have also names in other languages.
Main article: History of Vilnius
Historian Romas Batūra identifies the city with Voruta, one of the castles of Mindaugas, crowned in 1253 as King of Lithuania. During the reign of Vytenis a city started to emerge from a trading settlement and the first Franciscan Catholic church was built.
The city was first mentioned in written sources in 1323, when the Letters of Grand Duke Gediminas were sent to German cities inviting German members of the Jewish community to settle in the capital city, as well as to Pope John XXII(SONY PCG-7112L battery). These letters contain the first unambiguous reference to Vilnius as the capital; Old Trakai Castle had been the earlier seat of the court of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
According to legend, Gediminas dreamt of an iron wolf howling on a hilltop and consulted a pagan priest for its interpretation. He was told: "What is destined for the ruler and the State of Lithuania, is thus: the Iron Wolf represents a castle and a city which will be established by you on this site. This city will be the capital of the Lithuanian lands and the dwelling of their rulers(SONY PCG-6W2L battery), and the glory of their deeds shall echo throughout the world". The location offered practical advantages: it lay within the Lithuanian heartland at the confluence of two navigable rivers, surrounded by forests and wetlands that were difficult to penetrate. The duchy had been subject to intrusions by the Teutonic Knights.
Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Gediminas expanded the Grand Duchy through warfare along with strategic alliances and marriages(SONY PCG-5K1L battery). At its height it covered the territory of modern-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Transnistria, and portions of modern-day Poland and Russia. His grandchildren Vytautas the Great and Jogaila, however, fought civil wars. During the Lithuanian Civil War of 1389–1392, Vytautas besieged and razed the city in an attempt to wrest control from Jogaila. The two later settled their differences; after a series of treaties culminating in the 1569 Union of Lublin, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was formed(SONY PCGA-BP1U battery). The rulers of this federation held either or both of two titles: Grand Duke of Lithuania or King of Poland. In 1387, Jogaila granted Magdeburg rights to the city.
The city underwent a period of expansion. The Vilnius city walls were built for protection between 1503 and 1522, comprising nine city gates and three towers, and Sigismund August moved his court there in 1544(SONY VGP-BPS9 battery).
Its growth was due in part to the establishment of Alma Academia et Universitas Vilnensis Societatis Iesu by King Stefan Bathory 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 Commonwealth.
During its rapid development, the city was open to migrants from the territories of the Grand Duchy and further. A variety of languages were spoken: Lithuanian, Polish, Ruthenian, Russian, Old Slavonic, Latin, German, Yiddish, Hebrew and Turkic(SONY VGP-BPS9/S battery); the city was compared to Babylon. Each group made its unique contribution to the life of the city, and crafts, trade, and science prospered.
The 17th century brought a number of setbacks. The Commonwealth was involved in a series of wars, collectively known as The Deluge. During the Russo-Polish War (1654–1667), Vilnius was occupied by Russian forces; it was pillaged and burned, and its population was massacred. During the Great Northern War it was looted by the Swedish army(SONY VGP-BPS9A battery). An outbreak of bubonic plague in 1710 killed about 35,000 residents; devastating fires occurred in 1715, 1737, 1741, 1748, and 1749. The city's growth lost its momentum for many years, but the population rebounded, and by the beginning of the 19th century its population reached 20,000.
La Grande Armée in Vilnius during its retreat
The fortunes of the Commonwealth declined during the 18th century. Three partitions took place, dividing its territory among the Russian Empire(SONY VGP-BPS9A/B battery), the Habsburg Empire, and the Kingdom of Prussia. After the third partition of April 1795, Vilnius was annexed by the Russian Empire and became the capital of the Vilna Governorate. During Russian rule, the city walls were destroyed, and, by 1805, only the Gate of Dawn remained. In 1812, the city was taken by Napoleon on his push towards Moscow, and again during the disastrous retreat. The Grande Armée was welcomed in Vilnius(SONY VGP-BPS9/B battery). Thousands of soldiers died in the city during the eventual retreat; the mass graves were uncovered in 2002. Inhabitants expected Tsar Alexander I to grant them autonomy in response to Napoleon's promises to restore the Commonwealth, but Vilnius didn't become autonomous by itself nor as a part of Congress Poland.
