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Freedom symbols of the Baltic States, 1918–1940. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

Event date: 2024 y.February0214 d. - 2024 y.May0526 d. All events
Valdovų rūmai
The exhibition Freedom Symbols of the Baltic States, 1918–1940. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia continues the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania’s tradition to organise exhibitions dedicated to revealing the history of our 20th-century statehood and its continuity. At a time when Ukraine is fighting for its fate and the destiny of all of Europe, the exhibition’s relevance is further heightened by the freedom theme.
The exhibition features symbols of the statehood and patriotism of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – state awards: orders, medals and order chains. This exhibition seeks to not only present historically and aesthetically valuable awards – it also encompasses a broader historic context, using state symbols as a thread weaving the fabric of the present-day situation. The exposition of important symbols from each Baltic state also presents the eminent historic figures who received them – the founders of the Baltic States and defenders of their freedom, and their biographies. In this way we reveal the development of the history of Lithuania’s, Latvia’s and Estonia’s statehood, the particularities of interwar diplomacy, and changes to the international situation in Europe. Thus, this exhibition presents not only an exclusive opportunity to see impressive and unique state awards of the Baltic States in one location – original Presidential Chains of the Latvian and Estonian heads of state, the Order of Vytautas the Great with the Golden Chain, and other famous European politicians’ decorations of merit and honour – but to also learn of the stories behind them.
The valuable phaleristic collection on display in the exhibition, the largest of its kind in the region, has been formed by the collector Vilius Kavaliauskas since 1965; he is an honorary member of the Board of the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania who has assisted in enriching the Museum’s collections and provided very valuable consultations. The collector has studied the awards presented at this exhibition for many years, compiling specialised publications about them and arranging exhibitions in many European countries, including Denmark, Finland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, and elsewhere. Kavaliauskas has actualised the significance of such awards as symbols, accumulating valuable iconographic material in the process – photographs and documents. This exhibition is the largest ever presentation of this collection not just in Lithuania, but in other countries as well, many of the unique exhibits will be on display to the public for the first time.
The exhibition is divided into three main parts, one for each Baltic State. The first is the largest part of the exhibition, dedicated to the history of state awards of the Republic of Lithuania from 1918 to 1940, revealing the most eminent awarded figures. Here visitors will be able to see the most important state awards of interwar Lithuania – designs for the Cross for the Homeland (the first order of the independent Lithuanian state), the Cross of Vytis and the Order of the Cross of Vytis and its cavaliers, the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas, and the Order of Vytautas the Great with the impressive Golden Chain. A separate exhibition space will also be set aside for other, no less significant decorations, such as the Riflemen’s Star and the Medal for the Liberation of Klaipėda. Documentary material related to the awards is also on display, which presents in greater detail the life-facts of the awarded individuals, in some cases, dramatic and intriguing events befitting the detective story genre. Thus, the exhibition gives a broader context for the region, the activities of prominent figures, their merits and significance in the founding of the state and the country’s defence. The awards given to foreign heads of state, ministers and other politicians reveal the difficult peripeteia of interwar politics and diplomacy, and the importance of international relations in developing statehood traditions.
The second part of the exhibition presents the awards of the Republic of Latvia in 1918–1940, namely – the Order of Lāčplēsis, the Chain of the Order of the Three Stars, the Order of Veisturs and other important state honours and the figures associated with them. The third part of the exhibition displays awards of the Republic of Estonia in 1918–1940: the symbol of Estonian statehood – the Cross of Liberty, the Order and Medal of the National Coat of Arms, the Order of the White Star and Chain, and the most important historical figures from this period to whom the above orders were bestowed. 
In addition to the original exhibits – state awards, documents, portraits, photographs and their facsimiles – additional informative material will also be displayed: lists of recipients from interwar Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and the biograms of Baltic officers, politicians, diplomats and other famous figures. Some of the valuable historic material simply did not physically fit in the exhibition spaces, so visitors will be able to find more information of interest about the exhibits and related historic figures on the exhibition computer terminals.
The exhibition was organised in cooperation with the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania's long-standing exhibition partners – the Vytautas the Great War Museum and the Lithuanian Central State Archives. The National History Museum of Latvia and Estonian War Museum – General Laidoner Museum have also contributed to the exhibition’s organisation.
This exhibition revealing the significance and meaning of symbols of statehood is aimed not only at those interested in the history, politics, diplomacy and international relations of the modern Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian states, but should also capture the interest of everyone who treasures their country’s history and freedom. 
Exhibition organisers
National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Vilius Kavaliauskas
Exhibition partners
Lietuvos centrinis valstybės archyvas / Lithuanian Central State Archives
Vytauto Didžiojo karo muziejus / Vytautas the Great War Museum
Latvijas Nacionālais vēstures muzejs / National History Museum of Latvia
Estonian War Museum – General Laidoner Museum / Eesti Sõjamuuseum - kindral Laidoneri muuseum
Exhibits owned by
Vilius Kavaliauskas
Lietuvos centrinis valstybės archyvas / Lithuanian Central State Archives
Vytauto Didžiojo karo muziejus / Vytautas the Great War Museum
Genovaitė Matutytė-Valiukevičienė
Exhibition concept and exposition plan
Vilius Kavaliauskas, dr. Živilė Mikailienė, Marijus Uzorka
Exhibition coordinators
Dr. Živilė Mikailienė, Marijus Uzorka, Dalius Avižinis
Exhibition text author
Vilius Kavaliauskas
Exhibition restoration coordinators
Mantvidas Mieliauskas, Dainius Šavelis
Exhibition event coordinators
Dr. Ramunė Šmigelskytė-Stukienė, Ignė Grigaitytė
Exhibition educational programme coordinator
Dr. Nelė Kostinienė
Exhibition publishing coordinator 
Dr. Živilė Mikailienė
Exhibition copy editor
Monika Grigūnienė
English translation
Albina Strunga
Exhibition marketing and information coordinators
Monika Petrulienė, Mindaugas Puidokas
Exhibition technical equipment coordinators
Kęstutis Karla, Aurimas Ramelis


Published:: 2024-02-01 11:04 Modified: 2024-02-15 15:22
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