A cemetery in the east of Vilnius
that is the final resting place for the victims of the events of 13 January at the TV Tower
as well as other casualties of Lithuania
's struggle for independence. In addition it has an old Soviet
monument and countless war graves of different nationalities and from different eras. Amongst the civilian graves are many of famous dead Lithuanians as well.
More background info:
The graveyard at Antakalnis in Vilnius
is for the most part a military cemetery. It was established in the early 19th century.
The cemetery is still in use and has provided final resting places in more recent times for many famous Lithuanians, including writers, composers, singers and politicians.
The main reason for its inclusion here, however, are the Soviet Red Army monument and the graves of the martyrs of Lithuania
's struggle for independence from the USSR
. The latter includes 12 of the civilian victims who died on 13 January during the violent events at the Vilnius TV Tower
Furthermore, there's a monument to the seven Lithuanian customs officers who were killed by Soviet special forces in the July 1991 Medininkai incident on the Lithuania-Belarus
border (at the crossing on the Vilnius-Minsk
highway at the village of Medininkai).
This incident was the most deadly in a series of border skirmishes instigated by the Soviets in the Baltics – and that at a time when the USSR was about to implode anyway and Lithuania's independence was being recognized by more and more states (including the new Russian one under Boris Yeltsin).
The cemetery is thus a double pilgrimage site related to Lithuania
's late 20th century history as well as a relic from the preceding Soviet era and earlier periods.
What there is to see: As you enter the cemetery from the car park through the main gate you'll soon find yourself in the middle of a kind of forest, but one with old graves with large classic tombstones on either side of the paths leading through woods. It's quite atmospheric.
As you climb the slope head straight ahead to get to the wide open clearing with the graves of the victims of the 13 January 1991 events at the TV Tower
and the monument to the seven customs officers killed in the Medininkai incident of July that same year (see background
Climb the steps behind the 13 January section and you'll come to some politicians' graves, including that of Algirdas Brazauskas, the first president of the newly independent Lithuanian
state from 1993 to 1998. His shiny chrome head looks out over the slope with an extremely grim facial expression, as if he's still pissed off with the Soviets … or maybe just with the fact that he died in 2010.
Head north (left) from the 13 January section and you'll come to the old Soviet
Red Army monument. It consists of six tall stony-faced soldiers' statues huddled together in front of a no longer burning “eternal” flame. Surrounding this monument there are numerous Soviet military graves.
Further north from this section comes a part of the cemetery that is still in use and being expanded. It is also here that you'll see the most flamboyantly designed gravestones and monuments at Antakalnis. Some are of quite predictable symbolism, others remain rather obscure in their meanings (if there are any deeper symbolic meanings at all, sometimes you just don't know with modern designs ...). They are certainly remarkable for their unusualness, far beyond what you normally find in cemeteries around the world.
Heading back into the forested part on the northern edge of the cemetery and proceeding in a westerly direction you'll pass a few German WWI
graves on your left, while the slope on the right is filled with Tatar graves – complete with Islamic headstones.
A short distance beyond come the endless fields of uniform graves for Polish soldiers, all marked with a ribbon in the red-and-white colours of the national flag of Poland
Further onwards en route back to the main entrance you'll pass a large German-Russian WWI monument as well as several old-style military graves and monuments, with granite flag-bearing kneeling soldiers, Soviet
red stars as well as Orthodox crosses.
The cemetery is not especially large but provided you have a bit of extra time in Vilnius it is definitely worth the detour – for its political-historical connections alone.
to the east of the centre of Vilnius
, about 2 miles (3 km) from the Old Town.
Google map locators:
Access and costs: A bit out of the city centre, best reached by car; free.
Details: To get to the cemetery it is easiest to take a taxi or drive there in your own car if you have one: take the road along the southern banks of the Neris River in an easterly direction, go straight across at the large roundabout and carry on until the next bigger intersection. Turn right here and then left into V. Grybo Gatve and then right into P. Rimos Gatve. This takes you straight to the car park in front of the main entrance. The official address is Karių Kapų 11.There is also a smaller entrance on the southern side of the cemetery but without any parking.
The cemetery can be visited for free and its gate should be open during normal daylight hours. But even if it isn't, it wouldn't be too difficult to clamber over it. It's only about two feet high.
Time required: depending on how much you want to explore beyond the obvious “highlights”, between 20 minutes and an hour or so.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
The most fitting combination with the January 13 martyrs' graves would have to be the TV Tower
– the site where they actually met their violent deaths.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: The cemetery is also a pleasant park, and unlike many other graveyards it is for the most part sheltered by trees, so it's more like a walk in the forest.
For more of the many non-dark attractions of this lovely city see under Vilnius
- Antakalnis 01 - hilly forest cemetery
- Antakalnis 02 - regular cemetery part
- Antakalnis 03 - January 1991 martyrs section
- Antakalnis 04 - final resting place of the only female victim of 13 January 1991
- Antakalnis 05 - grim ex-president
- Antakalnis 06 - Soviet section
- Antakalnis 07 - stony grim soldiers
- Antakalnis 08 - the eternal flame has long stopped burning
- Antakalnis 09 - Soviet section seen from higher ground
- Antakalnis 10 - unusual gravestones
- Antakalnis 11 - no idea what this is supposed to symbolize
- Antakalnis 12 - sceptical expression
- Antakalnis 13 - Tatar graves
- Antakalnis 14 - German graves
- Antakalnis 15 - German-Russian memorial
- Antakalnis 16 - but the Polish graves are the most numerous
- Antakalnis 17 - kneeling with stony flag
- Antakalnis 19 - rusty metal cross