Following the November Uprising in 1831, Vilnius University was closed and Russian repressions halted the further development of the city. Civil unrest in 1861 was suppressed by the Imperial Russian Army. (SONY VGP-BPS9A/S battery)
During the January Uprising in 1863, heavy fighting occurred within the city, but was brutally pacified by Mikhail Muravyov, nicknamed The Hangman by the population because of the number of executions he organized. After the uprising, all civil liberties were withdrawn, and use of the Polish and Lithuanian languages was banned. Vilnius had a vibrant Jewish population: according to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 154,500(SONY VGP-BPL9 battery), Jews constituted 64,000 (so around 41% percent). During the early 20th century, the Lithuanian-speaking population of Vilnius constituted only a small minority, with Polish, Yiddish, and Belarusian speakers comprising the majority of the city's population.
St. Anne's Church and the church of the Bernardine Monastery in Vilnius
During World War I, Vilnius and the rest of Lithuania was occupied by the German Army from 1915 until 1918(SONY VGP-BPS10 battery). The Germans found a city that appeared to be Polish, and their commander referred to it as "the jewel of the Polish crown". The Act of Independence of Lithuania, declaring Lithuanian independence from any affiliation to any other nation, was issued in the city on 16 February 1918. After the withdrawal of German forces, the city was briefly controlled by Polish self-defence units which were driven out by advancing Soviet forces. Vilnius changed hands again during the Polish-Soviet War and(SONY VGP-BPL10 battery) the Lithuanian Wars of Independence: it was taken by the Polish Army, only to fall to the Soviet forces again. Shortly after its defeat in the battle of Warsaw, the retreating Red Army, in order to delay the Polish advance, ceded the city to Lithuania after signing the Soviet-Lithuanian Treaty on 12 July 1920.
Poland and Lithuania both perceived the city as their own. The League of Nations became involved in the subsequent dispute between the two countries(SONY VGP-BPS11 battery). The League-brokered the Suwałki Agreement on 7 October 1920. Although neither Vilnius or the surrounding region was explicitly addressed in the agreement, numerous historians have described the agreement as allotting Vilnius to Lithuania. On 9 October 1920, the Polish Army surreptitiously, under General Lucjan Żeligowski, seized Vilnius during an operation known as Żeligowski's Mutiny. The city and its surroundings were designated as a separate state, called the Republic of Central Lithuania(SONY VGP-BPL11 battery). On 20 February 1922 after the highly contested election in Central Lithuania, the entire area was annexed by Poland, with the city becoming the capital of the Wilno Voivodship (Wilno being the name of Vilnius in Polish). Kaunas then became the temporary capital of Lithuania. Lithuania vigorously contested the Polish annexation of Lithuania, and refused diplomatic relations with Poland. The predominant languages of the city were still Polish and, to a lesser extent, Yiddish(SONY VGP-BPL12 battery).
Orthodox Cathedral of the Theotokos, with Gediminas's Tower in background
Lithuanians at the time, were a tiny minority, less than 10% of the population.
Under Polish rule, the city saw 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, making it the fifth largest city in Poland with varied industries, such as Elektrit, a factory that produced radio receivers(SONY VGP-BPS12 battery).
