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Baltic Way – symbol of peaceful protests and change

33 years ago on 23 August 1989, approximately two million people from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined hands, forming a human chain, called the Baltic Way, from Vilnius through Riga to Tallinn, spanning 600 kilometres. The demonstration has become known in the world as a symbol of successful non-violent resistance. Gediminas Hill, the symbol of Vilnius, was where the Baltic Way began.

The Baltic Way was a response to the 50th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact which had put an end to the independence of the Baltic States. This pact allowed the Soviet Union to expand its influence in the Central and Eastern Europe and occupy entire nations.

The Baltic Way was organised by the national movements of the three Baltic states: the Estonian Rahvarinne, the Popular Front of Latvia and the Lithuanian Sąjūdis. The organisers mapped out the chain, designating specific locations to specific cities, towns, and villages to make sure that the chain would remain intact. The exact timing of the demonstration was coordinated by special radio broadcasts, the participants had portable radios to be able to listen to speeches by popular politicians and society leaders.

In the years since the Baltic Way took place, it has become an example of how peaceful protest can make a difference. The Baltic Way attracted a lot of international publicity to the joint struggle of the three countries. It gave impetus to democratic movements elsewhere in the world, was a positive example to other countries striving to reestablish their independence and sparked the German reunification process.

In 2020, paying homage to the original accomplishment and expressing their support for the democratic aspirations of Lithuania‘s neighbours in Belarus, Lithuanians formed a human chain that stretched 32 km from Vilnius to the Belarusian border.

Being part of the EU and NATO, today Lithuania stands together with the democratic world as a staunch supporter of Ukraine’s fight for its sovereignty and freedom.