Edinburgh University, Conference Room, Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI)
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
06:00 PM
High School Yards, Infirmary Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LZ
Lithuanian Culture in the UK

‘Past to the Future’: Scotland-Lithuania-Europe

or Why Linking Histories Matters.



A public discussion featuring Lithuanian intellectual and emeritus professor at Yale University prof. Tomas Venclova, with Scottish historian and Burnett Fletcher Chair at the University of Aberdeen prof. Robert Frost, moderated by Rytis Martikonis, former Lithuanian Ambassador to the EU.


What does the past tell us; what does the future hold?


Scotland and Lithuania: both small countries in northern Europe with rich and turbulent histories. Both have experienced long political unions with their neighbours, and share ties that reach back centuries, though they have often been forgotten. Relations between these two nations have changed considerably over the last decades, and look set to change once again. Brought together as part of the celebrations for Lithuanian Days in Scotland, two renowned scholars, one Scot and one Lithuanian, will chart the parallels and divergences of their respective countries’ historical experiences and ask- where do we go from here?



Tomas Venclova is currently emeritus professor at Yale University. A prolific author, essayist and translator, he has published over twenty books, including volumes of poetry, works of literary criticism, biography and political commentary. History, particularly of his native Vilnius, has been a major focus of his literary and intellectual life: the first volume of his Lithuanian history for all, published earlier this year, presents a refreshing overview of the development of his native country, a development which he has discovered to be ‘a very unusual, even unique and enlightening spectacle.’

Born in Lithuania in 1937 to a family of intellectuals, he was one of the five founding members of the Lithuanian Helsinki Group, established to monitor Soviet violations of human rights. Stripped of his Soviet citizenship in 1977 for his activities as a key participant in many dissident movements, he was placed under a publishing blacklist and forced into exile. Having lived for decades in the US – where he formed a famous triumvirate with fellow émigré poets Joseph Brodsky and Czeslaw Milosz – since 1990 he has played an active role in Lithuania’s contemporary life, and is one of its most respected figures. The recipient of many awards and honours, Venclova is an important European voice for culture and tolerance.


Robert Frost holds the Burnett Fletcher Chair of History at the University of Aberdeen. After studying Modern History at the University of St Andrews, he graduated with a diploma in Polish language, history, and culture at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, and completed a doctorate at the University of London under the supervision of Norman Davies. His publications include: After the Deluge: Poland-Lithuania and the Second Northern War, 1655–1660 (Cambridge, 1993) and The Northern Wars: War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe, 1558–1721 (Harlaw, 2000). His most recent book, The Oxford History of Poland-Lithuania: Volume 1: The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union (Oxford, 2015), was awarded the Pro Historia Polonorum prize in 2017 for best book by a foreign author on Polish history published between 2012 and 2017. He is currently working on volume 2, The Polish-Lithuanian Republic, 1569 –1815.


Rytis Martikonis is a Lithuanian diplomat. He graduated in International Law from Vilnius University after pursuing studies in the US, Denmark and the Netherlands. He joined the Lithuanian foreign service in 1992 and has held many positions pertaining to European affairs in Vilnius and Brussels ever since – significantly, he helped steer Lithuania’s EU membership as Director of the European Integration Department from 1999-2001 and as Deputy Head of the Lithuanian EU accession negotiation team from 2001 to 2004. Between 2002-03 he took part in the Convention on the Future of Europe, representing the Lithuanian Government, and was Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the EU throughout 2005-2010. Since 2011 he has served as Directorate-General for Translation on behalf of the European Commission.