World War II began with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. The secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had partitioned Lithuania and Poland into German and Soviet spheres of interest. On 19 September 1939, Vilnius was seized by the Soviet Union (which invaded Poland on 17 September). At first, the city was incorporated into the Byelorussian SSR, as the city was a centre for Belarusian culture and politics for over a century(SONY VGP-BPS13 battery). The heads of Soviet Belarus moved to the city, Belarusian Language schools were opened, as well as a newspaper (Вiленская праўда — The Wilno Pravda). These actions were encouraged by Soviet Union leaders until it was decided to use Vilnius as one of the pretexts to begin interfering in Lithuanian internal affairs. The USSR and Lithuania concluded a mutual assistance treaty on 10 October 1939, with which the Lithuanian government accepted the presence of Soviet military bases in various parts of the country(SONY VGP-BPS13Q battery). On 28 October 1939, the Red Army withdrew from the city to its suburbs (to Naujoji Vilnia) and Vilnius was given over to Lithuania. A Lithuanian Army parade took place on 29 October 1939 through the city centre. The Lithuanians immediately attempted to Lithuanize the city, for example by Lithuanizing Polish schools. However, the whole of Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union on 3 August 1940 following a June ultimatum from the Soviets demanding(SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q battery), among other things, that unspecified numbers of Red Army soldiers be allowed to enter the country for the purpose of helping to form a more pro-Soviet government. After the ultimatum was issued and Lithuania further occupied, a Soviet government was installed with Vilnius as the capital of the newly created Lithuanian SSR. Up to 40,000 of the city's inhabitants were subsequently arrested by the NKVD and sent to gulags in the far eastern areas of the Soviet Union. (SONY VGP-BPS13B/Q battery)The Soviets devastated city industries, moving the major Polish radio factory Elektrit, along with a part of its labour force, to Minsk in Belarus, where it was renamed the Vyacheslav Molotov Radio Factory, after Stalin's Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Cathedral in Vilnius, seen in 1912
On 22 June 1941, the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union. Vilnius was captured on 24 June. Two ghettos were set up in the old town centre for the large Jewish population – the smaller one of which was "liquidated" by October. The larger ghetto lasted until 1943, though its population was regularly deported in roundups known as "Aktionen"(SONY VGP-BPS13/B battery). A failed ghetto uprising on 1 September 1943 organized by the Fareinigte Partizaner Organizacje (the United Partisan Organization, the first Jewish partisan unit in German-occupied Europe), was followed by the final destruction of the ghetto. During the Holocaust, about 95% of the 265,000-strong Jewish population of Lithuania was murdered by the German units and Lithuanian Nazi collaborators, many of them in Paneriai, about 10 km west of the old town centre (see the Ponary massacre) (SONY VGP-BPS13B/B battery).
In July 1944, Vilnius was taken from the Germans by the Soviet Army and the Polish Armia Krajowa (see Operation Ostra Brama and the Vilnius Offensive). The NKVD arrested the leaders of the Armia Krajowa after requesting a meeting. Shortly afterwards, the town was once again incorporated into the Soviet Union as the capital of the Lithuanian SSR(SONY VGP-BPS13A/S battery).
The war had irrevocably altered the town – most of the predominantly Polish and Jewish population had been either exterminated during the German occupation or deported to Siberia during the first Soviet occupation. Many of the surviving inhabitants, particularly members of the intelligentsia, were now targeted and deported to Siberia in the beginning of the second Soviet occupation(SONY VGP-BPS21A/B battery). The majority of the remaining population was compelled to relocate to Communist Poland by 1946, and Sovietization began in earnest. Only in the 1960s did Vilnius begin to grow again, following an influx of Lithuanian and Polish population from neighbouring regions and well as from other areas of the Soviet Union (particularly Russians and Belarusians). Microdistricts were built in the elderates of Šeškinė, Žirmūnai, Justiniškės and Fabijoniškės(SONY VGP-BPS21B battery).
Vilnius TV Tower, the main site of January's Events
On 11 March 1990, the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian SSR announced its secession from the Soviet Union and intention to restore an independent Republic of Lithuania. As a result of these declarations, on 9 January 1991, the Soviet Union sent in troops. This culminated in the 13 January attack on the State Radio and Television Building and the Vilnius TV Tower, killing at least fourteen civilians and seriously injuring 700 more(SONY VGP-BPS21 battery). The Soviet Union finally recognised Lithuanian independence in August 1991. The current Constitution, as did the earlier Lithuanian Constitution of 1922, mentions that ..."the capital of the State of Lithuania shall be the city of Vilnius, the long-standing historical capital of Lithuania".
