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“The Baltic Way”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Dace Kalniņa.

Every year in August, the Baltic people are remembering the so called “Baltic way”. Almost every family has some memories of this moving event, which took place on 23rd of August 1989. This year on a 23rd of August in Rīga the Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian flags and maidens stood together with Ukrainian and Polish representatives in front of monument of Freedom in Rīga, thus commemorating the Baltic way and showing the unity in spirit for the Intermarium region today and in the future.

On 23rd of August 1989 more than two millions of Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians (or approximately 1/3 of entire Baltic population) made alive chain from Tompea castle in Tallinn, crossing Rīga, till Gediminas tower in Vilnius through all three countries to demand Independence for their countries. This is one of the biggest and most impressive political manifestations, which has ever occurred in the world, and can be perceived as culmination of “Awakening process” in Baltic states, which already began few years earlier and resulted in the collapse of USSR. Baltic way action was organized by the Estonian Rahvarinne, the Popular front of Latvia and the Lithuanian Sajūdis.

riga 1989 1

The date – 23rd August – was a symbolic one, it was chosen to remind the whole world, that illegal occupation of the Baltic countries was a result of so called Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact of 23rd of August, 1939, when USSR and Nazi Germany secretly divided influence spheres, leaving Baltic countries in the hands of Stalin. As it is widely known, after World War II the Soviets denied the existence of this Pact and according to the official propaganda, all three Baltic States had joined USSR voluntarily. Already in 1987 and 1988 the 23rd of August was a day, which made headache for KGB officials. One of the first mass demonstrations in 1987 has been brutally repressed by the Soviets. They took place in all three capitals, and mass protests took place in 1988, as well. The very beginning of these protests has been inspired by the former political prisoners of Latvia and their first open political group Helsinki-86.

riga 1989 2

The participants of the Baltic way carried a votive candles tied around with a black ribbon and held posters reminding the criminal agreement of 1939, showing that 50 years of brainwashing and propaganda has not deleted memories and knowledge of once independent countries and the fact of violent occupation. The participants demanded freedom for the Baltic countries as well as to stop the communist genocide against Baltic people. The action caught quite a wide attention also in Western media. Amongst others, newspapers as “The Times”, “Daily Express”, “Daily Mail”, “Independent” reflected the events of that day on their front pages. The spirit of that day is fully expressed in a great trilingual song “The Baltics Are Waking Up!” :