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Užupis (Yiddish: זארעטשע, Belarusian: Зарэчча, Russian: Заречье, Polish: Zarzecze) is a neighbourhood in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, largely located in Vilnius' old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Užupis means "beyond the river" or "the other side of the river" in the Lithuanian language and refers to the Vilnia River; the name Vilnius was derived from the Vilnia. The district has been popular with artists for some time, and has been compared to Montmartre in Paris and to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, due to its bohemian and laissez-faire atmosphere. On April 1, 1997, the district declared itself an independent republic (The Republic of Užupis).
Užupis is quite small and isolated, being only about 148 acres (60 ha) in size; it has around 7,000 inhabitants, nearly 1,000 of which are artists. On one side it is separated from the Old Town by the Vilnia River, on the second there are steep hills, and on the third side it borders on an industrial area built under Soviet rule. The first bridges across the river were built in the 16th century, at which time the district's inhabitants were mostly Jewish.
The district contains the Bernardine Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. Most of the district's Jewish population were killed during the Holocaust, and later the old Jewish Cemetery uphill would be destroyed by the Soviets. The houses left abandoned were later occupied by marginal elements of society, mainly the homeless and prostitutes. Until Lithuania's declaration of independence in 1990, it was one of the most neglected areas in the city, containing many run-down houses, many without utilities. The district has been a common haunt of artists and bohemians since Soviet times, and even today many young artists are squatting in abandoned buildings near the Vilnia River.
The Republic of Užupis
In 1997, the residents of the area declared the Republic of Užupis, along with its own flag, unofficial currency, president, cabinet of ministers, a constitution written by Romas Lileikis and Thomas Chepaitis, an anthem, and an army of approximately 11 men. The army has since been retired. The residents of the self-declared republic celebrate this independence annually on Užupis Day, which falls on April 1. Artistic endeavours are the main preoccupation of the Republic; the President of the Republic of Užupis, Romas Lileikis, is himself a poet, a musician, and a film director.
Artūras Zuokas, a former mayor of Vilnius, lives in Užupis. Užupis does not house Internet-cafes, kiosks, big malls, or governmental institutions (except Užupian), and there is no embassy to Lithuania.
It is unclear whether the statehood of the Republic, recognised by no government, is intended to be serious, tongue-in-cheek, or a combination of both. The decision to place Užupis Day on April 1 (April Fools' Day) may not be coincidental, emphasising the importance of humor and non-importance of "serious" political decisions. The flag of the Republic contains a palm of hand in a white background. The palm emblem is painted in a different colour each season: Winter - blue, Spring - green, Summer - yellow, Autumn - red.
Constitution of Užupis
Copies of the 38 articles of the Republic's constitution and 3 mottos - "Don't Fight", "Don't Win", "Don't Surrender" - in 23 languages, can be found affixed to a wall in Paupio street in the area. Sanskrit and Hindi versions of the constitution were added on 25th May 2017. Some of these articles would be unremarkable in a constitution; for instance, Article 5 simply reads "Man has the right to individuality.". Others are more idiosyncratic; a typical example can be found in Articles 1 ("People have the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow past people."), 12 ("A dog has the right to be a dog.") and 37 ("People have the right to have no rights."), each of which makes an unusual apportionment of rights. There are a number of paired articles, such as Articles 16 ("People have the right to be happy.") and 17 ("People have the right to be unhappy.") which declare people's right to either do or not do something, according to their desire. Minister of Foreign Affairs Thomas Chepaitis, Ambassador H. E. Max Haarich and AI-Expert Alex Waldmann formulated an additional article for the Munich Embassy: "Any artificial intelligence has the right to believe in a good will of humanity." This makes the Užupian constitution the world's first constitution to mention artificial intelligence. In September 2018 the constitution was blessed by Pope Francesco during his visit in Vilnius.
|The Užupis Constitution|
Angel of Užupis
On April 1, 2002, a statue of an angel blowing a trumpet was unveiled in the main square. The idea was developed from a desire to erect an angel in memory of animator and caricaturist Zenonas Šteinys. It became a symbol of the revival Užupis. The funds were raised by selling miniature copies of the sculpture. The sculptor, Romas Vilčiauskas, is also the creator of the Užupis Mermaid.
Previously, a temporary sculpture of an egg stood in its place. After being replaced by the larger statue of Gabriel, the egg was sold at an auction for 10,200 litas and now stands on Pylimo street.
Notable people who have resided in Užupis include:
- Felix Dzerzhinsky, also known as Iron Felix— Soviet Bolshevik revolutionary and secret police founder
- The painter and composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis
- Polish romantic-comic poet Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński lived here in 1934-36
- Jurgis Kunčinas, author of 2 novels about Užupis, and translator from German
- Artūras Zuokas, former Vilnius mayor
In creative works
The Republic of Užupis, a 2009 novel by the South Korean author Hailji, chronicles the journey of an Asian man named Hal visiting Užupis to inter the ashes of his father, believing the "Republic" to be his ancestral homeland.
Užupis was the topic of a 2015 piece of music by The Mighty Sieben, featuring the three mottos, "Don't Fight", "Don't Win", "Don't Surrender".
- "Arty, hipster and a country within a country: Welcome to the Republic of Užupis". Metro. 2018-09-11. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- Rhone, Erin. "Užupis: A tiny republic of free spirits". Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- "The country that lives for a day". www.baltictimes.com. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- www.gaumina.lt, e-solution: Gaumina. "Užupis | A Neighbourhood in the Capital". www.lithuania.travel. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- Tourism, Vilnius (2011-08-30). "The Legend of the Founding of Vilnius | Vilnius Tourist Information Centre". Vilnius Tourist Information Centre. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- Crabb, Jon. "Užupis: How 12 Lithuanian Artists Created an Independent Republic in Vilnius". Culture Trip. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- "The second renaissance of Užupis has come to an end - Ober-haus.com". Ober-haus.com. 2016-09-13. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- "The identity crisis of self-declared nations | International Semester – semester projects". final16.mediajungle.dk. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- Georgian, Elizabeth. "The Best Things to See and Do in Užupis, Vilnius". Culture Trip. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- "Zappa lives in Lithuania". Rolling Stone.
- Vidunas, Vytis (2015-07-07). "Friends of Tibet in Lithuania Celebrate the Dalai Lama". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- Bernstein, Roslyn (2016-06-14). "Arturas Zuokas and The Happiness Factor: A Lithuanian Perspective". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
- Link to English translation of Uzupis Constitution
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Užupis.|
- Connolly, Kate (January 29, 2000). "They tore down Lenin's statue - and raised one to Frank Zappa". TheGuardian.com.
- Rhone, Erin (October 15, 2018). "Užupis: A tiny republic of free spirits". BBC Online.
- "Vilnius Old Town: Uzupis - Paupys Case study 2000 - 2001". ensure.org. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012 – via Wayback Machine.
- Meeting the president of Užupis, video
- Video report about Vilnius, featuring a lot of scenes filmed in Užupis : Locks on bridges, the Republic and the Constitution
- 1 April is Užupis’ Independence Day! VilNews e-magazine 5 February 2019