Vilnius has been rapidly transformed, and the town has emerged as a modern European city. Many of its older buildings have been renovated, and a business and commercial area is being developed into the New City Centre(SONY VGP-BPS21/S battery), expected to become the city's main administrative and business district on the north side of the Neris river. This area includes modern residential and retail space, with the municipality building and the 129-metre (423') Europa Tower as its most prominent buildings. The construction of Swedbank’s headquarters is symbolic of the importance of Scandinavian banks in Vilnius. The building complex “Vilnius Business Harbour” was built in 2008(SONY VGP-BPS13AS battery), and one of its towers is now the 5th tallest building in Lithuania. More buildings are scheduled for construction in the area. Vilnius was selected as a 2009 European Capital of Culture, along with Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. Its 2009 New Year's Eve celebration, marking the event, featured a light show said to be "visible from outer space". In preparation, the historical centre of the city was restored, and its main monuments were renewed. (SONY VGP-BPS13S battery)The global economic crisis led to a drop in tourism which prevented many of the projects going ahead to their planned extent, and allegations of corruption and incompetence were made against the organisers, while tax increases for cultural activity led to public protests and the general economic conditions sparked riots. In 2011, Arturas Zuokas was elected Mayor.
Vilnius has some of the highest internet speeds in the world, with an average download speed of 36.37 MB/s and upload speed of 28.51 MB/s(SONY VGP-BPS13B/S battery).
Vilnius has access to groundwater, and there is no need to use extensive chemicals in treating surface water from lakes or rivers, providing residents with some of the cleanest and healthiest tap water access in Europe.
Vilnius is situated in southeastern Lithuania (54°41′N 25°17′E) at the confluence of the Vilnia and Neris Rivers. Lying close to Vilnius is a site some claim to be the Geographical Centre of Europe. This location is the only one listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the geographical centre of Europe. (SONY VGP-BPS13B/G battery)
Vilnius lies 312 kilometres (194 mi) from the Baltic Sea and Klaipėda, the chief Lithuanian seaport. Vilnius is connected by highways to other major Lithuanian cities, such as Kaunas (102 km/63 mi away), Šiauliai (214 km/133 mi away) and Panevėžys (135 km/84 mi away). The city's off-centre 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 centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania(SONY VGP-BPS14 battery).
The current area of Vilnius is 402 square kilometres (155 sq mi). Buildings occupy 29.1% of the city; green spaces occupy 68.8%; and waters occupy 2.1%.
The climate of Vilnius is humid continental or hemiboreal (Köppen climate classification Dfb). Temperature records have been kept since 1777. The average annual temperature is 6.1 °C (43 °F); in January the average temperature is−4.9 °C (23 °F), in July it is 17.0 °C (63 °F). The average precipitation is about 661 millimetres (26.02 in) per year(SONY VGP-BPL14 battery).
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 outdoor bars, restaurants and cafés become very popular during the daytime.
Winters can be very cold, with temperatures rarely reaching above freezing – temperatures below negative 25 degrees Celsius (−13 °F) are not unheard-of in January and February. Vilnius's rivers freeze over in particularly cold winters, and the lakes surrounding the city are almost always permanently frozen during this time of year(SONY VGP-BPS14/B battery). A popular pastime is ice-fishing, whereby fishermen drill holes in the ice and fish with baited hooks.
1897: According to the first census in the Russian Empire, in 1897 population of Vilnius was 154,500. The majority of Vilnius population at the time was made up by Jews (61,847) and Poles (47,795). Other groups included Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians (37,992 for all three ethnicities combined), Lithuanians (3,131), Germans (2,170) and Tartars (772). (SONY VGP-BPS14/S battery)
1916: According to the census of 14 December 1916 by the occupying German forces at the time, there were a total of 138,794 inhabitants in Vilnius. This number was made up of the following nationalities: Poles 53.67% (74,466 inhabitants), Jews 41.45% (57,516 inhabitants), Lithuanians 2.09% (2,909 inhabitants), Russians 1.59% (2,219 inhabitants), Germans 0.63% (880 inhabitants), Belarusians 0.44% (644 inhabitants) and others at 0.13% (193 inhabitants). (SONY VGP-BPS14B battery)
1923: 167,545 inhabitants, including 100,830 Poles and 55,437 Jews.
