THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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KAUNAS IN FOCUS
24 NOV – 26 DEC 2012
Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city and former capital, is receiving much attention in VilNews now as 2012 is coming to an end. We focus on history, business, culture, innovation, tourism and more. We would also like to hear from you who have a personal Kaunas story.
Send us your Kaunas story!
Vilniaus gatve (above), the Kaunas Old Town’s main street, was back in the
13th century a highway linking the city with Vilnius.
KAUNAS OLD TOWN has a lot of surviving Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. Many notable buildings and facilities are located here, such as the Kaunas Town Hall, the Kaunas Castle and the Historical Presidential Palace, House of Perkūnas, also the Kaunas Cathedral, the Church of St. Gertrude, Vytautas' church and many other churches. Great variety of museums, such as Museum of the History of Lithuanian Medicine and Pharmacy, Povilas Stulga Museum of Lithuanian Folk Instruments, Maironis Lithuanian Literature Museum, Communication History Museum, Museum of Gemology and Kaunas City Museum. The largest seminary in Lithuania - Kaunas Priest Seminary is located at the westernmost part of the Old Town.
Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centras_(Kaunas)
Text and photos: Aage Myhre
It was in 1408 that Lithuania’s Grand Duke Vytautas the Great granted Magdeburg rights to Kaunas, and after that point in time this settlement at the confluence of the Neris and Nemunas rivers began to grow as an important centre and main port for Lithuanian trade with Western Europe.
The original settlement, where today’s Kaunas old town is located, was first mentioned by the chroniclers in 1361, and it was here in the old town the first brick castle was built by the end of the 14th century, to defend Kaunas from the Crusaders’ attacks.
Kaunas castle is the oldest masonry castle in Lithuania. It was first mentioned in documents in year 1361 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaunas_Castle
In 1441, Hansa merchants opened an office in Kaunas, and this marked the beginning of a very dynamic growth for the town. By the end of the 16th century, Kaunas had its first school, public hospital and chemist shop, and was fast becoming one of the most developed towns in all the huge Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
However, during the 17th and 18th centuries, Kaunas was to travel through a long period of hardship and hostility, not least because of attacks by the Russian army in 1655, the Swedish march to Russia in 1701, plagues in 1657 and 1708, as well as devastating fires in 1731 and 1732.
At the end of the 18th century, the fortunes of Kaunas revived a little but only until 1812, the year that saw Napoleon's army cross the Nemunas River in Kaunas on their path to Vilnius and later Russia. Heading towards the end of the 19th century, Kaunas experienced several major developments that helped it back onto a path of prosperity and growth; developments such as the opening of the Oginsky canal connecting the Nemunas and Dnieper rivers; the railway connecting the Russian Empire and Germany that was built in 1862, and the opening of the first power plant in 1898.
Napoleon's Army Crossing the Nemunas at Kaunas 24 June 1812
Wood carving. Artist: Dž. Bagetti. Carver: I. Klauberis
The First World War stemmed the further development of Kaunas mainly because of the Tsar occupation, which meant Kaunas lost its independence until 1919. With Vilnius occupied by Russia in the same year, the State Council and Cabinet of Ministers moved and established themselves in Kaunas. The following years, with Poland occupying Vilnius, Kaunas became the capital and the most important city of Lithuania governed by its first Burgomaster, Jonas Vileisis; a period considered by many as the golden age of the city. In 1920, the national parliament (Seimas) gathered in Kaunas and laid the basis for the country's legal and parliamentarian system. Over the next few years Kaunas once again experienced rapid economic and industrial growth and a significant increase in population. In 1924 the first buses appeared in Kaunas, and in 1928 plumbing was installed in most of the city's buildings.
After the Second World War, Kaunas suffered further during the forty years of Soviet occupation, as many buildings and signs of Lithuanian independence were demolished or removed. One of the world’s first public protests against the Soviet rule was in 1972, when a young man, Romas Kalanta, set himself on fire in the square in front of the Musical Theatre of Kaunas. In 1988, upon the rising of the liberation movement, many city sights were revived: streets and museum names were returned, and many monuments of independence times were restored.
One of the world’s first public protests against the Soviet rule was in 1972, when a young man, Romas Kalanta, set himself on fire in the square in front of the Musical Theatre of Kaunas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romas_Kalanta
Since independence, Kaunas has established close links to western countries and companies, and with Lithuania having one of the fastest economic growth rates of the new EU member states, Kaunas has most certainly been one of the powerhouses of industry that has helped produce such an impressive economic climate in the country today. Kaunas has come a long way and it shows no signs of slowing down!
The excellent location of Kaunas in the very centre of Lithuania is certainly one of its main advantages, situated as it is on the crossroad of the main Lithuanian transport flows. Two main highways cross the city - Via Baltica, which connects Helsinki and Warsaw, and the highway that connects Vilnius and the port city of Klaipeda. A more an more important international airport is contributing to Kaunas’ attractiveness as the point that connects Lithuania to the world.
The long traditions of higher education is today being actively utilised as a base for Kaunas new profile as “the intelligent city” with special focus on areas like IT and development of companies, research institutions and programmes that support a dynamic and innovative economy.
The basketball team Žalgiris with its famous player Arvydas Sabonis, as well as other baskeball and other sports have put Kaunas on the world map
Kaunas is the second biggest city in Lithuania with the total area of 155.5 sq. km. and a population of approximately four hundred thousand.
The today’s Kaunas old town is a fascinating combination of archaeology, architecture and history. Here one finds the remains of a castle dating back to the 13th to 16th centuries standing as evidence of the ancient battles between Lithuania and the knights of the Teutonic Order. Numerous other buildings crowd together in a stimulating mixture of the arts and architecture of different eras. The 15th century produced the church of Vytautas, Saint George's church and the reconstructed Cathedral. City Hall, dating from the 16th to 18th centuries, is surrounded by charming old houses; the Perkūnas (Thunder) House dates back to the 15th century. Some of the city's structures are recognized as representing a distinct variation of the Northern European Renaissance style, notably the Church of the Holy Trinity and the Masalskis Manor complex (16th to 18th century).
The most outstanding baroque monument is the Paxaislis monastery, a collection of buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. This is among the most lovely examples of ecclesiastical architecture in Northern Europe, unified architecturally by its hexagonal design and a majestic cupola, with its façade proportioned according to the principles of Italian baroque, and its interior decorated with subtly coloured frescoes and statues.
Kaunas is a city of very old and established cultural traditions and a place where generations of Lithuanian artists, composers and writers lived and have left their imprint. Their works are on display in various museums and galleries, of which two are especially notable. The Art Gallery of M. K. Čiurlionis displays the work of this great painter and composer, who earned his place in the history of art.
It is possible to review Lithuania's history from its prehistory to the present day, at the Military Museum of Vytautas the Great. Among the most interesting exhibits is a memento of an early transatlantic flight - a wreck of the "Lituanica." In this plane, two pioneering Lithuanian aviators, Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas, flew non-stop from New York in 1933, sadly crashing in German territory, not far from their final destination in Lithuania.
Kaunas is Kaunas!
Some Kaunas images
Photos: Aage Myhre
The Town Hall of Kaunas (Lithuanian: Kauno rotušė) in the Town Hall Square, also called "The white swan". The structure dates from the 16th century. Today used for wedding ceremonies and official events.
Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_Hall,_Kaunas
After Vilnius was occupied by the Russian Bolsheviks in 1919, the government of the Republic of Lithuania established its main base in Kaunas. Later, when the capital Vilnius was forcibly annexed by Poland, Kaunas became the temporary capital of Lithuania,a position it held until 28 October 1939, when the Red Army handed Vilnius back to Lithuania. Here a picture from the Presidential Palace of the Republic of Lithuania in Kaunas,
At the end of World War I the Germans allowed the Vilnius Conference (18–22 September 1917) to convene (elections for a formal representative assembly were not permitted), demanding that Lithuanians declare loyalty to Germany and agree to an annexation. The Conference instead announced basic principles of a limited in territorial scope, but independent ethnic Lithuanian state, with cultural rights for the minorities; accordingly, the publication of the Conference's resolution was not allowed. The Conference elected a 20-member Council of Lithuania (Taryba) and empowered it to act as the executive authority of the Lithuanian people. The Council declared on 11 December Lithuanian independence as a German protectorate, and then adopted the outright Act of Independence of Lithuania on 16 February 1918. It proclaimed Lithuania as an independent republic, organized according to democratic principles. The Germans, still present in the country, did not support such a declaration and hindered attempts to establish actual independence. To prevent being incorporated into the German Empire, Lithuanians elected Monaco-born King Mindaugas II as the titular monarch of the Kingdom of Lithuania in July 1918. Mindaugas II never assumed the throne.
In the meantime, initially also under the German occupation, an attempt to revive the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as a socialist multinational federal republic took place. Anton Lutskevich and his Belarusian National Council proclaimed in March 1918 the Belarusian People's Republic, which was to stretch from the Baltic to the Black Sea and include Vilnius. Lutskevich and the Council fled the approaching Red Army and left Minsk before it was taken over by the Bolsheviks in December 1918. Upon their arrival in Vilnius, they proposed a Belarusian-Lithuanian federation, which however generated no interest on the part of the Lithuanian leaders, who were in advanced stages of promoting national plans of their own. The Lithuanians were interested only in a state "within ethnographic frontiers", as they perceived it.
Germany lost the war and signed the Armistice of Compiègne on 11 November 1918. Lithuanians quickly formed their first government, led by Augustinas Voldemaras, adopted a provisional constitution, and started organizing basic administrative structures. As the German army, defeated in the West, was withdrawing from the Eastern Front, it was followed by the Soviet forces, whose intention was to spread the global proletarian revolution. They created a number of puppet states, including on 16 December 1918 the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. By the end of December the Red Army reached Lithuanian borders, starting the Lithuanian–Soviet War.
On 1 January 1919 the German occupying army withdrew from Vilnius turning the city over to local Polish self-defense forces. The Lithuanian government evacuated Vilnius and moved west to Kaunas, which became the temporary capital of Lithuania. Vilnius was captured by the Soviet Red Army on 5 January 1919. As the Lithuanian army was in its infant stages, the Soviet forces moved largely unopposed and by mid-January 1919 controlled about ⅔ of the Lithuanian territory. Vilnius was now the capital of the Lithuanian Soviet Republic, and soon of the combined Lithuanian–Belarusian Soviet Republic.
From April 1919, the Lithuanian–Soviet War went parallel with the Polish–Soviet War. Polish troops captured Vilnius from the Soviets on 21 April 1919. Poland had territorial claims over Lithuania, especially the Vilnius Region, and these tensions spilled over into the Polish–Lithuanian War. Józef Piłsudski of Poland, seeking a Polish-Lithuanian federation, but unable to find common ground with Lithuanian politicians, in August 1919 made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Lithuanian government in Kaunas.
In mid-May the Lithuanian army, commanded by General Silvestras Žukauskas, began an offensive against the Soviets in northeastern Lithuania. By the end of August 1919, the Soviets were pushed out of the Lithuanian territory. The Lithuanian army was then deployed against the paramilitary West Russian Volunteer Army, who invaded northern Lithuania. They were Germany-reactivated and supported German and Russian soldiers who sought to retain German control over the former Ober Ost. West Russian Volunteers were defeated and pushed out by the end of 1919. Thus the first phase of the Lithuanian Wars of Independence was over and Lithuanians could direct attention to internal affairs.
The Constituent Assembly of Lithuania was elected in April and first met in May 1920. In June it adopted the third provisional constitution and on 12 July 1920 signed the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty. In the treaty the Soviet Union recognized fully independent Lithuania and its claims to the disputed Vilnius Region; Lithuania secretly allowed the Soviet forces passage through its territory, as they moved against Poland.
On 14 July 1920, the advancing Soviet army captured Vilnius for a second time from Polish forces. However, they only handed the city over to Lithuanians on 26 August 1920, following the defeat of the Soviet offensive. The victorious Polish army returned and the Soviet–Lithuanian Treaty increased hostilities between Poland and Lithuania. To prevent further fighting, the Suwałki Agreement was signed on 7 October 1920; it left Vilnius on the Lithuanian side of the armistice line. It had never gone into effect, because Polish General Lucjan Żeligowski, acting on Józef Piłsudski's orders, staged a military action presented as a mutiny. He invaded Lithuania on 8 October 1920, captured Vilnius the following day, and established a short-lived Republic of Central Lithuania on 12 October 1920. The "Republic" was a part of Piłsudski's federalist scheme, which was never to materialize, because of the opposition from both the Polish and Lithuanian (represented now by the Lithuanian government) nationalists. For 19 years, as the Vilnius Region had remained under Polish administration, Kaunas was the temporary capital of Lithuania. The League of Nations attempted to mediate the dispute and Paul Hymans proposed plans of a Polish–Lithuanian union. However, the negotiations broke down as neither side agreed to the compromise. Central Lithuania held a problematic election, boycotted by the Jews, Lithuanians and Belarusians, and was annexed into Poland on 24 March 1922.The Vilnius Region dispute was not legitimately resolved and Lithuania broke all relations with Poland. The two countries were officially at war over Vilnius, the historical capital of Lithuania, inhabited at that time largely by Polish-speaking and Jewish populations, between 1920 and 1938. The dispute continued to dominate Lithuanian domestic politics and foreign policy and doomed the relations with Poland for the entire interwar period.
The Constituent Assembly, which adjourned in October 1920 due to threats from Poland, gathered again and initiated many reforms needed in the new state: obtained international recognition and membership in the League of Nations, passed the law of land reform, introduced national currency litas, and adopted the final constitution in August 1922. Lithuania became a democratic state, with Seimas (parliament) elected by men and women for a three-year term. The Seimas elected the president. The First Seimas was elected in October 1922, but could not form a government as the votes split equally 38–38, and was forced to resign. Its only lasting achievement was the Klaipėda Revolt from 10-15 January 1923. Lithuania took advantage of the Ruhr Crisis and captured the Klaipėda Region, a territory detached from East Prussia according to the Treaty of Versailles, and placed under French administration. The region was incorporated as an autonomous district of Lithuania in May 1924. For Lithuania it was the only access to the Baltic Sea and an important industrial center. The Revolt was the last armed conflict in Lithuania before World War II. The Second Seimas, elected in May 1923, was the only Seimas in independent Lithuania that served the full term. The Seimas continued the land reform, introduced social support systems, started repaying foreign debt. Strides were made in education: the network of primary and secondary schools was expanded and first universities were established in Kaunas. A national census took place in 1923.
