TIMELINES: What country briefly gains independence from Russia and Germany on Feb. 16, 1918?

February 16, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012


Feb. 16, 1918, with World War I still raging, the Council of Lithuania signs the Act of Independence, declaring Lithuania independent from Russia and Germany. Although still under German occupation until the end of the war, the fall of czarist Russia brings about the conditions for Lithuanians to restore an independent state. Before being taken over by the German Empire during World War I, Lithuania is ruled by the czars for more than a hundred years. After World War I, Lithuania fights with the new state of Poland in a struggle to defend its independence. In 1920, Poland takes Lithuania’s capital city and province of Vilnius, but Lithuania manages to hold onto its independence—until 1940 when it is annexed by the Soviet Union.


Today Lithuania still celebrates Feb. 16 as its national day marking its 21 years of autonomy from 1918 to 1940 an important period for nation building and development of its national culture. Since asserting its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country has progressively moved to create closer ties with the West, entering the European Union and NATO in 2004. Although corruption is unusually high for an EU member state, the nation has a vibrant private sector that has enabled it to fair reasonably well despite the recent economic downturn.