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Vilnius(vĭl`nēo͝os), Rus. Vilna, Pol. Wilno, city (1993 pop. 590,100), capital of Lithuania, on the Neris River. It is a rail and highway junction, a commercial and industrial city, and a center of education and the arts. Industries include machine building, computers, food processing, and the manufacture of consumer electrical goods. Vilnius was officially founded in 1323 when the Lithuanian prince Gediminas made it his capital and built his castle there. The city also became (1415) the metropolis of the Lithuanian Orthodox Eastern Church. The city declined after the merger of Lithuania and Poland, and its Lithuanian-Belarusian culture was replaced by Polish institutions. In the third partition of Poland (1795), Vilnius passed to Russia, where it became a provincial capital (1801–1815). Jewish learning flourished in Vilnius in the 18th and 19th cent., culminating in the Heskala (Enlightenment) movement. After World War I the city was disputed between Poland and the newly independent Lithuania, which claimed it as its capital. The Paris Peace Conference assigned the city to the Lithuanians, to whom the Russians gave it (1920) after capturing it from the Poles. In the same year, however, Poland retook Vilnius, which became part of Poland (1922) after a plebiscite of doubtful validity. A theoretical state of war between Poland and Lithuania continued until 1927, and diplomatic relations were resumed only in 1938, when Lithuania abandoned its claim to Vilnius. In 1939, Soviet troops occupied the city, and it was transferred to Lithuania, which in 1940 was incorporated into the USSR. Vilnius was occupied by the Germans in World War II and was heavily damaged. The large Jewish population was exterminated, extinguishing the foremost center of rabbinical learning in Europe. There are numerous academic institutions, including the city's university, founded by Stephen Báthory as a Jesuit academy in 1579 and one of Europe's oldest universities, and the post–cold war European Humanitarian Univ. Vilnius is also the seat of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences (founded 1941). The city's historic nucleus contains numerous old churches and synagogues. The old town hall is now a museum. The Ausros Vartai (Pol. Ostra Brama), or Pointed Gate, the sole remnant of the city walls built (1552) by Sigismund I Jagiello, still stands. Above the gate is a shrine containing an image of the Virgin, long an object of pilgrimage. Ruins of the 14th-century castle built by Gediminas still remain. Baroque, rococo, and classical style buildings, and the graves of the Lithuanian kings, are also of interest.
(formerly also Wilno, Vil’na), a city and capital of the Lithuanian SSR, situated in the deep valley on the terraces of the Neris (Viliia) River at its confluence with the Vilnia River (of the Nemunas basin). It has an average January temperature of -5.3° C and an average July temperature of 17.9° C. In January 1970 the population was 372,000 (215,000 in 1939; 236,000 in 1959).
History. Archaeological excavations indicate that there were people living on the territory of present-day Vilnius by the late Paleolithic and in the Mesolithic periods. In 1323, Gediminas, the grand duke of Lithuania, transferred his residence from Troki (Trakai) to Vilnius. Self-government was introduced in Vilnius in 1387 on the basis of the Magdeburg Law, and this promoted the development of the handicraft industry and the strengthening of trade ties with the cities of the Hanseatic League, Russian cities (Moscow and Smolensk), Polish cities (Gdańsk and Poznań), and the cities of other countries. In the 16th century Vilnius became a major European trade, craft, and cultural center. In 1525 the Byelorussian printer Francisk (Georgii) Skorina printed The Apostles and other books in Vilnius. The press of K. Mamonič, which printed a number of books in Byelorus-sian and Polish including the Third Lithuanian Statute, was opened in 1574. The canon M. Daukša translated the Catechism into Lithuanian and published it in 1595; other books followed. In 1579 the Jesuits founded an academy, which was reorganized into a secular higher educational institution in 1773 and transformed into a university in 1803 (the V. Kapsukas University of Vilnius); the great Polish poet A. Mickiewicz, the poet J. S&istrok;owacki, and such prominent figures in Lithuanian culture and science as S. Daukantas and S. Stanevicius studied here. Medical-surgical and theological academies were established on the basis of the university in 1832. During the 1794 uprising in Poland led by T. Kosciuszko, an uprising headed by J. Jasinskis against the tsarist troops, which had previously occupied Vilnius, erupted in the city on the night of April 22. The insurgents formed a government—the Supreme Council of Lithuania (which was later transformed into a branch of the Polish government). Up to the time of its seizure by tsarist forces on Aug. 11, 1794, Vilnius was the center of the uprising in Lithuania. In 1795, after the third partition of Polska Rzecz Pospolita, Vilnius was annexed to Russia and became the center of Vil’na Province. Vilnius was one of the centers of the liberation uprisings in Poland and Lithuania in 1831 and 1863.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries industry developed and the size of the working class increased in Vilnius. The first strike—a strike of workers in a tobacco factory—took place in 1871. Vilnius became the center of the revolutionary movement of the workers of Lithuania in the late 19th century. The establishment of Marxist circles began in the 1880’s; the first May Day meeting was held in 1892. F. E. Dzerzhinskii participated in the workers’ circles of Vilnius in the mid-1890’s, and V. I. Lenin, who had established ties with local Marxists, visited the city in 1895. The First Congress of the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania and the Union of Workers of Lithuania was held in the city in 1896. The Vilnius group of the RSDLP was established in 1901, and the Northwestern Committee of the RSDLP was formed in 1904. The workers of Vilnius actively participated in the Revolution of 1905-07. The city was occupied by German forces during World War I (1915-18). The First Congress of the Communist Party of Lithuania was held in Vilnius on Oct. 1-3, 1918. On December 8 the Provisional Revolutionary Worker-Peasant Government, headed by V. S. MickeviciusKapsukas, was established. Soviet power was proclaimed in Vilnius on December 15 and throughout Lithuania on Dec. 16, 1918. Vilnius became the capital of the Lithuanian Soviet Republic.
