I’m going to take a stab in the dark here and say that most of you have never heard of the Republic of Užupis. Hell, two weeks ago I had never heard of it either! But worry no more, now that I have seen the ways of this mysterious land I am here to answer all of your Užupis-related questions and maybe even help you win a pub quiz sometime in the distant future.
What’s an Užupis?
The Republic of Užupis is a “micronation”, aka an entity that has declared its status as a sovereign independent nation, but has not been recognized by actual real-life nations. They are typically distinguished from imaginary countries and other social groupings (e.g. cults, clans, sects, eco-villages and associations) by formally and persistently expressing a claim to sovereignty over an area of physical territory. Micronations are fascinating, purely for the fact that they are usually set up for political protest reasons, often by some wacky leader who’s trying to make a point or even avoid taxes. Some micronations even go as far as to issue passports, medals, and currency etc., usually not accepted outside of their own “country”.
The Republic of Užupis is a micronation of artists and bohemians located in Vilnius, Lithuania, that declared its independence in 1997. In Lithuanian, Užupis means “the other side of the river”, referring to the Vilnia River that runs through the capital city. The land occupied by Užupis is very small (0.60km²), but of its approximately 7,000 inhabitants, a whopping 1,000 of these are artists. The first and current President of the Repiblic is Jaap van Ark, who was elected to the role in November 2014.
Reasons to visit the Republic of Užupis
1. You get a bad ass new stamp in your passport
That’s right, if you visit the “Ministry” of this micronation you can get your passport stamped for free. Of course this stamp has no real significance, but it will make all your friends (well, 1 or 2 at best) jealous of how intrepid you are and make them wish they were as cool and well-travelled as you. It also partially makes up for the lack of stamps in your passport as a result of the open borders throughout the Schengen Zone in Europe.
2. Quirky street art and sculptures
As a micronation established and run by artists and bohemians, there is some delightfully weird art around. For example…
3. It’s charming run-down streets
Užupis may not be big, but it is certainly full of old-town character and charm. Walk the streets and through the many small alleyways and courtyards and you may even find some cute vintage / boutique stores or some good coffee. It is where the hipsters live after all!
4. The Constitution
And last, but certainly not least, the Constitution of the Republic of Užupis is a work of literary genius. See below:
“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 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 need.
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.
Do not defeat.
Do not fight back.
Do not surrender.”**
On that note, I bid you adieu. If you have any questions or a grand desire to start your own micronation, feel free to let me know in the comments section below. 🙂