Ethnic Lithuanians make up more than four-fifths of the country’s population; there are also Russians and Poles and lesser numbers of Belarusians, Ukrainians, Latvians, Tatars, Roma (Gypsies), and others.
There was a significant Jewish community in Lithuania prior to World War II, and an influx of Jews from German-controlled Poland in 1941 boosted this population to nearly 250,000.
Spruce trees are prevalent in the hilly eastern portion.
The central region is characterized by large tracts of oak trees, with elegant birch forests in the northern portions, as well as distinctive black alder and aspen groves. Indeed, about one-third of the country is forested, and about another one-fifth is taken up by meadowlands.
In the southeast there are sandy soils, somewhat loamy and moderately podzolized.
Sandy soils in fact cover one-fourth of Lithuania, and most of these are blanketed by woodlands.
The boggy regions produce large quantities of peat that, dried by air, is used in both industry and agriculture. In the northwest the soil is either loamy or sandy (and sometimes marshy) and is quite heavily podzolized, or leached out.
In the central region, weakly podzolized loamy peats predominate, and it is there that the most fertile, and hence most cultivated, soils are found.
By 1944, however, the majority of the population had been murdered, deported, or sent to concentration camps ( The official language of Lithuania is Lithuanian.
Russian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, and other languages are spoken in the larger cities.
Sand dunes line an attractive coast; the Curonian Lagoon (Lithuanian: Kuršiu Marios), almost cut off from the sea by the Curonian Spit, a thin 60-mile (100-km) sandspit, forms a distinctive feature.
It is bounded by the Žemaičiai Upland to the east, which gives way to the flat expanses of the The lowland, consisting of glacial lake clays and boulder-studded loams, stretches in a wide band across the country from north to south; some portions of it are heavily waterlogged.
Its main tributaries are the Merkys, Neris, Nevėžis, Dubysa, Jūra, Minija, and Šešupė.