True Lithuania

Modern Lithuanian celebrities

Sportsmen, particularly basketball players, are the Lithuanians that come closest to worldwide fame. They earn millions at the best NBA and Euroleague clubs and are well known in nations where basketball is popular. 1990s-2010s basketball stars include Arvydas Sabonis (b. 1964), Šarūnas Marčiulionis (b. 1964; both among the first Europeans to join NBA), Žydrūnas Ilgauskas (b. 1975), Šarūnas Jasikevičius (b. 1976), Linas Kleiza (b. 1985) and Jonas Valančiūnas (b. 1992).

Achievements in other sports lack the regularity of basketball triumphs but Virgilijus Alekna dominated the male discus throwing for 8 years, winning two Olympic golds and a bronze. Žydrūnas Savickas is equally notable in strongman scene.

In a welcome-back ceremony, Lithuanian fans attempt to touch national team basketball players after they have won silver in Eurobasket 2013. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

In the early 1990s, not even the mighty basketball victories could have matched in importance the work of the "architect of Lithuanian independence" Vytautas Landsbergis (b. 1932), a major force behind the collapse of Soviet Union. His local arch-opponent was Algirdas Brazauskas (1932-2010), a former communist later embracing independence.

Rolandas Paksas enjoys a dubious fame of being the sole European head of state ever to be successfully impeached (in 2004), while another president, Lithuanian-American Valdas Adamkus (b. 1926), is listed in the Guinness World Records as the person who lived the least in the country prior to being elected its head of state. Forced to flee Lithuania by the advancing Soviet armies as a young adult in 1945 he returned from Chicago only for his campaign in 1998. Mayor of Vilnius Artūras Zuokas (b. 1968) is locally notorious for corruption but his publicity stunts attracted worldwide attention which even earned him an Ig Nobel prize (for a staged Youtube video where he used a tank to crash an illegally parked car).

Most other local celebrities are, in fact, celebrities only locally. Lithuanian musicians largely perform to the local market save for an occasional visit to emigrant communities. Lithuanian cinema also fails to pass national frontiers save for a few festivals. English translations of Lithuanian literature are rare and while the Lithuanian theater is regarded to be successful few non-cinema actors or directors could expect to become worldwide household names.

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