Antanas Smetona, the first and last president of independent Lithuania during the interbellum. The 1918–1939 period if often known as "Smetona's time".
The Third Seimas was elected in May 1926. For the first time Lithuanian Christian Democrats (krikdemai) lost their majority and became an opposition. It was sharply criticized for signing the Soviet–Lithuanian Non-Aggression Pact (Lithuanian claim to Poland-held Vilnius was recognized by the Soviets again) and accused of "Bolshevization" of Lithuania. As a result of growing tensions, the government was deposed during the 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état in December. The coup, organized by the military, was supported by the Lithuanian Nationalists Union (tautininkai) and Lithuanian Christian Democrats. They installed Antanas Smetona as the President and Augustinas Voldemaras as the Prime Minister. Smetona suppressed the opposition and remained as an authoritarian leader until June 1940.
The Seimas thought that the coup was just a temporary measure and new elections should be called to return Lithuania to democracy. The legislative body was dissolved in May 1927. Later that year members of the Social Democrats and other leftist parties, named plečkaitininkai after their leader, tried to organize an uprising against Smetona but were quickly subdued. Voldemaras grew increasingly independent of Smetona and was forced to resign in 1929. Three times in 1930 and once in 1934 he unsuccessfully attempted to return to power. In May 1928 Smetona, without the Seimas, announced the fifth provisional constitution. It continued to claim that Lithuania is a democratic state and vastly increased powers of the President. His party, the Lithuanian Nationalist Union, steadily grew in size and importance. Smetona adopted the title of "tautos vadas" (leader of the nation) and slowly started building personality cult. Many of the prominent political figures married into Smetona's family (Juozas Tūbelis, Stasys Raštikis).
When the Nazi Party came into power in the Weimar Republic, Germany–Lithuania relations worsened considerably as Nazi Germany did not accept the loss of the Klaipėda Region. The Nazis sponsored anti-Lithuanian organizations in the region. In 1934, Lithuania put the activists on trial and sentenced about 100 people, including their leaders Ernst Neumann and Theodor von Sass. That prompted Germany, one of the main trade partners of Lithuania, to declare embargo of Lithuanian products. In response Lithuania shifted its exports to Great Britain. But that was not enough and peasants in Suvalkija organized strikes, which were violently suppressed. Smetona's prestige was damaged and in September 1936 he agreed to call the first elections to Seimas since the coup of 1926. Before the elections all political parties, except the National Union, were eliminated. Thus of the 49 members of the Fourth Seimas, 42 were from the National Union. It functioned as an advisory board to the President and in February 1938 adopted a new constitution, which granted the President even greater powers.
Lithuanian territorial issues 1939-1940
As tensions were rising in Europe following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, Poland presented an ultimatum to Lithuania in March 1938. Poland demanded the re-establishment of normal diplomatic relations, which were broken after the Żeligowski's Mutiny in 1920, and threatened military actions in case of refusal. Lithuania, having a weaker military and unable to enlist international support for its cause, accepted the ultimatum. Lithuania–Poland relations somewhat normalized and the parties concluded treaties regarding railway transport, postal exchange, and other means of communication. Just a year after the Polish ultimatum and five days after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Lithuania received as oral ultimatum from Joachim von Ribbentrop demanding to cede the Klaipėda Region to Germany. Again, Lithuania was forced to accept. This triggered a political crisis in Lithuania and forced Smetona to form a new government which for the first time since 1926 included members of the opposition. The loss of Klaipėda was a major blow to Lithuanian economy and the country shifted to the sphere of German influence. When Germany and the Soviet Union concluded the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939 and divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence, Lithuania was, at first, assigned to Germany.
Statutes of the three interwar presidents are placed in the park in front of the Historical Presidential Palace in Kaunas. Picture: Statues of Aleksandras Stulginskis (front) and Antanas Smetona.
Photo: Aage Myhre
After Lithuania re-won its freedom in 1918, a Polish military invasion led to an annexation of eastern Lithuania (including the capital city Vilnius) to Poland. This was never recognized and Lithuania remained at a state of war with Poland, with the new government city Kaunas officially designated the “Temporary capital”. “We won’t calm down without Vilnius” became a popular slogan and organizations like the “Union for the Liberation of Vilnius” sprung up with the Lithuanian-Polish territorial dispute becoming one of the keystones of interwar Lithuania’s policy.
Interwar Lithuania strived to let the world know of its existence. Left is the art deco Resurrection church, built to be the largest church in the Baltics and an important landmark of rapidly expanding Kaunas. Right are Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas, the first Lithuanian pilots to cross the Atlantic (1933). They subsequently died in air disaster, becoming instant martyrs.
The main western powers recognized Lithuania only in 1922 as they preferred a stronger Poland to counter the German and Soviet threats. But by 1922 it was already clear that the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth would not be reborn as the Poles ceded many eastern lands to the Soviets in the Treaty of Riga.
Unlike the part of Lithuania that was in the Russian Empire, Lithuania Minor remained under German rule except for its northernmost part, the Klaipėda Region (German: Memelland), which was detached from Germany due to its Lithuanian majority. As the Lithuanian Republic was still unrecognized, Klaipėda Region remained under League of Nations rule. In 1923 Lithuania supported a revolt in Klaipėda Region and the new directory (government) of Edmonas Simonaitis joined Lithuania (as a bilingual autonomous area) thereby giving the young country its only seaport. Together with it came a sizeable German minority which caused trouble in the 1930s when the Nazi ideas caught on among the Germans of Klaipėda Region.
1926 saw a military coup with Antanas Smetona retaking presidential power. He ruled until the end of independent Lithuania, the period thus frequently known as the “Smetonic era”. Lithuania became one of the first authoritarian countries in the Eastern Europe, but by the year 1936 only a few, such as Czechoslovakia, would still remain democratic.
1926: President Antanas Smetona takes oath before the Catholic bishop.
Interwar Lithuania continued to be an agricultural society with only 20% of people living in cities, therefore it was less heavily hit by the Global Depression, remained a devout Catholic land with the church not disestablished and the birth rates were still high (the population increased by 22% to over 3 million in years 1923-1939 despite the sizeable emigration primarily to the South America).
The foreign policy of Lithuania was friendly to the Germans and Soviets because many other countries, like France or Estonia, supported Poland in the conflict over Vilnius. However, the increasing imperialism of both Germany and the Soviet Union eroded their need for independent Lithuania. In 1939 German ultimatum led to the loss of Klaipėda Region. A secret Molotov-Ribentropp pact protocol included Lithuania in the German zone of influence, but the Smetona’s refusal to invade Poland together with Germany led to the change in the protocol with Lithuania being “ceded” to the Soviet Union. In 1939 Soviet Union established army bases in Lithuania after an ultimatum (this ultimatum also returned 1/5th of Vilnius region, recently occupied by the Soviets during their invasion of Poland), and another ultimatum in 1940 led to a full-scale occupation and annexation.
