Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys: “We see an entire kaleidoscope of eras and political systems in Kaunas”


2021 09 22


The Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys attended an event in Kaunas today during which the programme of Kaunas 2022 and other cities that will become the European capitals of culture next year – Esch-sur-Alzette and Novi Sad – was announced.

“Looking at this audience I see many familiar faces with whom I had the pleasure to be during the very beginnings of this programme. However, after winning this title, probably all of us thought that a lot of time will pass before this vision is turned into reality. Now we see that reality is almost here: in just a few months, Kaunas will take over the crown of the European Capital of Culture. Presiding over the Council of the EU and the programme of the European Capital of Culture are the largest, most ambitious, and most complicated challenges of similar format that could ever befall a country. However, challenges also mean opportunities, and a multitude of the latter have opened up for Kaunas.

The experience of the previous holders of this title will not let me misspeak: the European Capital of Culture is usually not a city where everything is clear and stable, where all problems have been solved and all questions have been answered. This is an opportunity not for a standing body of water but for a flowing river of changes. Even while preparing the application for this programme, Kaunas was already experiencing a change, and it indeed started changing, opening up, becoming freer. The word “temporary”, which had signified its history for many years, actually developed into another term: “contemporary”. It is my sincere belief that the title of the European Capital of Culture will function as a catalyst which will intensify the rhythm of changes even more.

For this reason, as we look at the approaching event, it is important for all of us to remember that local contexts in this programme are no less important than the international dimension. First of all, the local community itself has to feel the cultural, contemporary change: and not just feel it but become involved in it actively. The neighbourhood, community activities, a perspective on the nearest contexts, the narratives created by the local people – all of this is necessary for the year of the European Capital of Culture to end with us having started new traditions, established strong community relationships, and launched new initiatives.

For a city which is becoming the European Capital of Culture, a clear relationship with one’s roots is no less important than the vision of the future. We are lucky: we are celebrating this title in a city whose modernist interwar architecture separates it from the entire global context.  Therefore, I believe that this title will encourage us even more to recognise the treasure we have right here, on our streets. I believe that the interwar buildings that require greater care and love will receive solid injections of attention while the building of the Kaunas Central Post Office will have an appropriate and respectful place in the programme of Kaunas the European Capital of Culture. Finally, I believe that, after starting with the interwar period, we will also look more carefully and respectfully at other eras as well, each of which have left their own mark on this city. Kaunas was the only city of Lithuania which was directly connected to the Hanseatic League. The juncture of the 19th and 20th centuries in Kaunas was marked by the fortress system. The soviet era left its mark, and the society and architecture of the 21st century is drawing its own lines here as well. This way, in this relatively small area, we see an entire kaleidoscope of eras and political systems, and the entire remarkable, complicated and eventful history which is a fundamental part of European identity.

Finally, I would like to recall a dearly remembered Kaunas resident, philosopher Leonidas Donskis, in whose honour an international conference was held in Kaunas yesterday. Leonidas Donskis has said that European solidarity lies in culture. This is exactly what I would like to wish for all of us: more of the European spirit, more solidarity, and more culture”.

Photo by Martynas Plepys