Vilnius was born literary: its first ever mention in 1325 took epistolary form. In a letter addressing the citizens of the Hanseatic League, Gediminas, the Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, invited merchants, artisans, farmers, and clergymen to visit Vilnius. In the letter, he described the city as one open to all nations, languages, and artists. Almost 700 years later, Vilnius is as open as ever. Do not hesitate to pay a visit!
Vilnius has always loved authors who have lived and/or worked here, visited, or reflected on Vilnius in their writings. In 2011, the city inaugurated a street – Literatų Street – where such authors are celebrated and commemorated. At the moment, the street counts at least 225 artistic or decorative plaques celebrating literature made by various artists!
By the end of the 20th century, Vilnius became a city of artists. At the time, 72% of all Lithuanian painters, 81% of all Lithuanian authors, and 89% of all Lithuanian composers called Vilnius their home!
The literary heritage of Vilnius is multicultural, colourful, and unique. Books published as early as in the 16th century in Vilnius were written in Ruthenian, Polish, Latin, Yiddish and Hebrew, Latvian, and Lithuanian. Vilnius was home to a number of famous writers who have also mentioned it in their works – Adam Mickiewicz, Romain Gary, Jozef Ignacy Kraszewski, Czeslaw Milosz, and Joseph Brodsky. A copy of the first Lithuanian book, the Catechism of Martynas Mažvydas, published in 1547, is housed in the Library of Vilnius University.
In the years 1817 to 1824, Vilnius was home to the Society of Philomaths – a secret literary and scientific-mathematic group at Vilnius University (back in the day it was called the Imperial University of Vilna). It consisted of well-known intellectuals, such as Józef Jeżowski, Jan Czeczot, Józef Kowalewski, and Adam Mickiewicz, and had an immense impact on the Polish independence movement.
Young City Readings – Lviv, a UNESCO City of Literature, hosts an annual international programme that promotes young authors and their literature and invites young writers to compose texts corresponding with each year’s theme. The 15 most creative texts are then selected and published in a yearly publication.
International Vilnius Book Fair – The largest book fair in the Baltic States invites publishers, booksellers, authors, editors, and readers from both Lithuania and abroad to share their passion for reading. This four-day event comprises discussions, presentations of the newest publications, exhibitions, concerts, meetings with authors, and many other types of activities. Its programme connects art exhibitions and cinema with illustrative art and literary discussions as well as presents newly published books and their authors to the annual audience. The fair not only attracts private and academic publishing houses but also provides a venue for scholars, musicians, and other artists.
Poetry Spring – An annual international poetry festival organized by the Lithuanian Writers’ Union and the Writers’ Club. During the festival, Lithuanian and foreign poets read their poems. Various actors, singers, musicians, and painters participate as well. In order to strengthen the status and publicity of professional artists, since 2003, the mayor of Vilnius has personally awarded prizes to the best participants of the Poetry Spring festival. In 2004, a special prize for the most creative work in relation to Vilnius was introduced, too.
Vilnius Pages – An international literary festival held in the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius. It celebrates critically acclaimed and popular Lithuanian and international authors. Vilnius Pages favors spontaneous author-reader dialogues through meetings, discussions, debates, live public author readings, musical and poetic improvisations, concerts, exhibitions, performances, and literature-based film screenings. Vilnius Pages brings contemporary literature to the general public and popularizes it. It attracts large audiences, is widely covered by the national news, and is appreciated by the literary community. The festival is organized by the Association for Reading Promotion and Cultural Literacy and Lithuanian Writers’ Union with other partners.
Children’s Book Island and Children's Literature Industry Days
Literature festivals for children and youth. Each year, the festivals have a theme reflected in the design, scenography, and decorations. The underlying theme of the activities is the love for children’s literature. During the festivals, a number of activities, exhibitions, meetings with children’s literature authors, and a children’s book fair take place.