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Archive for December, 2010

Our news section will cover political events

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Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite evaluated the year 2010 as financially and morally difficult, however, according to the head of the state, the most difficult period is almost over.

"The year 2010 was a difficult year for Lithuania, as for many European countries. I think we managed relatively painful, but well. Lithuania withstood the financial crisis, we managed to pay pensions, salaries, people were ensured they will have food and receive salaries. It was a financially and morally difficult year," Dalia Grybauskaite said.

Category : News

We will give economy its fair coverage share

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The Lithuanian economy expanded at a faster rate in the third quarter than previously estimated as construction output grew for the first time in almost two years, revised data showed.

Gross domestic product grew 1.1 percent, compared with a preliminary estimate of 0.6 percent released on Oct. 28, the Vilnius-based statistics office said in an e-mail. The growth rate was unchanged from the previous quarter.

Category : News

We will cover the energy sector

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Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite praises the government’s efforts in reforming the energy sector but due to unfavourable international situation she iscalling for a pause in attempts of building a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania.

‘I don’t mean in any way that nuclear energy should be put aside, but perhaps now we’ll have to make a certain pause, rethink and wait for a more favourable international situation without sitting and waiting.

“The fact that we practically haven’t received real proposals and the last investor refused to implement the project only shows the current international situation isn’t favourable,” the president continued. The President believes that the nuclear power should have alternatives and that Lithuania should do more in developing alternative energy.

Category : News

Where are the new ideas for Lithuania?

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 Where are the new ideas that could bring Lithuania forwards?



Photo: Aage Myhre


Lithuania is a country built on ideas. In my opinion, creativity is this nation’s most fundamental natural resource. Through 800 years Lithuania has time after time been able to show the world that there is an underlying creativity and human power here that enables us to rise again after even the most dramatic defeat or tragedy, again and again to take initiatives that lead to glory, fame and new opportunities for Lithuanians and individuals from other nations and cultures living here.

Lithuania needs today new ideas, and I want to challenge all of you who read VilNews to make your suggestions. I consider 2010 an excellent year to initiate a wave of creativity among all of us who want to contribute to this country's best interests.

I have in my life invented only one new word. But in return this word was included in the Norwegian dictionaries and encyclopaedias already in the 1980s. The Norwegian Language Council even stated at the time that this was one of the best new Norwegian words they had seen in years, so it would be an understatement not to admit that I was a bit proud hearing this. The word was 'idédugnad', composed of the elements idea and dugnad. Dugnad is a well-known Norwegian word which in translation means something like 'voluntary communal work'. The American term ‘brainstorming’ is very similar, but ‘idédugnad’ somehow represents, at least for me, a more active and pragmatic following up of the ideas, into real action, after they have been put on the table.

The reason for my 'invention' was that I 26 years ago initiated a rather huge session with top people from politics, business, culture, education, research, etc. in the Norwegian city of Trondheim, where I studied and lived for the years 1974-1985. As result, a large group of busy individuals met for an entire early spring Saturday to discuss and make proposals on how Trondheim best should be developed towards the city's 1000-year anniversary in 1997. It was a successful session that was later repeated and further developed, and what I think we all saw and experienced was that people from many different professions and cultures quite easily were able to sit together and agree on common objectives. ‘Team Trondheim’ became a real force that included a very broad cross section of people, and the results were quite impressive, as I see it - even today.

My hope and desire is that we can get started with something similar here in Lithuania. I am convinced it is possible to also do this here which I think the following listing of some 14 top Lithuanian ideas represents excellent proof of, and I hope we all would be ready to join forces. Lithuania needs new ideas, of course followed by realistic implementation and the power to realise the best ones.

I would also suggest for you to have a look at the web page

The page represents an American organisation called TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), with a very simple mission: SPREADING IDEAS. 

TED also explains:

“We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.”

And, if you can, please spend a few minutes on this one; “William Kamkwamba on building a windmill”. It’s  an amazing story about the young boy who one day got the idea to start supplying electricity to his family…  PS: He succeeded!

So, if you don’t mind, send us YOUR ideas for Lithuania that we can share with the other VilNews readers.

I also believe passionately; in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, Lithuania.


Aage Myhre,




Are these the top 14 Lithuanian ideas

throughout history?





King Mindaugas’ grand idea was to found

the Lithuanian State!

Lithuania’s only king is also credited with stopping the advance of the Tatars towards the Baltic Sea and Europe, establishing international recognition of Lithuania, and turning it towards Western civilization.




Gediminas’ idea was to found Vilnius as one of the World’s most tolerant cities

Grand Duke Gediminas was also the true founder of ‘The Grand Duchy of Lithuania’. He was a man of extraordinary knowledge and wisdom, offering free access into Lithuania to Europeans of every order and profession.

Gediminas. Janinos Malinauskaitės pieš.


Vytautas the Great’s idea was to expand

‘The Grand Duchy of Lithuania’

Vytautas the Great  was the Grand Duke expanding the Grand Duchy‘s frontiers from the Baltic Sea south to the Black Sea and thereby creating the by then largest country in Europe. The Grand Duchy was at its largest by the middle of the 15th Century.

Sigismund the Old


Sigismund the Old’s idea was to connect Italy and Lithuania, with the help of Leonardo da Vinci!


When Lithuania’s Grand Duke, Sigismund the Old in 1518 married the Italian Princess Bona Sforza, this became an outstanding manifestation of the already strong relationship between Italy and Lithuania. The royal couple created together an Italian community within the court and Italian culture became the preoccupation of the Vilnius city elite.




The Gaon’s idea was to make Vilnius the intellectual cradle for world Jews

The Great Gaon of Vilnius, Elijahu ben Solomon Zalman (1720-1797) was the greatest luminary not only among the many Talmudical scholars of the 17th and 18th  centuries, but also for many later generations.



Čiurlionis’ idea was to describe Lithuania’s soul in his art and music During his short life Lithuania’s national composer and painter,  Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, composed about 250 pieces of music and created about 300 paintings.  His works have had a profound influence on modern Lithuanian culture.



Memorialinės lentos prie namo, kuriame 1918 m. vasario 16 d. buvo pasirašytas Lietuvos Nepriklausomybės aktas, atidengimas. Vilnius. 1989 02 16


Antanas Basanavičius’ grand idea was to reclaim independence for Lithuania


As a member of the Council of Lithuania he was a signer of the Act of Independence of Lithuania on the 16th of February 1918 (signed in the building at the picture to the left). Basanavičius is often given the unique informal honorific title of the "Patriarch of the Nation".


President Smetona had the idea of again making Lithuania a successful, remarkable nation


 President Antanas Smetona was undoubtedly Lithuania’s most important political figure between the two wars. He served as President from 1919 to 1920, and again from 1926 to 1940. Smetona was also one of the famous ideologists of nationalists in Lithuania. The country was truly flourishing under his presidency.




Lithuanians who were forced to leave their home country had the idea of keeping on fighting


The post World War II wave of Lithuanian immigrants experienced a surge of Lithuanian consciousness. They saw themselves as exiled communities and clung to their memory of two decades of freedom in Lithuania. They also made numerous efforts to support Lithuania’s freedom fight.


Proud To Be LITHUANIAN stickers



Vehicles dot a highway in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in 1975.


Lithuania had the idea to improve its infrastructure even during Soviet years

Despite huge post war difficulties, Lithuania managed to build around 450 km of four-lane motorways from Vilnius to Klaipėda and Panevėžys. Result? Lithuania got the best roads in East Europe! At the same time Klaipėda port was developed as a leading Baltic transport hub, connecting East and West..




Despite the oppression, Lithuanian experts had the idea to make Lithuania the Soviet Silicon Valley

Still today Lithuania is the world‘s leading exporter of femtosecond lasers. Among the clients is NASA, using Lithuanian laser technology for analyses of minerals on Mars! A country of 3.5 million people, Lithuania, has about 15 laser producers, employing about 300 laser specialists!


