SOFIA, Bulgaria—Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has been appointed officially the European Capital of Culture for 2009. Its partner will be Linz in Austrian. Last year’s nominees—British Liverpool and Norwegian Stavanger have already handed the cultural baton to their successors. Since 1985, when the tradition began, up to 2009, 37 European cities have held this title.
“After becoming the European Capital of Culture 2009, Vilnius will present a program of cultural events and projects which will be organized and implemented throughout the whole year. This program is exclusively developed for the year of the capital of culture,” said Elona Bajorinienė, director of “Vilnius—European Capital of Culture 2009.”
One third of the planned events are in the field of music. Among them: a jazz festival, an opera festival, a program of the London Symphony, Michel Sogny’s foundation “SOS Talents,” and the series of concerts “Conductors—Winners of Herbert von Karajan Conductors’ Competition.” Others cover visual arts, theater and dance, media, and literature.
Lithuania applied in 2004, and in 2005 was officially granted the title by the European Union authorities. The European Capital of Culture is a project initiated by Melina Mercouri, a minister of Culture for Greece. So far, cultural capitals of Europe have been the Greek Athens, French Paris, and Italian Florence, among others. Next year the chosen ones are German Essen, Turkish Istanbul, and Hungarian Pécs.
Vilnius is the most eastern city to be the continent’s culture center.
Lithuania was the first to break away from the former Soviet Union occupation, being a Russian republic. It declared sovereignty on March 11, 1990, and has been a member of the European Union since 2004. In 2009 the most populous Baltic country will mark its historical millennium anniversary. One thousand years ago the name Lithuania was mentioned in the Quedlin-burg Annals of Germany.