Uzupis: Where Humor Reigns Over Communists and Capitalists

Welcome to the People’s Republic of Uzupis,where humor rules

In 1991 the people of Lithuania declared their independence from the Soviet Union. In 1997 the people of Uzupis, a district of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, declared their independence from Lithuania and got it, sort of.

Uzupis is a quiet part of town on the far side of the Vilnele River, east of the old town of Vilnius. It is a small district composed of a hill with the Vilnele wrapping around three of its bordering sides. For centuries it was the neglected part of town, lacking in simple amenities like running water. It was often the home for prostitutes, squatters and other undesirables.

During Soviet times, artists started to move in and make it theirs. After the throwing off the Russians things continued to simmer in Uzupis until finally on April 1, 1997 (please note the other famous significance of this particular day– it is no coincidence) they declared themselves a free state.

A Constitution was drafted, their own flag created, a President and Cabinet elected, their own currency  and anthem created and a standing army of 11 to 14 hardy souls enlisted (since disbanded, probably from lack of usage).

Uzupis eggThe Constitution of Uzupis is unique in the congresses of the world as we know it. Some of its dictates are:

Everyone has the right to die, but it is not an obligation.

Everyone has the right to make mistakes.

Everyone has the right to be happy.

Everyone shall remember their name.

Everyone is responsible for his freedom.

Everyone has the right to understand nothing.

Everyone has the right to appreciate his importance.

Uzupis appears to be doing better than in its sewer-less days. Today here are nice shops, banks and restaurants there.

The constitution is proudly displayed on a street wall in multiple languages along with the open hand symbol that stands for Uzupis. A statue of an egg as symbol for the town has now been replaced by a more formal angel trumpeting the creative freedom of Uzupis, the egg having been moved to another local. Another popular statue, that of a mermaid perched on a shelf, took a swim during a flood one year, and, once recovered, was given a safer perch to attend.

The hand with a hole in it is the symbol for the town and also makes up the Uzupis flag. It stands for the philosophy that in Uzupis no one can take anything from anyone else because the item taken would fall though the hole in the hand.

There are a couple entertaining videos on Youtube over Uzupis. One shows the anniversary celebration where the residents set up a border control on the bridge entering and stamped peoples passports with the official stamp of the ‘country’. Another has the ‘Minister of Peace’ giving a Spanish journalist a tour of the burg.

It is nice to know that there are still places in the world where insanity is not considered a bad thing.

Roger Freed