1931: 196,345 inhabitants. A census of 9 December 1931 reveals that Poles made up 65.9% of the total Vilnius population (128,600 inhabitants), Jews 28% (54,600 inhabitants), Russians 3.8% (7,400 inhabitants), Belarusians 0.9% (1,700 inhabitants), Lithuanians 0.8% (1,579 inhabitants), Germans 0.3% (600 inhabitants), Ukrainians 0.1% (200 inhabitants), others 0.2% (approx. 400 inhabitants). (The Wilno Voivodeship in the same year had 1,272,851 inhabitants, of which 511,741 used Polish as their language of communication; many Belarusians lived there. (SONY VGP-BPS22 battery))
1959: According to the Soviet census, Vilnius had 236,100 inhabitants, of which 34% (79,400) identified themselves as Lithuanian, 29% (69,400) as Russian, 20% (47,200) as Polish, 7% (16,400) as Jewish and 6% (14,700) as Belarusian.
1989: According to the Soviet census, Vilnius had 576,700 inhabitants, of which 50.5% (291,500) were Lithuanian, 20% Russian, 19% Polish and 5% Belarusian.
2001: According to the 2001 census by the Vilnius Regional Statistical Office, there were 542,287 inhabitants in the Vilnius city municipality, of which 57.8% were Lithuanians(SONY VGP-BPS22 battery), 18.7% Poles, 14% Russians, 4.0% Belarusians, 1.3% Ukrainians and 0.5% Jews; the remainder indicated other nationalities or refused to answer.
2011: Vilnius is inhabited by people of 128 different ethnicities which makes it the most ethnically diverse city in Lithuania.
Vilnius is a cosmopolitan city with diverse architecture. There are 65 churches in Vilnius. Like most medieval towns, Vilnius was developed around its Town Hall. The main artery, Pilies Street, links the Royal Palace with Town Hall(SONY VGP-BPS18 battery). Other streets meander through the palaces of feudal lords and landlords, churches, shops and craftsmen's workrooms. Narrow, curved streets and intimate courtyards developed in the radial layout of medieval Vilnius. Vilnius Old Town, the 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(SONY VGP-BPS22/A battery), creating a blend of many different architectural styles. Although Vilnius is known as a Baroque city, there are examples of Gothic (e.g. St Anne's Church), Renaissance, and other styles. Their combination is also a gateway to the historic centre of the capital. Owing to its uniqueness, the Old Town of Vilnius was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. In 1995, the world's first bronze cast of Frank Zappa was installed in the Naujamiestis district with the permission of the government(SONY VGP-BPS22A battery). The Frank Zappa sculpture confirmed the newly found freedom of expression, and marked the beginning of a new era for Lithuanian society.
The Vilnius Castle Complex, a group of defensive, cultural, and religious buildings that includes Gediminas Tower, Cathedral Square, the Royal Palace of Lithuania, and the remains of several medieval castles, is part of the National Museum of Lithuania. Lithuania's largest art collection is housed in the Lithuanian Art Museum(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11S battery). The House of the Signatories, where the 1918 Act of Independence of Lithuania was signed, is now a historic landmark. The Museum of Genocide Victims is dedicated to the victims of the Soviet era. On the other side of the Neris, the National Art Gallery holds a permanent exhibition on Lithuanian 20th century art, as well as numerous exhibitions on modern art.
The Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania, named for the author of the first book printed in the Lithuanian language, holds 6,912,266 physical items. The biggest book fair in Baltic States is annually held in Vilnius at LITEXPO, the Baltic’s biggest exhibition centre. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ15T battery)
On 10 November 2007, the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center was opened by avant-garde film-maker Jonas Mekas. Its premiere exhibition was entitled The Avant-Garde: From Futurism to Fluxus. There are plans to build the Guggenheim-Hermitage museum, designed by Zaha Hadid. The museum would host exhibitions featuring works from Saint Petersburg's Hermitage Museum and the Guggenheim Museums(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ15G battery), along with non-commercial avant-garde cinema, a library, a museum of Lithuanian Jewish culture, and collections of works by Jonas Mekas and Jurgis Mačiūnas.
