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A mark of friendship: Foreign Minister Gabriel hands over a key document relating to the independence of Lithuania Lithuania

05.10.2017 - Article

On Thursday (5 October) in Berlin, Foreign Minister Gabriel and his Lithuanian counterpart Linkevičius signed an agreement on the loan of a document from the Federal Foreign Office Political Archive.

On Thursday (5 October) in Berlin, Foreign Minister Gabriel and his Lithuanian counterpart Linkevičius signed an agreement on the loan of a document from the Federal Foreign Office Political Archive. The document is highly pertinent to the Lithuanian state’s declaration of independence in 1918 and will be displayed in the Lithuanian national museum as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations. Foreign Minister Gabriel described the loan as “a mark of the deep friendship between our two countries.”

Key historical document

Foreign Minister Gabriel with his Lithuanian counterpart
Foreign Minister Gabriel with his Lithuanian counterpart

Next year, in 2018, Lithuania will be celebrating the centenary of its independence. However, the nation’s history has been tumultuous over the past 100 years, and no physical copy of the declaration of independence has been seen in recent times. Inspired by the forthcoming centenary, a number of scholars set out to find documents relevant to the establishment of the state of Lithuania.

In March 2017, the Lithuanian academic Professor Mazylis visited the Federal Foreign Office Political Archive to look for documents with a bearing on Lithuanian history from 1917-1918. He found a letter to the German Reich from the Taryba (Lithuania’s first provisional assembly prior to the foundation of the First Republic) dated 16 February 1918. This letter informed Germany of Lithuania’s independence and requested recognition of the new state.

Historical artefact on loan for centenary

The two foreign ministers at the official handover
The two foreign ministers at the official handover

Following the rediscovery of this document, of such great importance to Lithuania’s independence, the country asked for it to be returned to Lithuania for the centenary celebrations. Foreign Minister Gabriel made it a personal priority to ensure that an agreement was concluded to permit the historical document to be loaned to Lithuania for the occasion.

The agreement was signed in Villa Borsig on Lake Tegel, Berlin, at a ceremony attended by Lithuanian and German journalists. Foreign Minister Gabriel congratulated the people of Lithuania on their country’s centenary and drew attention to the close historical ties between the two countries. Foreign Minister Linkevičius expressed his thanks for Gabriel’s support and said this was a great gift to his people. He also noted that Germany had been one of the first countries to recognise the state of Lithuania.

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