Photo and documentary exhibition to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Constitution
Press release, 25 October 2017
Photos of the Office of the Seimas (author Džoja Gunda Barysaitė)
On 25 October 2017, a photo and documentary exhibition entitled Towards the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania: the 25th Anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, arranged by the Office of the Seimas, was opened in the Stained Glass Gallery of the Seimas.
The exhibition was opened by Irena Šiaulienė, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas, and Petras Giniotas, Signatory to the Act of Independence of Lithuania.
The 25th anniversary of the Constitution is one of the most significant Lithuanian anniversaries of the modern era. A short twenty-five-year period in a historical perspective is phenomenal from the point of view of Lithuanian constitutional law. It symbolises the basic law of the State that was longest effective compared to all ever existing Constitutions in Lithuania. It also serves as the basis for the tradition of Lithuanian statehood and the continuity of constitutionality, which was embedded in the Act on the Restoration of an Independent State of Lithuania proclaimed by the democratically elected Supreme Council–Re-constituent Seimas on 11 March 1990, after fifty years of occupation. The Act was legally based on the documents of the period between 1918 and 1940 – the Act of Independence of Lithuania of 16 February 1918 and the Declaration of the Constituent Seimas of 15 May 1920. On the same day when Lithuania restored its independence, the validity of the Constitution of 1938 was restored and subsequently suspended, thus confirming the continuity of the Lithuanian statehood.
The basic law of the State of 1992 is the Constitution that was longest in effect in Lithuania. Prof. Mykolas Romeris, a distinguished Lithuanian lawyer, noted in 1922 when discussing the draft Constitution of the Lithuanian State: “The Constitution is drafted not for one hour, maybe not even for one generation of citizens”. In spite of this optimistic vision, Constitutions were changed too frequently in the pre-war Lithuania. In the period of twenty-two years of existence of the Lithuanian State covering the period of 1918–1940, there were three provisional and one permanent Constitution. The first permanent and democratic Constitution of the Lithuanian State, which was in effect for a period of six years, was adopted in 1922. Regrettably, it was revised after the coup d’état of 17 December 1926 and the dissolution of the Seimas on 12 April 1927, which had a direct influence on further development of the Republic of Lithuania. Consequently, a new Constitution of the Lithuanian State was promulgated by the President of the Republic of Lithuania in 1928, which symbolised a significant diversion from a parliamentary republic. With a view to increasing the authority of the President of the Republic, ten years later the Constitution was amended. Thus 1938 saw the adoption of a new Constitution that definitively established the elements of the authoritarian governance. This Constitution was to remain in force for two years only, until the occupation of Lithuania in 1940.
Another distinctive feature of the 1992 Constitution is the way in which it was adopted, i.e. by referendum. In 1922, the Constitution of the Lithuanian State was adopted by debating it and voting at the Constituent Seimas. The 1928 Constitution of the Lithuanian State was promulgated by the President of the Republic of Lithuania and approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, whereas in 1938 the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, was approved by the Fourth Seimas that performed an advisory role for the President of the Republic and whose members did not have any opportunity to influence the substance of legislation being adopted.
The current Constitution was adopted by referendum by citizens of the Republic of Lithuania on 25 October 1992. The draft Constitution was antecedently approved by the Supreme Council–Re-constituent Seimas. This is the only Lithuanian Constitution adopted by referendum. Almost 81 per cent of Lithuanian citizens who participated in the referendum, voted in favour of the Constitution. A total of almost 1.5 million voters said ‘yes’. By voting in favour of the Constitution, citizens of Lithuania became its symbolic drafters.
Žydrūnas Mačiukas, Chief Specialist, Unit for Historical Memory of Parliamentarianism, Information and Communication Department, tel. +370 5 239 6318, e-mail: email@example.com
Nerijus Vėta, Chief Specialist, Public Relations Division, Information and Communication Department, tel. +370 5 239 6208, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last updated on 10/26/2017