1988 – 1991

Landsbergis had the idea that his masses of unarmed Lithuanians could win over the mighty Soviet army 

Hadn‘t it been for this peaceful fight by Professor Vytautas Landsbergis and his people for regained freedom against an occupation and a ruling the people of the Baltic States never wanted or agreed to, the map of Europe would most likely have looked very different today...



Donatas Katkus

1990 – 2010

Lithuania’s sport and culture had the idea to remain on world level

I let two of the most prominent figures within these fields represent the fantastic flora of ideas and pure guts sport and culture is playing for Lithuania; Music Professor Donatas Katkus (left) and former basketball player Arvydas Sabonis. Remarkable!!



2000 – 2010

Zuokas’ idea was to build Lithuania’s Manhattan

Vilnius’ former Mayor, Arturas Zuokas, earned his place in Lithuania’s history with his energetic efforts to build a new skyscraper city within the city.




2010 - ?

Ms. President & Mr. Prime Minister,


  Please let us know what are your ideas and visions for the future development of Lithuania.



Category : Blog archive / Lithuania today

We will follow Lithuania in the world

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During a visit to Washing last autumn, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius explained that there were some doubts about the US intentions toward the Baltic States after the United States signed the treaty with Russia on reduction of the nuclear arsenal in spring. However, those doubts were cleared by the US administration itself, Lithuania’s Prime Minister said during his interview to the public radio on 7 September.

‘When the US president and the Russian president signed the so-called nuclear munitions restriction treaty, there were some doubts over what Russia would get for it in return. The doubts were in connection to drafting of treaties on conventional forces but they were dispelled in a very efficient and proper manner by the US administration and its representatives,’ Kubilius said in the interview. The Prime Minster once again repeated that the US has been and will remain ‘among Lithuania’s most important strategic partners.’

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite that the main reason behind snubbing Obama’s invitation to join the dinner in Prague because, ‘Seeing that this (the US and Russia treaty) could conflict with the interests of at least Eastern Europe and the Baltic region, I did not want to drink champagne to this perspective.’

Category : News

Thank God I found Lithuania!

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A personal thank you note to Lithuania from David Telky, Scotland

David Telky, Managing Director of Scottish-Lithuanian manufacturing company Pentland, has over 35 years in the Clothing Manufacturing industry. David was born in Glasgow, Scotland where he has carried on the family business of 90 years to present.

Pentland is a Scottish based clothing manufacturing company headquartered in Glasgow with its production sites in Lithuania, Belarus and Moldova. Pentland has been manufacturing tailored clothing in Glasgow since 1973 and moved its production to Eastern Europe in 1985. Pentland produces for the European market for leading fashion retailers delivering tailored outerwear for men and women, with over 40 factories in Lithuania and neighbouring countries.

Thank you Lithuania!

Text: David Telky

The above quote took over 30 years to occur. It covers activities in 14 countries and many years of garment production around the globe.

My background was in accountancy, but when my father, a tailor, phoned me to return to Scotland to help him start a large factory, I needed no second request.

Accountancy could not stand up to the thought of working with my father, starting a new factory and working in a manufacturing environment that had been a family trade for generations.

Two years later, after my training was over, the factory we designed was completed and my theory was to be put into practice.

To finance the project, at a very stormy time in the British economy , took every penny that we could beg and borrow but the beautiful factory was ours (and the banks)and now we had to staff and provide orders for it's production.

10 eventful years later, sadly after my wonderful Father died, the factory had expanded to 450 people and was making 10,000 jackets a week, but customers were moving to overseas production, mainly from China!

This was when the stresses of running a large enterprise in Glasgow bore the health problems that many find the hardest part of business management. The long hours the mental strain of multiple problems, the financial pressures, the staff aggravations.
The answer was to do what all similar enterprises in UK were looking at and out source production, but where?

Over the next 5years,after successful forays into China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Poland ,Portugal, Belarus Egypt and a few not so successful, I found the right place, Lithuania- my search was over!

The stress of all this had seen me in hospital with health problems, that linger to this day, so the expression "thank God for Lithuania ...without it I could be dead!" evolves from the joy of working with some of the best staff I have ever employed, combined with some of the finest and most loyal factories producing excellent products with an almost old fashioned loyalty and ethic that was so prevalent in the UK of my youth.

Altogether the move to Lithuania has not only been a work influenced move but the social aspect of the community of local and expats has opened my eyes to a life of harmony and peace that I thought was lost forever and fills me each day with happiness.

So Thank God for Lithuania in it's helping me develop not only a great company Pentland , a sum of it's fine employees ,but for giving me the chance to meet so many great and wonderful people not least the Editor of this fine Journal, Aage Myhre ,who I am honoured to count as my good friend .
May I say that the journal that Aage has developed tirelessly over many years is a fine demonstration of his love of Lithuania that I am proud to share with him!

Good luck to Vilnews and to you my friend Aage Myhre!


David Telky, Managing Director of Pentland – Scotland and Lithuania has over 35 years in the Clothing Manufacturing industry. David was born in Glasgow, Scotland where he has carried on the family business of 90 years to present. David participates hands on in his manufacturing companies from sales, production to delivery – producing fashion garments for the British and other western markets.

Category : Lithuania today

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Venclova`s Vilnius

This article is from the book “VILNIUS a Personal History” written by Tomas Venclova.
From reading Mr. Venclova’s Bio you can understand why we are excited and honoured to have him as one of the contributing writers for VilNews. In the future we will continue to post excerpts from his book for your reading enjoyment. We thank the publisher, The Sheep Meadow Press for their gracious consent in allowing us to share Mr. Venclova’s book with you and we would like to direct you to The University Press of New England who is the book’s distributor.

Published at:

Sheep Meadow Press
Distributed by:
University Press of New England

Text: Tomas Venclova

Vilnius was founded by Lithuanians, and in the Middle Ages they presumably established the tone of the city. Later, this changed radically. In Bakhtin’s* day, only about two percent of the citizens of Vilnius spoke Lithuanian. After the Second World War, everything changed fundamentally. As the tanks of several occupying armies rolled through the city, half of its inhabitants were murdered, the other half driven out or deported. Lithuanians from villages and small towns, intellectuals (my parents among them) who had earlier been drawn to Kaunas, the second largest Lithuanian city, streamed into the de-populated Vilnius. In short, thousands of people were getting to know their nation’s legendary capital for the first time and had difficulty gaining a foothold in their new surroundings which, quite apart from everything else, were being subjected to the hand of Communist power. Only now, several generations later, do Lithuanians constitute a majority in Vilnius and feel at home there. Today, the Lithuanian language predominates in the streets and has supplanted other languages on signs and public notices. (Despite the protests of philologists, these signs are often printed in English.)

In the surrounding villages, Lithuanian is certainly not spoken everywhere. You have to drive at least thirty miles north or south to hear the old language again. Its dialects differ greatly from one another: for example, the Aukstaiciai, who live in the northern coastal region, have long been known for their sensitivity and imagination; the Dzukai, from the southern pine forests, have always struggled with their sandy soil and sell their berries and mushrooms in Vilnius. The villages of these two groups extend all the way to Belarus―and Belarusian settlements extend into present-day Lithuania. From an ethnic standpoint, the border east of Vilnius follows a completely arbitrary course―even though it separates the European Union from a country still under dictatorial rule. Lithuanians and Slavs have always lived together in the areas surrounding the city. One can probably say that Vilnius has always been on the European border―a sort of transit lounge.

The second historic people of Vilnius called themselves Ruthenians. In the Middle Ages, their language was probably heard as often on the wooden sidewalks of the city as Lithuanian. The Ruthenians were already building their Orthodox churches when the Lithuanians were still heathens. In governmental affairs, the Slavic language predominated because writing was connected with Orthodoxy. It is hard to say just when the East Slavic tribe of the Ruthenians became a separate people. At first, the only thing that differentiated them from the Muscovite Russians was their dialect, but later, when they developed a greater affinity with the West, their political orientation followed suit. Ruthenian churches did not belong to the Patriarchy of Moscow but rather to the Patriarchy of Constantinople, which did not always agree with Moscow.

