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30 years since the 600km Baltic human chain for freedom and independence was formed across Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia


As the
Soviet Union was on the brink of collapse in 1989, Baltic nations made history.
Millions of Estonians, Lithuanians and Latvians protested by forming a human
chain. Their demand was independence.

A failed
German-Soviet pact

In the
Estonian capital, Tallinn, on August 23, 1989 — the 50th anniversary of the
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union that ultimately
saw the Baltic states fall under the auspices of the USSR — almost 2 million
people formed a human chain. It stretched across the Soviet Republics of
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Nations annexed by the USSR were now demanding

calculated risk

The human
chain in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius ran 600 kilometres (373 miles) long.
People could sense change on the doorstep — but nobody knew how Soviet leaders
would react. What is clear is that the Baltic nations found strength in unity

The power
of the people

The response was overwhelming: People from all walks of life — men, women, children, young and old — took to the streets. Even local communist politicians took part: Neighbors brought food and local law enforcement halted traffic. At 7:00 p.m. sharp, some 2 million people held hands for 15 minutes, forming the longest human chain in history. The images were a global sensation.

flashpoint in history

minutes of “freedom” has been remembered by history as the Baltic
Way. During the human chain, flags forbidden by the Soviets were waved
defiantly, and folk songs were sung well into the night. Suddenly the hope of
independence became a reality for three Soviet republics.

Moscow on
the defensive

In 1989, the
Baltic states combined had a population of around 8 million people, 2 million
of whom took to the streets to protest. Moscow did not employ force, but did
try to downplay the human chain. In the long run, the Soviet Union was unable
to quash the Baltic states’ yearning for freedom. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania
regained independence in 1991.

One twirl
for a miracle

A tile in
the pavement of the Cathedral Square in Vilnius, Lithuania is embossed with the
word “Stebuklas,” which means “miracle.” The human chain
between Vilnius and Tallinn also ended here. The site is imbued with mysticism:
Anyone with a wish can stand on the stone while twirling around in the hope
that it will come true

the stage for resistance

Human chains were a well-known form of protest even before the so-called Baltic Way. In 1983 in Germany, an estimated 400,000 protesters involved in the peace movement took to the streets to oppose US missiles being stationed in the country. People in southwestern Germany locked arms, forming a 10-kilometre (6-mile) human chain.

Source: dw.com

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