When you hear there is a self-proclaimed independent republic located in and surrounded by the heart of Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius — a republic proclaimed on April’s Fools Day, no less, and recognized by no other countries or bodies — you don’t hesitate, you just go. That’s how we found ourselves walking into the Republic of Užupis one overcast summer day, a place where the speed limit is 20 and a smile is a requirement (luckily, it’s hard not to smile when you’re in Užupis).

The Republic of Uzupis

Smile, drive slowly, create masterpieces and be careful of the river

Užupis is one of the younger countries in the world, established by a group of artists and residents, including the former mayor of Vilnius, on April 1, 1997. Their current president, Romas Lileikis, is a film director, lyricist and composer, and they have their own currency and an army of 11 (We didn’t see the president, the currency, or the army, so this is all anecdotal). Located across the river from Vilnius’ sprawling old town, the border between Lithuania and Užupis is unlike any other we’ve crossed: it is located at the edge of a bridge covered in rusted love locks and crossing a river canal decorated with art.

"Republic of Užupis in Vilnius Lithuania"

Love locks are pretty common in this part of the world. Newlyweds solidify their eternal devotion to one another by attaching a lock with both their names to a bridge.

 

"Republic of Užupis in Vilnius Lithuania"

The entrance to Užupis is over a river covered in art

Apparently, the town’s residents set up a formal border each year on Užupis’ national day, April 1st, when it’s possible to have your passport stamped. Sadly, we’d missed this show by several months, so we slipped across the border and began to explore. The pièce de résistance of Užupis is the 41 article constitution, posted in eight different languages for all to see near the centre of the republic (my favorite is number 32, followed closely by 25 – I would like to have dual citizenship with Užupis, please!).

  1. Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, and the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by everyone.
  2. Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
  3. Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
  4. Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
  5. Everyone has the right to be unique.
  6. Everyone has the right to love.
  7. Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily.
  8. Everyone has the right to be undistinguished and unknown.
  9. Everyone has the right to be idle.
  10. Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat.
  11. Everyone has the right to look after the dog until one of them dies.
  12. A dog has the right to be a dog.
  13. A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of nee (sic).
  14. Sometimes everyone has the right to be unaware of their duties.
  15. Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not an obligation.
  16. Everyone has the right to be happy.
  17. Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
  18. Everyone has the right to be silent.
  19. Everyone has the right to have faith.
  20. No one has the right to violence.
  21. Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance.
  22. No one has the right to have a design on eternity.
  23. Everyone has the right to understand.
  24. Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
  25. Everyone has the right to be of any nationality.
  26. Everyone has the right to celebrate or not celebrate their birthday.
  27. Everyone shall remember their name.
  28. Everyone may share what they possess.
  29. No one can share what they do not possess.
  30. Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
  31. Everyone may be independent.
  32. Everyone is responsible for their freedom.
  33. Everyone has the right to cry.
  34. Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
  35. No one has the right to make another person guilty.
  36. Everyone has the right to be individual.
  37. Everyone has the right to have no rights.
  38. Everyone has the right to not to be afraid.
  39. Do not defeat
  40. Do not fight back
  41. Do not surrender
"Republic of Uzupis Vilnius Lithuania"

The constitution of Užupis

Being what is essentially an artists’ commune, Užupis is rather picturesque, in a dilapidated kind of way.

"Republic of Užupis Vilnius Lithuania"

Lots of street art in Užupis

 

"Republic_of_Užupis"

The main square in the Republic of Užupis, and the angel of Užupis

"Republic of Uzupis in Vilnius Lithuania"

The buildings in the area are crumbling, at best. It was the cheap rent in the area that originally attracted the sort of bohemian folk that thought to declare their own republic.

 

"Republic of Uzupis in Vilnius Lithuania"

Street art is throughout the Republic of Užupis, and Vilnius in general.

 

"Republic of Uzupis in Vilnius Lithuania"

A crumbing archway. Despite my aspirations for Užupian citizenship, I wouldn’t want to be there during an earthquake.