Vytautas Landsbergis

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Vytautas Landsbergis
Landsbergis, Vytautas-0085.jpg
Chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania (de jure Head of State)
In office
11 March 1990 – 25 November 1992
Preceded by Post created
Succeeded by Algirdas Brazauskas (as the President of Lithuania)
Česlovas Juršėnas (as the Acting Speaker of the Seimas)
Speaker of the Seimas
In office
25 November 1996 – 19 October 2000
Preceded by Česlovas Juršėnas
Succeeded by Artūras Paulauskas
Chairman of the Homeland Union
In office
1 May 1993 – 24 May 2003
Preceded by Post created
Succeeded by Andrius Kubilius
Member of the European Parliament
for Lithuania
Incumbent
Assumed office
2004
Personal details
Born (1932-10-18) 18 October 1932 (age 81)
Kaunas, Lithuania
Political party Homeland Union
Spouse(s) Gražina Ručytė-Landsbergienė
Religion Lutheran[1]
Signature

Professor Vytautas Landsbergis [ˈvʲîːt̪ɐʊt̪ɐs̪ ˈɫɐ̂ˑn̪ʲd͡zʲbʲɛrʲɡʲɪs̪] ( ) (born 18 October 1932) is a Lithuanian conservative politician and Member of the European Parliament. He was the first head of state of Lithuania after its independence declaration from the Soviet Union, and served as the Head of the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas. Professor Landsbergis is an intellectual who has been active in Lithuania's political arena for more than two decades, and is a notable politician who helped contribute to the demise of the Soviet Union. He has written twenty books on a variety of topics, including a biography of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, as well as works on politics and music. He is a founding signatory of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism,[2] and a member of the international advisory council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.[3]

Biography[edit]

Vytautas Landsbergis was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. His father was the famous architect Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis and his mother, ophthalmologist Dr. Ona Jablonskytė-Landsbergienė, was a Righteous Among the Nations who in 1944 sheltered a Jewish teenager in the family home.[4] In 1952 he placed third in the Lithuanian chess championship, after Ratmir Kholmov and Vladas Mikėnas.[5] In 1955, he graduated from the Lithuanian Conservatory of Music (now Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre). In 1969, he wrote his thesis for his PhD degree. In 1978, he became a Professor at the Lithuanian Conservatory. From 1978 to 1990, he was a professor at both the Lithuanian Conservatory and the Vilnius Pedagogical University. In 1994, he wrote a thesis for his doctor habilitus degree.

Family[edit]

Landsbergis is married to Gražina Ručytė-Landsbergienė, a well-known Lithuanian pianist and associate Professor of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater. His daughters Jūratė and Birutė are also musicians. His son, Vytautas, is a well-known Lithuanian writer and film director.

Political career[edit]

Landsbergis entered politics, in 1988, as one of the founders of Sąjūdis, the Lithuanian pro-independence political movement. After Sąjūdis' victory in the 1990 elections, he became the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania.

On 11 March 1990, he headed the Parliamentary session during which the restoration of Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union was declared. Lithuania became the first Soviet Republic to do so. According to the temporary Constitution of Lithuania, Landsbergis had constitutional authority over both the Leader of the State and the Speaker of the Parliament. He held this post from March 1990 until the next elections in November 1992.

The Soviet Union attempted to stifle this activity by economic blockade in 1990, but it failed, and other Soviet Republics soon followed suit and declared their independence from Moscow, as well.

Iceland was the first state that officially recognized the restoration of Lithuanian independence; Landsbergis was somewhat critical of certain Western powers (such as the United States and United Kingdom) for not showing enough support in Lithuania's bid to restore its independence after more than 40 years of Soviet occupation. He was also extremely dubious of the claim that Mikhail Gorbachev was trying to liberalize the Soviet Union and that Lithuania should not prevent him from doing so.

In 1993, Landsbergis led much of Sąjūdis into a new political party, the Homeland Union (Tėvynes Sąjunga). It gained a landslide victory in the 1996 parliamentary elections. Landsbergis served as Speaker of the Seimas from 1996 until 2000. He ran, although unsuccessfully, for President in 1997 (coming up the third after receiving 15.9% of the votes). During the runoff, he supported Valdas Adamkus, who had finished second in the first round. V. Adamkus eventually became President.

In 2004, Landsbergis was elected by Lithuanian voters to the European Parliament in Brussels (the total number of MEPs from Lithuania in Brussels is 13), and has been returned at every election since then.

