A Week Is A Long Time In Lithuania

Good old Lithuania, where a sense of the absurd is never far away.

The late Polish President Lech Kaczynski made what turned out to be his penultimate foreign trip to Vilnius on April 8th. His meeting with President Grybauskaite was, as usual, a good natured affair and the pair announced plans for a new pipeline.

The one bum note came courtesy of the parliament, which voted on the same day not to allow the use of non-Lithuanian characters on official documents. The decision mainly affects Lithuania’s 200,000 Poles who wanted the right to use Polish characters on their passports and give the Polish rather than Lithuanian versions of their names. They have also long been campaigning to allow Polish names to appear on roadsigns, particularly in areas where Poles are in the majority.

Under the rules, Polish Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz would have to give his name as Adomas Mickevičius if he decided pay his gas bill at the bank.

At the end of his Vilnius visit, Kaczynski said he was “shocked” by the parliament’s decision and that it could only harm Polish-Lithuanian relations.

Then Kaczynski had his plane crash and everyone sent their condolences. Estonia and Latvia announced a day of mourning in his honour. Lithuania went two better and declared three days.

Then on Tuesday, while Kaczynski’s body hadn’t even been buried and less than a week after he criticised the language law, Vilnius city council discussed a quickly-thought-up scheme to honour the dead leader by  naming one of the main streets in the capital after him – though only if his name is properly trancribed into Lithuanian, of course.


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