The Chicagoland Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians gathered on 25 August in Grant Park, next to Buckingham Fountain, to commemorate the Baltic Way in which on 23 August 1989, 30 years ago, approximately two million people formed a human chain from Tallinn to Vilnius.
At 7:00 PM on 23 August 1989, about two million people from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined hands, forming a human chain from Tallinn through Riga to Vilnius, spanning 675 kilometres, or 420 miles. It was a peaceful protest against the illegal Soviet occupation and also one of the earliest and longest unbroken human chains in history.
The Baltic Way, also known as the Baltic Chain, was organised in order to draw the world’s attention to the existence of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – a treaty signed 50 years prior, on 23 August 1939, between the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union and Germany – Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop.
In the secret protocols that accompanied the treaty of non-aggression, the two totalitarian powers divided Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania – in violation of international law – into respective spheres of influence, which led to Nazi Germany to start the Second World War on 1 September 1939 with its attack on Poland. The Soviet Union invaded Estonia and Latvia on 16 June 1940.
Over the past week, events to commemorate the Baltic Way took place all over the world, and all over the United States where some of the largest expat communities of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians reside. One such event also took place in Chicago where hundreds of people came together to Buckingham Fountain to sing the countries’ anthems, listen to speeches and to form a human chain of their own, thinking back to the events 30 years ago that eventually set the Baltic states free from the Soviet occupation.
Estonian World was present at the Chicago event and brings you a few photos and videos of the commemoration.
A sidenote – if you see a disproportionate number of Lithuanians in the videos and photos, then Chicagoland has always had a significant Lithuanian community, especially compared with the numbers of Latvians and Estonians.