On August 23, 2019, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way, which took place in 1989 as a peaceful protest against the Soviet regime. The Baltic Way was formulated as an unbroken human chain from Vilnius to Tallinn, and videos from that period show how multiple generations of people, from the elderly to the very young, organized themselves into a remarkable display of solidarity—it’s even more noteworthy when you consider how this movement happened before the internet. Back then, it was radio that played the greatest role in getting people out to show unity—a part of the commemoration in Vilnius’s Cathedral Square in 2019 involved a huge installation of period radios donated by Lithuanians.
We’re in the midst of a climate crisis, politicians are fanning the flames of racism and hatred, and it’s difficult to read the news without feeling like we’re all doomed. Only those who participated in the Baltic Way can say what they were feeling on that day, but ultimately the message for us in 2019 is one of hope. That is why people gathering together to remember this event is so important: if they had stayed apathetic, there might not have been the impetus for further actions that enabled Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to declare themselves independent countries. As a movement, the Baltic Way made international headlines and contributed to the collapse of the USSR.
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