Culture I: Song and dance
Music, song and dance have always been an important part of Lithuanian culture, especially during the Soviet Occupation, such that Lithuania’s nonviolent resistance can also be called the Singing Revolution.
The first song celebration dates back to 1924 in Kaunas where 86 choirs with over 3,000 participants of all ages, plus a wood wind orchestra, sang 36 songs. They were a mix of older folk songs and original compositions.
In 1960, Vingis Park, as shown in the video, was built and more and more dance groups were created. By 1970, there were over 29,000 participants in the song festival. During the Soviet Occupation, these huge song and dance festivals reminded Lithuanians of their country’s history and traditions - a Lithuania before the occupation: a free Lithuania.
These celebrations fostered a sense of nationalism, both at home and abroad. Emigrants from Lithuania carried on the song and dance celebrations, especially in America and Canada. The song festivals were a way to maintain the Lithuanian culture and to unite Lithuanians from around the world. But they were not the only way. Other musicians and artists also actively participated in Lithuania’s drive to freedom through the power of words and music.
Culture II: Theater and literature
During the Soviet regime, the communist party wanted art and literature to reflect their government’s principles and ideals. Artists and writers were expected to create work that would reinforce Soviet propaganda. While many conformed to the communist official’s expectations, others defied these requests. Instead, these artists and writers created artwork that encouraged Lithuanian patriotism and served as an inspirational source of the nation’s spirit.
Looking at prevalent works of the 20th century, we see that despite communist ideology, there were artists and writers who went against the government to publish and create works that reminded the people of Lithuania of their history and freedom. For example, the poetry and plays of Marcinkevicius evoke the Lithuanian countryside, traditions and national experience. His work reinforced cultural self-awareness in an age dominated by the socialist realism style of communist propaganda. Those who defied the orders of the government were threatened with persecution, unemployment, and delegitimization in their profession.
Justinas Marcinkevicius, prominent Lithuanian poet and playwright
A notable Lithuanian poet and writer, Marcinkevicius discusses his literary work and active role in Sajudis.
More interviews coming soon!
The CEO of the National Drama Theater of Kaunas discusses how the stage was forced to adapt under Soviet control and the challenges that the new generation of artists face today.