Lithuania in the News
6th May, 2007
Lithuania Mourns the Loss of Two Friends - Boris Yeltsin and Mstislav Rostropovich
Boris Yeltsin with Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991.
Photo courtesy Lietuvos Rytas
Lithuanians have mourned the death of two Russian friends of Lithuania, passing away within days of each other. Russia’s first elected President Boris Yeltsin died on April 23, 2007, and the world famous cellist, former political dissident and human rights campaigner Mstislav ("Slava") Rostropovich on April 27, 2007.
Boris Yeltsin & Lithuania’s
former President Algirdas
Brazauskas. Photo courtesy
Lietuvos Žinios
After Lithuania declared the reestablishment of its independence in March 11, 1990, the first country of the former Soviet Union to do so, there were many critical moments before its independence was firmly established. Yeltsin’s support was crucial in those turbulent days and Lithuanians have always remembered Boris Yeltsin as friend of Lithuania. When Russia sent in its troops against unarmed guardians of the Television Tower in January 13, 1991, Yeltsin stood shoulder to shoulder with Lithuanians and it was Yeltsin’s intervention that probably prevented further bloodshed and the storming of the Lithuanian Parliament.
It was under the Yeltsin presidency that Russia signed the treaty recognising Lithuania’s independence, the border treaty with Russia and the treaty for the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Lithuania, making Lithuania the first country of the former Soviet block to have achieved this. This meant that Lithuania achieved the departure of the Russian army ahead of Germany, Poland and the other Baltic States. Lithuania’s President Valdas Adamkus and the past President Algirdas Brazauskas both attended Yeltsin’s funeral in Moscow. Lithuanian government is planning to honour Yeltsin with a posthumous award.

Mstislav Rostropovich.
Photo courtesy Lietuvos Rytas

Rostropovich giving a memorable
concert in front of the Berlin
Wall, after its fall in 1989.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia
Rostropovich with Lithuanian children supported by his
"Help to Lithuania’s Children" fund. Photo courtesy Delfi
Slava Rostropovich was a world famous cellist, conductor and a campaigner for humanitarian causes. He was probably the greatest musician in the world at this time, with presidents, royalty and distinguished statesmen among his admirers and many of world’s leading composers composing music especially for him. A Soviet dissident in the 70’s, he was forced to leave Russia and move to the West in 1974, only being able to return in 1990, with perestroika in full swing. In those dark days of the early 70’s he was welcomed in Lithuania, where he found work and support. He never forgot this and after the Soviet troops had stormed the TV Tower, he took the Lithuanian chamber orchestra under his baton on a Spanish tour, in effect becoming a spokesperson for Lithuania. In an unforgettable moment after the concert in San Sebastian he
The beautifully restored baroque
St. Catherine’s church in the
centre of Vilnius, in which a
commemorative concert for
Rostropovich was held
addressed the audience about the victims of the January 13 attack, which so moved the audience, that they just stood up silently without applauding, half of them with tears in their eyes.
He continued to be a regular visitor to Lithuania and was made an honorary citizen of Vilnius in 2000. He strongly supported Lithuanian Ballet and took it on numerous European tours - particularly memorable were Lithuanian Ballet’s tours to the Evian Festival, France, in 1997 and to Washington, USA, in 1998, when they performed "Romeo and Juliet" to Prokofiev’s music conducted by Rostropovich. Declaring "I have great love for your country", in 2003 he launched his charity fund - "Help to Lithuania’s Children". The aim of the fund is to foster the talent of exceptionally gifted young musicians, scientists and sportsmen and also to help children ill with serious diseases. The president of the fund, Rasa Kubilienė, declared that Rostropovich was "...a man on whom shone heavenly light and who radiated an extraordinary warmth and goodness". A memorial concert to honour Rostropovich was held on May 4, 2007, at the beautifully restored St. Catherine’s church in Vilnius.

Further information: 28/04/07, 25/03/03 27/04/07