In a captive society, people have to learn various strategies and tactics just to live and survive, carefully navigating through and around a land strewn with existential traps. This exhibition, Trapped (With Central Heating), tells the story of such a situation and the everyday efforts of “simple people” to endure, think, interact, and engage in the creation of various ways of life, despite the ubiquitous mould infesting existence and daily life.
This exhibition spans the period from 1965 to 1993. The mid-1960s saw the rise of Leonid Brezhnev as leader of the Soviet Union and the start of a relatively (!) peaceful period in the country’s domestic life and foreign affairs that would soon deteriorate into the so-called Brezhnevite stagnation. During this period, the average homo sovieticus – no longer required to express blind faith in the postulates of Marxism-Leninism – was expected to observe ritualistic commitment to ideological dogmas, while also being offered the chance to enjoy an extra-ideological life and concern him or herself with meagre domestic affairs.
In Lithuania, the Soviet era concluded de jure on 11 March 1990, but the occupation’s de facto end came at 11:45 pm on the evening of 31 August 1993, when the last Russian Federation troops stationed in Lithuania left the country. But when did this great experiment, conducted with the help of Soviet traps, actually end in politics, economics, culture, and in daily life and our way of thinking?
At first glance, it seems as if the Soviet era has become a foreign country which, for many researchers of that period, no longer appears as a familiar place, but as a fundamentally different, and thus surprising, perplexing, horrifying, and sometimes laughable reality, whose relics are most appropriately displayed in a museum.
But the events of recent years compel us to raise a serious question: Has homo sovieticus truly become a thing of the past? We invite you to search for the answer to this and many other questions by walking through the cells of a former detention centre, each of which tells the story of the machinery, ideology, and rituals of Soviet reality, its economics and labour, wages and shortages, scarcities and fashions, and the transformation of history into propaganda, lies, and wilful oblivion.
The exhibition will be open to the public from June 28th through October 29th 2023 at the Former Detention House, T. Kosciuškos g. 1, Vilnius.