Lithuania is commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the Baltic Way, a human chain of people in 1989. It stretched from Vilnius to Tallin to mark solidarity in the struggle for independence from the Soviet Union.
August 23 is declared the Black Ribbon Day in Lithuania. On 23 August 1939, foreign ministers of the Soviet Union and Germany signed a treaty with secret clauses, which affected the fate of Europe and the entire world.
This pact, by which the spheres of influence were divided between the Soviet Union and Germany, led to World War II and the occupation of the three Baltic States - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
However, 50 years later, on 23 August 1989, the three nations living by the Baltic Sea surprised the world by taking hold of each other's hands and jointly demanding recognition of the secret clauses and the re-establishment of the independence of the Baltic States.
About two million people joined hands to create a 600 kilometers long human chain from the foot of Toompea in Tallinn, via Riga, and on to the foot of the Gediminas Tower in Vilnius.
The Baltic Way was organized by the national movements of each of the Baltic States: the Popular Front of Estonia Rahvarinne, the Popular Front of Latvia and the Lithuanian Reform Movement Sąjūdis.
The Baltic Way is considered an impressive act of non-violent protest and solidarity, and a living example of the culture of peace.
The three Baltic States succeeded in gaining their freedom in a peaceful way, creating a precedent that was, and hopefully will be, followed by a number of countries all over the triumph of humanity over totalitarianism.
Baltic Chain is listed in the Guinness World Records as a longest human chain. It is also included in the UNESCO Memory of the World register.
However, international observers often forget another important demonstration on the same August 23 that took place two years before the Baltic Chain. In 1987 one of the very first rallies were held to mark a pact of occupation. About 3000 people dared to come, and they were severely condemned by the Soviet authorities.
However, since the rally was not dispersed, many historians consider it a turning point in the struggle of freedom that laid foundations for the Reform Movement Sąjūdis and inspired the Baltic Way.
Many events are held today across Lithuania to mark the crucial events of the 23 August.
Video material that was submitted to European Broadcasting Union:
Julius Sasnauskas, organizer of the 1987 rally:
The regime was not the same anymore. It did not take repressions during the rally. It did not take legal prosecution although it could adopt criminal code where anti-soviet propaganda and unsanctioned rallies were prohibited. And the rally showed the support of the people.
Gintare Vasiliauskiene, teacher:
We brought self made flags. We will perform a national anthem. We will sing Lithuanian songs so that children could feel the atmosphere of that big day.
I am here with my class to sing national anthem, because it is an anniversary and all raised flags with black ribbon.