Lithuania southernmost of the Baltic states, had a relatively large territory in the Middle Ages, first by itself and later in a dynastic union with neighbouring Poland. The territory extended at one time to the Black Sea, and Lithuania had close trading links with the Mongol-Tatars, the Ottoman Empire, etc. (whence, probably, some traces of C. Asian influence on Lithuanian food and the presence of pomegranate in some dishes). These influences, however, affected the aristocracy more than the general population. The Polish-Lithuanian state declined in the 17th and 18th centuries, and a continuing history of wars and other commotions in the 19th century and up to the Second World War led to Lithuania becoming a republic within the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1991.