Vytautas Landsbergis


Vytautas Landsbergis

Infobox President
name = Vytautas Landsbergis


order = President of Lithuania
term_start = March 11, 1990
term_end = November 25, 1992
predecessor = Antanas Smetona
successor = Algirdas Brazauskas
birth_date = birth date and age|1932|10|18
birth_place = Kaunas, Lithuania
party = Homeland Union
spouse = Gražina Ručytė-Landsbergienė

Professor Vytautas Landsbergis pronunciation|Vytautas Landsbergis.ogg (born October 18, 1932) is a Lithuanian conservative politician and Member of the European Parliament. He was the first head of state of Lithuania after its independence declaration from the Soviet Union, and served as the Head of the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas. Professor Landsbergis is an intellectual who has been active in Lithuania's political arena for almost two decades, and is a world-established politician who has gone down in history as a contributor to the demise of the Soviet Union. He has written twenty books on a variety of topics, including a biography of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, politics, and music.

Biography

Vytautas Landsbergis was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. His father was the famous architect Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis and his mother was ophthalmologist Ona Jablonskytė-Landsbergienė. In 1955, he graduated from the Lithuanian Conservatory of Music (now Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre). In 1969, he wrote his thesis for his PhD degree. In 1978, he became a Professor at the Lithuanian Conservatory. From 1978 to 1990, he was a professor at both the Lithuanian Conservatory and the Vilnius Pedagogical University. In 1994, he wrote a thesis for his doctor habilitus degree.

Awards

Vytautas Landsbergis has been honoured with the following awards:
* The Norwegian People's Peace Prize for his role in the restoration of Lithuanian independence; Norway, 1991
* The Award of Foundation du Futur; France, 1991
* The International Freedom Foundation's Freedom Award; UK, 1991
* Herman Ehlers Prize;
* Order of Merit of the Republic of Estonia; 1992
* 9th International Ramon Llull Prize of the Catalonian Culture Congress Foundation, 1994
* Companion of the German St. Sebastian's Rifle Order, Germany, 1995
*Legion of Honour, France, 1997
* Grand Cross of the Norwegian Order of Merit, Norway, 1998
*Great Cross Order, Poland, 1999
* Great Cross of Medal of Honor, Greece, 1999
* UNESCO Medal for developing democracy and fighting for human rights.

Honorary doctorates

Vytautas Landsbergis is an Honorary Doctor at universities in Lithuania and other countries:
*Loyola University in Chicago U.S., 1991
*Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas (Lithuania), 1992
*Weber State University in Ogden USA, 1992
* He was nominated for an honorary degree of Doctor of Law by Yale University (USA), but he could not participate in the award ceremony, because of his required presence concerning political matters at home.
*Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, Lithuania, 1998
* University of Law, Lithuania, 2000
* Helsinki University, Finland, 2000
* Cardiff University, Wales, 2000
*Sorbonne University, France, 2001
* Art Academy, Lithuania, 2003

Family

Landsbergis is married to Gražina Ručytė-Landsbergienė, a well-known Lithuanian pianist and associate Professor of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater. His daughters Jūratė and Birutė are also musicians. His son, Vytautas, is a well-known Lithuanian writer and film director.

Political career

Landsbergis entered politics, in 1988, as one of the founders of Sąjūdis, the Lithuanian pro-independence political movement. After Sąjūdis' victory in the 1990 elections, he became the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania.

On March 11, 1990, he headed the Parliamentary session during which the restoration of Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union was declared. Lithuania became the first Soviet Republic to do so. According to the temporary Constitution of Lithuania, Landsbergis had constitutional authority over both the Leader of the State and the Speaker of the Parliament. He held this post from March 1990 until the next elections in November 1992.

The Soviet Union attempted to stifle this activity by economic blockade in 1990, but it failed, and other Soviet Republics soon followed suit and declared their independence from Moscow, as well.

