CULTURE: GENERAL INFORMATION
In the cultural development of Lithuania the influence of the Tsarist Empire first and of the Soviet Union later was of great impact, but since the 16th century there are traces of direct contacts with the European West (Italy, Germany and France) which, intensified since the beginning of the twentieth century, they have influenced the development of religious and educational institutions and the various artistic expressions of the Lithuanian people. Proud of their national traditions, the Lithuanian people can boast a considerable heritage of both folk songs and legends and proverbs handed down orally. A turning point in the country’s cultural life was the conquest of independence: from that moment on, the main trend was the decentralization of all kinds of artistic activities. Previously, when Lithuania was still part of the Soviet Union, cultural life was directed by the one and only Ministry of Culture. Since 1991, however, there has been a notable flourishing of independent artistic associations and institutions. Concrete signs were the opening, in 1992, of the Center for Contemporary Art in Vilnius, with the aim of integrating Lithuanian contemporary art into the wider European art movement and that of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art (founded in 1993 and today transformed into the Information Center for Contemporary Art) which has played a fundamental role in the renewal of the Lithuanian artistic mentality and in the encouragement of contemporary artistic initiatives. The contemporary art) which has played a fundamental role in the renewal of the Lithuanian artistic mentality and in the encouragement of contemporary artistic initiatives. The contemporary art) which has played a fundamental role in the renewal of the Lithuanian artistic mentality and in the encouragement of contemporary artistic initiatives. The Lithuanian, an official language since 1988, belongs, together with Latvian and Old Prussian, to the Baltic branch of the Indo-European languages. The numerous dialects are grouped into two main varieties: Low Lithuanian (spoken along the Baltic coast) and High Lithuanian. Among the other languages widespread in the country, also Russian and Polish. Among the most prestigious universities we should mention that of Vilnius, founded in 1579 by King Stephen I Bathory, and that of Kaunas, founded in 1922 and dedicated to the national hero Vytautas the Great.
In the sec. XIII, XIV and XV several stone castles were built in Lithuania for defensive purposes (Kaunas, Vilnius, etc.). After the introduction of Catholicism, in the century. XIV, churches were built in the Gothic style, including that of St. Anna in Vilnius (1580-81), with two towers. In the sec. XVI the cultural relations with Italy, the Netherlands and Germany introduced in the country the Renaissance ways, which gave way, in the following two centuries, to the Baroque influence , evident in the numerous churches, monasteries and richly decorated palaces of this period (S. Catherine in Vilnius; Pažaislis monastery near Kaunas). According to globalsciencellc, after the Revolution of 1917, constructivism was asserting itself in architecture(among the major exponents we remember V. Dubeneckis and V. Žemkalnis-Landsbergis), the Kaunas Art School flourished in painting (1922), which brought together the best artists of the realist current (A. Žmuidzinavicius, P. Kalpokas, J. Šileika). After the Second World War, in the figurative arts, historical and realistic themes inspired by the revolutionary past and work continued to dominate (for painting we should remember V. Mackevicius, A. Savickas, A. Gudaitis; for sculpture, P. Aleksandravicius, P. Vaivada, G. Jokubonis). At the end of the Soviet regime, after years of Stalinist architecture, a new generation of Lithuanian architects reached full maturity, obtaining general recognition also in Western Europe (V. Cekanauskas, V. Bredikis, A. Nasvytis, V. Nasvytis).