The interwar presidents
Date and Place of Birth
Political, Public, Professional and Cultural Engagement
In Presidential Office
April 6, 1919 – June 19, 1920
December 19, 1926 – June 15, 1940 Soviet occupation
After Term of Office
Alexander Stulginskis (1885 02 26-1969 09 22)
He was born
The political, social, professional and cultural activities
Membership of political parties
Office of the President
At the end of this term
Kazys Grinius (1866 12 17-1950 06 04)
He was born
The political, social, professional and cultural activities of
Membership of political parties
Office of the President
At the end of this term
Read more about the Palace at http://www.istorineprezidentura.lt/?lang=en
Photo: Aage Myhre
The Historical Presidential Palace in Kaunas is a must-see place for everyone, whether native-born or a visitor to Lithuania. It is one of the most important memorials of the Republic of Lithuania in 1918–1940.
Visitors are offered an introduction into the evolution of modern Lithuanian statehood, the opportunity to feel the pulse of a growing city that suddenly faced the challenge of becoming a capital and rapidly changed from a fortress into a modern city.
The building was at the centre of major political events of the time. It housed the President’s meetings with the Cabinet, as well as numerous meetings with the representatives of foreign countries, military, clergy and various organizations. It was a fundamental landmark of Foreign Policy; emissaries of foreign states here offered their credentials to the President of the Lithuanian Republic. The building also witnessed the Coup d’état of 1926, a crisis of parlamentarism and a turn towards authoritarian regime. In the face of imminent Soviet occupation, the Last Meeting of the government of the independent Lithuania took place here on the night from June 14 to 15 of 1940.
Today the Presidential Palace in Kaunas functions as a memorial-educational institution of Lithuanian modern statehood. The permanent exposition at the Palace reflects the history of the First Republic of Lithuania (1918 – 1940). Periodic temporary exhibitions commemorate outstanding historical figures and events. Many other social and cultural gatherings – such as scholarly conferences, concerts, book presentations, public lectures and meetings with outstanding public persons – are aimed at stimulating discussions about modern statehood and civic society.
The former residence of the President of the Republic of Lithuania
History of the Presidential Palace
|New parliament sworn in
Lithuania's new Seimas (parliament), elected last month, assembled for its first sitting on Friday 16 November.
|The President did not show up
All previous presidents always personally welcomed new deputies of the Seimas at their first session.
|But the ex-President did
Former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus says he is hopeful about the country's new Seimas.
|Court adjourns hearing
Vilnius Regional Court was this week scheduled to hear the Labour Party's fraudulent bookkeeping case, but…
|New parliament speaker?
Lithuania's Labour Party will propose Vydas Gedvilas for the post of parliamentary speaker.
|President not yet ready
President Dalia Grybauskaitė not yet ready to nominate Social Democratic Algirdas Butkevičius as new PM.
|Uspaskich to leave Brussels
The Labour Party's leader has decided to give up his mandate as a member of the European Parliament.
|Polish party to head energy?
Leader of the Electoral Action of Poles, Valdemar Tomaševski, remains secretive.
By Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief
Lithuania has powerful neighbours, as the overwhelming majority of the world's countries with AAA credit rating are located in Scandinavia and Western Europe. These countries, however, are successful in many different ways, not least with regard to social welfare, health care, education, rule of law, transparency, press freedom and a very good balance between government, business, education, science, and more.
The table below tells an interesting story about the relationship between these qualities for a group of nations that lead in world development. These tremendous success stories is something Lithuania should try to learn from.
1. Credit rating, Standard & Poor’s
A credit rating evaluates the credit worthiness of a debtor, especially a business (company) or a government. It is an evaluation made by a credit rating agency of the debtor's ability to pay back the debt and the likelihood of default. Credit ratings are determined by credit ratings agencies. The credit rating represents the credit rating agency's evaluation of qualitative and quantitative information for a company or government; including non-public information obtained by the credit rating agencies analysts.
2. GDP (PPP) per capita
Gross domestic product (GDP) estimates are derived from purchasing power parity (PPP) calculations, per capita. Such calculations are prepared by various organizations, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
3. Human Development Index (HDI), UN
The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices to rank countries into four tiers of human development. It was created by economist Mahbub ul Haq, followed by economist Amartya Sen in 1990, and published by the United Nations Development Programme.
4. Best country to live in, OECD
OECD has a whole new way to rank quality of life in countries around the world. Called "The Better Life Index," the new OECD data set ranks countries based on things like the employment situation, leisure time, and life expectancy.
5. Social welfare
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. Modern welfare states include the Nordic countries, such as Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland which employ a system known as the Nordic model. The welfare state involves a transfer of funds from the state, to the services provided (i.e. healthcare, education) as well as directly to individuals ("benefits"). The welfare state is funded through redistributionist taxation and is often referred to as a type of "mixed economy.”
The United Nations publishes a Human Development Index every year, which consists of the Education index, GDP Index and Life Expectancy Index. These three components measure the educational attainment, GDP per capita and life expectancy respectively. The Education Index is measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weighting). The adult literacy rate gives an indication of the ability to reading and writing, while the GER gives an indication of the level of education from nursery (UK & others)/kindergarten (USA & others) to post-graduate education. Education is a major component of well-being and is used in the measure of economic development and quality of life, which is a key factor determining whether a country is a developed, developing, or underdeveloped country.
7. Rule of Law
The WJP Rule of Law Index is an innovative quantitative assessment tool designed by the World Justice Project to offer a detailed and comprehensive picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in practice. The Index provides detailed information and original data regarding a variety of dimensions of the rule of law, which enables stakeholders to assess a nation’s adherence to the rule of law in practice, identify a nation’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison to similarly situated countries, and track changes over time.
8. Corruption, Transparency International
The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries/territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country/territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 - 10, where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and 10 means that a country is perceived as very clean. A country's rank indicates its position relative to the other countries/territories included in the index.
9. Press freedom
The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders based upon the organization's assessment of the countries' press freedom records in the previous year. A smaller score in the index corresponds to greater freedom of the press. Reporters Without Borders is careful to note that the index only deals with press freedom and does not measure the quality of journalism.
By Aage Myhre
I believe many of our readers have heard about or even studied the so-called Triple Helix model that emphasizes the need of cooperation and interaction between science, industry and government. I believe this is an extremely interesting model also for a Nordic-Baltic cooperation, as it describes an intensification of a process and a shortening of the time span between discovery and utilization, and increased reliance of industry on knowledge originated in academic institutions.
As knowledge becomes an increasingly more important part of innovation, the university (science and education) as a knowledge-producing and disseminating institution plays a larger role in business innovation. In earlier times, innovation was an activity formerly and largely performed by the industry or government, or depending upon the social system, a bilateral interaction between these two institutional spheres. In a knowledge-based economy, however, the university becomes a key element of the innovation system both as human capital provider and seedbed for new firms. The three institutional spheres (public, private, and academic) – that formerly operated at arms’ length – are increasingly interwoven with a spiral pattern of linkages emerging at various stages of the innovation and industrial policy-making process. Furthermore, in addition to these institutional linkages among spheres, each sphere may take up the role of the other.
A triple helix of university-business-government relations transcends previous models of institutional relationships, whether socialist (No. 1) or laissez-faire (No. 2), in which either the polity or economy predominated and with the knowledge playing a subsidiary role.
Triple Helix 1: The communist model.
