Footprints for Freedom……….the Baltic Way

On my last visit to Vilnius in Lithuania my colleague and I decided to visit the newly opened Clock Tower at the front of  Vilniaus Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo Arkikatedra Bazilika (the famous White cathedral).

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As we approached the tower my colleague noticed some “footprints” at the base of the clock tower but with no indication of what they represented. We thought it might be something to do withe “Baltic Chain”

My colleague disappeared for a while into the tower then came back to explain that he had been informed that the footprints represented where the first person in the Baltic Chain had stood.

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The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain (also Chain of Freedom) was a peaceful political demonstration that occurred on August 23, 1989. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning 675.5 kilometres (419.7 mi) across the three Baltic States Estonian SSR, Latvian SSR and Lithuanian SSR, republics of the Soviet Union.

The demonstration originated in “Black Ribbon Day” protests held in the western cities in the 1980s. It marked the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentop pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The pact and its secret protocols divided Eastern Europe into “spheres of influence” and led to the occupation of the Baltic States in 1940. The event was organised by Baltic pro-independence movements: Rahvarinne of Estonia, the Tuatas fronte  of Latvia, and Sajudis of Lithuania.

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The protest was designed to draw global attention by demonstrating a popular desire for independence for each of the entities. It also illustrated solidarity among the three nations. It has been described as an effective publicity campaign, and an emotionally captivating and visually stunning scene. The event presented an opportunity for the Baltic activists to publicise the illegal Soviet occupation and position the question of Baltic independence not as a political matter, but as a moral issue.

The Soviet authorities in Moscow responded to the event with intense rhetoric,but failed to take any constructive actions that could bridge the widening gap between the Baltic states and the Soviet Union. Within seven months of the protest, Lithuania became the first of the Republics of the Soviet Union to declare independence.

Since then Lithuania has developed into a democratic country and gained membership of the EU, and will be a full member in January 2015 when the currency switches from Litas to the Euro (something that concerns many Lithuanians because they fear a price inflation which has been the pattern of virtually every country that has adopted the Euro).

NB Some source material from Wikipedia

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This entry was posted in Culture, Economy, Equality, History, Lithuania, Religion, Russia, Society, Vilnius and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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