The First Congress of Soviets of Lithuania, which acknowledged the necessity of the amalgamation of Lithuania and Byelorussia into the united Lithuania-Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Litbel), was held in Vilnius on Feb. 18-20, 1919. The government of the Lithuanian-Byelo-russian SSR was formed at a joint session of the central executive committees of Lithuania and Byelorussia, which was held in Vilnius on Feb. 27, 1919. Vilnius became the capital of Litbel. The city was occupied by bourgeois land-lord Poland on Apr. 21, 1919. The Red Army liberated the city and returned it to Lithuania on July 14, 1920, but it was again seized by Poland on Oct. 9, 1920. Vilnius was part of bourgeois Poland from 1920 to 1939. On Sept. 1, 1939, fascist German forces invaded Poland; on Sept. 17, 1939, the Red Army entered Wilno Province and prevented the seizure of Vilnius. On the basis of a treaty between the USSR and Lithuania, Vilnius and Wilno Province were transferred to the Lithuanian republic on Oct. 10, 1939. Vilnius has been the capital of the Lithuanian SSR since July 1940. During the Great Patriotic War the city was occupied by fascist German troops on June 23, 1941. On July 13, 1944, the city was liberated by the Soviet Army. During the postwar years, Vilnius was restored and transformed into a large political, administrative, and cultural center of the republic. Vilnius was awarded the Order of Lenin by an edict of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on Nov. 30, 1970.
Economy. Vilnius is one of the largest industrial centers of the Soviet Baltic region. About 100 industrial enterprises have been established during the years of Soviet power. New branches of industry appeared after the Great Patriotic War: the machine-building, chemical, precision-instrument-making, machine-tool, and radio electronics industries. Vilnius accounts for a substantial portion of the republic’s industrial output. Machine building and metalworking, which employ more than 50 percent of all the production personnel of Vilnius, constitute the leading branch of industry. Light industry, the food industry, and woodworking are developed. Machine building is marked by the predominance of highly skilled branches: the precision-instrument-making, machine-tool, and electrical engineering industries. The major plants include machine-tool works (Zalgiris, 40th Anniversary of October, and Komunaras), an electrical engineering plant (Elfa), and plants for the production of finishing machines for construction, electrical meters, electrical welding equipment, fuel equipment, drills, grinders, calculating machines, radio components, and agricultural machines. Light industry—textiles, clothing, goods, knitted goods, footwear, and haberdashery—holds second place in terms of the number of workers (21 percent). The major enterprises of the food industry include a meat combine, a dairy combine, and confectionery and tobacco factories. A combine producing silicate articles, a house-building combine, plants for ceramics and polymeric materials, three reinforced-concrete plants, and a plant for fibrous materials operate in the city; furniture is also made. The city has been obtaining gas from Dashava (Ukrainian SSR) since 1961. A junction for railroads and highways, Vilnius has a large airport.
Architecture. The medieval city developed in the valley of the Neris River, near castles—the Upper Castle on a mountain overlooking the mouth of the Vilnia and the Lower Castle (which has not survived) at its foot. To the southwest of the castles, The Old City, with its fan-shaped layout and tortuous network of streets, grew during the 13th-16th centuries. A stone wall was built around Vilnius between 1503 and 1522; subsequently, the city developed outside the wall. The Old City acquired its baroque appearance during the 17th-18th centuries. New sections with a regular layout developed in the 19th century. The central street of the city—Lenin Prospekt—stretches from the Old City to the bridge across the Neris River; this street links the three major squares of Vilnius—Gediminas Square, Cherniakhovskii Square (on which I. D. Cherniakhovskii, the prominent Soviet general, is buried), and Lenin Squares. Restorative work was conducted during the postwar years according to the 1947-53 general plan (architects V. Mikucianis, and K. Bucas). Large residential sections were built in the mid-1950’s and 1960’s. These include Antakalnis, between the Neris River and the wooded hills; Zirmunai, on the right bank of the Neris River; the Red Army Prospekt section (Raudonosios Armijos); and Lazdinai, west of the city’s center. The large Naujoji-Vilnia industrial section is located to the southeast of Antakalnis. Vingis, a pine-forest park, lies in the western part of the city. In accordance with the general plan for 1970-2000, the city is developing essentially in the north and along both banks of the Neris River; a series of architectural ensembles is being created in the center of the city. Architectural monuments include the remains of the Upper Castle (14th century; expanded in the 15th century); the Gothic Mikalojaus Church (dating from the second half of the 14th century); the Bernardine church and monastery (16th century), and the Onos Church (16th century); the remains of the 16th-century city wall with the Ausros Gates; the Mykolo Church (16th-17th centuries); and the university ensemble (second half of the 16th century to the first quarter of the 19th century, with the oldest part in the Renaissance style). Churches in the baroque style include the Kazimiero Church (1604-18), the Tereses Church (1634-50), the Sts. Peter and Paul Church (1668-75), the Jono Church (15th-16th centuries; rebuilt in the 18th century), and the Kotrynos Church (late 17th century to mid-18th century). Other monuments are L. Stuoka-Gucevicius’s buildings in the classical style—a cathedral (1777-1801) with a bell tower (essentially 16thentury), the town hall (1786-99), and the bishop’s palace (1825-32; rebuilt according to V. P. Stasov’s designs). Notable among the buildings of Soviet times are the Neringa cafe (1956-59) and hotel (1960), designed by A. Nasvytis and V. Nasvytis; the Tauras Cafe (1961), de-signed by V. Batisa; the City Planning Institute (1961), de-signed by E. Chlomauskas; and the Palace of Culture of Builders (1965), designed by A. Mačiulis.
