The Republic 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). They celebrate this independence annually on Užupis Day, which falls on April 1. Artistic endeavours are the main preoccupation of the Republic; the former President of the Republic of Užupis, Romas Lileikis, is himself a poet, musician, and 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.
Constitution of Užupis
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.