Thirty years ago today, Iceland became the first country to officially recognise Lithuania’s declaration of independence from the USSR. To mark the occasion, the Lithuanian community in Iceland made a video saying “takk” (thank you) 30 times over. According to its creators, the video “represents the diversity of Lithuanians living in Iceland” and is a reminder of the “long-standing friendship of the two nations.”
Each February 11, to mark the anniversary of Iceland’s gesture, some 2.8 million Lithuanians in their home country and the Lithuanian diaspora (which numbers over 1 million) organise a variety of events to thank Iceland for recognising the country’s independence. In 2006, for example, Lithuanians collected over 200,000 signatures of thanks that were then presented to the President of Iceland to mark the historic anniversary.
Lithuania has gone even further in recognising Iceland’s contribution to its country, however. Several streets in the nation’s capital Vilnius, as well as the cities of Kaunas and Klaipėda, feature streets named after Iceland or Reykjavík. Lithuanians even celebrate Iceland’s National Day, June 17, by putting up Icelandic flags on those streets, playing Icelandic music, and serving up Icelandic food and beer.
In 2020, Statistics Iceland reported 4,628 Lithuanian citizens living in Iceland. Among the first Lithuanians to settle in the country in recent decades were professional athletes. The first known Lithuanian to move to Iceland, however, was Teodoras Bieliackinas, who settled in the country in the 1930s. He studied Icelandic at the University of Iceland and later worked as a language teacher, journalist, and translator.