The Republic Beyond the River

No, not that of Transdnistria, but a much smaller and certainly much more cheerful one. This republic lays beyond the little river of Vilnius, in the former ghetto, populated after the deportation of the Jews first by the underworld and the city’s poorest residents, and then, from the 70’s onwards, an increasing number of penniless artists. They proclaimed in 1997 the Užupis – that is, Beyond the River – Republic, which has its own president and bishop, embassy in Moscow and no less than four flags.

According to the founding legend of the republic, after the removal of the Lenin statues, the empty pedestal piqued the sense of beauty of the artists, and they joined forces to carve on it, in Socialist Realist style, the statue of Frank Zappa. The movement filled the local community with such a consciousness that they decided: they become independent from Lithuania, which does not care about the desolate quarter, and take their destiny into their own hands. Whatever happened, the symbol of the independent state is now the angel statue erected on its main street in 2002. It is this symbol which gave the new official name of the new state: The Angel’s Republic, announces proudly the visa, stamped in the visitors’ passport in the pub standing at the Užupis bridgehead of the border river.

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