Value systems in Lithuania | True Lithuania
True Lithuania

Political ideas

"Leftist" and "Rightist" concepts in Lithuania are limited to economic policies. Leftists prefer economic equality whereas rightists choose economic freedom.

The relation between leftist/rightist economic policies and preference of some social policies does not exist in Lithuania. Social value systems common among Lithuanians may be roughly divided into "pro-Western", "pro-Local" and "pro-Eastern" groupings.

Additionally, Lithuanian public life has its authoritarian/libertarian, political/apolitical poles.

Economic policies: Left vs. Right

The left seeks to increase taxes, public welfare payouts, and economic regulations, while the right seeks to curb them all.

The Left has been largely discredited by the ineffective Soviet policies whereby limitations of merit-based income meant decreased initiative to work well and peer-tolerated stealing and destroying of public property. This led the majority of Soviet people to live less well-off than the poorest classes of the West. Still, the elderly and village dwellers tend to like leftist ideas more as they had fewer gains from the post-independence economic boom. A non-numerous leftist youth has been keen to reinvent itself by distancing from the Soviet past and drawing inspiration from Scandinavia instead. However, Western-style "leftist youth protest" is unpopular, as for decades most of the protest in Lithuania has been precisely against the left. The main leftist parties are Socialdemocrats and Peasants/Greens.

The Right ideas are more popular among the youth, the educated and the city-dwellers. They believe that economic freedom offers effectiveness as people have more initiative to work well and the economy to grow. Many had bad experiences with the public sector (corruption, bureaucracy, disrespect) and believe it should be curbed. The main rightist parties are the Liberal Union and the Freedom Party.

Many key politicians do not delve too deep into the left or the right, however. The entire Homeland Union political party tends to stay close to the centre .

Value systems: Western, Local and Eastern

One of the most fervent divisions of Lithuanian (and Central European) political thought is into three value systems, each of them comprising of ideas on global alignment, beliefs, and inspirations.

Supporters of each value system regard the other two with suspicion. All three groups are mostly moderate, but also each has a few radicals who argue for limiting the freedom of speech of the opposing groups. Each value system has both rightists and leftists in it.

Pro-Western thinkers seek to transplant Western European political, economic and "human rights" ideas to Lithuania, putting a heavy emphasis on Western-style "political correctness". They believe in a European Union federation or even a single European nation, therefore promote inter-European migration. They see contemporary Western values, lifestyles and much else to be superior to the "outdated" Lithuanian and Eastern European ones. They promote English and (to a lesser extent) other Western languages. Supported politically by Liberals, a part of the Homeland Union, and a part of Socialdemocrats. "Naujoji kairė 95" and similar organizations are its radical wing. After 2000s Pro-Westerns are the dominant force in Lithuanian politics.

A poster promoting the 'Day against homophobia and transphobia' in Vilnius. Combatting these (and other things that are seen as major menaces in the Western societies) is a major goal among pro-Westerns. As the information at the bottom of the poster reveals, it has been funded by the EU and Norway. The EU institutions tend to disproportionately support pro-Western causes, leading to the programs that further these causes being the wealthiest and most visible even when they lack a popular support. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Pro-Local thinkers gain inspiration in the local history, traditions, language(s), religion(s), nature, folk art. They promote sovereignty (i.e. "decisions that affect Lithuanian life should be made in Lithuania") and closer cooperation between Central European states. They discourage economic migration. They denounce "transplanting" of values from either Russia or Western Europe, believing that each nation should choose its own way. This thought is represented by a part of Homeland Union, Peasants/Greens, Nationalists. Nationaldemocrats (disestablished in 2009 but still organizing minor protests) used to be its radical wing. Pro-Locals used to be somewhat powerful in the 1990s and did much of the heavy lifting for independence but were slowly sidelined since.

Grassroots independence day parades are organized by the pro-Local thinkers. During them, chants such as '[Lithuania belongs] neither to the East nor to the West! Lithuania belongs to its children!' resound. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Pro-Eastern thinkers regard the Russian culture, traditions, and art especially positively. Because of the 1940-1953 Soviet genocide, truly pro-Soviet thoughts (i.e. "The Soviet Union liberated Lithuania" and similar) are largely limited to the once-privileged ethnic minorities (Russians, Russophones). However, moderate pro-Eastern thoughts are more common (for example: "Russian culture is in many ways superior to both Western and Lithuanian ones"). Pro-Eastern thinkers promote the Russian language, "pragmatic policy" of better relations with Russia and her allies (disregarding their bloody past and present). Supported politically by a part of the Socialdemocrats, People's Party. Socialist People's Front is its radical wing. Independence (1990) temporarily stroke off the pro-Eastern thoughts out of the political sphere; they made a comeback ~1995-2010 but lost influence once again after the Russian war in Ukraine.

Some values are shared between the groupings:
*Both Pro-Westerns and Pro-Locals support environmentalism and heritage protection.
*Both Pro-Easterns and Pro-Westerns tend to be critical of religion.
*Both Pro-Locals and Pro-Easterns put an emphasis on family values.

Minority nationalism is sometimes hard to classify along the above lines. Polish nationalism goes partly in-line with Pro-Local thought, partly in-line with Pro-Eastern one and is unique otherwise. Russian nationalism goes largely in-line with the Pro-Eastern thought, while Jewish nationalism goes in-line with the Pro-Western and Pro-Eastern thoughts.

Politicians and parties that are either minority nationalist or pro-Eastern, such as the People‘s Party, often write their advertisments in three languages: Lithuanian, Russian, and Polish. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Freedom systems: Authoritarian vs. Libertarian

Spending 50 years under totalitarian occupation made nearly all Lithuanian intellectuals yearning for freedom, leading to especially libertarian 1990s. At the time there was no censorship, "political correctness" and definitely no possibility to lose one's job, scholarship, or child custody due to personal opinions or values, however weird or radical those would seem to peers. Only direct harm would be punished by both law and superiors.