With the passage of centuries marked by turmoil and religious wars, the Belarusian people gradually formed out of the Ruthenians in the Vilnius area and further east. Even today, having settled among Russians and Poles―Orthodox Christians and Catholics, respectively―Belarusians lack a distinctive identity. Moreover, their contact with the Lithuanians also had consequences. There are many Lithuanian words in the Belarusian language, and many Belarusian or Ruthenian words in Lithuanian, especially ecclesiastical words. The grammar of the Belarusian language was only codified by twentieth-century nationalists; the nationalist movement they triggered was the latest to occur in all of Europe. The Belarusians―like their neighbors the Dzukai―held on to their archaic mythology, folklore, and customs; they were long known not only for their generosity but also for their poverty and their inability to subsist on the barren soil of a region where there were practically no roads. Up until the First World War, four-fifths of the population were illiterate. Politics determined how they were classified in passports and statistics. Whatever nation happened to be in power at the time would count the Belarusians among its own people, even if it looked down on them. Today, some Belarusians describe their nationality with the word tutejszy—“local.” Another Ruthenian dialect goes back to the origins of the Ukrainian people, but that is another story. The Ukraine is far to the south of my country.

The third historic people, the Poles, had the greatest impact on Vilnius and its surroundings for several centuries. Catholicism came to Lithuania from Poland and brought with it a different way of life. Relatively few Poles actually came to Vilnius―most of them priests. The local Lithuanian and Ruthenian upper class viewed the Polish aristocracy with great mistrust and tried to keep them from settling in their territory in every imaginable way. But at the very same time this local upper class, captivated by Polish Renaissance customs and freedoms, quickly decided to adopt the Polish language. This is a paradox rarely encountered elsewhere in Europe: the upper strata of society were in all respects Polish, but they stubbornly called themselves Lithuanians―as opposed to the “genuine” Poles from Krakow and Warsaw.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, city people primarily spoke Polish. Lithuanian and Belarusian were relegated to the rural regions and became a sign of peasant origin and backwardness. Actually, Belarusian is not very different from Polish and was considered one of its dialects. The Lithuanians faced a situation similar to that of the Irish: their language had about as much in common with Polish as Gaelic had with English, and therefore many people considered it just a historical curiosity―quaint, but doomed to oblivion. The Lithuanian intelligentsia managed to change this viewpoint (they were more successful than the Irish), but it was difficult and took a long time. In other words, there were two types of Lithuanians: the first type knew only Polish and couldn’t imagine a life without Poland, even though they were local patriots, whose forefathers spoke Lithuanian (or Ruthenian); the second type, who were less conspicuous, still spoke the old Lithuanian language and dreamed of an independent Lithuanian state. This social division resulted in considerable animosity. Later, it turned into armed conflict, which would determine the fate of the city.

Józef Piłsudski, who founded the independent Polish state after the First World War, saw himself as having Lithuanian origins, as did Adam Mickiewicz in the nineteenth century and Tadeusz Kósciuszko in the eighteenth. Piłsudski liked to say, “Poland is like a pretzel―everything that’s good about it is in the outer crusts, and inside there’s nothing.” Among these “outer crusts,” Piłsudski ranked Vilnius above all others. He had been educated in Vilnius, and it was there that he had first become interested in revolutionary ideas and was first arrested for taking part in a conspiracy. Another conspirator in that same plot, Lenin’s older brother Alexander, was hanged. But Piłsudski survived and eventually, weapon in hand, liberated his own country, brought Lenin’s Bolsheviks to a standstill at the Vistula, and marched into the city he had grown up in. For the next twenty years, Vilnius would remain a part of his country, Poland. Although Piłsudski’s heart is buried in a Vilnius cemetery, the Poles are today a minority in the city; they no longer form the upper class, nor even the educated class. For the most part, they are laborers, craftsmen, former peasants. The Polish language is still dominant in the surrounding villages, although it is difficult to establish precisely where it spills into Belarusian.

There are also genuine Russians in Vilnius. The first Russian probably came to Lithuania from Moscow as early as the sixteenth century: Prince Kurbsky, the patron of all Russian dissidents and political émigrés. After a dreadful falling-out with Tsar Ivan “the Terrible,” Kurbsky wrote letters to his former ruler from nearby Lithuania. The Tsar replied with angry, but impeccably literary outbursts. This was the start of a polemic between tyrants and their opponents that has continued in Russia ever since. About a century later, émigrés appeared who disagreed with the reform of the Orthodox Church and had decided to preserve the old liturgy and morality. These so-called “Old Believers” put down roots in Vilnius but continued to speak their own language, which is quite distinct from Belarusian and Polish―and not at all like Lithuanian. The Old Believers gained a reputation as quiet, hardworking people. Their churches are modest and do not resemble Orthodox churches at all. One of them, behind the train station in an out-of-the-way section of Vilnius, is surrounded by high walls that formerly protected it from attacks by followers of the New Orthodox Church who threw stones at the Old Believers.

When the city was under Tsarist occupation in the nineteenth century, these New Orthodox Russians came to Vilnius in great numbers. They built churches, usually in the most conspicuous locations: even today their threatening, onion-shaped cupolas loom high above the city―in sharp contrast to the graceful Baroque of the Catholic churches. During the Soviet era, Russians made up at least one third of the population. The majority had moved to Vilnius only after the end of the Second World War. At the time, all public notices and signs had to be printed in Cyrillic lettering as well as in the Roman alphabet. Lithuanian and Polish schools devoted considerable time to learning Russian. I wasn’t too upset about that because I was just beginning to love Alexander Pushkin, as well as the later Silver Age poets Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam, who were not listed in the syllabus or mentioned in school at all. But I was an exception; my classmates equated the Russians with the unbearable Soviet government. When it collapsed, the majority of Russian civil servants and military personnel left Lithuania, accompanied by their daughters, who had piqued my youthful interest. But quite a few intellectuals―who were, as a rule, closer to Kurbsky’s tradition than to that of Ivan the Terrible―remained, and this too is still noticeable in the city.

Two tiny ethnic groups are also among the historic peoples of Vilnius: the Tatars and the Karaites. Though the city is far from the Balkans, some Moslems live there. Tatars, followers of the Prophet, settled here as early as the Middle Ages. They even had a wooden mosque and a cemetery in their own city district near the bend of the Neris River. For many years it was known as “Tartaria.” I can still remember seeing in the cemetery the abandoned stone grave markers, decorated with a crescent moon. During my time in Vilnius, the mosque was torn down and the graves were transferred to a distant suburb, but they still exist. Even now you can still find Tatars―fewer perhaps in Vilnius itself than in its vicinity, where there are still mosques that face Mecca. The Tatars have forgotten their Turkic language and now speak Belorussian, but they still read the Koran. (There are even Belorussian manuscripts using the Arabic alphabet.) Incidentally, the most famous participant of the struggle against the Soviets in 1991, Loreta Asanavičūtė, was descended from Lithuanian Tatars. She was the young girl who was run over by a tank and killed when Gorbachev’s troops sought in vain to suppress the independence movement. It is easy to identify the Moslem name “Hassan” in her surname.

The Karaites, one of the smallest ethnic groups in the world, are even more unique. There are scarcely three hundred of them, but in this case quality compensates for quantity: the Karaites stubbornly cling to their language and religion, and one cannot confuse them with anyone else. Their Turkic language is quite similar to that of the Tatars, but their religion is unique. The Karaites call themselves the “People of the One Book,” for they recognize only the Torah. Although they consider both Christ and Mohammed prophets, they hold neither the New Testament nor the Koran sacred. Theirs is, in effect, the oldest pre-Talmudic Judaism―in a significantly altered form, of course. The Karaites, it is said, were a remnant of the mysterious Khazars―a nomadic people (about whom we know almost nothing) who adopted this faith in the early Middle Ages. Whether or not this is true, the Karaites have remained in the Lithuanian forests as an enclave of the Asiatic Steppe. Once warlike, today they are primarily farmers. Most of them live in the little town of Trakai, although they also have a synagogue in Vilnius. A relatively large number of them are intellectuals. Present-day Lithuania has three Karaite diplomats―one is the ambassador to Turkey. (Her native language allows her to understand Turkish.) It would be difficult to imagine another ethnic group of which one percent are employed by the diplomatic service.

