Vilnius is a UNESCO City of Literature!
The Lithuanian capital has always been renowned for being open to all nations, languages and creative people. Today, it has more news to share with the world – Vilnius has been recognized as a city that loves culture, writers and readers. Vilnius is the first Lithuanian city to receive the UNESCO City of Literature status in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Along with Vilnius, the status was also granted to Gothenburg (Sweden) and Jakarta (Indonesia). Other UNESCO Cities of Literature include Kraków, Wrocław (Poland), Utrecht (Netherlands), Lviv (Ukraine), Tartu (Estonia), Ljubljana (Slovenia) – more than 40 cities in total.
Vilnius City Council started preparing the bid in 2018, in collaboration with the Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO, Lithuanian Publishers Association, Vilnius Municipal Central Library and other literary organisations.
The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was created in 2004 with an aim to strengthen the collaboration among with and among cities that identify creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable development. The network is made up of 295 cities from 90 countries.
Candidate cities select one of the 7 categories (Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music), making long-term commitments to pay careful attention to a particular sector. When assessing the applications, UNESCO considers the quality and diversity of the candidate cities’ international cooperation initiatives, participation of the cultural organizations, experience in hosting local and international festivals, cultural events, activities of higher education institutions, development of online platforms for creative industries and economics, inclusion of art incubators, news industry and media, the sector’s economic development and the support of the local public authorities.
Why Vilnius Is Already a City of Literature
Vilnius has long been known as a literary city where famous authors have written their works in all kinds of languages, making it a part of their masterpieces. Marked by literary symbols, Vilnius has made a significant contribution to the development of various literary genres. The city is a home to a number of independent bookshops, international literary festivals, book launches, readings and other events, as well as to most of Lithuanian publishing houses. Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania has been open to public for more than 100 years, while Vilnius Book Fair, the largest annual book fair in the Baltic states, will be held for the 22nd time in 2022.
Delegates from other Cities of Literature, who have visited Lithuania on numerous occasions, participating in Vilnius Book Fair, literary events and organisations, identify Vilnius as a true literary city. Even its history begins with literary signs: Vilnius’ birthday is celebrated on 25 January, when Vilnius city was first mentioned in the letter written by Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania, back in 1325, declaring that Vilnius is open to all nations, languages and artists. Having acquired the status of a UNESCO City of Literature, Vilnius again invites everyone to “Read each other”.
Kotryna Zylė and Miglė Vasiliauskaitė, the creators of the logo for Vilnius’ City of Literature status, highlight the importance of the history of Vilnius’ multiculturalism, a bequeathed mission to read those around us. The letter V, followed by an ellipsis, highlights the city’s openness and the dialogue between cultures, writers and readers, different national and social groups, artists, residents and guests of the city.
It is our hope that the status of UNESCO City of Literature will help to spread the message about Vilnius’ literary merits to Europe and the rest of the world. It is also our hope to be actively involved in the Creative Cities Network, and to become a city which not only learns from others but is also able to share its own experience.
- Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO
The Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO employs 23 experts from the fields of education, science, culture, and communication and information: these are representatives of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Ministry of Culture, Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of the Economy and Innovation, Ministry of Social Security and Labor, including staff of institutions subject to the ministries, and members of non-governmental organizations and Lithuania-based UNESCO centers.
The goal of the Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO is to ensure the involvement of the Republic of Lithuania in implementing the initiatives of UNESCO.
- Lithuanian Publishers Association
The Lithuanian Publishers Association unites 49 publishing houses and the publishing departments of various organizations. The LPA is one of the organizers of the Vilnius Book Fair, together with the Lithuanian Culture Institute and Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Centre LITEXPO. The goal of the Lithuanian Publishers Association is to maintain a level of sophistication and quality in the publishing sector of Lithuania, promote reading culture and Lithuanian literature, and represent Lithuania in international book fairs.
- Lithuanian Writers’ Union
The Lithuanian Writers’ Union represents about 360 professional prose writers, poets, playwrights, essayists, translators, literary critics, and literary scholars that hold a state-recognized artist status. The headquarters of the Lithuanian Writers’ Union are located in Vilnius, which is also the city where the most of its literary initiatives take place.
- Central Library of Vilnius City Municipality
A network of public municipality libraries in Vilnius. The Central Library of Vilnius City Municipality operates in accordance with the strategic priorities set forth by the Vilnius City Municipality and is expanding its range of activities as a cultural institution that prioritizes the needs of the socially vulnerable, brings local communities together, and organizes public leisure activities.
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