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Vilnius fosters love of literature from early age, Source: Saulius Žiūra / vilnius.lt

Vilnius named UNESCO City of Literature

Vilnius named UNESCO City of Literature

The Lithuanian capital has become the second city in the Baltics after Tartu to be awarded the permanent designation

Long known as a place which is open and friendly to all nationalities, languages ​​and creative people, Vilnius has won another recognition – as a UNESCO City of Literature

The Lithuanian capital became the second city in the Baltics (after Tartu in Estonia in 2015) to receive the honour for its vibrant literary life. 

39 designated Cities of Literature 

Currently, 39 cities in 29 countries spanning 6 continents are designated UNESCO Cities of Literature, a programme which is part of the wider Creative Cities Network

Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius shared his delight about the designation, saying: "Vilnius has received UNESCO recognition as a city of literature. It really is. At least for me – starting with [medieval Lithuanian Grand Duke] Gediminas’ letters. Then Adam Mickiewicz. Then Czesław Miłosz, Romain Gary [all of them born on Lithuanian soil]. Then [contemporary Lithuanian writers] Ričardas Gavelis, Jurgis Kunčinas, Kristina Sabaliauskaitė.

But we not only write, we read. And we celebrate reading – the Book Fair, literature festivals, open reading room in Lukiškės Square. We have been tirelessly preparing our application since 2018. Thanks to everyone who contributed, supported and especially to everyone, who read and wrote."

Literature created by both professionals and amateurs

In Vilnius, literature is created by both professional writers and amateurs. Different social groups have the opportunity to get involved in the study of literature. Ethnic communities can study in their mother tongue and thus get to know the literature of their nation better. Many educational organizations have adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. Seniors are actively involved in university activities.  

The architecture of the capital itself is marked by literary accents - Literatų Street stretches in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vilnius, Miloš Stairs invites guests to visit the Old Town, and monuments, streets and squares named after famous literary figures can be found throughout the city.

The City has been preparing the application since 2018 in cooperation with its partners - the Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO, the Lithuanian Publishers' Association, the Lithuanian Writers' Union and the Central Library of Vilnius City Municipality. The status of a UNESCO City of Literature is permanent. 

Strict criteria for applicants 

UNESCO has been awarding the City of Literature designation since 2004. To receive the distinction, applicant cities have to meet a number of strict criteria, including the quality, quantity, and diversity of book publishing in the city.

Also considered is the quality and quantity of educational programmes focusing on domestic or foreign literature at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels in the applicant city. The existence of a network of libraries, bookstores and cultural centres, active translation sector, and media involvement in the promotion of literary works, are other requirements.

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