Robert van Voren: Gay Parade in Vilnius

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Atsiprašau visų, kurie nemoka anglų kalbos.

It is a very discomforting feeling, watching fascist flags fluttering in the wind in the center of Vilnius. It is May 8, 2010, the day the Baltic Gay Parade is held in the Lithuanian capital. In particular during the past years Lithuania has been regularly in the news because of its xenophobic and homophobic outbursts, and today we experience a distinct taste of it.

 The Gay Parade is to be held on the other side of the city bank, where under leadership of the previous mayor a new modern city district started to develop. New high-rise, including a stylish “Europe Center” shopping mall and a new city hall hide the old wooden houses of Snipiskes, a district that before the war was primarily inhabited by the Jewish community of Vilnius and that is slowly but surely erased from the city landscape. The territory where the parade will be held is turned into a fortress: fences, a multitude of police, partially on horseback, and riot police on standby make it impossible to reach the Parade – only those who have been registered in advance have been allowed in. It’s an interesting feeling: you come to express your support but you are not allowed to do so.

 However, soon it becomes clear why these precaution measures were necessary. The number of onlookers and counter-demonstrators far exceeds the number of participants in the Parade (which includes the Dutch Ambassador Joep Wijnands, a strong supporter of gay rights). It is not directly clear on what side people are on, whether they came to support gay rights or protest against it. Some, however, make their point very clear. Banners read “Lithuania does not need creeps” or “No lesbian and gay march!” while some have brought crucifixes to protests against this contamination of Lithuanian values and morals. And this is no joke: an opinion polls indicates that 90% of the Lithuanians are against homosexuals, and the age where support is stronger is among the younger generation, between 19 and 25 years old.

 When standing among the public watching the Parade my blood runs cold, listening to the conversations. My Lithuanian might still be limited, but the conversations are pretty clear. The most prevailing words are “provocation” and “pederasts”, and the presence of a fascist gang evokes emotions ranging from laughter to outright support. The group is not large, agreed, but they can roam about freely and are in no way hindered in expressing their views: “Away with pederasts”, “away with Jews”, “away with occupants”, with here and there a creative variety like “Euro-pederasts”. A banner shows the Prime Minister taking the mayor of Vilnius from behind – undoubtedly he belongs to the category of “Euro-pederasts”. Fascists demonstrating freely in a city where the whole Jewish community of 80,000 inhabitants was murdered: it evokes some very special feelings.

 This is the European Union, this is an ancient cosmopolitan city with a rich and also painful pasts. But it is a city that clearly has not fully accepted European morals and values. To the contrary, it has no problem receiving European funds and other financial support in recovering from fifty years of totalitarianism, yet at the same time European values and norms are being seen as “contamination of our people”, as “foreign to Lithuanian norms and values”… Even the national Sajudis movement, which was instrumental in reestablishing Lithuanian independence in 1990, has issued an advance statement with the same message, shamefully violating the basic principles of liberty and equality that guided its actions in the late 1980s. Instead, petty provincialism is generally the prevailing mood.

 Two blocks away, on Gedimino Prospektas, the main avenue in the center of Vilnius, “Europe Day” is celebrated with a two-day market, promoting European culture and diversity. In no clearer way could the distance between European values and Lithuanian reality be better expressed. It is not more than a façade, a charade – a Potemkin village of pretending to be part of a community yet at the same time violating and denying its basic principles. It is a day I feel ashamed to carry a Lithuanian passport.


Robert van Voren yra organizacijos „Globali iniciatyva psichiatrijoje“ steigėjas ir generalinis sekretorius

ir 2009 metais išleistos knygos „On Dissidents and Madness: From the Soviet Union of Leonid Brezhnev to the “Soviet Union” of Vladimir Putin“ autorius

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