Vilnius Has Started Taking Down Memorial to Occupant Soldiers to Swipe Soviet Symbols Off City

Photo by Saulius Ziura

Lithuanian capital Vilnius has started taking down one of the last Soviet-era remnants—a memorial to Soviet soldiers in a famous Antakalnis Cemetery. The city has been removing Soviet symbols ever since the country regained independence, taking down Communist statues and other attributes.

December x, 2022. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has begun taking down one of the last Soviet symbols left in the city—a memorial to Soviet soldiers. Vilnius City Council has been preparing to remove this last remnant of Soviet occupation from the famous 19th-century Antakalnis Cemetery since spring. Such decision has come as a response to the unwarranted Russian aggression toward Ukraine. 

The memorial depicts grey granite stelae of six World War II Soviet soldiers and was erected in the cemetery in 1984. The cemetery is the final resting place for orphans, artists, political figures, and notable public personas, as well as soldiers of all nationalities from World War I and II. The stelae will be removed with due respect to the cemetery and will be taken to a safekeeping site.

Photo by Saulius Ziura

“The time has come to remove this one of the last symbols of Soviet occupation from our city. The stelae will be removed and taken to a safekeeping site. No graves, gravestones, or other memorials will be damaged or in any way affected during the removal process, and the memorial itself will be taken out of the cemetery territory,” said Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius.

Eliminating Soviet remnants—from statues to buildings 

The city has been steadily cleaning the city of Soviet symbols—memorials, statues, and other reminders of former occupants—over the years. Most attributes were removed once Lithuania regained its independence in 1991, starting with the overturn of one of the symbols of the Soviet regime—Lenin’s monument—in Lukiškės Square. 

Photo by Saulius Ziura

In 2015, Vilnius City Municipality removed sculptures that symbolized Communist soldiers, workers, peasants, and students, from the Green Bridge that connects the city center with the residential district. Built in 1952, the statues were part of Soviet propaganda. Last year Vilnius dismounted the statue of a Soviet-era political figure and writer, Petras Cvirka. 

Vilnius has announced the plans to demolish the semi-finished Moscow House in the city center, which is regarded as part of the Kremlin’s propaganda, at the start of 2022. The concept of the building as a cultural and business center promoting good relations between the two cities was proposed 20 years ago. However, it does not conform to the architectural standards and geopolitical principles of Vilnius. Recently, supporting Ukraine’s right to remain a democratic country, Vilnius put a giant graffiti mural of a Ukrainian woman on the side of the building—a symbol of Ukraine’s fight for freedom and against Russia’s aggression. The drawing resulted from a collaboration between Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Estonian artists and engineers.

Similarly, the Russian Drama Theater has been renamed Vilnius Old Theater, further cleaning the aggressors’ symbols out of the city.

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