- September 14, 2012
Venclova: Lithuania does not belong only to ethnic Lithuanians
Between cosmopolitanism and patriotism
‘As an essayist, I’m a cosmopolitan; as a poet, I’m a patriot and an individualist’, said famous Lithuanian poet, novelist, essayist and translator, Tomas Venclova, at today’s meeting (14 September) in the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of birth of the poet, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Audronis Ažubalis, decorated Venclova with the Lithuanian Diplomacy Star. ‘Such people, no matter what they do, are needed, their work is very much needed as well. They’re ambassadors of our country’, the Minister explained his decision.
Every immigrant is a diplomat
Tomas Venclova said that he’s more of a writer, although diplomacy is not unknown to him. ‘I’m a diplomat in the sense in which every immigrant is a diplomat representing his country. I tried to do so, and I’m still trying. Because I’m still partially an immigrant myself’, said Venclova.
According to the Lithuanian poet and publicist, communism is no longer a threat to Lithuania, but there’s a threat of nationalism, especially present in the countries of the former socialist bloc. In some ways, these two ideologies have much in common. ‘They call me a cosmopolitan. I’m proud to be a cosmopolitan. Lithuanian dictionary says that a cosmopolitan is the opposite of a patriot. I don’t agree with that. A cosmopolitan is a patriot with wider horizons, because this “real” patriot may be harmful to his country’, explained Venclova.
Venclova is convinced that one can be both a cosmopolitan and a patriot. ‘As an essayist, I’m for globalization, because it’s the only rational solution in the age of the Internet and Skype. There’s no point in opposing it, since a globalized man has a more interesting life. However, as a poet, I’m an individualist. I support local values. That’s why I write my poems only in Lithuanian. Meanwhile, I write articles in other languages as well’, claimed the poet.
Isolation in national ghettoes is harmful, especially for the nation itself. ‘Actually, isolationism destroys the national identity. People and nations can have two identities – the national identity and the global one’, says Venclova.
Venclova doesn’t like the methods and rhetoric of the nationalists, but he admits that they are necessary to preserve national identity at certain times and situations. ‘I’m glad that Vilnius belongs to Lithuania and it’s not a provincial Polish town, as it was in the interwar period’, emphasized Venclova. He added, however, that division of citizens into ethnic groups is negative. ‘Lithuania belongs not only to ethnic Lithuanians, but to all of its citizens. Among the representatives of national minorities we can find a lot of people working for the good of Lithuania, while among ethnic Lithuanians we can find a lot of those who harm this country’, said the poet. He gave an example of the meeting in the gymnasium of Adam Mickiewicz, where students were able to switch easily from Polish to Lithuanian and the other way around. ‘It means that they are well integrated into the Lithuanian society’, says Venclova.
Politics and sports fans
At the end, Tomas Venclova appealed to the Lithuanian diplomats and to the society in general to not follow the sports fan’s logic in politics. ‘Some of us are guided by thinking based on three axioms. Point one: Lithuania and Lithuanians are always right. Point two: if they’re wrong, see the first point. Point three: If you don’t agree with first two points, it means you’re serving some foreign and hostile interests. Such thinking may guide a sports fan, not a serious politician’, summed up Tomas Venclova.
Tłumaczenie Ewelina Zarembska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Ewelina Zarembska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.