An etatist or socialist model of university-industry-government relations
(where the Baltic States were during the Soviet period).
Triple Helix 2: The laissez-faire model.
A laissez-faire model of university-industry-government relations
(where the Baltic States very much are today).
Triple Helix 3: The Scandinavian model.
This triple helix model is an attempt to account for a new configuration of institutional forces emerging within innovation systems (a stage the Nordic countries to a quite high degree have reached), and I believe this is a good model for joint cooperation and innovation between the Nordic and the Baltic States.
Triple Helix 4: The endless transition model.
Triple Helix no. 4 is one in which the overlay of communications and expectations at the network level guides the reconstructions of institutional arrangements. It is not expected to be stable and the sub-dynamics in the innovation process are continuously reconstructed through discussions and negotiations. What is considered as ‘industry’, what as ‘market’ cannot be taken for granted. Each ‘system’ is defined and can be redefined as the research project is designed. Thus, the triple helix hypothesis is that systems can be expected to remain in an endless transition.
This model indicates that innovation and cooperation should take place across sectors and country boundaries, for example that a university in Sweden very well could work with a business venture in Lithuania, and I believe the combination of Triple Helix 3 and 4 is a good solution for cooperation and collaboration within the Baltic-Nordic region as this will lead to increased integration and development that will give us advantages ahead of most other regions of the world.
My experience from Lithuania does, however, not make me too optimistic about the situation for cross-sector cooperation. I was, for example, asking the General Director of Omnitel (the leading mobile phone operator in Lithuania) about the situation for higher education within technology. His answer was that one single word would be description enough; „It‘s bad!“
And a few years ago I asked the General Director of the Libra Group (a leading Lithuanian company within wood processing) to tell me what kind of support and help he had from the authorities in his important business. His short answer was: „I don‘t expect anything from them, and I‘m happy as long as they don‘t create problems for me“.
In 2010, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė openly disagreed with
Obama on a new arms reduction plan, claiming it harmed Lithuanian
security, and in a rather shocking move refused to take part in
a dinner with Obama in Prague. Grybauskaitė was the only
invited president who refused to meet with Obama.
In April 2010, Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev signed a new arms reduction treaty in Prague, primarily with regards to the Eastern European missile defense system that had been planned by the George W. Bush administration.
After the signing, President Obama invited the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Romania, as well as the prime ministers of Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia to attend a dinner with him in Prague.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė openly disagreed with Obama on the new reduction plan, claiming it harmed Lithuanian security, and in a rather shocking move refused to take part in the dinner in Prague. Grybauskaitė was the only invited president who refused to meet with Obama.
After becoming Lithuania's president in 2009, Grybauskaitė wasted no time defining her leadership. "Yes, you have to be a strict and loud partner if you want to be heard in the conversation," she told the Associated Press in a 2011 interview.
"Lithuania is not used to a straightforward, terse, forceful way of making statements. I admit using this style in pushing NATO defense plans for the Baltic States," she said, referring to U.S. cables released by WikiLeaks earlier this year, showing that NATO in January 2010 privately decided to expand a NATO defense plan for Poland to also cover Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
"I am afraid that if I had chosen a different tone, Lithuania and its neighbours would be still waiting another six years for these," she said to the Associated Press, giving herself credit for USA’s and NATO’s new strategy as revealed by WikiLeaks.
In 2011 President Obama invited the same East European state leaders for a dinner in Poland, and this time President Grybauskaite accepted the invitation, a move presumably leading to a warmer relationship between the two presidents.
At the working dinner the Lithuanian president underlined that NATO anti-missile defense must cover all the NATO allies. According to the president, NATO-Russian relations are particularly important for Lithuania owing to its strategically special location on the boundary of the Alliance’s territory. She said the agreement reached in the NATO Lisbon Summit must not be changed and must not become the object of negotiations with Russia.
It still is little known about how President Grybauskaite’s ‘reflections’ vs. the Obama administration in 2010 and NATO in 2011 were perceived by the said parties. We can only hope they were not given too much weight and that the relationships with Lithuania have not been harmed. Her acceptance of last year's invitation from
Obama, and the absence of new provocative statements, suggest that she has adopted a more conciliatory
and diplomatic style and line.
The right to disagree and discuss any topic should always remain free and open, but I think our president would be better off by following more recognized protocol procedures when such delicate issues are to be discussed at high international level.
To have a best possible relationship with the U.S. and the new Obama administration will be important for Lithuania, and one can only hope that his reelection will come to represent another positive step towards improved dialogue and cooperation also between Lithuania and the United States.
Aage Myhre, Editor-In-Chief
U.S. re-elected president enjoys great confidence around the world. Let us hope that this confidence can contribute to less tension and increased human understanding between peoples and nations over the four years that are now ahead of us.
If the world outside USA had a say, President Barack Obama would have won with very clear margins over Mitt Romney, according to surveys presented in several world news media ahead of the U.S. elections. See below.
Unfortunately, there are no numbers available for Lithuania.
Read more at:
World reactions to Obama’s reelection
From Australia, to China, Egypt and Russia ... hear people say "Obama" in different accents ... and watch some of them offer their more in-depth assessment of his second presidential election win
Viewpoints from around the world on Barack Obama's US election triumph, in which the incumbent democrat president held off the challenge from Republican rival Mitt Romney. The reaction was generally positive on the streets of Moscow, Beijing and Tokyo - though more mixed in countries such as Iraq and Egypt.
The leaders of three opposition parties agreed to form a ruling coalition following a meeting at one of Vilnius hotels after the Seimas election results emerged yesterday. The Social Democrats will nominate the prime minister. The announcement was made by Algirdas Butkevičius, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania, Viktor Uspaskich, leader of the Labour Party, and Rolandas Paksas, leader of the Order and Justice Party.
Photo: Irmantas Gelūnas/15 min
Leaders of Lithuania's three opposition parties agreed to form a ruling coalition following a meeting at one of Vilnius hotels after the Seimas election results emerged. The Social Democrats will nominate the prime minister.
The announcement was made by Algirdas Butkevičius, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania, Viktor Uspaskich, leader of the Labour Party, and Rolandas Paksas, leader of the Order and Justice Party.
"We have agreed to form a three-party coalition. We have agreed that a representative of the Social Democratic Party will be the prime minister. We have agreed to start drafting a government programme. A working group will be set up by the three parties, and we'll start reviewing the next year's draft budget next week," Butkevičius said.
As a relief to many liberal-minded people and human rights activists came the news that Lithuanian voters completely trashed ultra-nationalist parties. The National Alliance “For Lithuania in Lithuania” (whatever that means) tried its best to mobilize the most primitive ethnic hatred, although even a classical antisemitic cartoon they distributed was about economy (the incumbent government's work in returning religious property of Jewish communities, that was nationalized under the Soviet rule). PHOTO: Marius Galinis of the „Union For Lithuania in Lithuania.“ (Lithuanian „Nacionalinis susivienijimas ‘Už Lietuvą Lietuvoje’“)
By Daiva Repečkaitė
The complicated electoral system in Lithuania makes general elections an exciting show. After the first round, when multi-constituency votes were counted, the victory of the populist Labor Party looked clear. However, after the second round (half of the Members of the Parliament are elected in single-seat constituencies), voters brought the traditional rivals, the Social Democrats and the Conservatives, ahead of the populist party. Despite the initial panic and hasty criticism of the election outcomes as a victory of populist and pro-Russian forces, the election brought unprecedented gain to traditional parties and strengthened the forces with consistent ideologies. It is also time to understand that economy in Lithuania comes before relations with Russia.