Panorama of old town / view to north
The Užupis district near the Old Town, which used to be one of the most run down districts of Vilnius during the Soviet Union, is home to a movement of bohemian artists, who operate numerous art galleries and workshops. Užupis declared itself an independent republic on April Fool’s Day 1997. In the main square, the statue of an angel blowing a trumpet stands as a symbol of artistic freedom. The district is also the home of Vilnius’ Mayor Arturas Zuokas(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ4000 battery),
Vilnius Financial Centre at night
Vilnius is the major economic centre of Lithuania and one of the largest financial centres of the Baltic states. Even though it is home to only 15% of Lithuania's population, it generates approximately 25% of Lithuania's GDP.
Vilnius contributed over 10,015 billion litas to the national budget in 2008. That makes about 37% of the budget(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ460E battery).
Currently in Vilnius there are growing local advanced solar and laser technologies manufacturers centres (such as photovoltaic elements and renewable energy producers:Arginta, Precizika, Baltic Solar, high performance lasers manufacturers: Ekspla, Eksma, biotechnological manufacturers (Fermentas Thermo Fisher, Sicor Biotech), which successfully supply their products into global markets(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ440N battery). In 2009, the Barclays Technology Centre was established in Vilnius, which is one of four strategic engineering global centres.
Furthermore, Vilnius concentrates most of Lithuania’s education and social infrastructure, attracting over two thirds of Lithuanian creative industries. These conditions have led the city to grow at the fastest rate in the Baltic.
The Grand Courtyard of Vilnius University and Church of St. John.
The city has many universities. The largest and oldest is Vilnius University in Old Town with 23,000 students(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11L battery).The university has a recognised high standard of education, participating in projects with UNESCO and NATO, among others. The University features many English taught Masters studies, as well as programmes delivered in cooperation with universities all over Europe. The university is currently divided into 14 faculties, 5 institutes, and 4 study and research centres(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11Z battery).
Other major universities include Mykolas Romeris University (19,000 students), Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (13,500 students), and Vilnius Pedagogical University (12,500 students). Specialized higher schools with university status include General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania and Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. The museum associated with the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts holds about 12,000 artworks. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11M battery)
The National M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art, European Humanities University, Vilnius Academy of Business Law, Vilnius University International Business School, and ISM University of Management and Economics offer post-secondary degrees in several areas.
Church of St. Catherine
Once widely known as Yerushalayim De Lita (the "Jerusalem of Lithuania"), Vilnius since the 18th century, was a world centre for the study of the Torah, and had a large Jewish population. A major scholar of Judaism and Kabbalah centred in Vilnius was the famous Rabbi Eliyahu Kremer(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18M battery), also known as the Vilna Gaon. His students have significant influence among Orthodox Jews in Israel and around the globe. Jewish life in Vilnius was destroyed during the Holocaust; there is a memorial stone dedicated to victims of Nazi genocide located in the centre of the former Jewish Ghetto — now Mėsinių Street. The Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum is dedicated to the history of Lithuanian Jewish life(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18 battery).
The Karaim are a Jewish sect who migrated to Lithuania from the Crimea to serve as a military elite unit in the 14th century. Although their numbers are very small, the Karaim are becoming more prominent since Lithuanian independence, and have restored their kenesa.
Vilnius is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vilnius, with the main church institutions and Archdiocesan Cathedral located here. There are a number of other active Roman Catholic churches in the city(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ210CE battery), along with small enclosed monasteries and religion schools. Church architecture includes Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical styles, with important examples of each found in the Old Town. Vilnius is considered one of the main centres of the Polish Baroque movement in ecclesiastical architecture. Additionally, Eastern Rite Catholicism has maintained a presence in Vilnius since the Union of Brest. The Baroque Basilian Gate is part of an Eastern Rite monastery(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31S battery).
Vilnius has been home to an Eastern Orthodox Christian presence since the 13th or even the 12th century. A famous Russian Orthodox monastery, named for the Holy Spirit, is located near the Gate of Dawn. St. Paraskeva's Orthodox Church in the Old Town is the site of the baptism of Hannibal, the great-grandfather of Pushkin, by Tsar Peter the Great in 1705. Many Old Believers, who split from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1667(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31Z battery), settled in Lithuania. The Church of St. Michael and St. Constantine was built in 1913. Today a Supreme Council of the Old Believers is based in Vilnius.
A number of Protestant and other Christian groups are represented in Vilnius, most notably the Lutheran Evangelicals and the Baptists.
