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The Baltic Way
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The Baltic Way

On the 23rd of August 1989, about two million inhabitants of Baltic States joined hands in live chain to commemorate the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact.

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@Popular Front Museum of Latvia
25. March 2021 - 30. December 2021

On 23 August 1939, the Soviet Union entered into a secret, non-aggression pact with Nazi-led Germany. Also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, it was signed in Moscow between Foreign Affairs Ministers Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop of Soviet Union and Nazi-Germany respectively. During World War II countries in Eastern and Northern Europe were to be divided between Soviet Union and Nazi-Germany. The Soviet Union kept denying the protocols of the existing secret Pact, asserting that the Baltic States had joined the USSR voluntarily.As the 50th anniversary of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was approaching, the tension between the Soviet Union and the Baltic States kept increasing. Representatives of independence movements of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania demanded the Soviet Union go public and come clean on the confidentiality of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.On 22 August 1989, a Supreme Soviet commission of the Lithuanian SSR declared that the Soviet occupation in 1940 was illegal because it was based on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The next day, 2 millions of peaceful Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians marched into the streets to form the Baltic Way. It was a matter of dignity, unity, and complete freedom.This peaceful event symbolized the unity of all Baltic States and the same goal – to regain the rightful independence.The Baltic Way was broadcast all over the world. People admired the courage and patriotic ideas among Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians. The Soviet government called the Baltic Way “nationals hysteria” and asked the nation to help in a fight against all the nationalists whom they said were about to cause chaos and destruction.On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first Baltic country to declare its independence. Latvia and Estonia followed soon thereafter. Today, the Baltic States can enjoy their freedom because their parents were brave enough to peacefully stand against the occupiers.The human chain began at the Toompea Palace in Tallinn and passed through Latvia to the Gediminas Tower in Vilnius. The most significant documentary evidence of this action since 2009 has been included in the UNESCO “Memory of the World” Register.Oj?rs ?riks Kalni?š, a Latvian diplomat and politician, has said at the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Way and fall of the Berlin Wall: “The Baltic Way was a like a giant arrow that struck the Berlin Wall from within. […] If you lived in Riga, Prague, Budapest, or Berlin, you knew it was time for a change”.Former president of the United States Bill Clinton in 1994 visiting the Baltic States in 1994 said: “Today we remember, we remember an August day just 5 years ago when the people of your nation joined hands in common case. From Tallinn to Vilnius, a millions strong, you reached across the boundaries of fear. And here in these square, sheltered by the Freedom Monument, that human chain found its center. You showed people of the world the power of the Baltic Way”.

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