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The climate of Vilnius is considered Humid Continental or Hemiboreal by the KÃ¶ppen climate classification. Temperature records have been kept since 1777. The average annual temperature is +6.1 Â°C (43 Â°F); in January the average temperature is âˆ’4.9 Â°C (23 Â°F), in July it is +17.0 Â°C (62.6 Â°F). The average precipitation is about 661 millimetres (26.0 in) 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 outdoor bars, restaurants and cafÃ©s become very popular during the daytime. Winters can be very cold, with temperatures rarely reaching above freezing â€” temperatures below negative 25 degrees Celsius (-13 Â°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. A popular pastime is ice-fishing, whereby fishermen drill holes in the ice and fish with baited hooks.
Vilnius is a cosmopolitan city with diverse architecture. There are more than 40 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. 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 kmÂ²). The most valuable historic and cultural sites are concentrated here. The buildings in the old town â€” there are nearly 1,500 â€” were built over several centuries, 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 UÅ¾upis district with the permission of the government. 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. 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. The Martynas MaÅ¾vydas National Library of Lithuania, named for the author of the first book printed in the Lithuanian language, holds 6,912,266 physical items. On 2007 November 10 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. The Guggenheim-Hermitage museum, designed by Zaha Hadid, is scheduled to open in 2011. The museum will host exhibitions featuring works from Saint Petersburg's Hermitage Museum and the Guggenheim Museums, along with non-commercial avant-garde cinema, a library, a museum of Lithuanian Jewish culture, and collections of works by Jonas Mekas and Jurgis MaÄiÅ«nas. The biggest book fair in Baltic States is annually held in Vilnius.
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). 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). 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, 18.7% Poles, 14% Russians, 4.0% Belarusians, 1.3% Ukrainians and 0.5% Jews; the remainder indicated other nationalities or refused to answer.
Vilnius ( [ËˆvilÉ²us] (helpÂ·info)) is the largest city and the capital of Lithuania, with a population of 555,613 (847,954 together with Vilnius County) as of 2008. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County. Currently Vilnius is the European Capital of Culture of 2009 together with Linz, Austria.
Historian Romas BatÅ«ra identifies the city with Voruta, one of the castles of Mindaugas, crowned in 1253 as King of Lithuania. The city was first mentioned in written sources in 1323, when the Letters of Grand Duke Gediminas were sent to German cities inviting Germans and members of the Jewish community to settle in the capital city, as well as to Pope John XXII. These letters contain the first unambiguous reference to Vilnius as the capital; Old Trakai Castle had been the earlier base for 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, 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.
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 10% of Lithuania's GDP. Its estimated GDP per capita, based on purchasing power parity, in 2005 is approximately $33,100, above the European Union average. Vilnius contributed over 10,015 billion litas to the national budget in 2008. That makes about 37% of the budget. Kaunas, the second largest city, contributed only 1.5 billion.
The city has many universities. The largest and oldest is Vilnius University in Old Town with 23,000 students. Vilnius University offers summer programs in Yiddish through its on-campus Vilnius Yiddish Institute. 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 Å½emaitis 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. The National M. K. ÄŒiurlionis 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.
Vilnius is situated in southeastern Lithuania (54Â°41â€²N 25Â°17â€²Eï»¿ / ï»¿54.683Â°N 25.283Â°Eï»¿ / 54.683; 25.283) at the confluence of the Vilnia and Neris Rivers. It is believed that Vilnius, like many other cities, was named after a crossing river, Vilnia. Lying close to Vilnius is a site some claim to be the Geographical Centre of Europe. Vilnius' 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. Vilnius lies 312 kilometres (194 mi) from the Baltic Sea and KlaipÄ—da, the chief Lithuanian seaport. Vilnius is connected by highways to other major Lithuanian cities, such as Kaunas (102 km/63 mi away), Å iauliai (214 km/133 mi away) and PanevÄ—Å¾ys (135 km/84 mi away). 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 2.1%.
In June 1941 the Nazis launched Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union. Vilnius was captured soon afterwards. Two ghettos were set up in the old town center for the large Jewish population â€” the smaller one of which was "liquidated" by October. The larger ghetto lasted until 1943, though its population was regularly deported in what became known as "Aktionen". A failed ghetto uprising on September 1, 1943 organized by the Fareinigte Partizaner Organizacje (the United Partisan Organization, the first Jewish partisan unit in Nazi-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 their local collaborators, many of them in Paneriai, about 10 km west of the old town centre (see the Ponary massacre).
