A country of eastern Europe, northeast of Poland and south of Latvia. Lithuania ruled a large empire in the later Middle Ages, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Seas. In 1385 it was united with the Kingdom of Poland. Initially the dominant partner, Lithuania was gradually eclipsed by Poland. It was absorbed by Russia in 1793 and remained under Russian control until World War I. In 1915, the country was occupied by Germany, which supported its declaration of independence from Russia in 1918. German troops remained in Lithuania until the end of 1919. In 1920, the border district of Central Lithuania was lost to Poland, but this was somewhat offset by Lithuania's seizure of the German port of Memel from the Allies in 1923. In October 1939, Lithuania reoccupied Central Lithuania, in return for which it allowed the Soviet Union to establish military bases. In June 1940, Lithuania was seized by Soviet forces and in July was annexed to the Soviet Union. In June 1941, German forces occupied the country, and a number of local overprints on Russian stamps were used, as well as general overprints for Lithuania as a whole. From November 1941 to 1944, German issues overprinted "Ostland" were used. In 1944, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Lithuania was one of the first nations to declare its independence, on March 11, 1990. This independence was recognized by Western nations in August 1991, and by Russia in September. The last Russian troops were withdrawn in 1993. Lithuania has since pursued membership in the European Union.