The New European: Monument to freedom

After they tore down their statues of Stalin, just why did the Lithuanians put up one to Frank Zappa – a figure with no obvious connection to the country? Sophia L Deboick explains

What does a nation do when half a century of occupation ends? In the early 90s, people across central and eastern Europe struggled to find a new identity after 50 years of stifling Soviet rule.

But while other nations looked to their pre-war literature, art and folk traditions for direction as they came to terms with the lifting of the communist yoke, Lithuania raised a statue to a hero of the 1960s American counterculture who had no connection whatsoever to the country.

The bust of Frank Zappa – founder of the Mothers of Invention, revered guitarist and symbol of outright weirdness – erected on a patch of land in downtown Vilnius in 1995 seems incongruous since Zappa never even visited Lithuania, but the tribute has surprising links to the country’s communist past, lost Jewish culture, flair for artistic experimentation and even its mania for basketball…

The New European, 19 May 2017, pp. 32-33.

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