As Lithuania joined the European Union the personal freedoms became somewhat curbed. The crimes of "supporting hatred", "genocide denial", "using totalitarian symbols", "disrespecting terrorism victims" were established and expanded and there were even calls to try authors for "radical" 1990s songs. Some parenting practices were banned, whereas the Constitutional court limited referendum rights. These authoritarian limitations are mostly pro-Western in nature, targeting the other two value systems. They are opposed by both libertarians and non-pro-Western authoritarians.

In spite of the changes, Lithuania still trumps both Russia and Western Europe in personal freedoms.

Both libertarianism and authoritarianism get vocal support from across generations. Many signatories of the Lithuanian declaration of independence are vocal libertarians.

Political participation: political vs. apolitical

Merely some 50% of Lithuanians participate in elections and much of the remainder consider themselves "apolitical". Likely disillusioned by decades of violent totalitarian occupations, slower-than-expected post-independence corruption decline / economic growth and the perceived consensus of major political parties on key issues, the "apoliticals" tend to believe that their participation would change nothing save for giving more moral ground to politicians of dubious morals. They may say "I am apolitical" with pride.

Their "political" opponents typically blame such "mass apoliticism" to be among the roots of the problems that cause disillusionment with Lithuanian politics, to begin with.

Even those who argue for participation in politics, however, usually refuse to associate themselves with particular parties or politicians. US-style endorsements are nearly non-existent in Lithuania, with famous people (who are not politicians) very rarely telling who they voted for and media rarely asking that. Because the Lithuanian political landscape is shifting rapidly and some key politicians and parties turn out to be corrupt, pledging allegiance to one of them bring a risk of becoming a laughing material after a few years.

Mass apoliticism also means that real anti-government movements are small in Lithuania: those disillusioned by politics tend to stay out of it completely, including the serious anti-government activities. Compared to many other countries, Lithuania tends to have much smaller demonstrations, fewer strikes, and no extreme forms of anti-government activities (such as agitation for coups, separatism or terrorism).

A protest against a new construction in the protected Vilnius Old Town. Participants of such demonstrations are usually quite few in numbers, however, and Lithuania tends to lack protests that involve thousands. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Trust in politicians: personal vs. ideological

To many Lithuanians "star politicians" are more important than parties or ideologies they represent. Such politicians tend to switch parties frequently, bringing almost the entire electorate of the previous party with them. Their personal appeal and non-political actions contribute more to their popularity than their political ideas do. Those who base their vote on ideology tend to denounce such "star politicians" as populists.

Lithuanian political parties thus may be divided into "ideological" (grouped around an ideology and having multiple good leaders) and "personal" (grouped around their popular "star politician" leader and likely having members of multiple ideologies).

Star-politician Rolandas Paksas flies under a bridge during his presidential election campaign. People often vote for star-politicians based on their presumed qualities that are not actually political, making the use of other talents useful for them.

Star-politician Rolandas Paksas flies under a bridge during his presidential election campaign. Lithuanians who have personal rather than ideological loyalties often pick their politicians based on their presumed qualities that are not actually political, making the use of other talents useful for campaigning.

History of Lithuanian political ideas

The current system of political ideologies largely dates to the 1990s, when the independent Lithuanian state gained ground.

During the Soviet occupation (1940-1990), the division of the society was much simpler: the anti-Soviet pro-freedom majority and the collaborating minority which largely consisted of ethnic non-Lithuanians who were fewer in numbers but had the entire Soviet machine behind them. As any vocal opposition to the regime was persecuted, many anti-Soviets tended to hide their beliefs (until the 1980s). Still, they clandestinely supported various non-Soviet institutions and these institutions generally worked together even when seemingly having incompatible beliefs (so, e.g., even non-believers used to support the Catholic church, which was regarded as a powerful anti-Soviet institution; the uniting common anti-Soviet stance was seen as more important than religious differences). After independence, much of the pro-Soviet minority emigrated to Russia while the rest was largely sidelined. However, controversially, some of those who did nothing to support the Lithuanian independence until it happened, remained powerful, often aligning with either pro-Eastern or pro-Western ideologies. Those who were the most vocal freedom supporters under the Soviet occupation are now usually pro-Locals.

Before the Soviet occupation, in the early 20th century, Lithuania and Lithuanians abroad were divided into three political groupings, each of them with their parties, youth organizations, newspapers, and more. They were much more visible than any ideological groupings are today. These groups were the leftists, the nationalists (tautininkai), and the religious. After the Soviet occupation, however, all three groups essentially came together against a common enemy (Soviet Union), with the exception of a few radical leftists who became pro-Soviet. Therefore, most of the interwar ideological differences dissipated after the Soviet occupation, although in the pre-Soviet-originated Lithuanian diaspora abroad these divisions survived until the 2000s to some extent.

In the late 19th century, during the Lithuanian national revival the key ideological division was into the "pro-Lithuanian" (called "Litho-maniacs" by their opponents) and "pro-Polish" ("Polo-maniacs") groupings. At the time, many Lithuanians, especially the elite, spoke Polish natively (or were natively bilingual) due to the long period of Polish cultural dominance in the 16th-19th centuries. The "pro-Lithuanians" sought to encourage speaking and writing in Lithuanian, while "pro-Polish" saw Lithuanian to be a "peasant language of the uncultured" and preferred a wide use of Polish, abandoning Lithuanian to history. Eventually, "pro-Lithuanians" prevailed, whereas many "pro-Polish Lithuanians" began considering themselves to be Poles rather than Lithuanians.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Politics and Law No Comments
Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.