I have not yet mentioned the seventh historic people; today, hardly any of them are left in Vilnius. For several centuries, they formed one half of the city’s population—and sometimes more than half—namely, the Jews. They called Vilnius Jerusholayim de Lite, Lithuanian Jerusalem, and the city actually resembled Jerusalem in size and had a self-contained Old Town, whose walls enclosed a veritable oriental maze of streets and alleys. The Jewish quarter was a considerable part of this jumble, with arches that extended over the walls and with numerous houses of prayer, among them the Great Synagogue. Eighteen Torah scrolls were stored there, and among the Great Synagogue’s columns five thousand of the faithful could find room to pray. Small stores were clustered around the synagogue, along with tradesmen’s workshops and libraries. The largest of the libraries, founded by the Enlightenment philosopher Mattityahu Strashun, housed Hebrew incunabula and manuscripts.

Lithuanian heads of state and bishops issued detailed regulations restricting the rights of Jews. For example, a synagogue could not be higher than a Catholic church; that is why one had to enter a Jewish house of prayer as if one were going downstairs into a cellar. Still, on the whole, Jews were able to lead a more peaceful life in Vilnius than anywhere else in Europe, and when they lost their homelands in Cordoba and in the Rhineland, Vilnius became the most important Jewish center in the world. In many ways the city could indeed call itself the Lithuanian Jerusalem when describing its spiritual life. But today, all this is only a memory.

My parents were still able to witness the old Jewish quarter of Vilnius, unchanged since the sixteenth or seventeenth century. But my experience was something different. At the beginning of the Nazi occupation, when I was five years old, my mother and I met a man walking not on the sidewalk but in the gutter, a yellow six-pointed star sewn on his sleeve. My mother greeted the man, and after we had passed him I asked her what the yellow star meant. “He is Jewish,” my mother answered, “All the Jews are ordered to wear it.” Not until after the war did she tell me that she herself had been arrested because the new rulers suspected her of being Jewish. She could have been shot. My mother managed to save herself by having one of her former teachers testify that she was Lithuanian and Catholic―which was true.

In the post-war period, I was already attending school. On the way there, I had to walk through an overgrown area of ruins, in the center of which rose the remnants of a massive white building with vestiges of columns and arches. By the time I understood that it had once been the Great Synagogue, it had already been razed. The Soviet State supported the Jewish faith as little as it supported any other religion. Jews lay in mass graves in the pine forests of the suburb of Paneriai; very few still lived in Vilnius. Some went abroad; many emigrated to the real Jerusalem. The ruins became a barren land, and no one spoke of its past. A very dilapidated Strashun Street has survived—under a different name, of course. Today if you were to scratch the paint off the walls, here and there, below the windows you would find Hebrew letters.

* Mikhail Bakhtin, Russian philosopher 1895-1975

Category : Blog archive


- Posted by - (7) Comment









63.3 % of Lithuanian women have been victims of male physical or sexual violence or threats

after their 16th birthday. This represents today such a severe problem that, in my opinion,

President Grybauskaite should personally get involved and take the necessary measures

to turn around this devastating trend. Klaipeda municipality wants to be a pioneer-

municipality in terms of focus on domestic violence and abuse of women,

and I believe it could be a good idea for the President to support

these good efforts and make Klaipeda a positive show case for

constructive focus on domestic violence and

violence against women.



Today, the 8th of March, is International Women's Day, a day marked by women’s groups around the world. The day is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. The idea of an International Women's Day first arose at the very beginning of the 1900s.

But in Lithuania the 8th of March is not at all characterized by women's struggle for emancipation and equality, or any sort of fighting against violence and abuse. Believe it or not, but here you will experience no single parade, no placates with demanding lines for equal rights, or any stirring speeches from women's rights activists. 

The Soviet leaders were probably very anxious that the Women's Day could turn into a demonstration against the system and the many elderly, grey haired men at the top of the Kremlin. These men's smart move was to instead make the 8th of March a feast day, something in between Mother's Day and St. Valentine Day.

So, even today, 20 years after the Soviet collapse, the 8th of March in Lithuania is the day when all women receive presents, flowers, poems, text messages and lots of kind words and wishes from their men or lovers. While this day over the rest of the world makes the important point that this is a day for equality and justice between the genders, this is in Lithuania a day of romance and sweet music - a day when people celebrate more the difference than the equality between the genders.






Klaipeda municipality wants to be a pioneer-municipality in terms of focus on domestic violence and abuse of women. Lithuania's port city has for years had a women's shelter for women, but has now taken a huge step forward and is already well underway with the planning of what is probably going to be Lithuania's most modern and advanced crisis centre for women.


The municipality has been joined by the EU and a Danish fund, the Espersen Foundation, to finance the project, and everything is now arranged for Klaipeda at the end of 2011 to have a women's shelter most other Lithuanian municipalities should study further as soon as possible. For the problem of violence against women is an extremely serious, nationwide problem that needs immediate attention from authorities, communities and the very families throughout every corner of the country!


Let me also say that I consider it admirable that the Espersen Foundation so actively contributes financially and otherwise in a community where the foundation's commercial arm, the Espersen Fish Factory, during the last few years has built up a state of the art fish processing company that provides work to a large number of production workers and several external companies within fishery, transportation and many more. Klaipeda has for years benefited from this company's investments, that now in an exemplary way also shows how commercial businesses can demonstrate social responsibility and involvement in the communities in which they are established and located.




Marja-Liisa Kiljunen  Dalia Puidokiene  

Three of the speakers at the Klaipeda seminar 23rd of March

1) H.E. Ms. Marja-Liisa Kiljunen, Ambassador of Finland to Lithuania.

2) Ms. Dorte Scharling, Director Bornholm Kvindekrisecenter, Denmark.

3) Ms. Dalia Puidokiene, a teacher at Klaipeda University and a

doctorate candidate at the Lapin University in Finland.


Dialogue as attempt/effort to combat violence against women” is the main topic for a seminar that will be held in the Klaipeda municipality building the 23rd of March.

Klaipeda municipality will through this seminar in an exemplary way show that they want to put the situation of women and the new women's crisis center in a broader context and understanding.

The seminar will emphasize dialogue as the most important instrument in the effort to achieve improvements in the very tragic situation of women abuse in Lithuania. Dialogue, communication and information are certainly very important elements in these efforts, but then there has to be such a dialogue initiated at all levels of the Lithuanian society.

The ones I've talked to about this subject, say that a very serious weakness is that the laws are far from satisfactory. The Social Affairs Ministry will participate in the Klaipeda seminar, so it is to hope that it then will be clarified how the Lithuanian government now wants to go into a more constructive process of legislation that more effectively prevents domestic violence and violence against women.

It is my opinion that this problem is so very deep here in Lithuania that the country's president – who also is Lithuania's first female president - should immediately engage in pressuring the lawmakers to come up with a bill that could represent real significance to this murky area for Lithuania's families and communities.


Aage Myhre



Hard facts about women’s situation in Lithuania


- The Law on Equal Opportunities was adopted in 1999, but the system of implementation of the legislation and the mechanism of protecting women’s human rights are not sufficient enough to achieve optimal results.

- A very important step forward for the implementation of gender equality in Lithuania was done by the Government in 2003 by adopting the “National programme for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men 2003-2004” and 2005-2009.

- An inter-Ministerial Commission on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men was established in year 2000 to coordinate the implementation of the gender mainstreaming policy.

- In May 2009 Dalia Grybauskaite was elected Lithuania's first female president.


Lithuania has made it to the top-twenty list of countries worldwide in terms of security of equal opportunities for men and women, outmatching its neighbours and some of the EU’s old-timers.

According to the World Economic Forum that estimates economic, legal and social gaps between the genders, in 2007 Lithuania placed 14th, advancing by 7 places from 21 in 2006 as the BNS reported. Lithuania has been given a 72.3 percent score, while 100 percent means absolute equality and 0 percent — total discrimination. Latvia (73.3 percent) has moved up by 6 positions over a year to the 13th place, Estonia (70.1 percent) placed 30, one step above its position as of last year.



