We are deeply saddened to report the death of Rimas Timunas. He was born in 1952. A renowned theater director, he staged Grigoriy Kanovitch’s “Nusišypsok mums, Viešpatie” and popularized Litvak culture on the Lithuanian and world stage. He passed away in Italy from lung cancer.

Most recently he worked in Italy and Israel. Before that he was art director at Moscow’s Yevgeny Vakhtangov Theater, from which he was fired allegedly for not supporting Russia sufficiently in its conflict with the Ukraine in private correspondence. In 2022 he was removed from his post as art director of Vilnius’s State Little Theater, which he founded, for statements he allegedly made to Russian television which failed to condemn the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states during World War II. Tuminas blamed his removal on a “brain infection” which had gripped Lithuania because of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and predicted it would pass. Israeli’s Haaretz and LRT (Lithuanian state radio and television) ran the story of his termination from both jobs.

Ironically, Tuminas was publicly and vocally pro-censorship. According to LRT:

The reporter reminded the director how he had once reacted positively when it comes to censorship. Tuminas replied he still held the same view. According to him, censorship is necessary for avoiding vulgarity, the grotesque and lack of knowledge. He said the idea of freedom is mixed up with vulgarity, such that “everything is directed towards commercial goals.” He believes so-called independent art is in a state of decay and death.

Tuminas says art should belong to the state. Over his life he has come to the realization that the poorer the country and the more it belongs to a dictatorship, the more interesting its theater production.

“Here is this paradox: during the Soviet era, despite the strict ideological censorship, the theater was of very high artistic quality,” the director said in the interview with Haaretz [translated by LRT into Lithuanian].

Faina Kukliansky and the entire Lithuanian Jewish Community extend our condolences to his many friends, fans and family members.