During my travels through the Baltic States, I write short observations.
The neighborhood Užupis was in Soviet times (till 1990) the most rundown part of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Artists and alternative types moved in and in 1997 declared Užupis a republic, with its own flag, anthem and constitution. What does this mean for the neighbourhood?
In Soviet times (till 1990) Užupis was the most rundown part of Vilnius, occupied by prostitutes and the homeless. The big rambling courtyards behind the houses lining the streets are in desperate need of renovation.
Artists and alternative types moved in and in 1997 they declared Užupis a republic, with its own flag (a hand), anthem, army (11 men) and constitution.
It is posted on a wall in 23 languages and includes clauses such as:
‘Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.’ (Good to know that when Lithuania declared itself independent in 1990, the Russians closed off the gas and there was no hot water and only heat to about 12C). ‘Everyone has the right to make mistakes.’ ‘Everyone has the right to be happy.’ But also: ‘Everyone has the right to be unhappy.’
In the main square there used to be a statue of an egg. The egg has now been replaced by an angel. (I like the egg more, it’s pleasantly enigmatic).
Ausra Haglund has a store where she sells beautiful leather bags, and there’s a cool shoe store. And a great neighborhood café…
But I can’t help but wonder: is gentrification, and thereby domestication, around the corner?