Monday, February 05, 2007

Lithuania in the cold

I am back in Vilnius, meeting with a broad selection of the great and good in Lithuanian finance. In the rather damp thaw- about +1 degree- I consider what makes Lithuania rather different from the other two Baltic Countries.

Culturally Catholic, as opposed to Protestant, it has been far successful in preserving hierarchies through the various political upheavals of the past two decades. In that sense the Lithuanians feel more similar to Poles and other Central Europeans- the generation in its fifties still has control: in Estonia, and to a lesser extent in Latvia the ruling generation is on average in its late thirties.

The Hierarchy can be seen in all forms of life- in education, politics and in business. Perhaps this is why I somehow get a sense of anti-climax here. The City of Vilnius has changed much- but not as much as Riga or Tallinn. The economy has done well- but not as well as Estonia or Latvia.

Talking to my friends, I sense a growing frustration with the political class- the departure of the septuagenarian Algirdas Brazauskas from the Prime Ministers Office is necessary but not sufficient. Lithuania is struggling to feel its way forward, but in the dripping icicles on the baroque churches of this lovely city, I sense an atmosphere of change.


Norfolk Blogger said...

I'll mention what you said to the Lithuanian Ambassador (look at me name dropping) when I see him in a couple of weeks.

A mutual friend has invited me to have dinner with him (the ambassador) in March so I need some good topics of conversation.

Joe Otten said...

Yes I sensed a great difference between Lithuania and Latvia when I visited in 2005 for a friend's wedding.

Lithuania's sense of history seems to revolve around Trakai, Jogaila, the Teutonic Knights and so forth. Being a major power centuries ago.

Latvia on the other hand seemed more interested in the progress it made during independence between the wars and since. A museum in Riga would talk with pride about industry and publishing, that in Vilnius would be about Dukes and Knights.

A superficial impression, maybe, based on a brief visit. I don't presume to lecture you Cicero.

Anonymous said...


I take you up again on the Political Shifts bit.