In 2005, Landsbergis became an international patron of the newly formed Henry Jackson Society.[6]

Attempt to ban Communist and Nazi insignia[edit]

In January 2005, Professor Landsbergis, backed by another Member of the European Parliament from Hungary, urged a ban on the Soviet and Nazi symbols. He also sent a letter to Mr. Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner of Justice and Internal Affairs, where he suggested that in case the EU decides to ban Nazi symbols, Communist symbols should be banned too. The Commissioner became interested in this proposal and said: "I am ready to join this discussion. The Communist dictatorships no less than the Nazi ones are responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people". A bit later, however, the Commissioner decided that he would not attempt to ban any symbols, as there was no agreement in respect to which symbols that should be banned.

Professor Landsbergis' proposal caused quite a stir in Italy where Italian leftists, in the beginning of February 2005, strongly protested against such a move. The Communist Refoundation Party and Party of Italian Communists were outraged at Landsbergis' proposal. The Professor's proposal became the center of the Italian media's attention. One of the most influential Italian dailies, La Repubblica, even published an interview with Professor Vytautas Landsbergis outlining his proposal. It was the first time when the daily allocated a full page for a politician from Lithuania.

Nevertheless, Landsbergis' proposal found few supporters among Italian politicians. However one who did, Alessandra Mussolini, a granddaughter of former Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini commented: "To implement the proposal of the Members of the European Parliament regarding Communist symbols is our moral duty".

Landsbergis's proposal was opposed by the Russian Parliament as well. The First Vicespeaker of the Russian State Duma called the proposal "abnormal". Another Russian MP, a communist, commented by saying that "somebody in Europe became insolent and forgot who saved them from the fascists".

However, the debate came to an end when, in the beginning of February 2005, the European Commission rejected calls for a proposed Europe-wide ban on Nazi symbols to be extended to cover Communist Party symbols as well. EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said it would not be appropriate to include the red star and the hammer and sickle in a draft EU law on racism.

Finally, at the end of February 2005, the European Union dropped proposals to ban Nazi symbols across its 25 member states. Luxembourg withdrew the plan when it became clear that members could not reach a consensus on which symbols to ban. There were also concerns that the proposed ban was a threat to freedom of expression.

Professor Landsbergis is a fierce critic of Russia's intentions to impose any kind of influence on the Baltic States and publicly questions Russia's actions vis-à-vis the Baltic States on both local and international media, as well as in the European Parliament. He warns that Russia might have intentions to control Lithuania and the other Baltic States economically and politically through a wide network of former KGB agents and other clandestine activities. Vytautas Landsbergis is one of the most active politicians, who urge Russia to compensate Lithuania and other post-Soviet republics for damage done to them during their occupations.

Vytautas Landsbergis plays piano in Sanok at Cultural Center salon, 2013

Bibliography[edit]

  • Visas Čiurlionis, 2008.
  • Karaliaučius ir Lietuva : nuostatos ir idėjos, 2003.
  • Pusbrolis Motiejus : knyga apie Stasį Lozoraitį iš jo laiškų ir pasisakymų, 2002.
  • Sunki laisvė : 1991 m. ruduo-1992 m. ruduo, 2000.
  • Landsbergis aria, 1997.
  • Lūžis prie Baltijos : politinė autobiografija, 1997.
  • Čiurlionio muzika, 1996.
  • Tėvynės valanda, 1993.
  • Atgavę viltį : pertvarkos tekstų knygelė, 1990.
  • Sonatos ir fugos / M.K. Čiurlionis [editor], 1980.
  • Čiurlionio dailė, 1976.

Awards[edit]

[clarification needed]

Vytautas Landsbergis has been honoured with the following awards:

Honorary doctorates[edit]

Vytautas Landsbergis has received honorary doctorates from the following institutions:

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Michael Bordeaux, The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia, (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1995), 212
  2. ^ "Prague Declaration – Declaration Text". 3 June 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  3. ^ "International Advisory Council". Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-20. 
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of the Righteous Among the Nations, Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust – Europe (Part II), pp. 210–211 (2011)
  5. ^ Uogelė, Anicetas (1999). Mano šachmatai.  (Lithuanian)
  6. ^ "International Patrons of The Henry Jackson Society". Henry Jackson Society. Archived from the original on 30 April 2006. 
  7. ^ http://www.victimsofcommunism.org/about/trmedalrecipients.php
  8. ^ Lithuanian Presidency, Lithuanian Orders searching form

References[edit]

External links[edit]