True Lithuania

Double masted flags – a new type of monument in Vilnius

2014 06 13. There are a few places in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius that have great transformations planned for them yet these transformations do not advance for decades.

Take Lukiškių square for instance where a monument is planned but all the design competitions have failed so far. The square center thus "temporarily" remains empty since the Lithuania's prime sculpture of Vladimir Lenin has been toppled there 24 years ago. Even more controversial is the Žaliasis bridge, the last place in central Vilnius where the now-rusting Soviet statues have *not* been demolished or replaced to the dismay of many (and to the joy of a few preservation enthusiasts).

Quite an impressive solution has been found. Central Lukiškių square has received two masts and a Lithuanian Grand Duchy historical flag stretched between them. It looks gracefully waving in the wind. This gate-like structure is cheaper, more unique and (arguably) more meaningful than many of the previously-suggested specially-designed monuments, some of which were accused of plagiarism and others of lacking artistic value. Perhaps this is why the double-masted flag, originally intended to be a temporary work of art and face removal by February 2014, still waves over Lukiškių square.

The flag waving over Lukiškių square in front of the Museum of Genocide Victims (former KGB headquarters). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Even more than that. The double-masted flag idea has now been copied at the Žaliasis bridge. The four Soviet statues each now have such a large flag stretched over them. Two are medieval Lithuanian flags, and two are NATO flags. This is indeed symbolic: the rebirth of Lithuania (always rooted in its glorious medieval history) and the NATO military supremacy were two major factors in the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet statues are banned from demolition by preservationist authorities, so they were now integrated into a more meaningful whole: one that no longer glorifies the Soviet system but rather signifies its defeat.

One of the four flags masted between two flagpoles on Žaliasis bridge hangs above the Soviet propaganda statue, the medieval knight having perpetually raised his sword against it. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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