In fact, this election was a real celebration of stability, nothing like 2004, when voters flocked to newly established parties. Political parties mentioned ideologies, even the terms 'left' and 'right' more than ever. Parties dropped names that sounded like toasts (“For work for Lithuania”, 2004) or vague and generic (“National revival”, 2008). Those which chose vague and indistinguishable names (“Yes”, “Party of the Lithuanian People”) were mercilessly rejected by the voters. One-person's-show parties of very rich businesspeople managed to attract only a few thousands of votes: appeals to 'Aryan heritage' and 'pagan shield' did not help the Party of the Lithuanian People, and memory of the late President Algirdas Brazauskas did not help his second wife Kristina Brazauskienė and her the Democratic Party of Labor and Unity. Obscure Republican and Emigrant parties did not enjoy popularity either.
As a relief to many liberal-minded people and human rights activists came the news that Lithuanian voters completely trashed ultra-nationalist parties. The National Alliance “For Lithuania in Lithuania” (whatever that means) tried its best to mobilize the most primitive ethnic hatred, although even a classical antisemitic cartoon they distributed was about economy (the incumbent government's work in returning religious property of Jewish communities, that was nationalized under the Soviet rule). Stickers were glued to just about every tree on the main streets of Vilnius. Quite surprisingly, the marginal, but in the past faithfully leftist Social Democratic Union (not to be confused with the Social Democratic Party) joined this Alliance. This way Lithuania lost a political group that was consistently promoting left-wing ideas: strong trade unions and redistribution of wealth. These principles may still be there on one form or another, but leftist voters will never again be convinced that this party stands for them. The election did not bring any success for the nationalist 'Young Lithuania', which went in alliance with the far-right nationalists in the last election.
When we look at the parties that got at least 1%, but less than 5%, necessary to win seats in the Parliament, we see parties with a stronger political backbone, but still marginal. The Socialist People's Front, which advocates for nationalization of strategically important enterprises, and the Christian Party, led by a former Conservative politician, were the last among them. Interestingly, voters also grew tired of the tricks of the current mayor of Vilnius, Artūras Zuokas. He became world-famous when he staged an extreme 'punishment' with a tank for illegal parking. The Segway-riding mayor is still popular among some urban youngsters, but people also remember the allegations of shameless corruption, protectionism and abuse of power against him. With the loss of the charismatic, yet dictatorial mayor, his former 'home', the Liberal and Centrist Union, lost its electoral base and also failed to pass the threshold.
The elections were also not successful for the newly formed Union of Farmers and Greens. With several green activists on board, the party, which lost its leader to a sudden illness, rebranded itself and drafted a progressive left-leaning platform, but even its strong stance against the nuclear power plant did not attract enough voters and only succeeded in a single-seat constituency.
The smallest party to get on board is the Lithuanian Polish Electoral Action – a conservative, ultra-religious political group that has a strong base in the Polish-speaking areas of Lithuania. The mobilized ethnic minority, regularly angered by pressure for more integration and by the name transcription policy, this year absorbed a Russian minority party. They will be important in the coalitions that will be formed. Next to it came two populist parties: the impeached former president's Order and Justice Party and the new movement-turned-party “The Way of Courage”. The two were clear competitors for very disappointed, less educated and very angry voters. While many people are worried about the prospect of the latter being in the parliament, the capacity of this party's members to engage in actual day-to-day politics is likely to be limited, and they will probably follow more experienced colleagues. The split in populist voting is overall good news.
Three of the four winning parties could almost form a base of a Scandinavian-style party system. As the old leadership is receding, traditional parties increasingly compensate the lack of charismatic leaders with clear, European ideologies. The Social Democratic Party, having lost its long-time leader Mr. Brazauskas, has been searching for a new identity by purifying its ideological statements and supporting progressive taxation and more welfare spending, like social democrats traditionally should. After the split of the liberals, the Liberal Movement has been a consistent free-market ideology defender and as such made gains in the previous election and was an important partner in the current government. This year they strengthened their electoral base and, importantly, attracted youth votes becoming the only political party that that supports legalization of homosexual partnership. Finally, the Conservatives achieved what seemed to be impossible in Lithuania, where many Political Science articles have been written about 'revenge votes'. The approval ratings of the current Prime Minister – the only one who has survived the entire term of the Parliament – did not suffer as much from his austerity policy as expected. The people who were most affected were split among different political parties or have emigrated. Finally, the Labor party has become an established part of the Lithuanian political system since 2004, when it held several ministries in two successive governments. Throughout the years, its ideology did not become clearer: its platform rests on a paternalistic, caretaker stance, but, unsurprisingly, without any commitment to redistribute wealth from the rich. Its carelessness regarding budget deficit has already put them on the black list of the Lithuanian President.
For this reason the outcome of the election is not to be called a victory of the left, as many claim. We are still to see what becomes of the Lithuanian left. The votes for populists and social democrats, particularly in rural and poorer areas, clearly imply that people are tired of austerity. The Conservative-led government was good with numbers, but bad with people. They managed to control inflation, put economic growth on track and avoid accepting the invasive loan and reform package from the IMF. Yet most of the decisions were miserably communicated and harmed the poorest members of the society. To compensate this lack of concern with people and the fact that hostility towards Russia is not sufficient to mobilize voters, the Conservatives threw around religious and traditionalist statements, and failed to react to radical nationalist trends. On the other hand, they strengthened their electoral base among urban youth that self-identifies as right-wing and who appreciate governments being good with numbers, since they will not suffer from austerity measures that made the lives of the poorest members of the society more miserable. The new government may be better at addressing this problem, but dealing with numbers is likely to be its weak point. Borrowing or taxing – populists clearly never think about that when developing their promises.
Less than ten years have passed since Lithuanian media seriously started to tell us about Viktor Uspaskich, the Russian who moved to Lithuania in the late 1980s to work as a welder, later becoming a successful businessman and politician. We learned about a businessman who paid wages to his employees as cash in envelopes, we heard that he was Gazprom's long arm into Lithuania and that big dollar amounts were smuggled from Moscow via Riga to Lithuania to bribe institutions and voters to help build up the political party he was in the process of establishing, a party which in 2004 led him right to the top in that year's parliamentary elections.
We heard that he was a Russian spy with the special task of undermining the Lithuanian economy and its advancing toward association with the EU and NATO, and that the 'cucumber firm' he had established in the small town Kėdainiai west of Kaunas was only a cover for his much bigger escapades in sales of Russian natural gas to Europe and helping to create more Russian influence on political decision-making in Lithuania and later also in the EU.
Viktor Uspaskich succeeded in establishing his Labour party in 2003 and became a strong force in the 2004 government of PM Algirdas Brazauskas. According to reports, Uspaskich, proposed that Brazauskas should keep the prime minister's seat in return for allowing Uspaskich, to become deputy prime minister. Brazauskas rejected the informal bid, saying he did not want "to be a tool in Uspaskich's hands and assume responsibility for mistakes made by the new administration."
