The three Baltic states have launched events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the start of the drive for independence from the Soviet Union. It was on the 23rd August 1989 that the citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania took to the streets in a mass protest against Moscow. The date was chosen as it marked the 50th anniversary of the controversial Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Moscow and Nazi Germany which carved up eastern Europe and gave the Soviet Union control over the Baltic states. It meant five decades of occupation.
“This date is close to our hearts,” said Jannis Dukaiskis, from the Association of Latvian Motorcycle Clubs. “We have been able to talk with friends and neighbours and remember what happened. Some people were very emotional.” 20 years ago more than a million people joined hands in the three countries, forming a human chain 600 kms long. The peaceful protest stretched from the Estonian capital Tallinn to Vilnius in Lithuania via the Latvian capital Riga. The pressure for freedom was building, and within two years the Baltic states had won their independence and seen the collapse of the Soviet Union.