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Lithuania/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.3 Other relevant issues and debates

Public debates on cultural policy and cultural life have widened over the past years, and the most vivid debates were held concerning the programme Vilnius – European Capital of Culture 2009. At the very beginning, the controversial friction between the Ministry of Culture and the NGO Vilnius – European Capital of Culture (VEKS in Lithuanian) arose due to procedures in the financing of the programme and the projects included in the programme. For example, within the framework of the public places humanisation programme aimed at contemporary interpretation of the city's open space, the sculpture by Vladas Urbanavičius "Embankment Arch" was completed on Vilnius Neris embankment (author: can you please explain why this was controversial?). Since the start, contemporary monumental construction remains a key-issue in public debates regarding its artistic value, suitability to nature, communities' taste, and is considered a non-effective cultural policy decision (see:

The recent debates also are linked with the monuments located in the open spaces of Vilnius. During Russia's aggression in Ukraine in 2014, a very strong public quarrel was held regarding the soviet sculpture composition over the river Neris bridge "Žalias tiltas" ("Green Bridge"). Many of respondents on the Delfi website argued for removal of the sculptures as a reference to soviet occupation and communism ideology at the time. The composition of four sculptural monuments, including a group of soldiers, is listed on the heritage register as a representative example of the soviet propaganda art of the 1950s (see: Therefore, legal issues side with the history of the monuments and considerations on the contemporary political situation in Europe became an important part of debates among the administration of the municipality of Vilnius, artists, heritage specialists, and the local community. The final decision to remove the sculptures for restoration was made by the Department of Cultural Heritage.

Some cultural events during the last years raised wide public discussions, which revealed a controversial understanding of freedom of artistic expression in Lithuania. In autumn 2012, Romeo Castalucci's play "On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God" (Sul concetto di volto nel Figlio di Dio) included in the international theatre festival "Sirenos" in Vilnius evoked extremely fervent debates among theatre audiences, members of Parliament, art critics, cultural society, and the Church. The reason was the author's interpretation of the face of God and the content. Special debates concerning the play were initiated in the Parliament and several members demonstrated a censorial attitude andinsisted on the exclusion of the play from the festival's programme. A couple of protest demonstrations by the aggrieved audience were organised at the theatre building as well. Nevertheless, the play was performed and attained great success.

Chapter published: 28-11-2014

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