Vilnius is a place of special significance not only for Lithuanians, but for other nationalities, as well. Like Lithuanians, Belarusians trace the origins of their state to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The lands of modern-day Belarus comprised a significant portion of the Grand Duchy and Belarusian culture was strongly reflected in the multicultural milieu of the Grand Duchy and its capital.
Modern-day Vilnius is a vibrant European capital with a population of more than one-half million residents, and Lithuania is a member of the European Union as well as NATO and the United Nations. As historically, Belarusian culture and society are represented in Vilnius by numerous Belarusian organizations that are active here, including opposition groups and human rights organizations working toward a better future for neighboring Belarus.
Vilnius's geographic proximity to Belarus—the border is a mere 30 kilometers away and only Bratislava and Vienna are closer to each other than the capitals of Lithuania and Belarus—makes it a convenient place to locate Belarusian institutions and organizations that would have or have had difficulty operating freely in Belarus. This proximity allows EHU students residing in Vilnius to maintain close ties to their homeland and fellow Belarusians. EHU students visit their homes in Belarus frequently. Weekend trains between Vilnius and Minsk are full of EHU students travelling back and forth across the border.