The European Commission was forced to take down a poster placing the Communist hammer and sickle next to symbols of major religions from its headquarters in Brussels after Arunas Vinciunas, the Lithuanian ambassador to the European Union, lodged a complaint about the display.
Giedrius Sudikas, the EU spokesman for the European Commission in Lithuania, denied the Lithuanian ambassador’s claim that the poster had been created as part of an EU-funded contest. He claimed the offending poster was one of several “made by artists in the context of a competition by the Czech Council on Foreign Relations,” and the European Union had neither paid for nor commissioned the artwork.
Leonidas Donskis, the EU Ambassador for Tolerance and Diversity in Lithuania, blasted hanging the poster in the EU headquarters:
The sign was put together with old religious symbols. The hammer and sickle is a modern symbol, related to an ideology based on violence… It symbolises the suffering of Eastern and Central Europe. Doing things like this means ignoring the tragic experience of a large part of Europe.
In Lithuania, which fought a bitter guerilla war against Soviet invaders from 1944 to 1952, it is illegal to display the hammer and sickle or to deny Soviet atrocities. Lithuanian officials claim 30,000 freedom fighters were killed by Communist forces during the resistance; all told, it is estimated 780,000 Lithuanians were “lost” during the Soviet occupation due to deaths, exile to Siberian gulags, or from fleeing the country to escape Communist rule.