Lukiškės Square (Lukiškių aikštė) in Vilnius


Lukiškės Square (Lukiškių aikštė) is the largest square in Vilnius, located in the center of the city. A major street in Vilnius, Gediminas Avenue, passes by the southern border of the square.


Between the 17th and 19th centuries, it was a suburb of Vilnius and called Lukiškės. In 1852, Lukishki was designated to be reconstructed, and this was carried out in 1860s, with St. George’s Avenue, (now Gediminas Avenue) crossing it from east to west. After the January Uprising (Kalinauskas uprising) in 1863, the Lukiškės Square was one of the areas where public executions of insurgents took place. A particularly most famous insurrectionist, a national hero of three nations – Lithuanians, Belarusians and Poles, Kostas Kalinauskas (Кастусь Каліноўскі, Konstanty Kalinowski) was executed by hanging there on March 24, 1864. Mikhail Muravyov, the Governor General of the Vilna Governorate, earned the nickname “The Hanger” from the frequent executions in the square. At the beginning of the 20th century the square was known for the traditional Kaziukas Fair.


The square became a symbol of terror when the hundreds of opponents to the Soviet Union were interrogated, tortured and executed during 1944–1947 and on, in the infamous NKVD (then KGB) office, facing the square. Among the victims killed there was the chief commander of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters, Adolfas Ramanauskas “Vanagas”. Today the palace houses Vilnius County Court and the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, as well as the Museum of Genocide Victims in the former prison cells, occupying the basement and underground levels of the palace.


During the Soviet era the square was reconstructed and was renamed Lenin Square and a statue of Vladimir Lenin, was built in the middle of it. The statue, which used to be the largest of its kind in the Lithuanian SSR, was removed in 1991, after the restoration of independence of Lithuania. Gathered crowd celebrated the fall of the statue; its upper part was lifted using a crane, and broke off at the lower legs attached to the pedestal. The reassembled Lenin statue is now on display in Grūtas Park.


The square has been partially reconstructed in the 1990s. Now square is surrounded by many public buildings, including Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign affairs, Appeals Court, Academy of Music and Theater, Church of St. James and St. Phillip, Dominican Monastery with former St. Jacob Hospital.


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