Population and families

  • The number of women in Lithuania exceeds the number of men. There are 114 women per 100 men.
  • The average life expectancy 78 years for women and 66 years for men.
  • Divorced, widowed and single women make up 48% of all women, men - 39%. The proportion of women without spouse is not diminishing.
  • A Lithuanian woman gives birth to her first child at the average age of 25. The proportion of women without a spouse is not diminishing.
  • After divorces, about 10 thousand children remained without one of their parents (mostly they are with their mothers).



  • The number of women students in higher schools exceeds that of men students. There are 60% of women students and 40% of men students in higher schools. But among scientists 37% are women and among doctors habillis just - 15%.
  • Distribution of students by gender is very diverse in different modules of education. Women students make up 75% of those studying social services and services for individual persons, 79% of those studying pedagogic and 79% - health care. In transport and security services, though, men students make up 87%, engineering - 81%, computing - 76%.
  • The majority (86%) of pedagogues of general schools are women.


Employment and labour market

  • Economic activity of women is lower than that of men. The activity indicator of men is 74%, while that of women - 66%.
  • Unemployment rate of men (15%) is higher than that of women (13%). Women have limited possibilities to combine family life with participation in economic activity. 86 thousand women or 14% of all working women have part-time work (men 10%).
  • The number of men and women by economic activity is rather varied. The majority of those working in health care are women as well as in social work and education, while men predominate in construction, electricity, gas and water supply.
  • Managing positions in all economic activities are mainly occupied by men. For example, women constitute 86% of secondary school pedagogues, though directors of these schools are primarily men (62%).
  • Women’s earning as percentage of men’s is 81.2%, in public sector 74.9% and in private sector- 85%. women are still make lower salaries than men. Women’s average gross wages per hour was 19.3 % lower than men’s wages In 2007. Women made up for 31 % of businesspeople in Lithuania in 2007, as compared with 26 % in 2006.


Participation in administration and decision-taking

  • The number of women in the Seimas (Parliament) (11%) is markedly lower than that of men, in the Government (ministers vice-ministers and minister‘s advisers) - 28%, and in Municipality Councils - 21%.
  • More men than women have their own business. About 40% of women have their own small or medium size enterprises.
  • Women make up 37 % of all leaders in the Lithuanian ruling elite such as the parliamentarians, senior state officials and executives of companies and establishments



women trafficking

Lithuania has become in recent years a country of women export and transit between Eastern, Central and Western European countries.  Poverty and unemployment force many women into prostitution. Different sources suggest that women from different social-demographical levels are involved in the sex-industry, mainly by young girls and women (average age – 24.5 years old) from so called risk groups. Experts claim that the geography in trafficking women from Lithuania is changing: if earlier it was Israel, Greece, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, now main flows extend to Germany, Holland, Great Britain, France, Sweden, and Spain.

One of the problems in dealing with trafficking issues in Lithuania is lack of statistics and reintegration of victims into the society. As a public opinion survey done in 2002 by request of International Organization for Migration (IOM) suggests, up to 53.4% of Lithuanian people think “many” or “very many” girls are trafficked abroad to work as prostitutes by deceit, and 6.7% of people face this phenomenon in their close social environment, i.e. there were attempts made to traffic their close friend, relative, colleague, acquaintance. (“Trafficking in women: problems and decisions“ IOM, Institute for Social Research, 2004).


violence against women

Violence constitutes one of the most actual problems in Lithuania. Most people of Lithuania have suffered from violence at least once in their life.   Males usually experience violence in public places, boys in parents’ families. Women are usually victims of sexual violence or violence in their own family…


Domestic violence

Violence, especially domestic violence, is one of the main problems women are facing in nowadays Lithuania.

Violence based on gender conflict, such as battering or any other domestic violence, sexual depravation and abuse, trafficking of women and children, forced prostitution and sexual harassment are incompatible with honour and dignity of a person.

There is lack of high-skilled officials, capable to assess situations of domestic conflicts, to find out sources for such behaviour and to assist victims or counsel the population in this field; insufficient training for judges, police officials, social teachers and social workers and doctors capable of dealing with violent men. Police and courts are avoiding the cases of domestic violence unless the victim is severely beaten or killed. All possible police measures against the perpetrator are very restricted and underused to protect the victim of violence.

The network of crisis centres providing support to victims of violence is insufficient. Many crisis centres were established and are operating on the initiative of non-governmental organisations. According to the data gathered by the Women’s Issues Information Centre, there now are 15 Crisis Centres and 6 Shelters for battered women, but they do not cover the whole territory of the country and only 2 of them are supported by Municipalities.

Crisis centres providing support to the victims of violence and working with perpetrators should be established following the territorial principle with active participation of municipalities.

A multiplex approach towards violence, covering support to violence victims, application of sanctions on perpetrators, awareness raising of the public, specialists and violence victims, education and training, law enforcement systems, strengthening the role of legal institutions and, health care, is still rather limited. Therefore, it is obvious that there is lack of appropriate complex programmes addressing the issues and covering the respective areas including coordination of actions of various public and non-governmental institutions.


Victim survey report – the sad reading


* 63.3 % of Lithuanian women have been victims of male physical or sexual violence or threats after their 16th birthday.


* 42.4 % of all married and cohabiting women have been victims of physical or sexual violence or threats of violence by their present partner.


* 53% of all women who had lived in relationships which had already terminated experienced violence or threats by their ex-partners.


* 11 % of Lithuanian women had at least once, after their 16th birthday, been victims of male physical or sexual violence or threats, perpetrated by a stranger, 8.2 % - by a friend, and 14.4 % by an acquaintance or relative.


* 71.4 % of Lithuanian women after their 16th birthday have been victims of sexual harassment or sexually offensive behaviour by a stranger, and 43.8% by a known man.


* 26.5 % of Lithuanian women after their 16th birthday had experienced sexual abuse by a stranger; 18.2 % by a known man; 17 % were attempted to be coerced into sexual intercourse by their date.


* 3.4 % of all victimised women reported that the experienced violence did not affect them, the absolute majority reported that this had caused hatred, helplessness, sorrow or other negative emotions.


            * 10.6 % of the victims reported the most serious incident to the police.


* Women who were victimised in their parental families more often were victimised in their marital families; women whose mother was abused by the spouse, more often experienced violence by their spouses; men whose father had been violent against the mother, had been more often violent against their own partner.


            * 75.3 % of adult Lithuanian women do not feel safe from risk of assault.


* 79 % of Lithuanian women believe that the home is the safest place for women and children.


Dr. Giedrė Purvaneckienė




Aggression only moves in one direction –

it creates more aggression


Margaret J. Wheatley 




Category : Blog archive

The tragic story of how one third of Lithuania’s population became victims of Soviet terror

- Posted by - (5) Comment


Dalia Kuodyte.

This article is based on a speech manuscript by Dalia Kuodyte,

Member of the Parliament, former Director General of the Centre of Genocide and Resistance (LGGRTC).

“In the trains’ cattle cars the passengers were hardly given any food except from a little water and some inedible soup. There was scarcely any air to breathe as everyone was jammed together and the cars had only a few small windows covered with bars. A hole in the floor served as a toilet. Some of the people, especially the infants became sick immediately and died. The bodies of those who died on the journey were left on the side of the tracks.”

The string of tragedies began in August 1939, when Hitler and Stalin concluded a cynical agreement that divided up Central Europe between the two totalitarian countries. According to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, Lithuania was to fall into the Soviet zone of influence.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, Lithuania was occupied three times: first by the USSR in 1940, then by Nazi Germany in 1941, and finally by the USSR again in 1944.

Pre-war Lithuania’s position of neutrality on the eve of WWII did not protect the country from its sad fate. According to Lithuanian state institutions, the damage caused by the USSR‘s occupation to the Republic of Lithuania in financial terms is $278 billion. During Nazi and Soviet occupations, including 200,000 Holocaust victims, the losses of the population of Lithuania amounted to 33 percent of the total number of the country's population in 1940. Lithuania lost 1 million people to deportations, executions, incarceration, the murder of the political opposition and forced emigration.

