Vilnius Historic Center (1994)
Lithuania

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To Svetlana Vasilevskaya, Laura Žiedaitė, 
Juratė Jakubauskaitė, Laisvis Sabinas and Justė Jaraitė,  
su meile iš Danijos. Aš galvoju labai dažnai apie jūsų ...  

Modern Lithuanian history began on 13th January 1991, when an uprising took place, leading to Lithuania's final liberation from Soviet sovereignty.  On 13th January 2001 it was exactly 10 years ago the Soviet Red Army attacked unarmed Lithuanian citizens with heavy tanks, while they defended the TV-tower in Vilnius from being captured by the Soviet regime.  Fourteen people, mostly young students, were killed.  The stamp below left commemorates this event, showing the TV-tower and the Lithuanian national flag on the top.  On the label is mentioned the names of the people who lost their lives. The text on the label reads: 13th January 1991.  In memory of those who gave their lives for the freedom of Lithuania.   

In front of the TV-tower there is a small memorial dedicated to these persons.  The photo below left shows this memorial with photos of the students who passed away, and their data.  The photo belongs to the webmaster. The TV-tower is situated in the modern Lazdynai District, for which the designers received in 1974 the Order of Lenin for their grey pre-fabricated ferro-concrete housing blocks.  

Webmaster's private photo from the Memorial.  Lithuania 2001. Commemorating the 10th anniversary of the uprising that eventually led to Lithuania's liberation from the Soviet Union. Lithuania 2005. Evangelic Church in the heart of Vilnius.

Lithuania's history dates way back, and the first formal state was established in the beginning of the 2nd millennium. 

The first issue of a series commemorating Lithuania's 1000th anniversary in 2009 was issued in 2001, is a souvenir sheet showing six stamps, each horizontal set of two with a composite design.  

  • Lithuania 2001.  Souvenir sheet. 
    • The Lithuanian National Flag.  
    • The Lithuanian National Coat of Arms. 
    • Panoramic View of Vilnius. These are labels with no postal value. 
    • Map of Lithuania. 
    • Lithuania's geographic location in Eastern Europe.  

Lithuania 2001. Souvenir sheet. Lithuania 1000 Years.

The two below photos give an impression of the historical and grandiose central European city, Vilnius, both in summer time and winter time.  The summer photo is taken from the top of a housing building, and the winter photo from a central park in Vilnius, overlooking the city's skyline.  Somehow there is an ambiance of "quiet silence" over Vilnius.  Both photos belong to the webmaster.  

Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, lies rather inconveniently in the far southeastern corner of the country, only a couple of dozen miles from Belarus.  It was a stronghold against first the German Teutonic Knights, then the Crimean Tatars.  The river Neris flows westwards to Kaunas, Lithuania's capital earlier this century, when Vilnius and the surrounding area belonged to Poland, and for 17 years these two countries were not on speaking terms.  Poland and Lithuania were joined by marriage in 1397; in 1795 Vilnius was swallowed into the Russian empire.  Russification followed Polonisation, and many of the churches the Jesuits had so elaborately built, evolving a local baroque style which peaked in the 18th century, were given over to the Russian Orthodox belief.  

Before WWII Vilnius was one of the great Jewish cities of Europe, and the centre of Yiddish publishing.  New streets and buildings in its centre mark the site of their ghetto: 150,000 were killed by the Nazis.  Freedom and independence superimposes all aspects of Lithuanian everyday life.  Below is a beautiful commemorative souvenir sheet celebrating the re-unification on 10th October 1939 of the Vilnius Area with the rest of the country.  For the previous two decades the area had belonged to Poland.  

Lithuania 1940. Souvenir sheet. Vilnius, city view, King Gediminas and Trakai Castle, Trakai Castle.

Lithuania. Drawing of Vilnius Skyline.

The below two sheets are also a reminder of Lithuania's constant fight for freedom.

Lithuania 1994. Souvenir sheet containing a pen drawing of the Vilnius Skyline., and a reproduction of  "The Angel of Independence. Lithuania 2000. Lithuanian Parliament Building in Vilnius.

The Cathedral in neo-classical style was built in 1784 on exactly the spot where the first Roman Catholic church in Lithuania was built in the 13th Century.  

Archeological excavations have proved that before this time there was a temple for the Thunder God "Perkunas". 

Although a dedicated Roman Catholic country, Lithuania was the last European country to convert to Christianity in the 13th Century. 

 

Inside the city borders Vilnius offers both the modern capital's historic sights and peaceful places, such as the park around Paplauja Bridge, crossing the Vilna River, and the Gediminas Tower in Vilnius, part of the city's upper fortress.  Today it is a landmark that can be seen everywhere in town.

Lithuania 2001. Paplauja Bridge. Vilnius.

Lithuania 1995. The Upper Fortress of Vilnius in the 14th century.

St. Anne's Church is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Lithuania.  Its western facade is patterned with 33 different varieties of bricks, making it amazingly graceful and harmonious.  Napoleon Bonaparte stayed in Vilnius on the way to Moscow in 1812, and is said to have been so enraptured by St. Anne's that he exclaimed his desire to bring the church back to France in the palm of his hand and set it down next to Notre Dame.

Next to St. Anne's is the Monastery of the Bernardines who came to Lithuania from Poland in 1469.  A wonderful garden, accessible to the public, belongs to the monastery.  

 
Lithuania 1990. Towers of St. Anne's Church, Vilnius. Lithuania 1998. "The Bernardine Garden" (1868), Vilnius. Painting by Juozapas Marsevskis.

The gate of Dawn (Ausros Vartu) was built in the 15th century as a city gate leading to the village Medininkai south of Vilnius (on the road to Minsk in Belarus). The gate is the only one out of nine, remaining undestroyed by wars.  In 1671 the Carmelites from the neighbouring St.Theresa's Church built a chapel above the gate to house a holy image of the Virgin Mary, the White Madonna, said to have miraculous powers.  Thousands of votive offerings decorate the walls and many pilgrims come to pray, queuing up on the stairs which were installed in the 18th century to connect the chapel to the adjacent Church of St. Theresa.  Mass is said in both Polish and Lithuanian.  The photo belongs to the webmaster. 
 
Lithuania. Vilnius. Photograph of Ausros Vartu [Gate of Dawn]. Lithuania 1993.  Pope John Paul II in front of Ausros Vartu, Vilnius. Above the entry there is a small chapel, visited by the Pope during his visit to Lithuania in 1993.  Lithuania 2006. Old City Center of Vilnius with Ausros Vartu in the background. Painting by J.K. Vilchinskys.

Lithuania 2005. St. Casimir Church, Vilnius.

Jesuits began construction of this church in 1604; it was finished and consecrated in 1635. But burned down in 1655 and again in 1707 and 1749. 

The Jesuit architect and astronomer Tomas Zebrauskas (1714–1758), headed the reconstruction of the church in 1749-55. His work can be seen in the graded cupola and the main altar. When the Society of Jesus was suppressed in 1773, the church was given to the Augustinians, and in time passed to the Orthodox. It was returned to the Roman Catholic community in 1988, was restored, and in 1991 re-consecrated, and the Jesuits again work there. 

  • Lithuania 2005. St. Casimir Church, Vilnius. 

Many thanks to Mr. Virgis Jaras (Lithuania) for all inspiration, help and research. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Lithuania (on this website). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Lithuania-section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 03 jan 2007  
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