The city is governed by the Vilnius City Municipality, which includes the nearby town of GrigiÅ¡kÄ—s, three villages, and some rural areas. A 51-member council is elected to four-year terms; the candidates are nominated by registered political parties. As of the 2011 elections, independent candidates will also be permitted. The Council elects a mayor, four deputy mayors, and a city clerk at its first meeting. As of February 2009, the mayor of Vilnius is Vilius Navickas from the Conservative Party. Elderships, a state-wide administrative division, function as municipal districts. The 21 elderships are based on neighbourhoods: * Verkiai â€” includes Baltupiai, JeruzalÄ—, SantariÅ¡kÄ—s, Balsiai, Visoriai * Antakalnis â€” includes Valakampiai, TurniÅ¡kÄ—s, DvarÄionys * PaÅ¡ilaiÄiai â€” includes TarandÄ— * FabijoniÅ¡kÄ—s â€” includes Bajorai * PilaitÄ— * JustiniÅ¡kÄ—s * VirÅ¡uliÅ¡kÄ—s * Å eÅ¡kinÄ— * Å nipiÅ¡kÄ—s * Å½irmÅ«nai â€” includes Å iaurÄ—s miestelis * KaroliniÅ¡kÄ—s * Å½vÄ—rynas * GrigiÅ¡kÄ—s â€” a separate town included in the Vilnius city municipality * Lazdynai * VilkpÄ—dÄ— â€” includes Vingis Park * Naujamiestis â€” includes bus and train stations * Senamiestis (Old Town) â€” includes UÅ¾upis * Naujoji Vilnia â€” includes Pavilnys, PÅ«Äkoriai * Paneriai â€” includes TrakÅ³ VokÄ—, GariÅ«nai * Naujininkai â€” includes Kirtimai, Salininkai, Vilnius International Airport * Rasos â€” includes Belmontas, MarkuÄiai
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Gediminas expanded the Grand Duchy through warfare along with strategic alliances and marriages. 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 1389â€“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. 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.
A minor planet 3072 Vilnius discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh in 1978 is named after the city. 
During World War I, Vilnius â€” as with the rest of Lithuania â€” was occupied by the German Empire from 1915 until 1918. The Act of Independence of Lithuania, declaring Lithuanian independence from any affiliation to any other nation, was issued in the city on February 16, 1918. After the withdrawal of German forces, the city came under a control of the Polish self-defence units which were forced to retreat by advancing Russian forces. Vilnius changed hands again during the Polish-Soviet War and Lithuanian Wars of Independence: it was retaken 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 back to officially neutral Lithuania after signing a peace treaty on July 12, 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. The League-brokered the SuwaÅ‚ki Agreement of October 7, 1920, while it did not specifically mention Vilnius, was widely interpreted as granting the city to Lithuania, although Polish historians have raised objections to this. On October 9, the Polish Army under General Lucjan Å»eligowski seized Vilnius in the course of a staged "mutiny" of the Polish Army. The city and its surroundings were designated as a separate state, called the Republic of Central Lithuania. On February 20, 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 became the temporary capital of Lithuania. The predominant languages of the city were still Polish and, to a lesser extent, Yiddish. Under Polish rule, 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, making it the fifth largest city in Poland with vibrant industries, such as Elektrit, a factory of a popular make of radio receivers.
In Russian Empire
The fortunes of the Commonwealth declined during the 18th century. Three partitions took place, dividing its territory among the Russian Empire, 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 Grand Armee was welcomed in Vilnius, since its inhabitants expected Tsar Alexander I to grant the country autonomy in response to Napoleon's promises to restore the Commonwealth. Thousands of soldiers died in the city during the retreat; the mass graves were uncovered in 2002. Following the November Uprising in 1831, Vilnius University was closed and Russian repressions halted the further development of the city. 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 were banned. Vilnius had a vibrant Jewish population: according to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 154,500, 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.