The total number of persons registered as “anti-Soviet elements” reached 320,000 entries. There were teachers and professors, school and college students, farmers, industry workers and craftsmen among them.

June 14-18, 1941 were the dark days of the first massive arrest and deportation of the Lithuanian population. A cargo of 16,246 people were crammed into cattle cars. Moscow’s instruction required separate men from their families. So, 3,915 men were separated and transported to concentration camps in the Krasnoyarsk territory while 12,331 women, children and elderly people were transported to the Altai Mountains territory, the Komi republic and to the Tomsk region.

Forty percent these deportees were children below 16 years old. More than half of the deported died quickly. Pregnant women and babies born in the cattle cars were the first victims – they died in the trains. The deportation process was interrupted by the German-Soviet war.

The Soviets resumed mass deportations to Siberia and other eastern regions of the USSR after recapturing Lithuania from Nazi Germany in 1944. The partisan anti-Soviet war for democratic and independent Lithuania began in 1944. Some 22,000 Lithuanian partisans lost their lives in unequal war against the Soviet regular army and NKVD units. From 1949 the armed resistance started to wane. This guerilla war continued until 1953. The last resistance fighter refused to surrender and shot himself in 1965.

Partisans, their supporters and non-armed opposition made up a big group among those who were deported in 1945 – 1947. Another big group of deportees was those who tried to escape service in the Red Army. Ethnic Germans and members of their families, who did not leave Lithuania, were deported as well.

The situation changed in 1948. The most extensive deportation from Lithuania was held on May 22 and 23, 1948. Over these two days 12,100 families, numbering over 41,000 people, were seized from their homes and exiled. In 1948, 50 percent of deportees were accused not of their relations with the armed guerillas. Their official guilt was their social class – they were owners of private farms. In 1949, already two-thirds of the deportees belonged to this category while in 1951 they absolutely dominated the Soviet secret police‘s statistics.

Such change was due to the collectivization campaign in the Lithuania’s countryside. In 1948, the Soviets started to implement mass collectivization, appropriating land and livestock. This resulted in establishment of kolkhozes. In 1950, some 90 percent of land was given to kolkhozes. Mass deportations continued until the death of Josef Stalin in 1953.

How did the typical deportation look? The NKVD broke into an apartment or house and arrested all the family members. The NKVD marched them onto the back of a truck. In the railway station as far as the eye could see there were men and women clutching suitcases and bundles of hastily gathered clothing, the elderly and the disabled searching for places to sit and mothers holding their children, all surrounded by Red Army soldiers brandishing weapons.

Usually, the men were put on separate trains. They usually were transported to prisons and the Gulags (concentration camps) while females, kids and the elderly were deported to live in God-forsaken settlements in Siberia.

In the cattle cars the passengers were given hardly any food except a little water and some inedible soup. There was scarcely any air to breathe as everyone was jammed together and the cars had only a few small windows covered with bars. A hole in the floor served as a toilet. Some of the people, especially the infants became sick immediately and died. The bodies of those who died on the journey were left on the side of the tracks.

After one month the train reached some Siberian center - for example, Novosibirsk. In this case, scores of wagons were transferred onto enormous barges and sent up the River Ob to some remote settlement to live in a bug-infested hut.

The Soviets immediately put their prisoners to work. They forced women and teenage girls to march into the forest to cut trees. They worked in deep snow, even as temperatures plunged to minus 45 degrees Celsius. Prisoners cut up trees and later lived in huts made from those tree branches. Sometimes it was so cold they awoke frozen to the ground.

Some deportees collapsed while the guards pushed the others along to another day of work. The collapsed prisoners were then left for dead somewhere behind in the wilderness.

In exchange for their efforts, prisoners received a small amount of hard bread. They were working for food. A full day of hard work was equal to 500 grams of bread. Physically weaker prisoners could only earn 100 grams of bread.

Working prisoners shared their meager rations with those who could not work – the little children, the old and the infirm. Much of the time people had virtually nothing to eat and everyone suffered from constant hunger. Their bodies were swollen and covered with boils caused by malnutrition. Their skin was inflamed by mosquito bites.

The youngest children were affected the most by the harsh conditions and almost all of them were sick. Many of them died from starvation and disease. The elderly followed the children. Those who remained could only struggle to dig graves in the frozen earth.

Gradually, the survivors tried to adjust to life in Siberia. Deportees were permitted to use a patch of ground on which to grow potatoes.

In 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided that deportees should be released. In late 1950s, the survivors started to return to Lithuania.

There is an old and cynical saying that one death is a tragedy, but a thousand are just a front-page headline. Well, of course, deaths of thousands of deportees began to make headlines only in late the 1980s. Let’s look to personal tragedies.

The Šiauliai Aušros Museum has 234 letters of political prisoners, deportees and partisans addressed to their family members and loved ones who managed to escape the Soviet terror in Lithuania.

Lawyer Ignas Urbaitis from town of Šiauliai was arrested on October 6, 1944. He was sentenced for 15 years of slavery work in concentration camps. He died in the Taishet concentration camp in the Irkutsk region in 1952.

He wrote letters to his wife Elena Urbaitienė. In 1947, he wrote, “I’m always walking in the room. Sometimes there is very little room left for it. Sometimes I can make just one step or even less because the room is covered by sleeping or lying bodies. I walk anyway. Other people find it strange. If you can imagine me, imagine me walking backwards and forwards like an animal in the zoo cage. Walking gives comfort to my nerves and heart.”

Urbaitis, like all prisoners of concentration camps, was allowed to write only two letters per year. These letters should be written in Russian because all letters were read by the censors. So, prisoners avoided to write about their sufferings directly because of this censorship.

The survivors of the Gulags and deportations can speak openly now. Former deportee Janė Meškauskaitė says that she and her family was kidnapped by the NKVD one night because her father was member of the ruling Tautininkų Party in the pre-war Lithuania. Her family was put on a train and dropped off at a remote village in the Tomsk region many days later.

They were among the more fortunate deportees, as Russian farmers from Kazakhstan who were exiled in the early 1930s for being to wealthy inhabited the village. They understood her family‘s plight and welcomed them into society. Nevertheless, food was scarce.

“My father once bought some meat from a local crook. He and a friend hid in the woods to cook and eat it so that thugs wouldn’t steal it. They found out later that they were eating a friend of theirs who had just died,” said Meškauskaitė.

Bread was also strictly rationed. “People in our village were allotted 300 grams of flour a day. One time the flourmill broke down so we were simply given whole grains. People were so hungry that they would just eat them uncooked. Of course, most had bad teeth and couldn’t chew them so they would end up undigested in the latrines. Many people would go and collect them, wash them, and make porridge,” she said.

Vytautas Stašaitis was a son of an air force major in pre-World War II independent Lithuania. The family’s spacious house was commandeered by Soviets troops in 1945. His family was exiled to Siberia but he managed to go underground as part of the resistance movement.

Shortly thereafter a supposed friend lured him into a trap. He was asked to supply ammunition for an assassination attempt on the head of the local NKVD. His “friend” gave him up and he was mercilessly beaten during his interrogation.

“I wanted to hang myself in my cell but they prevented me. They gave me 10 years forced labor for sedition and shipped me to Krasnoyarsk to cut trees. They marched us for six days with barely any food and water. Those who couldn’t keep up were shot. When we got to the labor camp they clothed us in the uniforms of dead soldiers. They still had bullet holes and blood stains,” Stašaitis said adding that political prisoners were forced to live together with aggressive Russian criminals who were sentenced for murders and robbery.

Life in Stalin-era labor camps was a dehumanizing experience. The diet allocated to prisoners was less than that required for survival. “As inmates we were chained in pairs. Once my partner and I thought a wolf was attacking us. It turned out to be a guard dog that had broken loose from its chain. We killed it with our axes and buried it in the snow. We returned many times to cook and eat it. Those were some of the best meals of my life,” he said.

