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Since 1990 Vilnius has been the capital of Lithuania and today remains one of the nation’s oldest cities. The city has had several names during its long history, and may have been Voruta, which is where King Mindaugas of Lithuania was crowed in 1253 AD. The area was first settled by Baltic tribesman and other groups and was the home of Slavs and later Jewish settlers in the 11 th century. The city was officially “founded” in 1323 by Grand Duke Gediminas. During and following his reign the city experienced subsequent growth. The city was fortified and today much of this early portion of the old city can still be found.
By the 16 th century the city was an important center within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The city had survived various invasions both from the East and West, but in the 18 th century was annexed by the Russian Empire. The city was connected by railway in the 1860s to St. Petersburg to the north and Warsaw to the west.
The city was the capital of an independent Lithuania following the First World War, but in 1920 the city was occupied by Poland. With the outbreak of World War II, Vilnuis was returned to Lithuania, but a year later in 1940 the city became a capital of Soviet Lithuania under the control of the Soviet Union. Finally on March 11, 1990 the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania received their independence from the Soviet Union and Vilnius became the capital of Lithuania.