In The Soviet Union
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. Vilnius was again incorporated into the Soviet Union as the capital of the Lithuanian SSR shortly thereafter. Although the city itself survived, World War II was to alter Vilnius irrevocably. The Soviets deported many of the Polish and Lithuanian intelligentsia to Siberia, and the Nazis later led the eradication of the huge Jewish population and a significant proportion of the remaining Polish intelligentsia. The Germans aimed to divide and conquer, and they attempted to play ethnic groups against each other, with tragic results. The majority of the remaining Polish population was compelled to relocate to the new Poland by 1946, and Sovietization began in earnest. However, Vilnius began to grow again, following an influx of settlers from neighbouring regions in the early sixties. Microdistricts were built in the elderates of Å eÅ¡kinÄ—, Å½irmÅ«nai, and JustiniÅ¡kÄ—s.
On March 11, 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 January 9, 1991, the Soviet Union sent in troops. This culminated in the January 13 attack on the State Radio and Television Building and the Vilnius TV Tower, killing at least fourteen civilians and seriously injuring 700 more. The Soviet Union finally recognised Lithuanian independence in August 1991.
Vilnius is the starting point of the Vilnius-Kaunas-KlaipÄ—da motorway that runs across Lithuania and connects the three major cities as well as is the part of European route E85. The Vilnius-PanevÄ—Å¾ys motorway is a branch of the Via-Baltica. Though the river Neris is navigable at this point, no regular water routes exist. Vilnius International Airport serves most Lithuanian international flights to many major European destinations. The Vilnius railway station is an important hub serving direct passenger connections to Moscow and Saint-Petersburg as well as being a transit point of Pan-European corridor IX.
The name of the city is thought to have originated from the Vilnia River. 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: Ð’iÐ»ÑŒÐ½Ñ (Vilnia), German: Wilna, Latin: Vilna, Latvian: ViÄ¼Å†a, Russian: Ð’Ð¸Ð»ÑŒÐ½ÑŽÑ, Yiddish: ×•×•×™×œ× ×¢ (Vilne). An older Russian name is Ð’Ð¸Ð»ÑŒÐ½Ð° / Ð’Ð¸Ð»ÑŒÐ½Ð¾ (Vilna/Vilno), although Ð’Ð¸Ð»ÑŒÐ½ÑŽÑ (Vil'njus) is now used. The names Wilno and Vilna have also been used in older English and French language publications. The name Vilna is still used in Finnish, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, and Yiddish.
Other towns named for Vilnius
* The rural town of Wilno, Ontario, Canada was named after the Polish name for Vilnius in the 1860s. The village of Vilna, Alberta was also named for Vilnius.
Parks, squares, and cemeteries
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 SereikiÅ¡kÄ—s Park, near Gediminas Tower. Sections of the annual Vilnius Marathon pass along the public walkways on the banks of the Neris River. Cathedral Square in Old Town is surrounded by a number of the city's most historically significant sites. LukiÅ¡kÄ—s Square is the largest, bordered by several municipal buildings. An oversized statue of Lenin in its center was removed in 1991. 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 BasanaviÄius and other signatories of the 1918 Act of Independence, along with the heart of Polish leader JÃ³zef PiÅ‚sudski. Two of the three Jewish cemeteries in Vilnius were destroyed during the Soviet era; the remains of the Vilna Gaon were moved to the remaining one. 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, Lithuanian, German and Russian soldiers, along with the graves of those who were killed during the January Events.
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. Its growth was due in part to the establishment of Almae Academia et Universitas Vilnensis Societatis Jesu 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; 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 (1654â€“1667), Vilnius was occupied by Russia and Saxon forces; it was pillaged and burned, and its population was massacred. During the Great Northern War it was looted by the Swedish army. 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, making the city one of the largest in Northern Europe.
Vilnius has a well-developed public transportation system; 45% of the population take public transport to work. There are over 60 bus and 20 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 was introduced in 1956. In the end of year 2007 a new electronic monthly ticket system was introduced. It is possible to buy an electronic card in shops and newspaper stands and fill it with an appropriate amount of money. The monthly e-ticket cards are bought once and might be filled with an appropriate amount of money in various ways including the Internet. Previously paper monthly tickets were in use until August 2008. The public transportation system is dominated by the low-floor Volvo and Mercedes-Benz buses as well as Solaris trolleybuses. The new Solaris vehicles (built in Poland) are 15 m long three-axle vehicles. There are also plenty of the traditional Skoda vehicles built in 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. In 2004, a contract was signed with Volvo Buses to buy 90 brand-new 7700 buses over the next 3 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 GariÅ«nai market. 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; its future remains uncertain.
