The Vilna Gaon: a significant figure for both history and the future


2020 02 21


The Seimas has proclaimed 2020 as the year of eminent eighteenth-century sage Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (the Vilna Gaon) and Lithuanian Jews. This anniversary is also included in the UNESCO list of anniversaries for 2020-2021. To mark the 300th anniversary of the Vilna Gaon (1720-1797), the Government has approved a plan to commemorate this important anniversary in 2020, which includes dozens of cultural and historical events.

“I am confident that the Government-approved action plan will offer unique opportunities to gain deeper insight into the work of the world-renowned thinker, the Vilna Gaon, and his contribution to the continuation and enhancement of the Litvak tradition of Judaism. These sources of profound wisdom are extremely important both to the history of our state and to the creation of modern Lithuania. I invite everyone who cares for the multicultural heritage to take an active part in all this year’s events dedicated to the Vilna Gaon and the history of the Jews of Lithuania”, said First Deputy Chancellor of the Government Deividas Matulionis.

The year of the Vilna Gaon and Lithuanian Jewish History is a step in a long road of cooperation aimed not only at bringing back Litvak history into the field of Lithuania’s history, but also establishing a continuous dialogue with Litvak communities around the world and inviting them to visit their ancestral land, the birthplace of world famous culture, and getting to know modern Lithuania.

The year 2020 will present international conferences “The 18th-20th c. Lithuanian Jewish Literature and Intellectuality” and “Litvak Culture and Art Treasures: Recent Studies”, as well as stationary and online exhibitions to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Vilna Gaon.

An exhibition of Mark Chagall’s painting “White Crucifixion” is planned to be negotiated to be held in Lithuania, an exhibition of works by Samuel Bak is to be held at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, and an exhibition of works by one of the most prominent 20thc. artists, Vilnius-born Brazilian Lasar Segall will be held.

Piano and chamber music concerts dedicated to Jascha Heifetz, Joseph Achron and George Gershwin, as well as a concert to mark the 75th birth anniversary of composer Anatolijus Šenderovas will take place.

A book “History of the Holocaust in Lithuania” is planned to be published, summarising the 20-year work by the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.

For more information on the commemoration of the Vilna Gaon and the Year of Lithuanian Jewish History, please visit the Government website at