First mentioned in a medieval German manuscript, the Quedlinburg Chronicle, on February 14, 1009, Lithuania became a significant state in the Middle Ages. The official crowning of Mindaugas as King of Lithuania on July 6, 1253 marked Lithuania's birth, as warring dukes united to support his reign. Later during the early years of the Gediminas (1316 - 1430), the nation grew into a multi-ethnic Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which also incorporated the lands of modern Belarus and Ukraine. By the 15th century, the Grand Duchy stretched across Eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
When Grand Duke Jogaila was crowned King of Poland on February 2, 1386, Lithuania and Poland joined in a personal union, as both countries were ruled by the same Jagiellon dynasty. In 1569, Poland and Lithuania formally merged into a single state called the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1795, the Commonwealth was dissolved by the third Partition of Poland, which ceded its lands to Russia, Prussia and Austria. 90% of Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire and 10% into Prussia
On February 16, 1918, Lithuania re-established its independence. From July, 1918 until November of that year, Monaco-born King Mindaugas II was the titular monarch of Lithuania, until the country's parliament opted for a republican form of government. From the outset, territorial disputes with Poland (over the Vilnius region and the Suvalkai region) and Germany (over the Klaip?da region, German: Memelland) preoccupied the foreign policy of the new nation. During the interwar period, the constitutional capital was Vilnius, although the city itself was annexed by Poland (see History of Vilnius for more details). The Lithuanian government at the time was seated in Kaunas, which officially held the status of temporary capital.
In 1940, at the beginning of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Lithuania in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. It later came under German occupation during which around 190,000 or 91% of Lithuanian Jews were killed, making one of the worst death rates of the Holocaust. Along with the retreat of the German army, Lithuania was re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1945. During the 1940-1954 period of the Soviet occupation and national resistance, Lithuania lost over 780,000 residents; with an estimated 120,000 to 300,000 of that number killed or exiled to Siberia by the Soviets, while others choosing to emigrate.
Fifty years of communist rule ended with the advent of glasnost, and Lithuania, led by Sajudis, an anti-communist and anti-Soviet independence movement, proclaimed its renewed independence on March 11, 1990. Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to do so, though Soviet forces unsuccessfully tried until August 1991 to suppress this secession, including an attack at Vilnius TV Tower on the nigth of January 13, 1991 that resulted in the death of 13 Lithuanian civilians. The last Russian troops left Lithuania on August 31, 1993 - even earlier than those in East Germany.
On February 4, 1991, Iceland became the first country to recognize Lithuanian independence, and Sweden the first to open an embassy in the country. The United States of America never recognized the Soviet claim to Lithuania or to the other two Baltic republics.
Lithuania joined the United Nations on September 17, 1991. On May 31, 2001, Lithuania became the 141st member of the World Trade Organization. Since 1988, Lithuania has sought closer ties with the West, and so on January 4, 1994, it became the first of the Baltic States to apply for NATO membership. On March 29, 2004, it became a full and equal NATO member and on May 1, 2004, Lithuania joined the European Union.