Making a Great Ruler: Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania

Making a Great Ruler: Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania

Making a Great Ruler: Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania

Making a Great Ruler: Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania

Synopsis

A volume on the life and memory of Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania (r.1392-1430).

Excerpt

In the late 1980s, a wave of national revival rolled through the Baltic States. The so-called Singing Revolution manifested itself in many ways and had many faces. As with any other revolution, the Singing one had to reconsider its relation with the past. Naturally, the Soviet reality was rejected and a “golden age” was discovered in the interwar period. In Lithuania, the bond with the Lithuanian Republic was laboriously fashioned: towns and streets were returned their ancient names and cleansed of Soviet connotations, newspapers and magazines were issued under earlier titles, books were reprinted and manuscripts published, old monuments were rebuilt and new ones erected. Destroyed statues of national heroes were restored with great zeal as the most visible junction to the past.

The new monuments that emerged throughout the country had broad appeal and emotional charge. Together with numerous sculptures from the time of independence, the statue of Grand Duke Vytautas / Witold / Vitovt (ca. 1348–1430), generally called Vytautas the Great, was erected in Kaunas in 1989 (fig. 1). The monument was placed in the central part of the city and for a while became a popular meeting spot and a focal point for numerous public events. For several years there was even a professional photographer who offered his services to those wishing to be immortalized in front of the Grand Duke’s effigy. The rebuilt statue of the medieval ruler conveyed numerous messages: a protest against the Soviet regime, which had destroyed the monument in the 1950s, an allusion to the country’s power in the Middle Ages, and a connection with interwar values.

The original statue of Vytautas was commissioned by the Military Academy and erected in 1932. The construction of this monument was the result of festivities held throughout Lithuania in 1930, when the country commemorated the 500 anniversary of the Grand Duke’s death. Although the committee of the so-called Jubilee Year planned rather sophisticated events . . .

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