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August 23, 1989: Baltic residents form a human chain linking the cities of Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius August 23, 1989: Baltic residents form a human chain linking the cities of Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius 

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania remember 'Baltic Way' protest against Soviet Union

Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia mark the 30th anniversary of the 1989 ‘Baltic Way’, a historic anti-Soviet protest that saw nearly 2 million people form a human chain in protest against Soviet occupation.

By Stefan J. Bos

"People holding hands can be stronger than people holding guns." That's how Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas reflected on what became one of the defining events in recent Soviet history.

On August 23, 1989, as the Soviet Union was weakening, some two million Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians sent a powerful message.

They formed a human chain known as the 'Baltic Way' of more than 600 kilometers or 370 miles long. They wanted to show that they were not giving up on hopes for their independence, even after decades of Soviet Union occupation.

The Baltic News Service recalled Friday that then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said:  Moscow, "started realizing very clearly that the three Baltic nations were moving toward political independence."

No random event

Vytautas Landsbergis, who led Lithuania's drive toward independence and served as its first president, said in published remarks: "It was not a one-day random event...It was a climax of events and also a leap forward that ultimately led to full independence."

That was also a reference to the Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia eventually joining the European Union and the NATO military alliance as independent states.

Politicians aren't the only people celebrating: Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian singers, and musicians join together these days. Their song with the title Via Baltica remembers he 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way.

However,  the celebrations came as people in the three nations — and many beyond — worry about Russia's renewed ambitions to influence the region once again.

Friday also marked the 80th the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. That secret agreement between the then Soviet Union and Nazi Germany led to the occupation of the Baltic states and Poland.

23 August 2019, 17:16