THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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Text: Jolita Sinicaite
If you want a taste of the largest open-air market on the Baltic Coast, then Gariunai Market is the place to go. Twenty minutes outside Vilnius, Gariūnai is a market place big as an airport, with tens of thousands of cars packed side by side, and the utility company Vilniaus Energy‘s cooling towers behind. It has ample room for 100,000 merchants and people . The Lithuanians call it “The largest market in Europe”, and considering its size, it may actually be true. People come here from all the Baltic States and from Poland, Russia, Belarus, Western Europe, Asia and all the way from Vietnam and the Arab world to sell and buy things. As you walk through the market you can hear all of the eastern European languages.. All kinds of goods like clothes, music, shoes and software are available here. For those on a low budget Gariunai Market is a must-see; however, quality doesn't come cheap.
You can find anything from cheap detergent, children's clothes, car spare parts, stolen car stereos with the characteristically snipped-off cables, knickknacks, to software and all-new ex-Red Army night-vision telescopes, everything!
This is the sketchiest market in all of Lithuania and all Baltic countries. Besides the regular array of cleaning products (they are about 10% cheaper than they would be in Maxima or IKI), this place boasts the most junk for your money. You can really find anything here. Take care of your belongings! Try to go there accompanied by a local person
Established on the outskirts of Vilnius in 1990, within a couple of years the Gariunai open-air market had become a major centre for private wholesale trade within the former Soviet Union. Providing an income a nd jobs to thousand of people...
Criticism is leveled at various aspects: the market is uncivilized and dominated by racketeers and thieves; traders just stand there, they don't do real work; incomes are not declared, thus trade is black; the market is considered non-Lithuanian, and especially dominated by Poles and Russians; it is outdoor and often dirty (one's shoes get dirty), and finally goods are of poor quality and traders often cheat.
Furthermore, a continuous impoverishment of the market has recently taken place; profits are diminishing, while at the same time new groups of the population are entering the market, often forced by increasing (though largely hidden) unemployment in Lithuania. Many teachers, technicians and even a few artists (many of them women) have lately begun trading. This development has further influenced the status of the market. But although all the points of criticism of the market hold elements of truth, the process of marginalization, symbolically as well as economically seems to be more complex and in addition highly political; there is indeed more to it than dirty shoes.
Picturing Gariunai entirely as a novelty, however, would be misleading, since many traders have experiences from past (illegal) forms of underground production and trading, and the association between trade and 'speculation' is still significant. Thus when asked about the history of the market, traders usually explained that the market began as “talkucke”, an 'illegal place for speculation'
Places like Gariunai might be difficult to come to terms with for Lithuanians and Westerners alike, because they are visible signs of a very different kind of 'transition' from what was expected and accepted. But they are significantly, precise because they contradict the ideology of 'the transition' in several ways. They challenge academic and political discourse on the transition by questioning the political project of a homogenous nation state, the creation of a Western-style market and the possibility of achieving a Western living standard. On the contrary, the use of the Russian language, the prevalence of multi-ethnicity and traders' trans-ethnic and Asian orientation give it a distinct flavour of a sort of globalized Sovietism, and indeed there seems to be very little 'Western' about it at all.
Today Gariunai: http://wikimapia.org/1458487/Gariunai-Cars-Marketplace
Modernization projects are now in process and Gariunai is starting to call “park” on our days. 15,000 work places are there. Gariunai has their own Website - http://www.gariunai.lt/ . They are the biggest car trades, too http://www.autogariunai.lt/. Nearby there is a even a motel for a traders and customers http://www.gariunai.lt/motelis/index.php?DL=en I have to mentioned also their radio center http://www.gerasfm.lt/ and even football team http://www.fk.gariunai.lt/ Gariunai is a Government Importance Project on 32,5 hectares of land. There are recently constructed modern buildings already there and they are trying to resettle all the traders from their nasty booths outside to inside the buildings with new charges. Many don‘t want that because of higher costs.... And they are fighting against it... But sooner or later capitalistic views will take over... Soon from a non regulated, dirty, chaotic place where a real free market was and it is now will become a Westernized shopping mall. The identity of the biggest free market under sky will disappear ....soon.
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