VILIAS’ research on politics is dedicated to understanding the life of the state and the way it intersects with the life of the individual. Politics is the art of power, and political science is concerned with the questions of how power relations are created and maintained, what motives drive political attitudes and political forces, and why certain political ideas flourish and others don’t.
The political history of Lithuania is a perfect compilation of processes and experiences that make one think about politics in Eastern Europe. It’ is the state that has experienced the extremes of democracy and totalitarianism. It’ is the state that was once part of the noble republic of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) and recognised the liberum veto – the right of any member of the Sejm (legislature) to defeat any measure under consideration by his or her vote alone, a right that eventually led to the decay and destruction of the republic and was ironically abolished by the first constitution in Europe, adopted on 3 May 1791. It’ is a state that suffered under both the Nazi and Soviet totalitarian regimes. It’ is also the nation that ushered in the collapse of the Soviet empire with its chanting, non-violent revolution in which more than a third of the entire population took to the streets and squares to demonstrate for independence and democracy. The winds of change and freedom can still be felt on the streets of Vilnius. But democracy is still evolving. The country where newly founded populist parties take a significant share of seats in every election, the only European country where a president has been deposed, the country where sociological surveys can show that up to 70 percent of the population distrusts parliament, government and political parties, but more than 50 percent trust political figures leading the same distrusted political parties and institutions.
States don’t exist alone. They interact. The changing international political landscape, which has led to wars in many different places around the world and violent conflicts near the European Union, makes the study of international relations one of the most important academic disciplines. Although the days when Lithuania was a major regional player are long gone, it’s still one of the most active EU member states when it comes to Eastern European issues, be it the Ukrainian revolutions, the occupation of Crimea or the invasion of Georgia. One of the strengths that allow a small country to be visible and do well on the international stage is the political experience the country has gained in its troubled past, which has strengthened its belief in peace and cooperation on the international stage.