M.K Čiurlionis foundation has made cooperation with many embassies operating in Vilnius for several years. This year the foundation and the Embassy of Finland in Vilnius together wanted to reward enlightened persons, who have promoted the relations of Lithuania and Finland in a significant way.
The first rewarded person was Taisto Tolvanen, who was the first Ambassador of Finland in Lithuania after Lithuania´s restoration of independence. During his almost 40-years long career at the Ministry of Foreign affairs in Finland, he worked as an Ambassador in Vilnius from1991 to1995. Those years were especially difficult in Lithuania, not only to the Lithuanians but also to the diplomats who worked there. The achievement list of the ambassador Tolvanen during his time in Vilnius is long and he created an excellent basis for all that work which his successors, up to the present Ambassador Harri Mäki-Reinikka, were able to utilize.
Ambassador Tolvanen has still activities in Lithuania. Among others issues, he translated Antanas Baranauskas's poetry anthology in Finnish. When taking into consideration, how unknown Lithuanian literature is in Finland, a charge of Tolvanen should be considered as a cultural merit.
The second prize-winner was the first Ambassador of Lithuania in Finland, Petras Auštrevičius. He worked as an Ambassador in Helsinki during 1994-1997. Before that he already brought Lithuanian and Nordic countries relations closer as he worked in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Lithuania. After his time in Helsinki he continued his career as the principal negotiator in Lithuania's EU membership process. Austrevicius moved later into the politics and he was the third in the Presidential Elections in 2004 and got nearly a fifth of all the given votes. Nowadays Auštrevičius works as the Deputy Speaker of Lithuania's Parliament.
The third prize-winner was the Lithuanian Member of the European Parliament, Leonidas Donskis, who defended his doctoral thesis in the University of Helsinki at the end of the 1990's. He worked there also as a docent for a long time and improved the co-operation between Finnish and Lithuanian universities. Donskis is also well-known as an international philosopher and writer and he has a wide and impressive academic circle of friends in Finland as well.
Both Auštrevičius and Donsksis emphasized in their speeches that Finland is the closest country after their native country for both of them. Ambassador Tolvanen gave his speech in good Lithuanian. He mentioned that the award encourages him to continue his advancement of relations between Lithuania and Finland, especially among literature.
More than 60 guests took part in the award event. Visitors were from the ministry-level to Ambassadors and also several Lithuanian cultural dignitaries participated in the event. The special guest was a famous Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Judita Leitaitė, who was dressed in a glorious evening dress.
Guests enjoyed classical music performances composed by famous Lithuanian composer and painter Mikolajus Konstatinus Čiurlionis and the Finnish master-composer Jean Sibelius. In addition, the paintings made by Mikolajus Konstatinus Ciurlionis and famous Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela were on display.