Cultural institutions. The Academy of Sciences of the Lithuanian SSR (founded in 1941) and nine of its ten constituent scientific research institutes are located in Vilnius. There are a total of more than 40 scientific research institutions in the city. During the 1969-70 academic year, there were about 26,000 students in the higher educational institutions of Vilnius, which include the V. Kapsukas University, the civil engineering institute, the pedagogical institute, the arts institute, and the conservatory; 19,400 students in the 16 specialized secondary schools; 4,100 students in the 11 vocational and technical schools; and 59,200 students in the 75 general-educational schools of all types. At the beginning of 1970 there were 17,400 children in 122 preschool institutions.
On Jan. 1, 1970, Vilnius had 144 general libraries with 1,736,000 copies of books and journals, the State Library of the Lithuanian SSR, and the Library of the University of Vilnius with more than 2.5 million volumes. It also had a number of republic museums—the Museum of the Revolution (with the F. E. Dzerzhinskii Museum-House and other branches), the Museum of Atheism, the Historical-Ethnological Museum, and the Art Museum (the Picture Gallery and Museum of Theater and Music are branches)—and also the Museum of Vilnius Castle, the A. S. Pushkin Museum of Literature, and the A. Mickiewicz Museum-Apartment; five theaters—the Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet, the Academic Dramatic Theater, the Russian Dramatic Theater, a young people’s theater, and a puppet theater; a philharmonic society, 34 clubs, and 15 movie theaters; and extracurricular institutions—the Palace of the Pioneers and two Pioneer houses, among others.
The republic book publishing houses Mintis (Thought) and Vaga (Furrow), the Republic Radio and Television, a television center, and the Lithuanian telegraph agency (E1TA) are located in Vilnius. Ten republic newspapers, as well as journals in Lithuanian, Russian, and Polish, are published; the newspaper Vakarines naujienos (Evening News) has been published in Lithuanian and Russian since 1958.
Public health. With the establishment of Soviet power in Vilnius (1940), the system of medical institutions was considerably expanded. In 1945 there was a total of nine hospitals with about 1,550 beds. At the beginning of 1970, Vilnius had 21 hospital institutions with 7,200 beds (19.2 per 1,000 population; 9.7 beds per 1,000 in 1939); there were 2,200 doctors (1 doctor per 162 people; 1 per 488 people in 1939) and about 5,000 secondary medical personnel. There is a tuberculosis sanatorium for children in Vilnius.
REFERENCESLitva. Moscow, 1967. Pages 148-160. (Series Sovetskii Soiuz).
Jurginis. J., V. Merkys, and A. Tautavičius. Vilniaus miesto istorija. Nuo seniausiii laiku. iki Spalio revoliucijos. Vilnius, 1968.
Dobrianskii, F. N. Staraia i novaia Vil’na, 3rd ed. Vilnius, 1904.
Kraszewski, J. I. Wilno od poczqtkow jego do roku 1750, vols. 1-4. Vilnius, 1840-42.
Jurginis, J. 1905 mety revoliucijos iyykiai Vilniuje. Vilnius, 1958.
Merkys, V. Darbininky judejimas Vilniuje 1905-1907 m. revoliucijos išvakarese. Vilnius, 1957.
Maceika, J., and P. Gudynas. Vadovas po Vilniu. Vilnius, 1960.
Maceika, J., and P. Gudynas. Vil’nius: Putevoditel’ po gorodu. [Vilnius, 1962.] [Jurginis, J., and A. Janikas.] Vilnius: Architektūra iki XX amžiaus pradžios. [Vilnius] 1955. (In Lithuanian and Russian.)
Uždavinis, V. V okrestnostiakh ViVniusa. Vilnius, 1958.