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The Republic of Užupis
St. Bartholomew Church in Užupis

Užupis (Yiddish: זארעטשע‎, Belarusian: Зарэчча, Russian: Заречье, Polish: Zarzecze) is a neighborhood in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, largely located in Vilnius' old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Užupis means "the other side of the river" in the Lithuanian language and refers to the Vilnia River; the name Vilnius was derived from the Vilnia. The district has been popular with artists for some time, and has been compared to Montmartre in Paris and to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, due to its bohemic and laissez-faire atmosphere. On April 1, 1997, the district declared itself an independent republic (The Republic of Užupis).


Užupis is quite small and isolated, being only about 148 acres (60 ha) in size; it has around 7,000 inhabitants, nearly 1,000 being artists. On one side it is separated from the Old Town by the Vilnia River, on the second there are steep hills, and on the third side it borders on an industrial area built under soviet rule, which is now to be rebuilt into a fashionable district. The first bridges across the river were built in the 16th century, at which time the district's inhabitants were mostly Jewish.


Graffiti on one of the Užupis buildings

The district contains the Bernardine Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. Most of the district's Jewish population were killed during the Holocaust, and later the old Jewish Cemetery uphill would be destroyed by the Soviets. The houses left abandoned were later occupied by marginal elements of society, mainly the homeless and prostitutes. Until Lithuania's declaration of independence in 1990, it was one of the most neglected areas in the city, containing many run-down houses, many without utilities. The district has been a common haunt of artists and bohemians since Soviet times, and even today many young artists are squatting in abandoned buildings near the Vilnia River. 2013 saw the inauguration of two big art centers by the river and by the gymnasium.

The Republic of Užupis[edit]

Flag of the Republic of Užupis
Sign at the border of Užupis

In 1997, the residents of the area declared the Republic of Užupis, along with its own flag, currency, president, cabinet of ministers, a constitution written by Romas Lileikis and Thomas Chepaitis, an anthem, and an army (numbering approximately 11 men).[1] They celebrate this independence annually on Užupis Day, which falls on April 1. Artistic endeavours are the main preoccupation of the Republic; the President of the Republic of Užupis, Romas Lileikis, is himself a poet, a musician, and a film director.

Artūras Zuokas, a former mayor of Vilnius, lives in Užupis and frequently takes part in the Republic's events. Užupis does not house Internet-cafes, kiosks, big malls, or governmental institutions (except Užupian), and there is no embassy to Lithuania.

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. The decision to place Užupis Day on April 1 (April Fools' Day) may not be coincidental, emphasizing the importance of humor and non-importance of "serious" political decisions. The flag of the Republic contains a palm of hand in a white background. Each season the palm emblem has another color: Winter - blue, Spring - green, Summer - yellow, Autumn - red.[2]

Constitution of Užupis[edit]

Copies of the 39 articles of the Republic's constitution and 3 mottos - "Don't Fight", "Don't Win", "Don't Surrender" - in 23 languages, can be found affixed to a wall in Paupio street in the area. Sanskrit and Hindi versions of the constitution were added on 25th May 2017. Some of these articles would be unremarkable in a constitution; for instance, Article 5 simply reads "Man has the right to individuality.". Others are more idiosyncratic; a typical example can be found in Articles 1 ("People have the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow past people."), 12 ("A dog has the right to be a dog.") and 37 ("People have the right to have no rights."), each of which makes an unusual apportionment of rights. There are a number of paired articles, such as Articles 16 ("People have the right to be happy.") and 17 ("People have the right to be unhappy.") which declare people's right to either do or not do something, according to their desire.[3]

The Užupis Constitution
  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 idle.
  10. Everyone has the right to love and take care of the 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 nee[d].
  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. [In Lithuanian this reads Everyone has the right to realize his negligibility and magnificence.]
  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.

Angel of Užupis[edit]

The Angel of Užupis
The earlier sculpture of an egg before the Angel of Užupis was erected in its place

On April 1, 2002, a statue of an angel blowing a trumpet was unveiled in the main square. The idea was developed from a desire to erect an angel in memory of animator and caricaturist Zenonas Šteinys. It became a symbol of the revival Užupis. The funds were raised by selling miniature copies of the sculpture.[4] The sculptor, Romas Vilčiauskas, is also the creator of the Užupis Mermaid.[5]

Previously, a temporary sculpture of an egg stood in its place. The egg itself became the subject of various anecdotes. After being replaced by the larger statue of Gabriel, the egg was sold at an auction for 10,200 litas and now stands on Pylimo street.

Notable residents[edit]

Notable people who have resided in Užupis include:

In creative works[edit]

Užupis was the topic of a 2015 piece of music by The Mighty Sieben, featuring the three mottos, "Don't Fight", "Don't Win", "Don't Surrender".


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°40′50″N 25°17′49″E / 54.68056°N 25.29694°E / 54.68056; 25.29694