On February 16, 1918, the 20 representatives of the Council of Lithuania signed The Act of Reinstating Independence of Lithuania in Vilnius. The 100 years up until today has been a bumpy road for our country – back then, Lithuania was under the German rule, the capital then had to be moved to Kaunas as Vilnius was occupied by the Polish army. In the wake of WW2, Vilnius became the capital again but Lithuania was occupied by the Soviets. The occupation lasted for almost 50 years; the independent State was re-established on March 11, 1990, which led to the January events of 1991 (more here). In 2004, independent Lithuania joined the EU and NATO.
This blog entry, however, isn’t meant to be a detailed historic article. The Centennial of the restored Lithuania is something to celebrate, and we’ve decided to show you how we’ll do it. You’re of course welcome to join!
Interestingly enough, the Independence Act was… lost. On March 29, 2017, the original document was found at the Diplomatic archive in Berlin, Germany. Its founder, Professor Liudas Mažylis, instantly became a national hero, as the physical document added a lot of emotional value to the upcoming Centennial.
‘This won’t be the humblest of statements, but one of my motives to look for the act was the fear that we Lithuanians might end up celebrating the 100th anniversary just like we would celebrate the 99th – in a meaningless, governmental way. <…> I keep on telling people that the disappearance of that document created a certain wound – or even a large pit – within our identity that we needed to treat. We lost the act, we don’t have it anymore, so maybe it’s our own fault? It isn’t. This was World War II! When the document was back, a wave of joy burst out of that pit like a volcano. I say joy as I didn’t really experience any other public reactions to it. You asked what would’ve happened if the act wasn’t here now – I believe we’d still feel that uneasy absence of something important’, Prof. Liudas Mažylis explained to the Kaunas Full of Culture magazine in January 2018. Mažylis is to be awarded of VMU Honorary Professorship of the Humanities and Honorary Citizen of Kaunas on February 15. The original of the Independence Act can be seen at the House of Signatories in Vilnius, as it was lent to Lithuania by Germany.
Let’s see what events are planned for the Centennial in Kaunas. It’s kaunastic that the calendar is packed with all sorts of governmental and private ideas and initiatives!
For some time now, Lithuania’s public broadcaster LRT has been inviting everyone in the country to raise the national tricolour for the Centennial celebrations. We do hope as every city, town and village will turn yellow, green and red even before February 16, as the shops selling the flags are putting up the ‘sold out’ signs, one by one!
A concert by the orchestra of the Baltic academies will be held at the Kaunas State Philharmonic on 6pm, February 14. Led by conductors Kristjan Järvi (Estonia), Guntis Kuzma (Latvia) and Modestas Barkauskas (Lithuania), the orchestra will present both the best compositions of Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian composers and other known masterpieces of the world. All of the Baltic countries are celebrating their Centennials this year, so the concert is a very welcomed initiative.
The official celebrations in Kaunas will begin the day before, on February 15, by visiting the graves of signatories of the independence act, seeing the renewed monument “Pieta” at the old cemetery of Aleksotas, the reconstructed monument “Garbė žuvusiems dėl Tėvynės” [“In the honour of those who died for their homeland”] and the 76 granite crucifixes for Lithuanian soldiers in the military cemetery at Žemieji Šančiai. Thursday evening will witness a grand concert in Žalgiris arena.
Onn February 15-16, Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) will celebrate the Centennial with a special event. The University has invited more than 15 artists, who will provide their contemporary interpretation of various events in Lithuanian history. More than 20 art objects were created, which will invite you for the journey through the last 100 years of our State’s history. The interactive exhibition at the previous building of the Mechanical Engineering and Design Faculty (Kęstučio Street 27) will allow to look for less known historical facts, to experience various periods in Lithuanian history, and to relive the stories of people who lived then. Paulius Markevičius, Barbora Šulniūtė, Kamilė Stanevičiūtė, Marius Pažereckas, Pijus Čeikauskas, Matas Drukteinis, Julija Šatkauskaitė are among the artists who will introduce their works in the event.
The Kaunas light festival will be back for the long weekend and will have 18 buildings of significant importance to the centennial celebrations lit up at the centre and Old Town of Kaunas, including structures like the historic president’s palace, central post, medicine faculty, officers’ club, National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art and several buildings on V. Putvinskio street. The festival will run through Sunday.
The premiere of the opera “Radvila Perkūnas” [“Radvila the Thunder”] will take place at the Kaunas State Musical Theatre on both February 15 and 16. The first premiere of the opera by one of the most popular Interwar composers Jurgis Karnavičius took place at the Kaunas State Theatre 80 years ago, in 1937, with the libretto written by none other than Balys Sruoga. The piece told a love story within the context of the events that were disastrous for Lithuania in the 16th and 17th century. This new edition is dedicated to the Centennial.
On February 16, we’ll celebrate the centennial so loud that the whole Kaunas, Lithuania and the world will hear. The entire day of February 16th will have bells tolling, the Act of Independence will be read aloud, songs of Danielius Dolskis will be sung, dancing will take place, the funicular will have poetry being read, an orientation game will be organised, honorary guards will change next to the officer’s building, cabaret will take over the area around the Kaunas State Musical Theatre, while the presidential garden will become an ice sculpture park. But what will the people be up to when it gets dark? Read on!
While celebrating February the 16th, most of the museums in Kaunas, including Vytautas the Great War Museum, the branches of Kaunas City Museum, M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, the Maironis Lithuanian Literature Museum, Sugihara House, T. Ivanauskas Museum of Zoology and Lithuanian Education History Museum, will keep their doors as widely open as possible. Many of them offer free entrance on the day, too. It’s an initiative that deserves a round of applause as February 16 is a bank holiday in Lithuania and, until recently, most of the museums and galleries used to be closed on this day.
Austėja Staniunaitytė has arranged musical pieces of Lithuanian composers as well as some folk songs for a special carillon concert (read more about the Kaunas carillon here) in the garden of Vytautas the Great War Museum. The event scheduled for 11:30AM will also include compositions by Galina Savinienė and Balys Dvarionas.
The Historical Presidential Palace will be open from midday to midnight – everyone in love with Lithuania or anyone celebrating the centennial is welcome. Visitors will learn a lot of interesting information about the heroes of the first decades of independence; they will be able to understanding the political, economic, social and cultural contexts of our young and promising country a hundred years back. Obviously, the exhibition “100 most significant events of the First Republic of Lithuania (1918-1940)” is a must, but you have to register beforehand for this one.
“By celebrating the country’s centennial, we want every resident of Kaunas and every visitor to find a personal connection to this city, maybe a personal ritual, story or an emotion. We’re not celebrating a date, we’re respecting the success story of a hundred years – and we all wrote that story,” note the organisers of the 20th choir festival of pupils and invite people to keep creating Lithuania. The festival will take place at St Michael the Archangel Church also known as Soboras starting 1:30pm.
The Centennial programme by the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra stands out for its innovativeness, contemporariness and national spirit. The concert at the Kaunas State Philharmonic (scheduled for 5pm) will feature Balys Dvarionas’ Concert for violin and orchestra, Motiejus Bazaras’ Piece for a rhythm section, symphony orchestra and electronic music performer.
To sum it all up, the Centennial is not only a date but a success story. We’re now celebrating the entire century and the many more to come. February 16 is just the beginning of the celebration; a lot of events are scheduled to take place later this year (here is our detailed blog post about the event calendar in Kaunas for 2018). We hope to meet you in all of them, not only in Kaunas and Lithuania but all around the world (Los Angeles, for example…).
More facts, ideas, events and stories: www.lietuva.lt