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Prominent Russian politicians have challenged Lithuania's right to exist, and television and social-media campaigns have charged that Vilnius is mistreating ethnic Russians or laid claim to parts of Lithuania, which does not border Russia but abuts Kaliningrad, a Russian semi-exclave on the Baltic Sea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested or justified Russian action in the past on the basis of defending Russian speakers abroad, which some of those groups have embraced.

The last Pagan peoples in Europe, they were eventually converted to Christianity in 1387.

The territory inhabited by the ethnic Lithuanians has shrunk over centuries; once Lithuanians made up a majority of population not only in what is now Lithuania, but also in northwestern Belarus, in large areas of the territory of the modern Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia, and in some parts of modern Latvia and Poland.

That number could fluctuate depending upon negotiations with other allies who are expected to help fill out the ranks for an open-ended mission, which Canada's chief of defence staff says raises the stakes for any nation thinking of interfering in the Baltics.

Over the centuries, and especially under the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, some of these tribes consolidated into the Lithuanian nation, mainly as a defence against the marauding Teutonic Order and Eastern Slavs.The German minority in Russia, Ukraine, and the Soviet Union was created from several sources and in several waves.The 1914 census put the number of Germans living in The Russian Empire at 2,416,290.There were 353,441 Germans in Kazakhstan and 21,472 in Kyrgyzstan (1999); In the Russian Empire, Germans were strongly represented among royalty, aristocracy, large land owners, military officers, and the upper echelons of the imperial service, engineers, scientists, artists, physicians, and the bourgeoisie in general.The Germans of Russia did not necessarily speak Russian; many spoke German, while French was often the language of the high aristocracy.

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