In 1939, when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany divided Eastern Europe, the Šalčininkai Region, which belonged administratively to Belarus, was returned to Lithuania. Therefore, a new border had to be defined. During the negotiations in the Kremlin Stalin’s pipe was lying on the map. Since no one dared removing it the border was simply drawn around it. Thus, Stalin’s pipe determined the border between Belarus and Lithuania.
This is the story that the local population tells about the origin of the border. It reflects how arbitrary and unnatural the border appears to locals. People were used to crossing the border to visit friends and family and they shared churches and schools with people living on the other side of the border. The new border tore families apart and prevented them from visiting former neighbors and friends.
Since Lithuania joined the EU in 2004 the two countries are separated by heavily guarded border fences. The border between Lithuania and Belarus is not only the dividing line between two states but also the EU external border and the border of the Schengen and the NATO area. The region around the village of Dieveniškės also lies along this border. The village is located in a tip of Lithuania which protrudes approximately 25 kilometers into the Belarusian territory.
In this area people’s lives are dominated by the border. In order to cross the border they need to buy a visa for 180 euros which often exceeds people’s monthly income. Most of the Soviet collective farms are abandoned and decayed and job opportunities for young people are scarce. The young generation moves away. Mostly old people remain who wish to go back to Soviet times. Despite their old age many residents still work in the fields because their pension is not high enough to cover living costs.
This project allows a glance at the life behind this border.