Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania. With 542 932 inhabitants (2011), it is the largest city in the country. It lies at the mouth of the Vilnia in the Neris River in a wooded area just 40 km from the Belarusian border removed. Vilnius is the Roman Catholic archbishopric, and in 1579 founded the University of Vilnius, one of the oldest university towns in Europe. She was wearing with the city of Linz the title of European Capital of Culture for the year 2009.
Vilnius was the beginning of a Baltic Foundation and was in contrast to the capitals of the Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia, Riga and Tallinn, never by the Teutonic Knights controlled. It developed as the capital of Lithuania to the center of a vast empire that stretched to the height of his power temporarily from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
Vilnius was since its inception as one of the most liberal cities in Europe, in the course of its history and persecuted Jews from Central Europe and Russia offered protection. “Jerusalem of the North” Vilnius was a center of Jewish culture and education. By 1900, Lithuanians presented only a small proportion of the population, according to the (Yiddish speaking) Jewish and Slavic (especially Poles and Belarusians). In the Holocaust, the city lost almost all the Jewish inhabitants, representing half of its population.
From 16 Century Italian architects created numerous buildings in the Baroque style, and Vilnius still has one of the most extensive old towns in Eastern Europe, by the UNESCO for World Heritage Site was declared. In the 20th Century, the area of Vilnius controversial because of its ethnic composition, and after a referendum in 1920, annexed by Poland in 1939 and returned to Lithuania. Due to the over 50 churches in the city Vilnius bears the nickname “Rome of the East”. It can be seen from almost anywhere in the city at least four church towers.