World Sign
Vol. 53: Wall Signs in the Baltic Nations

The three Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania achieved independence as republics following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Prior to that, their history had been one of submission to more powerful neighboring nations such as the Soviet Union, Germany and Denmark.

Entering the Baltic region from Russia, one immediately senses something different in the air. The atmosphere is more open and more closely resembles Western Europe. The vivid colors in the streets and the interiors of the hotels are lighter and more sophisticated. But more than anything else, it is the expression on people’s faces that is completely different. It is astonishing how differences in political systems can bring about differences in people’s expressions.

There were many outstanding signs in these countries. I was particularly impressed by the painted signs covering complete wall surfaces. The end walls of houses facing city squares and streets in Japan tend to be opened up with windows and verandas to allow light and wind to enter, but in the Baltic region these end walls tend to be blank walls used more often than not as advertising space. Perhaps environmental art might be a more appropriate description than advertising. The patterns are usually bright with a relatively small area given over to lettering.

This photographs was taken at Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania. Kaunas is a relaxed and dignified city that retains a medieval atmosphere.

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