Lithuania in the News
18th March 2018
Lithuania Celebrates a Century since Independence Restoration
A huge Lithuanian flag, larger than a
basketball court, hung from the TV Tower
in Vilnius for the Centenary celebrations.
Photo courtesy
, photo Telecentras
One hundred years ago, on February 16th in 1918, Lithuania declared restoration of its independence, after a century of Russian occupation. The Centenary of this historic event this year is commemorated and celebrated with pride by all Lithuanian communities, in Lithuania and around the world. Many festive events have already taken place with many more scheduled throughout the year. The spirit with which Lithuanians are responding to the anniversary amply manifests itself in this video clip: “RestoredLithuania100 – Labas!”
“100 Years” sign in front of the Presidential Palace in Vilnius.
Photo courtesy , photo Robertas Dačkus
Lithuania’s history of statehood 1253-1795 temporarily came to an end in 1795, to be restored in 1918. In the 15th century Lithuania had been the largest state in Europe. Even after its conquest by Russia in 1795, Vilnius was still the third largest city in the then Russian empire. Vilnius University at that time not only was the oldest in North-eastern Europe, but had more students than the universities of St. Petersburg and Moscow combined. So the tradition of independence in Lithuania remained strong even under Russian rule. This led to Lithuania to be the first among the Baltic States to declare independence in 1918, to be the first to declare independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 and to be the first to be free of Soviet army in 1993, ahead even of Poland and Eastern Germany.
For the actual February 16th anniversary, Lithuania was honoured by the presence of many international guests, presidents and crowned heads. Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council, declared that the closing words of Lithuania’s national anthem – “Let unity flower” - could be suitable for an EU anthem. Of interest to Australians, Australian-born Crown Princess Margaret of Denmark was due to attend the festivities, but the unexpected death of her father-in-law prevented her from coming. Greetings from very many countries were also received – from Pope Francis, US President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II, Japanese Emperor Akihito, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Australia’s Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, NZ Prime Minster Jacinta Ardern among many others.
Lithuania’s Centenary was noted by international media. The British journal “The Economist”, introduced Lithuania’s centenary with the headline as “100 not out”, a term familiar to cricket enthusiasts. The article stated “Lithuania has a history of statehood stretching back to the Middle Ages. ..... It was the first Baltic state to assert its independence in 1918. ..... It also inspired Lithuania’s audacious declaration of independence in 1990, the first in the crumbling Soviet Union, which initially shocked its Baltic neighbours and unsettled some outsiders. ..... The long struggle has left Lithuanians with a singular sense of European purpose.”
Australian Lithuanians were honoured by a delegation from Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for their celebrations. The delegation was led by Darius Skusevičius (Vice-Minister) and included Gediminas Varvuolis (Lithuania’s Ambassador-Designate to Australia), and MFA officials Marijus Gudynas, Asta Slavinskaitė and Diana Mickevičienė. The delegation met with Australian Lithuanians and Australian government and parliament officials and business leaders.

Celebrations in Sydney. Photo courtesy “Mūsų Pastogė”

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