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VILNIUS

    Welcome to the ancient capital of Lithuania! Vilnius is an amazing place for tourism, vacations as well as for business visits. The modern culture of Vilnius fully reflects the diversity of city life. Nowadays it plays the same great role in cultural life of Eastern Europe as it used to in Medieval Times. Evenings of classical music and competitions are held at the Philharmonic Society Hall. Operas, ballets and plays are staged at the Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Youth Theatre, the Academic Drama Theatre. There are seven art galleries and a huge modern art center in the city. The Lithuanian capital is also famous for its commercial fairs and exhibitions.
    Almost all hotels and a dormitory for young people are situated in the central part of the city. There are many restaurants and cafes where you can find a great variety of different foods, from Lithuanian to East European or North American dishes.
    Embassies, business representations, agencies, office buildings are also located in the center. The banks of Vilnius are concentrated in the historical Old Town or nearby. There are many currency exchange centers. One can obtain goods and services using credit cards and travel checks.
     Advantageous geographical location makes Vilnius a gateway to Lithuania and the Baltic States. International airport is within half an hour from the city center.
     Vilnius is famous for its historical past, monuments, churches and green surroundings. There are also many industrial enterprises with educated labor force.
    The Old Part of Vilnius is among the most prominent monuments of culture in the world. Epoch-making European styles have left their distinct traces in the city's architecture. Churches, castles, palaces and museums of Vilnius introduce the great historical heritage of this country. Because of its originality and great cultural value the Old Town of Vilnius is listed in the World Heritage Register of UNESCO.
    This modern city with great historical monuments, well-developed infrastructure and rich cultural and business life has something attractive to everyone.

History of Vilnius

    Vilnius is one of the oldest cities in Lithuania. It stretches along both banks of the fast flowing Neris River, and is set among pine forests hills. It was an important crossroad of internal and international merchant routes, which led from the Baltic to the Black Sea and from Western Europe to the Middle East.
    The prosperity of Vilnius city is symbolized in the legend about the grand Duke Gediminas. While sleeping he saw a roaring iron wolf on one of the numerous Vilnius hills. The oldest Lithuanian prophet explained the dream as meaning that the town's reputation and fame would spread far and wide. Having declared Vilnius his "royal town", Gediminas set conditions for its subsequent growth as a political, economical and cultural center of Lithuania. The so called Upper Castle, the fortress on the Castle Hill, was used for defense purposes.
     It is also important to note that Slavonic population greatly influenced the administrative structure, socio-economic and cultural development of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Early in the 13th century, West Russian lands took part in the creation of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy, which was necessitated by the threat from Livonian Order and Tartars that captured eastern and southern provinces of Russia in 1230-1240s.
     The Grand Duke Jogaila (Jagiello), after becoming the King of Poland in 1386, started the 400-year common history of Lithuania and Poland, which was marked by several agreements and unions. As a result of this union with Vilnius as a capital, Christianity finally came to Lithuania.
Another famous Lithuanian ruler Vytautas the Great was the most prominent founder of Lithuanian might. He was the organizer and leader of the Tannenberg Battle that was the greatest battle against the Teutonic Order. The result of this battle was the decline of the Order and the development of Baltic countries, which gained more independence.
     Following the craftsmen of other European towns at the end of the 15th century, Vilnius craftsmen began to unite by professions into guilds. Crafts and trade continued to develop in the 16th century. Many new beautiful buildings in the late Gothic and Renaissance style appeared in the town this time. The most significant event in the cultural life of the 16th century Lithuania was the founding of the Vilnius Academy in 1579, which was endowed with the rights and privileges of a university.
     In the 16th century, the Lithuanian rulers' palace with its great treasures was a famous center of science and culture. One of the greatest scientific libraries was established there. Later the books were handed over to the library of Vilnius University. The 16th and the first part of the 17th century witnessed the flourishing of the Lithuanian capital as a Renaissance town.
     The struggle for influence in the Eastern Baltic region resulted in the Livonian war of 1558-1583 between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Moscow state. Failures of the army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, including the loss of Polotsk, led to a closer union with Poland. As a result of the Liublin Unia of 1569, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland united into a federal state called Rzecz Pospolita with a common monarch and council.
     In 1795, Vilnius became the center of a new province consisting of the lands annexed to the Russian Empire. This was a result of division of Rzecz Pospolita between three empires - Russia, Austria and Prussia. A number of new Classical style buildings were built, including the Cathedral, which had been reconstructed at the end of the 18th century, a new town hall, and the Governor's Palace. In 1860, a railway, which connected Saint Petersburg and Warsaw, was laid across Vilnius.
     During World War I, Vilnius was occupied by the Kaiser's troops for three and a half years. On the 16th of February, 1918, the Council in Vilnius proclaimed independence of the Lithuanian Republic. In the autumn of 1920, Vilnius was occupied by Poland. On October 10, 1939, Lithuania and the Soviet Union signed a treaty on mutual aid, in accordance with which Vilnius was returned to Lithuania. In 1940, Vilnius became the capital of Soviet Lithuania.
     On March 11th, 1990, the Supreme Council restored Lithuania's independence.