Vilnius is the only capital in Europe situated on the boundary of two ancient - Latin and Byzantine - civilisations. In this city of ancient and versatile cultures, the spirit of tolerance for different nations and religions has been vivid for some time.

The Neris divides the town into two parts. It is thought that the name of Vilnius is derived from the Vilnia stream that flows into the Neris.
The founder of Vilnius is considered to be the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas.

The name of Vilnius was mentioned in the written chronicles for the first time in Gediminas' letter to the towns of Western Europe in 1323.

Although the site of the city was probably settled earlier, the traditional founding date of Vilnius is set at 1323, when Gediminas chose it as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

It soon developed into an important trade center, and after the union of Lithuania and Poland in 1569 the city became known as a center not only of Polish culture but also of Jewish learning.

It was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1795.

During World War I the city was occupied by German forces from 1915 to 1918.
After the German retreat, Vilnius was controlled successively by the Lithuanians, the Bolsheviks, and the Poles.

In 1920 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) occupied the Polish-held city and transferred it to independent Lithuania.

Although the League of Nations awarded Vilnius to Lithuania, Poland reoccupied the city later that year.

In 1939 the USSR captured the city, and in 1940 it became the capital of the newly formed Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR).

During World War II it was occupied by German forces from 1941 to 1944 and suffered heavy damage; its large Jewish population was virtually exterminated.

Vilnius became the capital of the newly independent Lithuania in 1991.

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