I started digging in earnest, reading everything I could find online and in print about the Baltic Way, a human chain that ran from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to Rīga in Latvia, all the way to Tallinn, Estonia on the Gulf of Finland. People held hands across more than 370 miles to demand independence from the Soviet Union. The date was August 23, and it was the 50th anniversary of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the treaty where the Nazis and Soviets quietly divided up Eastern Europe between themselves and agreed not to fight each other. It didn't last, and yet had far-reaching consequences.
Imagine: this was organized before the internet
Music and especially mass singing festivals have long played a major role in Baltic political movements. The rock anthem being sung in 1989 is "The Baltics are Waking Up," written especially for the Singing Revolution, in all three languages. The recording is sung by leading singers from each country:
- Latvian: Atmostas Baltija, sung by Viktors Zemgals
- Lithuanian: Bunda Jau Baltija, Žilvinas Bubelis
- Estonian: Ärgake Baltimaad, Tarmo Philip
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way.
It's an amazing story and a historic moment in European history. We in the West know about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in China, both of which happened the same year, but have never heard about the Baltic Way. Once I learned about it, I knew it would have an important place in my novel. There on he streets of Vilnius in 1989, the crowds holding hands around them and singing for their freedom, the lives of Martynas and Indre are irrevocably changed.