In 2006 this government split and Mr Uspaskich himself disappeared to Russia. This followed leaks that prosecutors were investigating several lurid claims, notably that the party was taking kickbacks from European Union grants, that it had breached campaign-finance limits in the 2004 election and that it had taken money from Russia. Mr Uspaskich said he was not responsible for book-keeping, and that the attacks on his party were purely political.
In 2007 Uspaskich returned to Lithuania and, in 2008, he was again elected to parliament , however stripped of the immunity he had acquired. The European Parliament later did the same thing, which Uspaskich labeled as undemocratic.
In 2009 Mr. Uspaskich was elected to the European Parliament whereupon Lithuanian authorities asked the EU Parliament to waive his parliamentary immunity. This was refused, leading to a sharp exchange of words between MEP Vytautas Landsbergis and the European Parliament’s Sir Graham Watson as late as in 2011.
Then this year's election comes, and Uspaskich is again on top in spite of all the accusations, investigations and turbulence he has been in the centre of for almost 10 years now. President Dalia Grybauskaite reportedly does not want to name the Russian businessman as prime minister and he, it is said, does not especially yearn for the position because he wouldn’t have time for his businesses. In addition, as noted by the most famous Lithuanian political commentator, Rimvydas Valatka, no prime minister in Lithuania has ever gained popularity while in office – rather the opposite. “And he [Uspaskich] needs to start playing various games, so that he could play the savior,” Valatka said, asserting that a coalition of social democrats (former communists) will play the role of those who will do unpopular things.
A look at the country’s demographics suggests a possible explanation for why Uspaskich won. For the past 15 years almost one million people, especially the young and enterprising, have left the country. The older ones who remain would prefer to vote for Uspaskich or someone else who promised them security. The pre-election debate, therefore, revolved around a hike in the minimum wage.
Then, just before the second round of the 2012 election, it becomes known that Lithuania's Prosecutor General's Officer has charged the Labour Party, its leader Viktor Uspaskich, Labour MP Vytautas Gapšys, candidate in the ongoing Seimas elections Vitalija Vonzutaitė, as well as the party's former accountant Marina Liutkevičienė with fraud in the party's fraudulent bookkeeping case.
The prosecutor said that the Labour Party's financial documentation for the 2004-2006 period failed to include about LTL 25 million (EUR 7.3 million) in income and about LTL 23 million in spending related to property, commitments, and structural changes. The party also allegedly failed to pay taxes of around LTL 4 million.
Uspaskich is facing up to 8 years in prison. He strongly denies all charges.
What is the truth and who exactly is this man?
What are the media saying about Uspaskich?
Lithuania’s alarming turn http://www.tol.org/client/article/23418-lithuania-politics-viktor-uspaskich.html
Lithuania's Prosecutor General brings fraud charges against Labour Party and its leader Viktor Uspaskich
Lithuania wants millionaire MEP stripped from immunity
A huge mistake compromising the entire European Parliament.
By Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief
I asked this question in my editorial last week, referring to the massive migration that takes place from Lithuania these days. We talk no longer about emigration, but about evacuation.
I also ventured to express some criticism on how this country has been ruled for the past 22 years, as it is my conviction that the mass exodus is due to these years’ mismanagement and inadequate facilitation for new jobs, new investments and new businesses.
I forgot, by the way, mentioning rule of law and system critical press as key ingredients for a country that wants progress. In these two areas Lithuania is still an undeveloped nation.
I used myself as an example. That was perhaps a mistake. What I wanted to convey was that foreigners who have come here to work or develop business do not feel particularly welcome. I also wanted to say that the same largely applies to the country’s own population, not least to all those who are now 'fleeing' from here, looking for a new and better country to live in.
Let me also stress that I myself will never leave Lithuania as such. A prominent Lithuanian-American once asked me why I do so much for Lithuania, although I do not have my roots here. My response was that 'I have my branches here, and branches are as important as roots'. I obviously was referring to my two children, who I hope one day will feel real pride being 50% Lithuanian. Because the downturn of this country will not continue forever. One day the negative trend will reverse.
Let me also state that VilNews will continue and increasingly evolve as an important link between Lithuanians and their homeland. More and more people are reading VilNews, more and more writing for us or contributing in other ways.
I think such a common communication platform will prove important in the 'reconstruction' of Lithuania as a nation, and of 'all Lithuanian' as a common, strong bond between all of us with Lithuania in our hearts.
Click HERE to read my last week editorial…
Here a few of the comments we have received:
Maybe the Government will listen and start doing something when even westerners who wanted to build a thriving Lithuania start leaving
Gaila Mucen, Australia
Our love and hate relation to the lovely place called Lithuania
Lars Malte Hansen, Denmark/Lithuania
Let us sail together and if at all sink – then sink together
Firms and the Companies dealing with such activity are having a field day.I am sure it must be much true for other Countries too especially from Asia and Africa. But Stay on my friend-you area powerful pillar of this city and of this country. Let us sail together and if at all sink-then sink together.
Rajinder Chaudhary, India/Lithuania
What this country needs is a Leader who believes
What this country needs is a Leader who believes in Lithuania, believes in the Lithuanian people. The Lithuanian people must unite - not just in Lithuania but also in the Lithuanian diaspora. We must quit living in expectation of help from the government of Lithuania. The Government cannot help. We must report bribe takers, we must not give them anything. We must unite and fight for the Lithuania we believe in. I believe in Lithuania! I especially believe in the young people of Lithuania. I believe it is our duty to expose problems with the government - but we need to come up with solutions - not just repeat the problems. Aage - hang in there you have more people behind you than you know.
Kestutis Eidukonis, Arizona/Lithuania
If you wanted to create a ruckus or take a stand, then
Another form of culture shock is learning what you cannot do, even though you could do in your old country. You aren't in a position to question it—you need to instead reach an acceptance that this is how things are done here. Whether the society you've gone to is more or less permissive than what you're used to, be sure to do the right thing to fit in.
If you wanted to create a ruckus or take a stand, then moving to Lithuania was probably not your best choice, nor any other country. (lol)
Moving countries is right up there at the top of the stress scale. Some days it'll be fun. Other days it'll be the worst experience ever. And other days, it'll feel just like home, because it has become home. Your roller coaster of emotions deserves to be taken care of. If you suffer from anxiety, unabated fears, depression, etc., Do not suffer in silence—it will only be compounded by the foreignness of everything and everyone around you and you can end up feeling completely isolated and disillusioned!
All in all Aage, I guess you know all this and we are going to miss you. Your family and your well being should always come first.
A lot of us have never met personally, so for us, nothing has changed and nothing will change because of social networking. Bless you and your family and thank you! thank you!
I have never ever enjoyed myself more as I have getting to know all of you, reading the paper and learning things about my heritage from all the different viewpoints and stories shared by all. See you on FB.
Irene Simanavicius, Toronto, Canada
Trust me, we will all come back to Lithuania –
By Nellie Vin, Florida
I am one who left Lithuania in 1996 after we got independence in 1990. In few years the country’s economists, with Landsbergis as the head on top, crushed all too fast (with privatization) without providing and helping with starting of small business and lowering taxes for new business people. Finally imported, cheap products from Poland killed local farmers’ business. It’s become not profitable to grow own organic healthy products and sell for Lithuanian people. Many people left to look for opportunities in other countries. Still young and older people are leaving. No one wants to wait. We need today! Not to wait on promises for a better tomorrow.