The pre-Christian religion of Lithuania, centred around the forces of nature as personified by deities such as Perkūnas (the Thunder God), is experiencing some increased interest. Romuva established a Vilnius branch in 1991.[ (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31E battery)
Almost half of Vilnius is covered by green areas, that is, parks, public gardens, natural reserves, and others. Additionally, Vilnius is host to numerous lakes, where residents and visitors bath and have barbecues in the summer. Thirty lakes and 16 rivers cover 2.1% of Vilnius’ area, with some of them having sand beaches(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31J battery).
Vingis Park, the city's largest, hosted several major rallies during Lithuania's drive towards independence in the 1980s. Concerts, festivals, and exhibitions are held at Sereikiškės Park, near Gediminas Tower. Sections of the annual Vilnius Marathon pass along the public walkways on the banks of the Neris River. The green area next to the White Bridge is another popular area to enjoy good weather, and has become venue for several music and large screen events(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31M battery).
Cathedral Square in Old Town is surrounded by a number of the city's most historically significant sites. Lukiškės Square is the largest, bordered by several governmental buildings: the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Polish Embassy, and the Genocide Victims’ Museum, where the KGB tortured and murdered numerous opposers of the communist regime. An oversized statue of Lenin in its centre was removed in 1991(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31B battery). Town Hall Square has long been a centre of trade fairs, celebrations, and events in Vilnius, including the Kaziukas Fair. The city Christmas tree is decorated there. State ceremonies are often held in Daukantas Square, facing the Presidential Palace.
Rasos Cemetery, consecrated in 1801, is the burial site of Jonas Basanavičius and other signatories of the 1918 Act of Independence, along with the heart of Polish leader Józef Piłsudski. Two of the three Jewish cemeteries in Vilnius were destroyed during the Soviet era(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ32 battery); the remains of the Vilna Gaon were moved to the remaining one. A monument was erected at the place where Užupis Old Jewish Cemetery was. On 23 October 2011, a swastika has been sprayed on the monument, as what seems to be an anti-Semitic act. About 18,000 burials have been made in the Bernardine Cemetery, established in 1810; it was closed during the 1970s and is now being restored. Antakalnis Cemetery, established in 1809, contains various memorials to Polish(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21 battery), Lithuanian, German and Russian soldiers, along with the graves of those who were killed during the January Events.
Several teams are based in the city. The largest is the basketball club BC Lietuvos Rytas, which participates in European competitions such as the Euroleague and Eurocup, the domestic Lithuanian Basketball League, and the Baltic Basketball League, winning the ULEB Cup (predecessor to the Eurocup) in 2005 and the Eurocup in 2009(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21S battery). Its home arena is the 1,700-seat Lietuvos Rytas Arena; all European matches and important domestic and Baltic matches are played in the 11,000-seat Siemens Arena. Another team participating in LKL is BC Sakalai.
The biggest football team in Vilnius is VMFD Žalgiris Vilnius of the A Lyga. Žalgiris Vilnius has won the A Lyga on three occasions – in 1991, 1992, and 1999. The club was renamed in 2009, after an unviable situation in which the owners preferred not to sell the club. The only other team from Vilnius currently playing in the A Lyga is FK REO(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21M battery). Vilnius was host to one of the most successful Lithuanian football sides of current times, FK Vėtra, which reached Intertoto and UEFA Cups despite its short existence (the club was founded in 1997). However, the club was expelled from the Lithuanian Football Federation in 2010 because of its financial problems(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ38M battery).
The city is home to the Lithuanian Bandy Association, Badminton Federation, Canoeing Sports Federation, Baseball Association, Biathlon Federation, Sailors Union, Football Federation, Fencing Federation, Cycling Sports Federation, Archery Federation, Athletics Federation, Ice Hockey Federation, Basketball Federation, Curling Federation, Rowing Federation, Wrestling Federation, Speed Skating Association, (Sony VAIO VGN-SZ battery) Gymnastics Federation, Equestrian Union, Modern Pentathlon Federation, Shooting Union, Triathlon Federation, Volleyball Federation, Tennis Union, Taekwondo Federation, Weightlifting Federation, Table Tennis Association, Skiing Association, Rugby Federation, Swimming Federation.
