Valmantas Gutauskas. Atspindžiai. 2002, laminuotas
stiklas, 315 x 90 x 90
Arūnas Sakalauskas. Paminklas Vieningai Lietuvai.
2003, granitas, h 900. Architektas Ričardas Krištapavičius
Past and Present in the Future Vilnius
In contrast to
historical facts, interpretations of history keep changing to reflect
the changing human needs. Interpretation of history is a continuous
process, with its actors being not only historians, but also the thinking
part of the society. By drafting new legislation, by building new towns
and reconstructing the destroyed structures, we set out to interpret
history in a new way. In all of these actions, we inevitably face either
the culture of memory, or oblivion, these two extremes being the driving
force both, behind creation of historical culture, or the destruction
In the course of centuries of creating historical culture, people have
invented tools to strengthen historical memory. Historical monument,
erected to either key history figures or memorial events, is one of
these. Yet it might also be instrumental in strengthening the culture
of oblivion. The key mission of any historical monument is to highlight
to the wide public what it is supposed to remember. Its mission
is to stimulate the cohesion of the society, yet occasionally, unless
all the implications of it are taken into account, it may turn out into
a bone of discontent. In making decisions on putting up a new monument,
one has to be able not only comprehend the current expectations of the
society, but to foresee how they are likely to change in the future.
We have seen monuments that have been made objects of ridicule by new
There is a full awareness of the dangers inherent in erecting monuments,
yet no ways to avoid them have been discovered. That is probably the
reason why the boom of historical monuments in Western Europe is over.
Lithuania is preoccupied with the theory that we have to repeat everything
what was done in Europe some 50-30 years ago, as we have to recompense
for the 50 years of stagnation. It is essential the policy underpinning
the current processes in Vilnius. Unfortunately, in building monuments,
the focus remains on Lithuanian identity as determined on linguistic
criteria, and it is for the lack of a wider concept of historical Lithuanian
identity. Over the last 13 years, two monuments to the ancient Lithuanian
dukes were put up in Vilnius. Even more disappointing is the fact, that
even sculptural forms chosen for the monuments are characteristic of
the turn of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. The narrow
understanding of Lithuanian identity has also led to improper alterations
on the University ensemble.
The 21st century had expanded the traditional concept of a monument
worldwide, making it a multifunctional phenomenon. The current tendency
is to integrate functions of a traditional monument and a modern museum.
This should be kept in mind when design new memorials in Vilnius, especially
the one to commemorate the victims of January 13.
The turn of the 20th century brought along a very strong realisation
of the importance to foster historical culture. These tendencies are
especially prominent in the field of urban architecture. In countries
with deep cultural traditions towns become objects of historical culture,
alongside, centres of attraction for cultural tourism. Commercialisation
of historical culture is taking place in most European countries, but
there is at least an aspiration to comply with the regulations established
by the world practice in heritage protection.
In Lithuania, this tendency needs a much deeper discussion and understanding.
Many questions remain open as of yet, both in regard to the future application
of the Lower Castle, and the potential historical centre of the Old
Town of Vilnius. It is vital to ensure that the discussions how to marry
the past and the present of Vilnius, do not loose awareness of the dimension
of the future.