The collapse of the Soviet utopian world, where the government sought to plan and control economic and social processes, caused a wave of significant changes in the post-socialist countries. The territorial regrouping of citizens is one of the hard to control changes that started at the end of the 1990s in Lithuania. This article identifies the major changes in the settlement system in Lithuania and its effects on peripheral areas. The main scope of this article is an analysis of the potential of residents from peripheral areas to adapt to the rapidly changing socio-economic environment. For the analysis, we used data and information gathered during field trips to peripheral rural areas throughout the country between 2013 and 2014. This study found that the residents who remained in peripheral areas had several opportunities in rapidly changing environment after Lithuania gained its Independence in 1990. Interviews with local authorities allowed us to define three groups of residents and their potential to adapt to the labour market: those who are active, those who are passive and those who choose social benefits instead of a work salary. The survey results allowed us to predict that the ‘central-peripheral’ spatial structure will be one of the main factors influencing regional development in Lithuania in the near future.