First Deputy Speaker of Lithuanian Parliament: “There Are Many Great Things in Russia”

Russia is a state from which one can learn “many great things”, claims Rima Baškienė, the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas. “We create a bugaboo: Russia is evil. Not at all. There are many great things in Russia that we should be learning from. It is unfair to say that everything is bad in Russia and everything is perfect in the European Union,” insisted the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas during an interview for the Lithuania’s national broadcaster “LRT”.

On January 19th, 2017 a conference “Spirituality – the Basis for Education Reform” was held in the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania. During the conference a study “Evolution of Spiritual Education” by prof. Jonas Kievišas was presented. The event was attended by both Rima Baškienė, the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas, and prof. Jonas Kievišas. Agnė Širinskienė, Lithuanian MP and Chair of the Committee on Health Affairs of Seimas, known for her controversial statements on homosexuality, also spoke during the conference.

The conference was criticized in the media due to its emphasis on Christian values, based on examples of Orthodox countries. During the conference at the Lithuanian Parliament prof. Jonas Kievišas criticized liberalism and identified democracy and its implementation in independent Lithuania as a “negative phenomenon”. The aforementioned MPs did not object to the ideas of prof. Jonas Kievišas, who was presented as professor of the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences (LUES), despite the fact that he no longer works at the university.

According to Rima Baškienė, the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas, the study is “very important”; therefore it should be “accessible to more people”. The politician urged the academics and the representatives of the educational system to draw their attention to the “valuable findings” of the study.

During the interview for the Lithuania’s national broadcaster “LRT” Rima Baškienė, the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas, claimed that she was “very surprised” about the fact that the conference “Spirituality – the Basis for Education Reform”, organized in the Lithuanian Parliament, was highly criticized in the media. “Well, it surprised me very much. It is already a fourth time that such conference was organized. The MPs simply provided prof. Jonas Kievišas with an opportunity to present his new book. This study is wonderful and includes references to studies of Lithuanian and Ukrainian scientists. The purpose of the press conference was to allow those who want to say something of essence to speak. I have organized many conferences on this topic. I am glad that this study was also presented in other regions, inviting the representatives of the diocesan family centers. It is important to stress that spirituality does not equate to religion,” emphasized the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas.

However, during the conference both Rima Baškienė, the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas, and prof. Jonas Kievišas enthused over their support to “Christian values”. “Christian values are the basis of the European culture,” claimed the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas during the conference. Nevertheless, when asked about spirituality and its connections to Christianity, the politician stated that her speech “mostly included citations”.

During the interview for the Lithuania’s national broadcaster “LRT” the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas also stressed that those who speak about spirituality and the importance of Christian values may not be “automatically accused of favoring Russia”. “I talk about the importance of spirituality, but it does not mean that I am in favor of Russia. The aim of such accusations is to humiliate and belittle,” claimed the politician. The First Deputy Speaker of Seimas also emphasized that criticism over Russia’s attempts to strengthen the role of faith is not justified. “It is a matter of internal policy. Is it a crime that the Orthodox or the Catholic Church expresses the same opinion on certain topics? I respect and value Russian faith. We create a bogeyman: Russia is evil. Not at all. There are a lot of great things in Russia that we should be learning from. It is unfair to say that everything is bad in Russia and everything is perfect in the European Union,” insisted the politician.

The study by prof. Jonas Kievišas, presented in the Lithuanian Parliament, is based on the values of the Orthodox countries, i.e. Russia, Ukraine, Belarus. When asked about the promotion of the Eastern concept of spirituality, the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas claimed that she “did not personally investigate it”. “I did not question the author why he has chosen this topic. It is completely not interesting to me. For me the most important thing was that I completely support what Mr. Kievišas says. The aspect of moral value is the most important.”

When asked, whether spirituality should be considered more broadly, taken to account that Lithuania is a secular country, the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas replied: “Maybe. I might look at it in a broader context now. But is it really a problem? I do not see a problem or anything that would encourage conflict. It was aimed at most noble goals, but perhaps some statements were understood as favoring Russia. I have not managed to read the book in full. I did not have enough time. I was the one who gave an opportunity to present the professor’s previously published books, so I could not decline to provide him with an opportunity to present his latest study.”

According to the analysis of the MPs’ voting in the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania during the parliamentary tenure of 2012-2016, carried out by the National LGBT* Rights organization LGL, Rima Baškienė, current First Deputy Speaker of Seimas, voted against most legislative proposals aiming at protecting the human rights of LGBT* individuals in Lithuania.

“On numerous occasions the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL sought to raise awareness regarding the negative effects of the anti-gay propaganda, circulated by the Russian media and its impact on Lithuanian citizens’ attitude towards LGBT* people. The position of the First Deputy Speaker of Seimas indicates that nobody is immune to the negative effects of anti-gay propaganda, even our elected members of the Parliament. We have a long way ahead of us in order to overcome this important issue,” commented Vladimir Simonko, Executive Director of the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL.