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Uzupis

The Republic of Uzupis
The Republic of Uzupis

On 1 April, 1997, the district of Uzupis, in Vilnius, declared itself an independent state. It enacted a constitution (see below); it put in place a President and a cabinet of ministers; it set up its own armed forces (believed to number between 11 and 12 troops, depending on who you believe); and has ever since claimed its status as an independent state.

Today it is seen as a bohemian hot spot on a part with Monmartre in Paris, a place of creative industry and proud liberal sentiment. But it is indeed through this sentiment that the whole concept of the districts ‘Republic’ status is best viewed. Today, Uzupis is home to artists, writers, creatives of all shapes and sizes. A walk around its bohemian streets is an experience in itself, full of small independent art studios and a few funky little bars. Its quite a lovely place to get lost in for an hour or two.

…I mean, its not a serious venture. Honestly. Wikipedia claims “it is unclear whether the statehood of the Republic, recognized by no government, is intended to be serious, tongue-in-cheek, or a combination of both.” But come on fellers, the constitution includes clauses that reinforce a dog’s right to be a dog; that say that everyone has the right to be happy, and that everyone has the right to be unhappy; and imploring that “everyone shall remember their name”. Its pretty clear this isn’t a genuinely serious gesture.

The Uzupis Constitution - translated into a dozen languages.
The Uzupis Constitution – translated into a dozen languages.

Instead of trying to understand Uzupis as an independent state, its ‘constitution’ and indeed the community it houses is better understood as a statement of liberal artistic intent. Remember that, until 1991, much of Eastern Europe, Lithuania included, was a satellite state of the USSR, and that art and creative expression was often suppressed.

Love locks on the bridge linking Uzupis to Vilnius.
Love locks on the bridge linking Uzupis to Vilnius.

But don’t take the whole ‘independent state’ thing seriously. If you do, you’re rather missing the point of the whole enterprise. Read the constitution as you would any creative statement, and read between the lines and in the context of history.

The Constitution of the Republic of Uzupis

  1. Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, and the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by everyone.
  2. Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
  3. Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
  4. Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
  5. Everyone has the right to be unique.
  6. Everyone has the right to love.
  7. Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily.
  8. Everyone has the right to be undistinguished and unknown.
  9. Everyone has the right to be idle.
  10. Everyone has the right to love and take care of a cat.
  11. Everyone has the right to look after the dog until one of them dies.
  12. A dog has the right to be a dog.
  13. A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of need.
  14. Sometimes everyone has the right to be unaware of their duties.
  15. Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not an obligation.
  16. Everyone has the right to be happy.
  17. Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
  18. Everyone has the right to be silent.
  19. Everyone has the right to have faith.
  20. No one has the right to violence.
  21. Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance.
  22. No one has the right to have a design on eternity.
  23. Everyone has the right to understand.
  24. Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
  25. Everyone has the right to be of any nationality.
  26. Everyone has the right to celebrate or not celebrate their birthday.
  27. Everyone shall remember their name.
  28. Everyone may share what they possess.
  29. No one can share what they do not possess.
  30. Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
  31. Everyone may be independent.
  32. Everyone is responsible for their freedom.
  33. Everyone has the right to cry.
  34. Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
  35. No one has the right to make another person guilty.
  36. Everyone has the right to be individual.
  37. Everyone has the right to have no rights.
  38. Everyone has the right to not to be afraid.
  39. Do not defeat
  40. Do not fight back
  41. Do not surrender