The Baltic Way
At 19:00 on 23 August 1989, 26 years ago, approximately two million Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians joined hands forming a human chain from Tallinn through Riga to Vilnius. The human chain they formed spanned nearly 700 kilometers, was composed of approximately 2 million people, and was a clear sign of their solidarity and wish for freedom!
Why did the Baltic Way take place?
Since 1940 the Baltic states were occupied by the Soviet Union which had agreed upon it previously with Nazi Germany on 23 August 1939 in Moscow and was entirely secret. This document is called the Hitler–Stalin Pact or the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (by the surnames of the signatories: the USSR Minister for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov and the German Minister for Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop).
Since inclusion in the USSR in 1940, the inhabitants of the Baltic states were forced to live under the dictatorship of the Communist Party where freedom of thought and speech was restricted. The occupation continued but the USSR denied the existence of the Pact and claimed that the Baltic states had voluntarily joined the Soviet Union. On 23 August 1989, the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the inhabitants of the three Baltic states demanded public acknowledgement of the Pact’s secret protocols and the renewal of the independence of the Baltic states.
What did it result in?
The USSR acknowledged the existence of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and declared it invalid. It was one of the most important steps towards the renewal of independence in the Baltics and attracted a lot of international publicity to the joint struggle of the three countries.
Sources: The Balticway.eu, The Embassy of the Netherlands in Estonia
Photos by: Gunārs Janaitis, Vilhelms Mihailovskis, Aivars Liepiņš, Vitālijs Stīpnieks, Uldis Briedis, Gunārs Janaitis
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