Twenty-one years after the Baltic Way united Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with a human chain to protest against the Soviet occupation, a new monument commemorating the event was unveiled in Vilnius. President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, Speaker of the Seimas Irena Degutienė, former President Valdas Adamkus and Sąjūdis leader and European Parliament member Vytautas Landsbergis attended the unveiling ceremony for the monument, a brick wall painted with the colors of the Lithuanian flag and silhouettes of people cut out close to Vilnius Pedagogical University.
Although representatives of the Latvian and Estonian governments were present, the monument focuses on the Lithuanian contribution to one-third of the Baltic Way human chain. The project was partly funded by the reservation of the bricks. People contributed between € 7.25 and € 14.50 to get their name on the wall as a contributor. No stone left unsold.
Importance of The Baltic Way
On August 23, 1989 some 2 million residents across the Baltic states joined hands as part of a non-violent protest action calling for restoration of independence for the three nations. Called the Baltic Way, it was a show of solidarity against years of occupation by the Soviet Union. The pro-independence movements in all three countries organized and coördinated it. Baltic residents formed a 600 km long human chain that stretched from Toompea in Tallinn to Cathedral Square in Vilnius, crossing Riga and the Daugava River en-route.
The protest took place on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence of the Soviet-Union and Nazi Germany and lead to World War II and the occupation of the three Baltic states.
Following the demonstration the Soviet Union declared the secret protocols null and void. Six months later, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence from Moscow and Latvia and Estonia soon followed suit.