No decision on Kaunas' UNESCO heritage bid if Russia stays on committee – minister

  • 2022-09-07
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – A decision on Kaunas' application for its modernist architecture to be included in UNESCO's World Heritage List will only be made if Russia is not on the World Heritage Committee, Culture Minister Simonas Kairys said on Wednesday.  

The Culture Ministry's officials say, however, the situation as to whether Russia continues to chair the committee is uncertain as most of the organization’s member states do not support calls to remove Moscow from the format because of its aggression against Ukraine. 

"There is little prospect of the World Heritage Committee's session taking place, but if it does, the Lithuanian delegation will not be present if it is chaired by Russia," Kairys told reporters.   

Lithuania has filed a nomination case to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris to list Kaunas' modernist architecture of the 1919-1939 period as a World Heritage Site. 

The minister said that he doubts that Lithuania "would be very happy if (...) Russia announced that (Kaunas' modernist architecture) has been recognized as a part of UNESCO".

"Inevitably, there will come a time when the World Heritage Committee will have to reform itself, and it is likely that Russia will no longer be on it and the process will be back on track," he added.

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee's session, scheduled to take place in Kazan in June, has been postponed indefinitely.  

The meeting is important for Kaunas as the committee is due to discuss its application.

Deputy Culture Minister Rimantas Mikaitis says that Russia's chairmanship "will not necessarily end this year", because Lithuania and like-minded nations do not have enough support from other countries to remove Russia from the committee.

"The situation remains at a stalemate if Russia does not agree to step down as chair and there is no critical mass of committee members willing to make a change," Mikaitis said, noting that "Europeans are in a significant minority there and the war in Ukraine is not as important to countries further away from Europe".

"The situation may move to next year. It is difficult to predict what the final decision will be," the vice-minister said.   

"It does not seem likely," he said when when asked if it would be realistic to expect Russia to be excluded from the UNESCO committee.