Lithuanian litasThe Lithuanian litas (ISO currency code LTL, symbolized as Lt; plural litai (nominative) or litų (genitive)) is the currency of Lithuania. It is divided into 100 centų (genitive case; singular centas, nominative plural centai). The litas was first introduced on 2 October 1922 after World War I, when Lithuania declared independence and was reintroduced on 25 June 1993, following a period of currency exchange from the ruble to the litas with the temporary talonas then in place. The name was modeled after the name of the country (similarly to Latvia and its lats). From 1994 to 2002, the litas was pegged to the U.S. dollar at the rate of 4 to 1. The litas has been pegged to the euro at the rate of 3.4528 to 1 since 2002. The euro was expected to replace the litas by January 1, 2010, but persistent high inflation and the economic crisis have delayed Lithuania's euro adoption. 1 January 2015 is the government's current anticipated switch over date.
The first litas was introduced on 2 October 1922, replacing the ostmark and ostruble, both of which had been issued by the occupying German forces during World War I. The ostmark was known as the auksinas in Lithuania.
The litas was established at a value of 10 litas = 1 US dollar and was subdivided into 100 centų. In the face of world wide economic depression, the litas appeared to be quite a strong and stable currency, reflecting the negligible influence of the depression on the Lithuanian economy. One litas was covered by 0.150462 grams of gold stored by the Bank of Lithuania in foreign countries. In March 1923, the circulation amounted to 39,412,984 litai, backed by 15,738,964 in actual gold and by 24,000,000 in high exchange securities. It was required that at least one third of the total circulation would be covered by gold and the rest by other assets. By 1938, 1 U.S. dollar was worth about 5.9 litai, falling to about 20 U.S. cents before its disappearance in 1941.
In March 1939 Nazi Germany demanded that Lithuania give up the Klaipėda Region (also known as the Memel Territory), which had been detached from Germany after World War I. The Lithuanian government complied, and on 23 March 1939 the area was annexed by Germany. On the same day the reichsmark replaced the litas as the official currency of the region, with 1 litas being exchanged for 40 pfennig. Until 20 May 1939 inhabitants of the Memelgebiet could exchange litas for reichsmarks.
The litas was replaced by the Soviet ruble in April 1941 after Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union, with 1 litas equal to 0.9 ruble, although the actual value of the litas was about 3-5 rubles. Such an exchange rate provided great profits for the military and party officials. Trying to protect the value of the currency, people started to massively buy which, together with a downfall in production (following nationalization), caused material shortages. Withdrawals were then limited to 250 litų before the litas was completely abolished.
Coins were introduced in 1925 in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centų, 1, 2 and 5 litai, with the litas coins in silver. 10 litų coins were introduced in 1936. All these coins were designed by the sculptor Juozas Zikaras (1881–1944). The litas coins displayed Jonas Basanavičius and Vytautas the Great, which was replaced by a portrait of President Antanas Smetona.
In 1922, the Bank of Lithuania issued notes in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centai, 1, 2, 5, 10, 50 and 100 litų. In 1924, 500 and 1000 litų notes were added. Denominations below 5 litai were replaced by coins in 1925.