Iceland was the first state that officially recognized the restoration of Lithuanian independence; Landsbergis was somewhat critical of certain Western powers (such as the United States and United Kingdom) for not showing enough support in Lithuania's bid to restore its independence after more than 40 years of Soviet occupation. He was also extremely dubious of the claim that Mikhail Gorbachev was trying to liberalize the Soviet Union and that Lithuania should not prevent him from doing so.

In 1993, Vytautas Landsbergis founded a new political party, the Homeland Union ("Tėvynes Sąjunga"). It gained a landslide victory in the 1996 parliamentary elections and Professor Landsbergis served as the Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament called Seimas from 1996 until 2000. He ran, although unsuccessfully, for President in 1997 (coming up the third after receiving 15.9% of the votes). During the runoff, he supported Valdas Adamkus, who had finished second in the first round. V. Adamkus eventually became President.

In 2004, Professor Landsbergis was elected by Lithuanian voters to the European Parliament and has an office in Brussels (the total number of EPMs from Lithuania in Brussels is 13).

Attempt to ban Communist and Nazi insignia

In January 2005, Professor Landsbergis, backed by another Member of the European Parliament from Hungary, urged a ban on the Soviet and Nazi symbols. He also sent a letter to Mr. Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner of Justice and Internal Affairs, where he suggested that in case the EU decides to ban Nazi symbols, Communist symbols should be banned too. The Commissioner became interested in this proposal and said: "I am ready to join this discussion. The Communist dictatorships no less than the Nazi ones are responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people". A bit later, however, the Commissioner under pressure from Italian communists backed off his initial statement.

Professor Landsbergis' proposal caused quite a stir in Italy where Italian leftists, in the beginning of February 2005, strongly protested against such a move. The Communist Refoundation Party and Party of Italian Communists were outraged at Landsbergis' proposal. The Professor's proposal became the center of the Italian media's attention. One of the most influential Italian dailies, "La Repubblica", even published an interview with Professor Vytautas Landsbergis outlining his proposal. It was the first time when the daily allocated a full page for a politician from Lithuania.

Nevertheless, Landsbergis' proposal found few supporters among Italian politicians. However one who did, Alessandra Mussolini, a granddaughter of former Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini commented: "To implement the proposal of the Members of the European Parliament regarding Communist symbols is our moral duty".

Landsbergis's proposal was opposed by the Russian Parliament as well. The First Vicespeaker of the Russian State Duma called the proposal "abnormal". Another Russian MP, a communist, commented by saying that "somebody in Europe became insolent and forgot who saved them from the fascists".

However, the debate came to an end when, in the beginning of February 2005, the European Commission rejected calls for a proposed Europe-wide ban on Nazi symbols to be extended to cover Communist Party symbols as well. EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said it would not be appropriate to include the red star and the hammer and sickle in a draft EU law on racism.

Finally, at the end of February 2005, the European Union dropped proposals to ban Nazi symbols across its 25 member states. Luxembourg withdrew the plan when it became clear that members could not reach a consensus on which symbols to ban. There were also concerns that the proposed ban was a threat to freedom of expression.

Professor Landsbergis is a fierce critic of Russia's intentions to impose any kind of influence on the Baltic States and publicly questions Russia's actions vis a vis the Baltic States on both local and international media, as well as in the European Parliament. He warns that Russia might have intentions to control Lithuania and the other Baltic States economically and politically through a wide network of former KGB agents and other clandestine activities. Vytautas Landsbergis is one of the most active politicians, who urge Russia to compensate Lithuania and other post-Soviet republics for damage done to them during their occupations.

See also

* List of Presidents of Lithuania

External links

* [http://www.europarl.eu.int/members/expert/groupAndCountry/view.do?partNumber=1&country=LT&language=EN&id=23746 Europarliament member's info page (Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis)]
* [http://pirmojiknyga.mch.mii.lt/Asmenys/landsberg.en.htm Vytautas Landsbergis biography]

References


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