Vilnius is ready to become a UNESCO City of Literature and has prepared an application form the preparation of which was a joint effort of multiple partners. Vilnius has always been known as a city of literature, which many writers have called home, and which still today bears many symbols of literature in its public spaces. We hope that the granting of the UNESCO City of Literature status will spread the word about the city’s contributions to world literature.
Historically, many different nationalities have called Vilnius home and made up a major part of the city’s inhabitants. The variations of the city’s name used by these different peoples are a testament to its multicultural nature: Vilne, Wilno, Vilna, Wilna, Vilno, Vilnius.
Vilnius, together with economic prosperity, social justice, environmental sustainability, recognizes culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development. Sustainable development requires to ascertain a city’s identity, values, and forces that shape its future.
The inclusion of Vilnius into the UCCN will aid it in its pursuit of SDG goals. During the next four years, educational activities will ensure a new readership among children and adolescents. Conditions will also be improved for literary professionals to pursue their projects, the development of the literary sector will have its effects in other areas (of the economy) as well, while the fostering of cultural identity will influence the development of an even more sustainable city and strengthen the ties between its communities. Finally, these activities will strengthen international cooperation between the cities that have recognized creativity as a strategic factor of their sustainable development and build on inter-cultural features (especially, connecting Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian cultures).
Vilnius, considering its annually increasing number of literary events and book launches, can already be considered a city of literature, with its active literary community playing a critical role. The plans are keen on proceeding with various literary festivals and events, book launches.
The literary heritage of Vilnius is multicultural, colorful, and unique. Books published as early as in the 16th century in Vilnius were written in Ruthenian, Polish, Latin, Yiddish and Hebrew, and Latvian and Lithuanian languages. Vilnius was home to a number of famous writers who have mentioned it in their works – A. Mickiewicz, R. Gary, J. I. Kraszewski, C. Milosz, J. Brodsky. A copy of the first Lithuanian book, the Catechism of Martynas Mažvydas, published in 1547, is housed in the Library of Vilnius University.
Lithuanian press acted as the driving force against the occupation of the Russian Empire. The city cannot be imagined without some of its most famous freedom heralds: poets S. Geda and J. Marcinkevičius and writer R. Gavelis. Literary battles were fought against the absurd reality of Soviet times, and poetry was used as a supporting pillar in the pursuit of freedom. The influence of literature on Vilnius can be felt still –the city is home to a wide selection of publishers.
One of the major literary fairs in Vilnius is the International Vilnius Book Fair, which attracts more than 70000 visitors. The annual fair’s participants are creative professionals, publishers, and scholars. The International Vilnius Book Fair is the largest book fair across the Baltic States and attracts foreign publishers and provides a range of different events for professionals of all fields.
The literary festival “Vilniaus lapai” (Pages of Vilnius) is concerned with fine literature and, since its launch in 2016, boasts an elite programme and counts among its participants some of the most well-known Lithuanian and foreign authors (Herbjorg Wassmo, Halgrimur Helgasson, Joanne Harris, Mathias Enard, etc.). “Paviljono knygų savaitgalis” (Pavillon Book Weekend), organised for the fourth consecutive year, is a non-commercial event dedicated to book launches and discussing news in the publishing world. Children literature festival organises around 50 various events and meetings throughout a period of three days.
Vilnius also boasts the largest interdisciplinary art complex in the state. Together with another cultural space Menų spaustuvė, it will provide a space for writing residencies in the future.
With the aim of strengthening the status and publicity of professional artists, since 2003, the mayor of Vilnius has been personally awarding the best participants of the Poetry Spring festival, and a special prize for the best creative work about Vilnius has been annually awarded since 2004. Special prizes of the mayor are also awarded for best children’s literature books during the festival “Vaikų knygų sala.”
The forthcoming cultural politics guidelines of Vilnius City have designated the years 2021–2023 for preparing a financial aid programme for various artist residencies operating within the city and establishing a special fund for globally renowned artists and the distribution of their work in Vilnius and Lithuania.
Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius: “I firmly believe that Vilnius will greatly benefit if granted the UNESCO City of Literature status, as it would help further solidify its standing as a recognised contributor to world literature.”
- 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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Mayor of Vilnius
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