by Arkadijus Vinokuras
Conservative Party candidate for Vilnius mayor Valdas Benkunskas yells in his political advertisements: “A mayor without circuses!” Kaunas mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis, frightened by public debate, echoes the sentiment: “Kaunas doesn’t need a circus!” The press frequently carries headlines such as “Politics Is Not a Circus,” “Circus in the Political Arena,” and so on. It’s horrifying, wherever you look, there’s that damned circus again. Really?
Let me first take care of the myth the circus is worthy of derision. First, for example, the flying trapezist: if he were to act like the MP Petras Gražulis, Ramūnas Karbauskis, Visvaldis Matijošaitis or Valdas Benkunskas, he’d kill himself after attempting his first salto mortale. The flame appearing in the hands of the circus magician would burn him up immediately, and the trick of sawing the young female assistant in half would result in her real dissection. In other words, the professional circus has nothing in common with the political balagan.
This is also proven by the fact the largest American circus, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily Circus, has revenues reaching $98 million annually. Another US circus, Circus Circus, has annual revenue of $160 million and employs 1,500 people. There are around 300 circuses operating in the United States. Cirque du Soleil, Inc. pays a circus actor from $6,000 to $10,000 per month. (The largest circus in Scandinavia is the Cirkus Scott, to the premieres of which the entire ruling elite of Sweden turn out. King Carl XVI Gustaf often attends with the royal family. In the 1989-1990 period this circus paid me €6,000 per month. How long did my performance take? Ten minutes. This was a gigantic sum back in those days, even in Sweden.)
Should I make fun of the poor, uncouth member of parliament who plows the furrows 24/7 only to earn €2,000 every month? Never mind circuses in Europe and around the world. There are two professional circuses operating in Lithuania: Baltijos Cirkas and Amber Cirkas. The clown is the heart of any circus, by the way. A good clown will receiving standing ovations. Overall, the circus as an art form is an integral part of the cultural history of humanity.
So let’s talk about Lithuanian Jews. Is the monument commemorating documented mass murderer of Jews Juozas Krištaponis not public derision of the Jews, Lithuanian citizens, who were murdered from 1941 to 1944? Institutionalized Lithuanian anti-Semitism has washed its hands regarding all demands for the removal of this statue. Yes, institutionalized, because Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda remains silent as if he has swallowed his tongue, although he lets himself pat homophobes and anti-democratic marchers on the back occasionally.
Neither did he oppose the nationalists who illegally placed a commemorative plaque on the wall of the Vrublevskiai Library to another “hero,” Jonas Noreika, who actively persecuted Jews. And no, miss Indrė Makaraitytė, there is no longer any on-going historical discussion regarding Jonas Noreika.
What is happening is a brazen attempt to get out of it, turning one’s back on the truth and the facts which are offensive to the eye. Isn’t this demonstrated by the Ukmergė mayor’s refusal to face up to his responsibility and finally remove the monument to Juozas Krištaponis? The lack of desire to change the current name of the primary school in Šūkonys village in the Pakruojis district (named after Jonas Noreika) or to remove a plaque commemorating him on the Šiauliai municipality building sends a clear signal to the public: we spit upon the historical facts. On the facts which show what Šiauliai city and Šiauliai district chief Jonas Noreika got up to in 1941. He issued orders for the Jews of Šiauliai to be locked up in a newly created ghetto and stole their property, also ordering that “present lists of luxury furniture to me [directly].” It was Noreika who, in exchange for help and as a “getting to know” gesture, ordered “two thousand bottles of beer” be given the Germans.
It’s the same situation with the dark figure of Kazys Škirpa who sowed hatred and ordered all Jews, Lithuanian citizens, be removed from their homeland. Streets still bear his name in Kaunas and elsewhere. …
Full article in Lithuanian here.