They are Lithuania
Lithuania is about people: oracles and priestesses, merchants and warriors, castle rulers and grand dukes, hierarchs of the Church and monks, enlightened people, writers, scientists, artists, musicians, architects, bricklayers, street sweepers, chefs and storytellers. Everything we have in Lithuania today was created by their hands, thoughts and words. The years go by and we carry on their work to create a modern and open country of friendly people who cherish traditions and culture.
Over the course of its long history, Lithuania has repeatedly been at a turbulent crossroads. Every war, period of turmoil or occupation has left blank walls, with numerous works of art looted, nationalised, stolen or transported to other countries. If not for those events, the artistic treasures accumulated in our country would be no poorer than those one can see in the world’s largest museums today. However, the past cannot be altered – and today, we are proud of the fact that the surnames of Lithuanian artists ring out loud and clear in global contemporary art spaces.
Music flows through our veins. It spills forth in forms that remain just as varied nowadays as they were in times of old, when Lithuanians would harmonise their voices and sing a cappella to make the days pass more easily. In ancient times, we had our war songs and our mourning songs for funerals: one type of song was heard in the fall and another during long winter evenings, while still another would float through the fields in the summer. Today, Lithuanian a cappella songs (known as “sutartinė”) are studied in different universities throughout the world and UNESCO has declared our song festivals to be masterpieces of humanity’s verbal and non-material cultural heritage. Our jazz musicians are welcome in the world’s most famous concert halls, as are our classical musicians in the most renowned orchestras or our opera singers on the most prestigious stages. If you listen carefully, you can even make out a melody in our spoken language.
Can you believe that there used to be a time when you had to wait in a queue all night to acquire a ticket for a production by one of Lithuania’s top theatre directors? Before the country regained its independence, Lithuanian cinema and theatre provided an opportunity for artists to speak out about events or situations that were prohibited from being discussed. The bohemians of the theatre and cinema had always supported freedom with a rare fervency, and nothing has changed today: creative artists use the stage or screen to shed light on motifs or stories that are no less moving.
We are a nation that loves reading. Although e-books are taking the world by storm, we still like to turn the pages of paper books. In fact, we publish many of those and write just as many.
We welcome the oncoming spring with the Vilnius book fair, where people form huge queues by the entrance. Neither can we imagine spending the summer by the sea or the lakeside without a book in our hands. We romanticise older Lithuanian writers and welcome younger ones with great enthusiasm. The work of young writers here interests both people who can read Lithuanian and the rest of the world; indeed, several dozen books by Lithuanian authors are translated into other languages every year.
Lithuanian photography traditions are very old, which might be the reason why photographers in our small country reap one victory after another in major global competitions.
In the summer of 1839, mere months after the world learned about the invention of photography, the first photograph in Lithuania was produced in Vilnius, showing Verkių rūmai (the Verkiai Palace). Six months later, the first photography studio opened in Vilnius. Photography has been through a long journey of development and has always remained a way for the people of Lithuania to use imagery to reveal their feelings, nostalgia and love for their homeland.
Today, photographers in Lithuania have their own chronicle and awards presented to the best photographers each year.
Lithuanian satellites are found floating through outer space; Lithuanian lasers are used in state-of-the art research laboratories worldwide, along with robots, innovative information technologies, biotechnologies and medical advances. Lithuanian physicists, engineers, IT specialists, biologists and medical doctors work at research centres along with some of the world’s most talented researchers. Scattered across the world, they nevertheless remain part of our country, Lithuania.
If Lithuanians were asked to choose their most popular sport, it would undoubtedly be basketball. We all feel we are basketball referees and coaches when we watch it live or on television. We also play ice hockey and run marathons, while one of the world’s strongest and most resilient people lives in our country. Lithuanians climb mountains, compete in the Dakar Rally and search for untrodden paths in the Antarctic, and the country produces “goldfish” who win medals at the Olympics and in various swimming pools worldwide.