The Economist is wrong… Not anymore!

October 5, 2007 at 11:56 am 3 comments

The Economist Intelligence Unit
This blog posted an info regarding some data misinterpretation on the Economist Internet site regarding an article on Vilnius on its Cties Guide serious.  The article ‘Letter from Vilnius’ pointed out that during his stay in Vilnius Napoleon once called the city as ‘The Jerusalem of the East’.

I have written a letter to the Editor with remark that I have heard a term of ‘Jerusalem of the North’ but never came across with calling Vilnius the ‘Jerusalem of the East’.  After consulting the Jewish community, the Jewish Museum in Vilnius, and making a quick smirch on Internet it would be right to say that Napoleon called Vilnius ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania’*.  However, since Napoleon, this name evolved to the ‘Jerusalem of the North’.

After some communication with the magazine, the Economist agreed to change the geographical location of Vilnius from the ‘East’ to the ‘North’, which is more logical, if you have a glance at a map.  I agree that some might call it a minor detail.  Still, this part of the world is putting a lot of efforts to distance itself from the ‘East’ hence; consequently such a minor mistake could hurt the feelings of some Balts.

It is human to make mistakes but it takes a great strength to acknowledge them. The Economist showed that they listen to the readers’ opinions and take into consideration its customers’ remarks.  The Economist’s authority has only risen in my eyes!  Respect!

P.S. On the other hand, I have not heard from Mr Stephen Kotkin anything yet…

*See Henri Minczeles Vilna, Wilno, Vilnius. Editions La decouverte. Paris, 1993, p.13.< …> la Jerusalem de la Lituanie. Cette derniere denomination, que d’aucuns attribuent a Napoleon I est d’une totale justesse. Reference:Israel Cohen, Vilna, Philadelphia, Jewish publication Society of America, 1943.

Also see Vilna, Jerusalem of Lithuania by Leyzer Ran. Oxford, 1987. ‘As Napoleon walked through the narrow medieval street of Vilna, he remarked that they remained him of Jerusalem.’ (p.2).


Entry filed under: Baltic States, Great Britain, Lithuania, Northern Europe.

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3 Comments Add your own

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  • 2. Richard  |  October 5, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Here is a second question. Why did he call it Jerusalem?

    Is it becuase Jews dominated the Old City?

    However, I have heard a second interpretation, that the term “Jerusalem of the North/Jerusalem” refers to the mixed character oif the city. ie, there were Jews, Russian, Poles etc, and synagogues stood close to Catholic and Orthodox churches.

    If the term really originated in a comment from Napolean, did the Corsican explain why he thought this?

  • 3. Ruslanas Iržikevičius  |  October 5, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Dear Richard,

    I have to say that I am not a specialist regarding the Jewish nation’s history in Lithuania. From what I understand Napoleon called Vilnius after he saw so many Singings on its streets. However, if you are interested in it, I would suggest you to visit the Center for Studies of the Culture and History of East European Jews in Vilnius. You will find them on I am convinced that the Institute staff would be more than happy to answer your questions.

    Best regards,


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