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The history of Lithuania dates back to at least 1009, the first recorded written use of the term. Lithuanians later conquered neighboring lands, finally establishing the Kingdom of Lithuania in the 13th century. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania remained fiercely independent and was notably one of the last areas of Europe to adopt Christianity. In the 15th century, Lithuania became the largest state in Europe, merging into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and becoming a formidable power. In the 18th century, however, Lithuania was erased from the political map with the Partitions of Poland. The Lithuanians would live mostly under the rule of the Russian Empire until the 20th century.
On February 16, 1918, Lithuania was reestablished as a democratic state. It remained independent until the outset of World War II, when it was occupied by the Soviet Union under the terms of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Following a brief occupation by Nazi Germany when the Nazis declared war on USSR, Lithuania was again absorbed into the Soviet Union for nearly 50 years. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence. It restored its sovereignty and continued to grow into an economically strong country, prior to the global financial crisis of 2007–2010.