The river Neris is navigable, but no regular water routes exist. The river rises in Belarus, connecting Vilnius and Kernave, and becomes a tributary of the Neman River in Kaunas(Sony VGN-NR11S/S Battery).
Vilnius International Airport serves most Lithuanian international flights to many major European destinations.Currently, the airport has 33 destinations in 19 different countries. The airport is situated only 5 km away from the centre of the city, and has a direct rail link to Vilnius train station, making it the only Baltic airport connected to the city centre.
The Vilnius railway station is an important hub serving direct passenger connections to Minsk, Kaliningrad(Sony VGN-NR11M/S Battery), Moscow and Saint Petersburg as well as being a transit point of Pan-European corridor IX.
Vilnius is the starting point of the Vilnius-Kaunas–Klaipėda motorway that runs across Lithuania and connects the three major cities as well as it is the part of European route E85. The Vilnius-Panevėžys motorway is a branch of the Via-Baltica.
Vilnius has a well-developed public transportation system; 45% of the population take public transport to work, one of the highest figures in all of Europe. The bus network and the trolleybus network are run by Vilniaus viešasis transportas(Sony VGN-NR260E/S Battery). There are over 60 bus and 22 trolleybus routes, the trolleybus network is one of the most extensive in Europe. Over 250 buses and 260 trolleybuses transport about 500,000 passengers every workday. Students, elderly, and the disabled receive large discounts (up to 80%) on the tickets. The first regular bus routes were established in 1926, and the first trolleybus were introduced in 1956(Sony VGN-NR260E/T Battery).
At the end of 2007, a new electronic monthly ticket system was introduced. It was possible to buy an electronic card in shops and newspaper stands and have it credited with an appropriate amount of money. The monthly e-ticket cards might have been bought once and credited with an appropriate amount of money in various ways including the Internet. Previous paper monthly tickets were in use until August 2008. (Sony VGN-NR11Z/S Battery)
Ticket system changed again from 15 August 2012. E-Cards were changed by Vilnius Citizen Cards ("Vilniečio Kortelė"). It's now possible to buy a card or change an old one in newspaper stands and have it credited with an appropriate amount of money or particular type of ticket. Simple onetime tickets now are changed to 30 and 60 minutes tickets(Sony VGN-NR11Z/T Battery).
The public transportation system is dominated by the low-floor Volvo and Mercedes-Benz buses as well as Solaris trolleybuses. There are also plenty of the traditional Skoda vehicles built in the Czech Republic still in service, and many of these have been extensively refurbished internally. All is a result of major improvements that started in 2003 when the first brand-new Mercedes-Benz buses were bought(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21E battery). In 2004, a contract was signed with Volvo Buses to buy 90 brand-new 7700 buses over the following three years.
Along with the official public transportation, there are also a number of private bus companies. They charge about the same as the municipal buses and sometimes follow the same routes. There are also a number of different routes, for example from various neighborhoods to the Gariūnai market(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21Z battery). In addition, there are about 400 share taxis that are usually faster but less comfortable and more expensive than regular buses.
An electric tram system through the city (Vilnius Tram Project) was proposed in the 2000s; among other features, the proposal included underground bridge under the Neris river. The future of the proposal remains uncertain. Also there is support for monorail transportation system(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21J battery).
Significant depictions in popular culture
Vilnius is mentioned in the movie The Hunt For Red October (1990) as being the boyhood home of the sub commander Marko Ramius, and as being where his grandfather taught him to fish; he is also referenced once in the movie as "The Vilnius Schoolmaster". Ramius is played by Sean Connery(Sony VAIO VGN-FW11 battery).
Author Thomas Harris' character Hannibal Lecter is revealed to be from Vilnius and its aristocracy in the movie Hannibal Rising. Lecter is portrayed more popularly and often by Sir Anthony Hopkins, although Brian Cox played Lecter in the movie Manhunter.
The memoir, A Partisan from Vilna (2010), details the life and struggles of Rachel Margolis. Her family's sole survivor, she escaped from the Vilna Ghetto with other members of the resistance movement, the FPO (United