On October 19-20, the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania hosted an international conference dedicated to the 700th anniversary of Vilnius, “Europe. Capital. Transformations: Vilnius in the 19th and 21st Centuries.” The event was part of the “Vilnius 700th Anniversary Events at the National Library” funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.
The Director General of the National Library, Prof. Dr. Renaldas Gudauskas, called the event the culmination of the celebrations of the capital’s anniversary at the National Library. “This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the National Library’s move to Vilnius,” Prof. Gudauskas said in his welcoming remarks. “This is a snapshot compared to the great anniversary of the capital; however, we have been part of some of the milestones of the city and the state, implementing the ambitious mission to be the space of knowledge in Lithuania, creating value for the society.”
Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, reminded that the Seimas declared this year the Year of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and the Year of the Letters of Gediminas, taking into account the fact that Vilnius was first mentioned in the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas’s letters addressed to Europe in 1323. She praised the National and Parliamentary Library of Lithuania for its balanced memory policy and for making an important contribution to the Vilnius anniversary events.
Simonas Kairys, Minister of Culture, pointed out that every independent state has its own points of reference, one of which is the capital. However, not every capital is a patchwork of names, ethnicities, wonders and painful experiences like Vilnius. “This year, Vilnius has become not only the venue for the NATO Summit, but also the Green Capital of Europe,” the Minister of Culture noted. “This only shows that Vilnius sees itself as an integral part of the world and not as an aggressive force or power. We care about others and not only about ourselves. Vilnius is a sensitive, delicate and vulnerable city, but that is where its strength lies.”
Over the last 200 years, Vilnius has experienced profound political, social and demographic changes: from a provincial city of the Russian Empire, to an administrative center under German occupation, to a provincial center of Poland, to the capital of independent and later Soviet-occupied Lithuania, and finally, to the capital of an EU country. During this period, the composition of the city’s population, its identity as well as the social and cultural face had also changed.
According to the organizers, one of the aims of the conference was to stimulate research in this field and to discover new themes. “I am delighted that this conference has succeeded in bringing together an impressive group of researchers,” Dr. Ilona Strumickienė, Head of the National Library’s Center for Statehood and one of the conference organizers, said. “The National Library is contributing to the knowledge of Vilnius and its further research. After this event, we will know more about Vilnius in the 19th and 21st centuries.”
For two days, a large group of researchers from various fields of expertise talked about multicultural Vilnius, and explored the meanings of its memory and places of oblivion. The presentations looked at Vilnius as an administrative, economic, political, cultural and scientific center, examined its urban and architectural development as well as the communication strategies and expression of Vilnius in arts.
For more information about the event, speakers and presentations, please visit the conference website: https://konferencijos.lnb.lt/europa-sostine-tapsmas/en/.