Exactly 24 years ago on August 23, 1989, the nations of the Baltic States came under the collective spotlight of the world. The people of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania had had enough.
The secret pact of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact signed on August 23, 1939, divided Europe and pulled the Baltic States into 50 years of oppression and violent occupation.
Following the call of the Popular Fronts, the people of the Baltic States, unafraid and longing for freedom, formed a human chain spanning approximately 600 kilometres or 370 miles long across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to remind the world of the atrocities of the totalitarian regimes and demand the renouncement of the pact and the restoration of the sovereignty of the three countries. The chain, known as the Baltic Way, became the longest human chain in history.
The Prime Ministers of the Baltic States Valdis Dombrovskis, Andrus Ansip and Algirdas Butkevičius released a joint statement today accentuating that “our peaceful aspiration for freedom was stronger than the Soviet might, because justice was on our side.” I could not agree more.
This single event became one of the most memorable and decisive moments in the regaining of Latvia’s independence. Two million people boldly held hands, re-opening the eyes and hearts of the Western media and societies to the Baltics and our struggle.
Together we made it. Looking back, it was not a time of sorrow – it was a time of decisiveness and unity. And when one looks at how things have turned out – with Latvia being a stable and trustworthy member of the European Union, NATO, having been reformed economically and politically – there is no doubt that it was worth it.
Dainis Īvāns, one of the main figures during the time Latvia regained its independence from the Soviet Union, has said that if he was told 23 years ago that Latvia will be so deeply integrated in the free Europe, he wouldn’t have believed it
But that is just what the Latvian history is based on – unbelievable feats made possible by the unimaginable courage of its people.