Man patinka Lietuva

I like Lithuania – a visitor's point of view


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Lithuania’s partisans rise again

eoh8vzfswic_dqzkbruhplitjkgjc9qrjxgt_jnok0fhbygyd7md7rul-simktkvcbpurrms114The Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union, a civilian paramilitary force, is preparing for the worst as Putin threatens the security of the Baltic states in his attempts to create a new soviet union under his leadership.

Formed in 1914 but disbanded by the soviets in 1940 they have been re-formed since independence and seen their numbers grow, tripling since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to about 10,000 members including former servicemen. (See history here).

Many Lithuanians see the Ukrainian war (not to mention the annexation of Crimea) as just the start of Russia’s plan to recapture its near neighbours including the Baltic states. They are not alone. Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Moldova, all former Warsaw Pact states, also feel vulnerable at the creation of “Novorossiya”.

ca9468aa749cb3de8a728ea163ab5530Lithuania has reintroduced conscription and produced a booklet on what to do in the case of an invasion. It’s also warned NATO about the build-up of nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, the strip of land between Poland and Lithuania which Russia took from Germany.

Russia claims it has to do that to counter the threat from the NATO build-up in the region – battalions of 1,000 men, one each to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (where the British contingent is based).

Kaliningrad also gives Russia access to the Baltic Sea where it is said to have committed “military hooliganism” by harassing merchant shipping.

Lithuania is currently the only NATO country to provide weapons to Ukraine , because “The Ukrainians are basically fighting the Russian Army” and thinks NATO should do more.

As for the riflemen, although they will be heavily outnumbered, they are preparing for guerrilla warfare in the forests of Lithuania. They have just been allowed to keep their semi-automatic weapons and ammunition at home to be better prepared.

dsc00072Anyone visiting the Museum of Genocide in the old KGB HQ in Vilnius will see memorabilia from the past including information about the partisans – who fought a bloody campaign. Lets hope it doesn’t come to that again.

This story was widely reported in the Independent, the Daily Mail and the Times.


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Corbyn, and how not to win friends and influence people (particularly the Baltic States)

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Lithuania’s Ambassador in London Asta Skaisgirytė has written an open letter to Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn over his negative stance on NATO enlargement, emphasizing that it is only the Western Alliance that can guarantee security of the Baltic states.

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In a comment in Britain’s left-leaning daily The Guardian, Skaisgirytė recalled the region’s history and warned about the Kremlin’s efforts to “menace its former victims”, as it remembers the Soviet era. Skaisgirytė said that Corbyn “seems so unaware of the past, present and future of imperialism on the European continent”. In her words, “Lithuania has in living memory experienced imperialism through occupation, linguistic and cultural oppression, the destruction of civil society and public institutions, rape, looting, deportation and mass murder”. “The perpetrators of these crimes have not been punished.

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Nor has Russia, the successor state to the Soviet Union, apologised or paid compensation. Instead it praises our oppressors as…

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Ukraine to remove evidence of soviet past

CNV00035In May President Poroshenko of Ukraine signed a law that effectively banned all reminders of his country’s past with the USSR.

This was clearly in response to the annexation of Crimea by Russia and its support for the the separatist war in Eastern Ukraine.

The law was hailed as a giant step forward for Ukraine and officials are rushing to implement it before  Independence Day on the 24th August.

Every statue of Lenin, every soviet street name and every red star in every underground station will be removed. Under the same law about two dozen towns and cities which were named after Soviet heroes are being renamed.

Unlike Lithuania Ukraine left most of its communist symbols untouched after the collapse of the soviet union in 1991. Work had already started after the Maidan revolution when dozens of statues of Lenin were toppled and dismantled. The Ukrainians even invented a new word for it – Leninopod, or Leninfall.

The ban on soviet symbols is part of a package that includes opening KGB archives to the public. As in Germany with the holocaust denying law it is now an offence to publicly deny “the criminal nature of the communist regime“.

There are some critics who say it all smacks of communist-style censorship including historians in Canada and the USA  who urged the President to veto the new law. Others say that Ukraine has too much on its hands with a faltering economy and the war on its Eastern frontier to bother about symbols and historic issues.

P1000342In Lithuania there are very few symbols of its communist past left. (See: Where’s the evidence?“)

The statues on the Green Bridge in Vilnius are probably the most famous. Many of the old statues of Stalin and Lenin ended up in Grutas Park as a tourist attraction.

P1000482Lithuania even chiselled out the cyrillic alphabet version of Vilnius on the large boulder in the cathedral square.

It will be interesting to see what Ukraine does about the famous Motherland statue in the centre of Kyiv.  Part of the Museum of the history of Ukraine in WWII (renamed by law to remove reference to the “Great Patriotic War“).

CNV00014This giant stainless steel statue, designed by Yevgeny Vuchetich,  and revealed in 1981, stands 62 m tall with an overall height of 102m.

There is a sword in the statue’s right hand which is 16m long and weighs 9 tons and which was shortened so that the overall height of the statue was not higher than the cross on the Orthodox Church’s dome at Pechensk Lavra in the city (even the soviets conceded an advantage to the worship of god).

I was told that there was a plan to sell the statue to China after independence but the costs of dismantling it were prohibitive so there it still stands for now.

CNV00034_1I have visited the statue and the museum as it is not far from an open air concert arena which is used on Independence Day. I was taken by some Ukrainian friends there one evening to see the concert.

CNV00021We went in by a circuitous route bribing the soldiers guarding the statue with some beer and photographs of them with the ladies in our party. It was all very  good humoured although later when I fell over (a vodka assisted stumble I confess)  I was almost arrested by some plain clothes police until my Ukrainian friend rescued me explaining I was a foreigner!

Whether the Motherland statue ends up in a tourist park remains to be seen.


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Show of solidarity with Ukraine

I was walking down Gedimino pr and noticed that the Marks & Spencer store was flying two flags. The national flags of Lithuania and of Ukraine, two former soviet republics.DSC00097

As a Brit with friends in both countries I was quite proud of M & S doing this.


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Russian speaking buskers sang me a Ukrainian folk song

I’ve posted about street musicians in Vilnius before and actually mentioned these musicians but I’d mislaid my video film until now.

After chatting to them they were kind enough to perform a Ukrainian folk song I’d been taught by my friends in Ukraine when I visits it several times a few years ago.

Given everything that is happening over there now I thought it was worth posting this.