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, 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 centers 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. 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, settled in Lithuania. 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. Once widely known as Yerushalayim De Lita (the "Jerusalem of Lithuania"), Vilnius since the 18th century was comparable only to Jerusalem, Israel, as a world center for the study of the Torah, and for its large Jewish population. That is why one part of Vilnius was named JeruzalÄ—. At the end of the 19th century, the number of synagogues in Vilnius exceeded one hundred. A major scholar of Judaism and Kabbalah centered in Vilnius was the famous Rabbi Eliyahu Kremer, 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 center of the former Jewish Ghetto â€” now MÄ—siniÅ³ Street. The Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum is dedicated to the history of Lithuanian Jewish life. 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. Islam came to Lithuania in the 14th century from Crimea and Kazan, through the Tatars. Tatars in Lithuania have maintained their religious practices: currently, about 3,000 Tatar Muslims live in Lithuania. The LukiÅ¡kÄ—s mosque of the Lithuanian Tatars was a prominent 19th century feature of suburban Vilnius, but was destroyed during the Soviet era. The pre-Christian religion of Lithuania, centered around the forces of nature as personified by deities such as PerkÅ«nas (the Thunder God), is experiencing some increased interest. Romuva established a Vilnius branch in 1991.
* History of Lithuania * History of Poland * Archdiocese of Vilnius * Coat of arms of Vilnius * List of Vilnians * Vilna Ghetto * List of monuments in Vilnius
September 1939 - June 1941
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 September 19, 1939, Vilnius was seized by the Soviet Union (which invaded Poland from the east on 17 September). The Soviets used Vilnius as one of the pretexts to begin interfering in Lithuanian internal affairs, by issuing an ultimatum on October 10 1939, and the Lithuanian government accepted the presence of Soviet military bases in various parts of the country. On October 28, 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 October 29, 1939 through the city center. 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 in June 1940. 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. The Soviets devastated city industries, moving the Elektrit radio factory along with a part of its labor force to Minsk in Belarus, where it was renamed the Vyacheslav Molotov Radio Factory, after Stalin's Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Significant depictions in popular culture
* 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. * Robert Ludlum's "The Bourne Conspiracy", a video game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, features an assassination mission in Vilnius.
Several teams are based in the city. The largest is the basketball club BC Lietuvos Rytas, which participates in the ULEB Eurocup, the Lithuanian Basketball League, and the Baltic Basketball League, winning the ULEB Cup in 2005 and 2009. Its home stadium is the 1,700-seat Lietuvos Rytas Arena; important matches are played in the 11,000-seat Siemens Arena. Another team participating in LKL is BC Sakalai. The major football teams in Vilnius are FK Å½algiris Vilnius and FK VÄ—tra, all of the A Lyga. Only Å½algiris Vilnius has won the A Lyga, doing so on three occasions - in 1991, 1992, and 1999.
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 Center, 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. 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.
Twin towns - Sister cities
Vilnius has 14 twin towns and sister cities. In addition, agreements on cooperation have been signed with 16 other cities. * Akhisar, Turkey * Aalborg, Denmark * Almaty, Kazakhstan * Astana, Kazakhstan * Brussels, Belgium * Budapest, Hungary * Chicago, Illinois, United States * Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine * Donetsk, Ukraine * Duisburg, Germany (since 1985)  * Edinburgh, United Kingdom * Erfurt, Germany * GdaÅ„sk, Poland (since 1998) * Guangzhou, China * Joensuu, Finland * Kiev, Ukraine * ChiÅŸinÄƒu, Moldova * KrakÃ³w, Poland * ÅÃ³dÅº, Poland * Moscow, Russia * Madison,Wisconsin, United States * Minsk, Belarus * Oslo, Norway * Pavia, Italy * Piraeus, Greece * ReykjavÃk, Iceland * Riga, Latvia * Saint Petersburg, Russia * Stockholm, Sweden * Strasbourg, France * Taipei, Taiwan * Tallinn, Estonia * Tirana, Albania. * Warsaw, Poland * Salzburg, Austria