When I was trying to figure out where I should enter the Seimas building last week, I went around the side by the river — which I have never done. When I came around the corner, I discovered a memorial to January 1991, when Soviet troops tried to take control of the Vilnius television tower and also advanced on the Seimas building. Lithuanians built barricades around the Seimas to protect the newly-democratic parliament. My first trip to independent Lithuania was in July 1992, when I attended a one-month language course. The barricades were still up around the parliament building because former Soviet troops were still on Lithuanian territory. I attended a demonstration in front of the barricades demanding the withdrawal of the troops (which were under Russian control at that point). Seeing the barricades brought back a rush of memories from 1992 and those early years of independence.
Category Archives: Life In Vilnius
Last Wednesday I dropped by the Seimas (Parliament) building because I had heard there was an exhibit about Romas Kalanta in the foyer. I assumed that the foyer would be open to the public, which was not the case. The guard at the entrance didn’t quite know what to do with this foreigner asking to see the exhibit inside the parliament building. He called a couple different people who came and talked to me. The last person to come was one of the parliamentary historians. He not only authorized my entrance through security and took me to see the exhibit, he also gave me a personal tour of the building. The building was built in the early 1980s for the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. I got to see the original chamber where the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet declared independence from the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990. I also saw the new modern parliamentary chamber. The original building has amazing stained glass windows with Soviet symbolism. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take photos because an event was going on in that space. I found out later that the Seimas is only open to the public on Fridays.
I arrived in Lithuania on September 1, 2010 and I depart today August 28, 2011. During the last 362 days, I…
Conducted 49 interviews
Revised my dissertation chapter outline 5 times
Partially drafted 4 chapters and the introduction of my dissertation
Attended 3 academic conferences
Traveled 71 times between Kaunas and Vilnius
Wrote 315 blog posts
Watched 214 episodes (10 full seasons) of the television series Stargate SG-1 on DVD
Built friendships, had adventures, improved my Lithuanian and had an all-around great time!
My last days in Vilnius have been filled with final packing and saying goodbye to friends and colleagues — actually this pretty much describes my whole week. As I say my farewells, all my Lithuanian friends tell me “we are waiting for your return.” I’m already planning a trip to Lithuania next May for the 40th anniversary commemorations of Kalanta’s self-immolation and the events that followed his funeral. It is good to know that I have friends who will be waiting for me when I come back.
Lithuanians LOVE basketball — and right now the entire country has basketball fever because Lithuania is hosting Eurobasket 2011. The European basketball championship games start August 31 and the final rounds will held in a brand new arena in Kaunas on September 18. The arena was officially opened last Thursday with a “friendly game” between Lithuania and Spain, the reigning European champions. Lithuania won (whoo-hoo!) but I’ve been told that they don’t have a particularly strong team this year and probably won’t get a medal. But that doesn’t mean that the streets aren’t awash with red/yellow/green basketball paraphernalia. There is even an official song featuring three Lithuanian pop starts. Go Lithuania!!
For those of you who haven’t seen this video — which appears to have “gone viral” in the United States — here it is.
And, on August 6, Lithuania was featured in the NPR program Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me not once but twice. In “Bluff the Listener,” panelists presented three stories about Lithuania’s attempts to raise it’s international profile (readers of this blog will know immediately which is the correct answer) and “Lightning Fill in the Blank” included a question about the Vilnius’ mayors campaign against illegally parked cars.
While I think that it is appropriate that the independent Lithuania removed ideological statues — such as Lenin and other Soviet leaders — and statues commemorating the Red Army victory in World War II, I am glad that not all examples of Soviet-era art have been removed from public spaces in Kaunas and Vilnius. Lithuania was a part of the Soviet Union and this period of its history should not be erased from public view. Keeping good examples of monumental socialist-realist art is, I believe, an appropriate way to acknowledging that past. Socialist-realist art was defined as socialist in content, realist in form. This means that the content had to show ideological reality rather than the “real” reality (in other words, happy workers and peasants).
I thought that I wrote a 2009 blog post about the statues on the Green Bridge in Vilnius, but apparently I didn’t. And now I can’t find photos of the statues, although I was sure that I had taken some. I’ll try to get photos next time I am in Vilnius and post those. They are another great example of socialist-realist monumental art that I am glad has been preserved.