2016.01.13 11:35

25th anniversary of the January 1991 events

Algirdas Acus2016.01.13 11:35

Today we commemorate the 13th January events when crowds of peaceful protesters stood against the Soviet empire’s aggressive attempt to overthrow the independent Lithuania’s government.

Today we commemorate the 13th January events when crowds of peaceful protesters stood against the Soviet empire’s aggressive attempt to overthrow the independent Lithuania’s government.

A variety of events are held throughout the country, with main ones planned on Wednesday, 13th January, in memory of 14 victims killed by the Soviet troops at the TV Tower encircled by peaceful crowds 25 years ago.

As Lithuania became the first country to break away from the USSR in 1990 March, an economic hardship boosted by the Soviet blockade followed with inflation skyrocketing in the beginning of 1991.

Incited by the Soviet Union, Russian and Polish minority workers at Vilnius factories protested the government’s consumer goods price hikes, early in the year. Meanwhile supporters of Independence held separate demonstrations, and Soviet government launched a propaganda campaign designed to further the ethnic strife.

On 8th January, Soviet Union sent special military units to ensure Soviet order and revoke Lithuania’s Independence. Three days later, on January 11, militaries started seizing various institutions, in that National Defence Department and Press House building, injuring peaceful protesters who interfered. Following the attacks, large crowds of people gathered around the main strategic sites.

During the night to 13th January, Soviet militaries stormed the Vilnius TV Tower, which retransmitted news worldwide. Tanks drove straight through lines of people killing 13 civilians and injuring 1000. One more civilian died at the scene of heart attack and one Soviet soldier was killed by a friendly fire.

A massive crowd of praying and singing people encircled the building of Lithuanian Parliament that could have been the next target. Instead of attacking, Soviet military forces retreated, and although military raids continued for the next several months, there were no extensive military encounters, after the night of 13th January, which later was pronounced the Day of Freedom Defenders.

Unprecedented non-violent resistance of peaceful defenders in Lithuania remains the central piece in the history of Singing Revolutions that broke down the Soviet Union.


9th January 1991, a car destroyed by Soviet tanks on the street

9th January 1991, Soundbite (Lithuanian)

Police officer:
Soldiers drive freely in the city and do whatever they want.

11th January 1991, Soviet troopers in Vilnius streets

Soviet troopers storm the Press House building

A protester hurt by soviets

12th January 1991, Soviet tanks arrive as defenders gather around the Parliament building in Vilnius

Recent, Soundbite (Lithuanian)

AUDRIUS BUTKEVIČIUS, Director of the Defence Department during the 1991 January events:
We decided that the state will be defended by civilians, which means a non-violent resistance, and we did implement this plan during the 12th and 13th January. It had an extraordinary effect when it came to resisting the aggression and the subsequent fall of the Soviet empire.

12th January 1991, Soviet tanks approach the Vilnius TV Tower

The night of 13th January, vs of Tower storming and casualties

Archive, 1991 January,

Soundbite (Lithuanian)

VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS, Chairman of Lithuanian Supreme Council, Re-constituent Parliament, during the January 1991 events:
Dear people, we are probably loosing Radio and Television. This is a very painful blow in our situation and our fight, but this is not the end. They might think today it is enough for them, but they might also seize more buildings each day.

Landsbergis arrives

Recent, Soundbite (Lithuanian)