Life was not easy for those who survived and returned to Lithuania. Meškauskaitė returned to Lithuania in 1958. “We were placed in an impossible situation. The government required us to register with the local municipality or face renewed deportation. In order to register, we needed an employer, but no one would have courage to give a work to former deportee. I lived and worked illegally for many years with the help of relatives,” she said.

Now former political prisoners, deportees and partisans receive an additional pension, which Lithuanian state finances can manage. Russia, which officially proclaimed inheritance of all international rights and obligations of the USSR, shows no will to pay compensation to them. The Russian state has never said a word asking for forgiveness for the Soviet terror in the occupied Baltic states. However, it was done by Russian dissidents.

Russian Duma MP Sergey Kovalev did it in the Lithuanian parliament in June, 2000. By the way, it is symbolic that in 1974-1975, Kovalev was jailed in the Vilnius KGB prison, which is the Museum of Genocide Victims now, for cooperation with the underground magazine The Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church.

Kovalev said in his address to the Lithuanian parliament, “It is not true that nations do not commit crimes. The Germans and we should understand it. If we don’t understand our guilt, we can’t expect victory over cannibalistic ideologies. We went to demonstrations in the 1930s supporting mass killings. We are guilty, our Western neighbors. It is my nation that occupied the Baltic countries. Please, forgive us.”

Felix Krasavin, a former Soviet-time political prisoner now living in Israel, spoke to the forum of some 5,000 former Lithuanian political prisoners and deportees in the Vilnius Sport Arena in June, 2000. “Soviet fascism killed many more people than its German brother. The lies of Soviet fascism were much bigger than those of German fascism,” he said.

During their nearly five decades of occupation, the Soviets killed or deported hundreds of thousands Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian men, women and children. However, this was only a fraction of the tens of millions of people in the USSR and Central Europe whom communists subjected to the midnight knock on the door, arrest, intentionally created famine and starvation, torture, slave labor, or execution.

Nicolas Werth, French historian and one of the authors of “Livre noir du communisme (The Black Book of Communism)” say the communists killed at least 100 million people in the world. During his lecture in Vilnius University in 2000, he said communism was born in Russia because this country had no democratic experience. During 80 years, one-third of the planet’s population lived under communist regimes. "The closer the country was to the center of repression [Moscow], the more the models of repression were similar to the Soviet ones: public trials, tortures, killings, deportations,” he said.

Virtually no one has been called to account for what was done. The West has chosen to forget these horrors. Nothing of these horrors is taught in their schools. There is no grand museum in Washington, D.C., dedicated to those whose lives were destroyed by the communists.

No Communist Party bosses in Russia have ever been made to pay for their transgressions. Not one labor camp commandant has been forced to answer for his inhumanity. There is no talk of reparations. The Kremlin objects whenever anyone raises questions about the injustice of the past.

The great crimes of Soviet communism are mostly just remembered in the hearts and souls of the victims.

Lithuanians are considering the Soviet terror corresponded to genocide. Most of those deported were doomed - a third of them to a speedy death and the rest to a life of misery in Siberia. One only had to be an honest Lithuanian citizen to face deportation. A lot of work has to be done to clarify world opinion.

Category : Historical Lithuania


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By Dr. Boris Vytautas Bakunas,
Ph. D., Chicago

A wave of unity sweeps the international Lithuanian community on March 11th every year as Lithuanians celebrated the anniversary of the Lithuanian Parliament's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the sense of national unity engendered by the celebration could be short-lived.

Human beings have a strong tendency to overgeneralize and succumb to stereotypical us-them distinctions that can shatter even the strongest bonds. We need only search the internet to find examples of divisive thinking at work:

- "50 years of Soviet rule has ruined an entire generation of Lithuanian.

- "Those who fled Lithuania during World II were cowards -- and now they come back, flaunt their wealth, and tell us 'true Lithuanians' how to live."

- "Lithuanians who work abroad have abandoned their homeland and should be deprived of their Lithuanian citizenship."

Could such stereotypical, emotionally-charged accusations be one of the main reasons why relations between Lithuania's diaspora groups and their countrymen back home have become strained?

* * *

Text: Saulene Valskyte

In Lithuania Christmas Eve is a family event and the New Year's Eve a great party with friends!
Lithuanian say "Kaip sutiksi naujus metus, taip juos ir praleisi" (the way you'll meet the new year is the way you will spend it). So everyone is trying to spend New Year's Eve with friend and have as much fun as possible.

Lithuanian New Year's traditions are very similar to those in other countries, and actually were similar since many years ago. Also, the traditional Lithuanian New Years Eve party was very similar to other big celebrations throughout the year.

The New Year's Eve table is quite similar to the Christmas Eve table, but without straws under the tablecloth, and now including meat dishes. A tradition that definitely hasn't changes is that everybody is trying not to fell asleep before midnight. It was said that if you oversleep the midnight point you will be lazy all the upcoming year. People were also trying to get up early on the first day of the new year, because waking up late also meant a very lazy and unfortunate year.

During the New Year celebration people were dancing, singing, playing games and doing magic to guess the future. People didn't drink much of alcohol, especially was that the case for women.

Here are some advices from elders:
- During the New Year, be very nice and listen to relatives - what you are during New Year Eve, you will be throughout the year.

- During to the New Year Eve, try not to fall, because if this happens, next year you will be unhappy.

- If in the start of the New Year, the first news are good - then the year will be successful. If not - the year will be problematic.

New year predictions
* If during New Year eve it's snowing - then it will be bad weather all year round. If the day is fine - one can expect good harvest.
* If New Year's night is cold and starry - look forward to a good summer!
* If the during New Year Eve trees are covered with frost - then it will be a good year. If it is wet weather on New Year's Eve, one can expect a year where many will die and dangerous epidemics occur.
* If the first day of the new year is snowy - the upcoming year will see many young people die. If the night is snowy - mostly old people will die.
* If the New Year time is cold - then Easter will be warm.
* If during New Year there are a lot of birds in your homestead - then all year around there will be many guests and the year will be fun.

* * *

* * *
Christmas greetings
from Vilnius

* * *
Ukraine won the historic
and epic battle for the
By Leonidas Donskis
Philosopher, political theorist, historian of
ideas, social analyst, and political

Immediately after Russia stepped in Syria, we understood that it is time to sum up the convoluted and long story about Ukraine and the EU - a story of pride and prejudice which has a chance to become a story of a new vision regained after self-inflicted blindness.

Ukraine was and continues to be perceived by the EU political class as a sort of grey zone with its immense potential and possibilities for the future, yet deeply embedded and trapped in No Man's Land with all of its troubled past, post-Soviet traumas, ambiguities, insecurities, corruption, social divisions, and despair. Why worry for what has yet to emerge as a new actor of world history in terms of nation-building, European identity, and deeper commitments to transparency and free market economy?

Right? Wrong. No matter how troubled Ukraine's economic and political reality could be, the country has already passed the point of no return. Even if Vladimir Putin retains his leverage of power to blackmail Ukraine and the West in terms of Ukraine's zero chances to accede to NATO due to the problems of territorial integrity, occupation and annexation of Crimea, and mayhem or a frozen conflict in the Donbas region, Ukraine will never return to Russia's zone of influence. It could be deprived of the chances to join NATO or the EU in the coming years or decades, yet there are no forces on earth to make present Ukraine part of the Eurasia project fostered by Putin.

* * *
Watch this video if you
want to learn about the
new, scary propaganda
war between Russia,
The West and the
Baltic States!

* * *
90% of all Lithuanians
believe their government
is corrupt
Lithuania is perceived to be the country with the most widespread government corruption, according to an international survey involving almost 40 countries.

* * *
Lithuanian medical
students say no to
bribes for doctors

On International Anticorruption Day, the Special Investigation Service shifted their attention to medical institutions, where citizens encounter bribery most often. Doctors blame citizens for giving bribes while patients complain that, without bribes, they won't receive proper medical attention. Campaigners against corruption say that bribery would disappear if medical institutions themselves were to take resolute actions against corruption and made an effort to take care of their patients.

