In a performance in 2012, three women sang the national anthem of Lithuania with slightly altered lyrics. A politician complained that this was a “desecration of a state symbol”, and now Lithuania’s criminal police commissioners have allegedly opened an inquiry into the case.
Created in 1898, the Lithuanian anthem only names masculine features such as ‘sons’, ‘men-heroes’, and ‘fatherland’. To show that from a contemporary perspective this might be considered discriminatory, poet and student Ramune Brundzaite, artist and social activist Fiokla Kiure, and book editor and social activist Aira Leonidovna changed the wording so instead of ‘son’ they used ‘daughter’, ‘fatherland’ became ‘motherland’, and so on.
This video-clip is an extract from the performance, containing the feminist version of the Lithuanian national anthem.
If a Lithuanian citizen or a visitor to the country treats an official symbol, such as the state flag, coat of arms or state anthem, unpatriotically, she or he can be indicted with reference to the criminal code clause no. 127– desecration of state symbols. The worst sentence carries two years of imprisonment.
“The year is 2013, but it is clear that in some countries there is growing conflict between modern free speech rights and a dangerous form of ultra-patriotism. Two members of feminist punk rock band “Pussy Riot” are currently incarcerated in Russia – one in a prison she describes as routinely perpetrating human rights abuses – for their critical political protest in a church. It may be too early to draw a direct analogy, but it is pertinent that the laws in our country allow for the same two year prison sentence as in Russia for “incorrect” art.”
Open Democracy – 28 October 2013:
Is non-patriotic art a crime in Lithuania?
By Aira Leonidovna