We saw that from 1990, nothing changed, even got worse. If someone makes enough money from the work the major pay came in envelopes from the company, not shown in the books, for tax purposes. This meant that if a person got 2000 LT in an envelope he was getting just 650 LT on the records. Now, what will happen when this person will be retired? What retirement payments will he get? Of course just from 650LT.
Why, in our country, we have people who became billionaires in short time? They were selling cheap retail products made in other countries. They "killed" local textile and production business in Lithuania.
Now it’s not so bad, but Grybauskaite, before the presidential election, promised dual citizenship for everyone. After getting elected she completely forgot this promise. They finally passed the bill, but just for people who left the country before 1990. Why? Was that right? Did it not contradicting with human rights? Some can make a choice, some can’t. If they have to make a choice they will lose the Lithuania Citizenship. It’s a question. My son serving in Navy in US now lost Lithuania citizenship because he just, last month, become US citizen. I am, very proud of him. He made a choice, he chose the country that gave him work.
He still very much loves his birth country Lithuania but as there is no bill yet to have dual citizenship in Lithuania, this pushed him make a choice. I, and my younger son are still waiting for the dual citizenship bill. My youngest son is a student of Jacksonville University, last year in business and management. We still are holding love and passports of Lithuania, but for how long?
We need today to live, to learn and to make right decisions. It’s still just long years of talk. I was now in 2010 in Lithuania, spend over 6 months looking for what I can do in Lithuania to get back to live there. Contacted old friends who are in good positions in politics when we all were fighting for independence. Everyone sit in their chairs and the only one answer I got, was; we have 10 year long waiting list. What that means? To get to politician chair because it’s well paid all already busy?
I wanted just work not a chair. But to get good work you must belong to the party. I left again, because I didn't see changes over the 12 years after I left. Forgive my accent I learned English in 3 months in US because after I arrived and all my working time I didn't had time to get proper English education.
My sons did and I am very proud of them. But we made it… It’s not easy to start in the foreign country without language, friends family etc. But we make choices if we logically not see possibilities to change economic situation in Lithuania or we just see government don’t care about people of their own country, often people who were living there for generations.
Still not easy but in US more possibilities at this moment. These are my thoughts, nothing personal. I can be wrong, but this is just my observations.
Trust me, we all want to come back … And we will get back …To die ….
Virginia Shimkute, New Zealand
We felt rejected, let down and my teenager's respect to Lithuania reduced
Nellie Vin, Florida
Lithuania will remain in me no matter where I would be.
“You are crazy still staying in Lithuania. Look what
you have done for this country, not even getting a
thank you in return; pack your things and leave.”
A Lithuanian friend told me this not long ago.
By Aage Myhre,
Lithuania is a terrific country with infinitely many good qualities. For several centuries this nation set a good example to the rest of Europe, in politics, diplomacy, tolerance, multiculturalism, religious freedom, economy, trade, agriculture and much more. Much was admittedly destroyed by the Russian occupation during the 19th century, the devastating, bloody developments during and after the Second World War, and finally the Soviet occupation of this once strong, proud nation, from the war until year 1990.
In 1990, when I came to Lithuania for the first time, my conclusion was that Lithuania was an amazing country that would soon regain its former greatness, not as it was during the reign of the Grand Dukes from the 14th to the 17th century when the country was stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea, more like the nation that emerged in the interwar years when the country finally became free after more than 100 years under the Russian Tsar's supremacy.
I'm not so sure anymore. Admittedly, a lot of good happened over the last 22 years, but we have also seen revealed much filth, corruption, lack of teamwork, indistinct or absent political leadership often more interested in own pockets than the country's welfare. The joy of again being a free country was short-lived, quickly replaced by greed, distrust and fight for positions rather than constructive, energetic cooperation.
Many Lithuanians, especially the young people, who should lead the country forward, are terrible disillusioned over the development, and leave in droves.
Last month the government statistics office says there now are 2.988.000 people living here, the lowest level in decades, 19,300 less than in January. In 1992, after Lithuania broke away from the Soviet Union, its population was 3.7 million.
According to research conducted by Lithuania’s statistics office, most of the 53,863 people who left Lithuania in 2011 travelled to Western Europe.
Analysts are rightfully worried that if the exodus continues it will further damage Lithuania’s already weak economy.
According to Romas Latzuka, an economist at Vilnius University, the population of the country will continue to age more quickly as greater numbers of younger people decide to cross the border into West Europe and further.
He goes as far as to say that the emigration figures represent a national disaster.
Latzuka predicts that the rate of emigration is unlikely to decline, even though many European nations now are experiencing economic slowdown. He explains that colonies which have been established abroad means that it now is easier for Lithuanians to settle in western countries.
While Lithuania’s gross domestic product will advance 2.5 percent this year and 3 percent in 2013, according to the Finance Ministry, output plunged almost 25 percent as Prime Minister Kubilius implemented very strict austerity measures when the recession started in 2008.
As the 115 billion litai ($43 billion) economy has expanded, unemployment has fallen from a peak of 18.3 percent in the second quarter of 2010. Still, it remains above 13 percent, driving emigration to countries such as Norway and the U.K.
Spending cuts and tax increases since 2008 have also pushed inequality to the highest level in the EU, with the proportion of people at risk of poverty surging to the biggest among the bloc’s 27 members, according to Eurostat.
The incumbent government's extensive cuts have not only caused many to leave the country. Those who are left here show strong dissatisfaction over how they have been treated. This was clearly demonstrated during the first round of the parliamentary elections which took place on 14 October.
But maybe the likely new political leadership will mean that we move from bad to worse. The three left-leaning politicians who appear as the election victors, have made many promises but the question is whether one can have confidence in their execution capabilities.
It is also worrying that they all seem to have a relatively warm relationship with Moscow.
The Social Democrats, who advocate euro adoption a year later than Kubilius’s 2014 goal, have pledged to create jobs and adjust income-tax rates to benefit those who earn least. The Labor Party says it will raise the minimum wage to 1,509 litai ($563) a month from 800 litai ($300) today, and reduce the value-added tax on basic food stuffs.
These plans contradict promises by both parties to maintain control of fiscal affairs, PM Kubilius says.
President Dalia Grybauskaite, who must name Lithuania’s new premier after the elections, has criticized some of the parties’ spending pledges, urging fiscal responsibility.
A new coalition will probably have to include Homeland Union or the Liberal Movement, which engineered the austerity policies of the last four years. Algirdas Butkevicius, leader of the Social Democrats, has vowed to maintain fiscal discipline as Lithuania gears up to assume the EU’s rotating presidency for the first time next July.
“There will be no revolutions in the budget,” Butkevicius said in a recent interview. “Lithuania won’t follow the same path Greece, Italy or Portugal did.”
I have been one of the very few who have moved to Lithuania from a western country. I have believed in this country for over 20 years and have done my best to help in different areas.
But was it worth the trouble?
VilNews e-magazine is published in Vilnius, Lithuania. Editor-in-Chief: Mr. Aage Myhre. Inquires to the editors: editor@VilNews.com.
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