Present-day Lithuanians, along with Latvians and ancient Prussians, are descendants of the Balts, an Indo-European ethnic group that settled on the Baltic coast 4000 years ago.
The formation of Lithuania dates back to around 1009 and has since undergone a series of invasions and conquests by neighbouring countries. In the 13th century the Kingdom of Lithuania was formed and was one of the largest areas in Europe to adopt Christianity. In 1795 Lithuania was taken over by the Russian Empire, and remain under its control until 1918 when it reestablished itself as a democratic state.
Following the occupation by the Nazis during World War II, Lithuania was to be ruled by the Soviet State yet again. However, in the early 1990s, Lithuania restored its independence and began to develop into an economically strong country.
Recent political developments have seen President Valdas Adamkus re-elected Lithuanian president in June 2004, in a poll that followed the impeachment and dismissal of the previous president, Rolandas Paksas, on corruption charges.
During his first term he was credited with speeding up reforms, steering the country towards relative prosperity and overseeing Lithuania's historic progress towards integration with the West and Nato and EU membership.
In July 2006, Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas formed Lithuania's 14th government in 15 years, ending a political crisis which started when Algirdas Brazauskas, from the centre-left Social Democrats, resigned as premier in May. He promised to strive to bring Lithuania into the eurozone, ensure better access to healthcare and curtail emigration.
In May 2009, Dalia Grybauskaite, standing as an independent candidate, became Lithuania's first female president, as the country faces its worst recession in over a decade.