Eglė Burbaitė

The Baltic Way: A Human Chain Linking Three States in Their Pursuit of Freedom

As a show of unity in their pursuit of freedom, almost two million people joined hands on 23 August 1989 to form the 600-kilometre Baltic Way that spanned across Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. A collection of documents recording this peaceful political demonstration were added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register 20 year later. In Lithuania, the documents are safeguarded at the Office of the Chief Archivist.

The Baltic Way was a response to the 50th anniversary of the Molotov– Ribbentrop Pact, which abolished the independence of the Baltic States. This pact allowed the Soviet Union to expand its influence in Central and Eastern Europe and occupy entire nations.

Later, the situation began to change. In the 1980s, anti-Soviet movements emerged in the Baltic States which drew crowds of thousands to rallies in Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn. One of the outcomes of these movements was the Baltic Way.

Distinguished for its magnitude and peacefulness, the Baltic Way captured and amazed the entire world. Not only did it demonstrate the joint struggle of the three countries on BALTIC WAY 43BALTIC WAY an international level – it also gave impetus to democratic movements in other parts of the world.

The strong feeling of brotherhood, unity and a common goal among the three nations became an important political factor in the restoration of freedom and independence.

You can revisit the Baltic Way at several sites that are scattered around Lithuania. A few of them are in Vilnius. In Cathedral Square, you can stand on the Baltic Way commemorative tile that was created by artist Gitenis Umbrasas. The tile features the footprints of an unknown Baltic Way participant, and a time capsule with a message for future generations is buried beneath it.

Gediminas Hill, which is next to Cathedral Square, was where the Baltic Way began. You can go up the hill to the Tower of Gediminas to see the map and pictures of the Baltic Way that are on display, as well as a special documentary film.

Another symbol of the Baltic Way is the Road of Freedom sculpture at the junction of Konstitucijos Avenue and Geležinio Vilko Street. Constructed from more than 20,000 donor bricks, the sculpture is 63 metres long and 3.5 metres high.

Commemorative signs/information stands were unveiled at five rest stops along the Vilnius–Panevėžys highway to mark the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way: at kilometres 32.1 and 80.1 on the left side, and kilometres 38.5, 55.6 and 99.9 on the right side.\

Four other information stands were erected along the road from Panevėžys to Pasvalys, which continues on to the Lithuanian– Latvian border: at kilometres 19.5 and 62.9 on the left side, and kilometres 27.8 and 47.5 on the right side.