* * *
Doing business in Lithuania

By Grant Arthur Gochin
California - USA

Lithuania emerged from the yoke of the Soviet Union a mere 25 years ago. Since then, Lithuania has attempted to model upon other European nations, joining NATO, Schengen, and the EU. But, has the Soviet Union left Lithuania?

During Soviet times, government was administered for the people in control, not for the local population, court decisions were decreed, they were not the administration of justice, and academia was the domain of ideologues. 25 years of freedom and openness should have put those bad experiences behind Lithuania, but that is not so.

Today, it is a matter of expectation that court pronouncements will be governed by ideological dictates. Few, if any Lithuanians expect real justice to be effected. For foreign companies, doing business in Lithuania is almost impossible in a situation where business people do not expect rule of law, so, surely Government would be a refuge of competence?

Lithuanian Government has not emerged from Soviet styles. In an attempt to devolve power, Lithuania has created a myriad of fiefdoms of power, each speaking in the name of the Government, each its own centralized power base of ideology.

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Greetings from Wales!
By Anita Šovaitė-Woronycz
Chepstow, Wales

Think of a nation in northern Europe whose population is around the 3 million mark a land of song, of rivers, lakes, forests, rolling green hills, beautiful coastline a land where mushrooms grow ready for the picking, a land with a passion for preserving its ancient language and culture.

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like Lithuania? Ah, but I didn't mention the mountains of Snowdonia, which would give the game away.

I'm talking about Wales, that part of the UK which Lithuanians used to call "Valija", but later named "Velsas" (why?). Wales, the nation which has welcomed two Lithuanian heads of state to its shores - firstly Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, who has paid several visits and, more recently, President Dalia Grybauskaitė who attended the 2014 NATO summit which was held in Newport, South Wales.

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Read Cassandra's article HERE

Read Rugile's article HERE

Did you know there is a comment field right after every article we publish? If you read the two above posts, you will see that they both have received many comments. Also YOU are welcome with your comments. To all our articles!
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Greetings from Toronto
By Antanas Sileika,
Toronto, Canada

Toronto was a major postwar settlement centre for Lithuanian Displaced Persons, and to this day there are two Catholic parishes and one Lutheran one, as well as a Lithuanian House, retirement home, and nursing home. A new wave of immigrants has showed interest in sports.

Although Lithuanian activities have thinned over the decades as that postwar generation died out, the Lithuanian Martyrs' parish hall is crowded with many, many hundreds of visitors who come to the Lithuanian cemetery for All Souls' Day. Similarly, the Franciscan parish has standing room only for Christmas Eve mass.

Although I am firmly embedded in the literary culture of Canada, my themes are usually Lithuanian, and I'll be in Kaunas and Vilnius in mid-November 2015 to give talks about the Lithuanian translations of my novels and short stories, which I write in English.

If you have the Lithuanian language, come by to one of the talks listed in the links below. And if you don't, you can read more about my work at
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As long as VilNews exists,
there is hope for the future
Professor Irena Veisaite, Chairwoman of our Honorary Council, asked us to convey her heartfelt greetings to the other Council Members and to all readers of VilNews.

"My love and best wishes to all. As long as VilNews exists, there is hope for the future,"" she writes.

Irena Veisaite means very much for our publication, and we do hereby thank her for the support and wise commitment she always shows.

You can read our interview with her
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Facing a new reality

By Vygaudas Ušackas
EU Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Dear readers of VilNews,

It's great to see this online resource for people interested in Baltic affairs. I congratulate the editors. From my position as EU Ambassador to Russia, allow me to share some observations.

For a number of years, the EU and Russia had assumed the existence of a strategic partnership, based on the convergence of values, economic integration and increasingly open markets and a modernisation agenda for society.

Our agenda was positive and ambitious. We looked at Russia as a country ready to converge with "European values", a country likely to embrace both the basic principles of democratic government and a liberal concept of the world order. It was believed this would bring our relations to a new level, covering the whole spectrum of the EU's strategic relationship with Russia.

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The likelihood of Putin
invading Lithuania
By Mikhail Iossel
Professor of English at Concordia University, Canada
Founding Director at Summer Literary Seminars

The likelihood of Putin's invading Lithuania or fomenting a Donbass-style counterfeit pro-Russian uprising there, at this point, in my strong opinion, is no higher than that of his attacking Portugal, say, or Ecuador. Regardless of whether he might or might not, in principle, be interested in the insane idea of expanding Russia's geographic boundaries to those of the former USSR (and I for one do not believe that has ever been his goal), he knows this would be entirely unfeasible, both in near- and long-term historical perspective, for a variety of reasons. It is not going to happen. There will be no restoration of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical entity.

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Are all Lithuanian energy
problems now resolved?
By Dr. Stasys Backaitis,
P.E., CSMP, SAE Fellow Member of Central and Eastern European Coalition, Washington, D.C., USA

Lithuania's Energy Timeline - from total dependence to independence

Lithuania as a country does not have significant energy resources. Energy consuming infrastructure after WWII was small and totally supported by energy imports from Russia.

First nuclear reactor begins power generation at Ignalina in 1983, the second reactor in 1987. Iganlina generates enough electricity to cover Lithuania's needs and about 50%.for export. As, prerequisite for membership in EU, Ignalina ceases all nuclear power generation in 2009

The Klaipėda Sea terminal begins Russia's oil export operations in 1959 and imports in 1994.

Mazeikiu Nafta (current ORLEAN Lietuva) begins operation of oil refinery in 1980.

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Have Lithuanian ties across
the Baltic Sea become
stronger in recent years?
By Eitvydas Bajarunas
Ambassador to Sweden

My answer to affirmative "yes". Yes, Lithuanian ties across the Baltic Sea become as never before solid in recent years. For me the biggest achievement of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea region during recent years is boosting Baltic and Nordic ties. And not because of mere accident - Nordic direction was Lithuania's strategic choice.

The two decades that have passed since regaining Lithuania's independence can be described as a "building boom". From the wreckage of a captive Soviet republic, a generation of Lithuanians have built a modern European state, and are now helping construct a Nordic-Baltic community replete with institutions intended to promote political coordination and foster a trans-Baltic regional identity. Indeed, a "Nordic-Baltic community" - I will explain later in my text the meaning of this catch-phrase.

Since the restoration of Lithuania's independence 25 years ago, we have continuously felt a strong support from Nordic countries. Nordics in particular were among the countries supporting Lithuania's and Baltic States' striving towards independence. Take example of Iceland, country which recognized Lithuania in February of 1991, well in advance of other countries. Yet another example - Swedish Ambassador was the first ambassador accredited to Lithuania in 1991. The other countries followed suit. When we restored our statehood, Nordic Countries became champions in promoting Baltic integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. To large degree thanks Nordic Countries, massive transformations occurred in Lithuania since then, Lithuania became fully-fledged member of the EU and NATO, and we joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2015.

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It's the economy, stupid *
By Valdas (Val) Samonis,

n his article, Val Samonis takes a comparative policy look at the Lithuanian economy during the period 2000-2015. He argues that the LT policy response (a radical and classical austerity) was wrong and unenlightened because it coincided with strong and continuing deflationary forces in the EU and the global economy which forces were predictable, given the right policy guidance. Also, he makes a point that LT austerity, and the resulting sharp drop in GDP and employment in LT, stimulated emigration of young people (and the related worsening of other demographics) which processes took huge dimensions thereby undercutting even the future enlightened efforts to get out of the middle-income growth trap by LT. Consequently, the country is now on the trajectory (development path) similar to that of a dog that chases its own tail. A strong effort by new generation of policymakers is badly needed to jolt the country out of that wrong trajectory and to offer the chance of escaping the middle-income growth trap via innovations.

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Have you heard about the
South African "Pencil Test"?
By Karina Simonson

If you are not South African, then, probably, you haven't. It is a test performed in South Africa during the apartheid regime and was used, together with the other ways, to determine racial identity, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. That repressive test was very close to Nazi implemented ways to separate Jews from Aryans. Could you now imagine a Lithuanian mother, performing it on her own child?

But that is exactly what happened to me when I came back from South Africa. I will tell you how.

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Click HERE to read previous opinion letters >

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