The Republic of Užupis – a micro-nation

2014-07-25T09:19:02+00:0030 November 2012|Lithuania, Mini countries, Quirky corners|

Uzupio Respublika - a micro-nation

A highlight during a recent visit in Vilnius was the quirky micro-nation Republic of Užupis, a bohemian artists’ colony that declared its independence on 1 April 1997.

The tiny republic (just over 1/2 sq. km) has its own president, national day (1 April, naturally) and national anthem, flag, and a constitution.

Uzupis constitution

Užupis’ constitution is posted in several languages (including Norwegian!) on mirrors along a wall on Paupio street in the centre of town. I particularly like the articles granting rights to non-humans. Article 1:

People have the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow past people.

According to article 13, A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of need, while article 12 states that A dog has the right to be a dog.

Profound? Possibly…

Uzupis cat

Cat in a micro-nation

As would be expected of an artists’ lair, the Republic of Užupis is against narrowmindedness and aggression. Dalai Lama is one of four honorary citizens. The constitution was written by founder and president Romas Lileikis, a local film director and musician. If you want to discuss the philosophy behind the micro-nation, Lileikis is often found at the cafe by the river.

Uzupis angel

Angel of Užupis

The symbol and guardian of this micro-nation is a bronze angel on a tall pedestal. And if you’re wondering about the name Užupis, it simply means ‘on the other side of the river’. Užupis was historically the Jewish district of Vilnius. Most of the Jews perished in World War II, and all sorts of miscreants took over the abandoned houses afterwards. During the Soviet era, it was notorious for being the most dangerous part of town.

In the early 1990s, artists moved in, drawn to Užupis by low rent. They have transformed the area into a vibrant, alternative scene with concerts, literary evenings, festivals and much more. Rent is no longer cheap.

Užupis is part of the historic centre of Vilnius, protected by UNESCO since 1994. To get to Uzupis, you cross a small bridge. Any bridge worth its salt seems to be covered in love locks these days, and this one is no exception.

love locks 1 love locks 2

Street art is abundant in this micro-nation, including a photographic gallery along the river…

bilder ved vannet

street art 1 street art 2

street art 3 street art 4

… as is flowery windows and balconies
balkong

vindu

flagg

Have you ever visited a micro-nation?

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33 Comments

  1. ItalianNotes 30 November 2012 at 1439 - Reply

    I’ve been to some art communes and freetowns like Christiania in Copenhagen and Vincent City in Guagnano, but I’m not sure they qualify as micro nations. Užupis look like a nice place to hang around.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 2 December 2012 at 0131 - Reply

      It’s been ages since I’ve been in Christiania, but if I remember correctly, there are similarities here.

  2. Turkey's For Life 1 December 2012 at 0922 - Reply

    Been waiting for this post. Thanks. We loved it there when we were in Vilnius. Seem to remember being approached by a rather large, red-faced Lithuanian guy (it was morning and he was a long way short of sober) demanding he show us his city. We politely declined and escaped into the pub on the river to see how others escaped from him, too. 🙂
    Julia

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 2 December 2012 at 0132 - Reply

      Great place for observing, that pub on the river. In the afternoon, too 🙂

  3. Andrea 2 December 2012 at 1207 - Reply

    Never heard of this place but I love the idea – are they accepting new residents? =)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 2 December 2012 at 1426 - Reply

      I think they might, provided one takes the constitution to heart. Which shouldn’t be too challenging 🙂

  4. Steve 2 December 2012 at 1933 - Reply

    Artist colonies tend to rub me the wrong way, but artist colonies with a sense of humor seem somewhat more appealing. Any place where a dog has the right to be a dog is OK by me.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 at 1228 - Reply

      Lots of humour and self-irony here, for sure.

  5. Ana O 3 December 2012 at 2349 - Reply

    Never heard of it. Sounds like an interesting place to visit. Is it a democracy, too? 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 at 1229 - Reply

      Very democratic, I think 🙂

  6. Christina 4 December 2012 at 0033 - Reply

    Ah I LOVE these random gems and oddities! Thanks for introducing Uzupis to us! I’ve been to the micro republic of Whangamomona deep in the North Island’s bush. But I gotta say, Uzupis has a lot more to offer 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 at 1229 - Reply

      I’m intrigued by these self-declared ‘countries’, too – and want to visit many more.

  7. So cool! I have visited Vatican City — micro-nation no ? 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 at 1230 - Reply

      Micro as in small, but a bit more official the Vatican 🙂

  8. Laurel 5 December 2012 at 0018 - Reply

    I’ve never heard of Republic of Užupis, but I like some of their ideas, definitely memorable!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 at 1231 - Reply

      I hadn’t heard of it either, sort of stumbled upon it. Happily.

  9. Marie 5 December 2012 at 0020 - Reply

    Love everything about this, the bohemians, the constitution, that you can stop and chat with the president at a riverside cafe, and most especially that the national day is April 1st.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 at 1231 - Reply

      Yes, I appreciated the humour behind that as well 🙂

  10. Natalie 5 December 2012 at 0534 - Reply

    Never heard of this place and not quite sure whether the citizens or president are plain crazy!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 at 1412 - Reply

      🙂

  11. Jade - OurOyster.com 5 December 2012 at 0635 - Reply

    This place is so cute – I love it.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 at 1412 - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Jade.

  12. Natasha von Geldern 5 December 2012 at 0824 - Reply

    How fabulously eccentric. I heard of a place in Western Australia recently that managed to declare itself a state through some legal loophole earlier in the 20th century. Independence is a wonderful thing.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 at 1414 - Reply

      Apparently there’s also one in New South Wales, called Aeterna Lucina. Am curious to see more of these.

  13. Stephanie - The Travel Chica 7 December 2012 at 1803 - Reply

    What an interesting story. Gotta love a place that wants to be different.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 January 2013 at 1602 - Reply

      Creative kind of place 🙂

  14. Sensibletraveler 21 December 2012 at 0311 - Reply

    I have never heard of Užupis! This was a fun post to read, and it seems like the nation has some sas.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 December 2012 at 1751 - Reply

      Sassy place indeed 🙂

  15. Heather on her travels 3 January 2013 at 1950 - Reply

    I didn’t manage to get to Christiana in Copenhagen, but Stokes Croft in Bristol has the same kind of feel & they call themselves the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 January 2013 at 1603 - Reply

      Ooh, haven’t heard of Stokes Croft. Yet another fun reason to visit Bristol.

  16. Shane Todd 25 February 2013 at 1507 - Reply

    I'[ve visited the Vatican ,that’s a micro nation right???

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 March 2013 at 1001 - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Shane. The Vatican is a micro-state – which differs from a micro-nation in that it’s a recognised independent country.

  17. Jonny Blair 15 August 2015 at 2238 - Reply

    Hi Anne- Sophie, I was in Uzupis earlier this year and loved it. There are about 400 of these self declared countries/micronations around the world and I’m trying to see as many of them as I can. My most recent ones were Austenasia and the former Republic of Frestonia. Not sure if Gibraltar and Vatican City count in the same bracket as they have their own governments recognised by a few other countries. Safe travels.

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