On August 23, 1989, over two million people joined their hands to form a human chain that stretched 675.5 kilometers (419.7 miles) across the three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania while they were still constituent parts of the Soviet Union.
The event demonstrated solidarity among the three nations and the wish for independence from the Soviet Union. The demonstration is one of those that can be labeled “people power”, as it was a popular protest against oppression unrelated to military or violent means; such an example of non-violent resistance movements during these times in history was not uncommon due to more Stalinist regimes being established over Eastern Europe following World War II, particularly in areas occupied by Nazi Germany since 1941 during war efforts.
The Baltic Way was organized by the Lithuanian Popular Front, Latvian Popular Front, and Estonian National Independence Party. It inspired similar demonstrations in other Soviet republics, such as the Moldovan Parliamentarian Demonstration and the Georgians’ 300-km walk to Tbilisi.
Despite its large scale and success, The Baltic Way did not bring any concrete results at that time due to Soviet Union’s influence on politics inside Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia
The plaque commemorating this event can be found on Freedom Monument in Riga, Latvia. It is commemorated every year on August 23rd with flowers and candles laid by many people who want to commemorate this historical event which unified millions of people for their freedom. In addition, various institutions hold commemorative events aimed at strengthening ties among the three countries as well as supporting pro-reform movements inside Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Thus, Baltic Way will always remain in history as the manifestation of people’s unity for freedom.
In 2004, the human chain was named one of the 20th century’s most significant events by the American news magazine Time. In 2008, the three Baltic states celebrated the 20th anniversary of the human chain with a series of events entitled “Chain of Freedom”.
Today, August 23rd is known as Chain of Freedom Day in Lithuania. On that day every year, various events are organized to commemorate the Baltic Way and stress the importance of freedom.
More info: The Baltic Way History