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RETURNED. The Lost International Treaties of the Republic of Lithuania, 1918–1940

6 July–18 September 2022
Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

Exhibition patron
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis
 
Exhibition organisers
National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Lithuanian Central State Archives
Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania
 
Exhibition partners
Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Canada
Lithuanian Canadian Community
Lithuanian Museum-Archives of Canada

 

Ahead of July 6 – Statehood Day (commemorating the coronation of King of Lithuania Mindaugas) and National Anthem Day – an exhibition is being presented at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania dedicated to the establishment of modern Lithuanian statehood, RETURNED. The Lost International Treaties of the Republic of Lithuania, 1918–1940. The exhibition invites visitors to delve into the engaging history of the rescue, preservation and later search for international treaties acknowledging the Lithuanian state, as well as to witness these treaties, which were for a long time considered to have been lost. This exhibition is particularly relevant today, in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine – it reminds us that a state's independence is something to fight for, to seek its recognition, establish its status, that is, how important it is to always be on guard.

The international treaties of the Republic of Lithuania that were removed from the provisional capital of Kaunas in 1939 were returned to Lithuania's eternal capital city of Vilnius in 2021, a city strongly fought for in the past, and are today exhibited in the reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. This is a symbolic thread linking the statehood of modern and historic Lithuania, highlighting its centuries-old statehood traditions.

A total of 29 international treaties are exhibited here, which the Republic of Lithuania had signed with 19 European, Near Eastern, North and South American states in 1920–1938. This is only a fraction of the 105 legal acts witnessing international agreements that have been returned to Lithuania, which Lithuanian diplomats had removed from the country on the eve of World War II for safe-keeping abroad – first to Stockholm (Sweden), then on to Toronto (Canada). This rescue mission was initiated by Kazys Bizauskas, a diplomat of dramatic fate and signatory to the February 16, 1918 Act of Independence of Lithuania, and was carried out by the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lithuania, Vytautas Jonas Gylys. Just seven days before the beginning of World War II, two cases were removed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania in Kaunas, containing documents among which were bilateral treaties, agreements, diplomatic letters, conventions, protocols and multipartite international conventions. After long years of being hidden and a spell of unknown whereabouts, the international treaties were returned to Lithuania in 2021, presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania and then handed over to the Lithuanian Central State Archives – they were restored and are now safely stored. The treaties were returned to Lithuania in a rather poor state, having been kept in unsuitable conditions for a long time, however, thanks to the highly experienced archive conservators, they have been resurrected for a new life, and are displayed in this exhibition, revealing their initial appeal.


2022-07-04
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