Restoration of Independence in the Baltics

Estonia is celebrating the Restoration of Independence Day on 20th August. Due to the importance of the independence re-establishment for the all three Baltic states, it is essential to highlight the significance of this complicated process in history. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania suffered under the military occupation by the Soviet Union for almost 50 years until the independence was regained in 1991.

Crises in the Soviet Union, both economic and political, were reached to stage, where the reforms were inescapable. As the result, the impact of the Soviet Union was strongly weakened regionally and globally. The unsuccessful attempts to reform the Soviet Union was a window of opportunity for the Baltic republics to reawaken their sovereignty after years’ of dependence.

The first major demonstrations in this new situation started in Riga in 1986, followed by Tallinn in 1987. These small protests encouraged key individuals and by the end of 1988, the reform wing had gained the decisive positions in the Baltic republics.

Estonians made the Estonian language the state language again in January 1989 and similar legislation was passed in Latvia and Lithuania soon after. The intent to establish sovereign nations was declared in Estonia in 1988 and in Lithuania and Latvia in 1989. It was supported by big public manifestations against Soviet Rule including the most significant one ‘The Baltic Way’ which took place on 23rd August 1989. Approximately two million people joined their hands and formed a human chain to connect the three Baltic capitals – Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn.

On 2015 the Baltic Defence College opened officially a new lecture room called the Baltic Way.

All this led to one big breakthrough in Baltics. Lithuania declared its independence on 11th March 1990 and Latvia on 4th May 1990. Those declarations caused the wide-ranged negotiations and ended with the violent attempts of Soviet Union to stop such processes in Latvia and Lithuania during the January 1991, known as "Vilnius massacre" and "The Barricades". Nevertheless, the drive to independence was not possible to be stopped. As an outcome, the Estonians declared the full independence on 21st August 1991; the Latvian Parliament made a similar declaration the same day. On 6th September 1991, the Soviet Government finally recognized the independence of all three Baltic states.

It was followed by complete withdrawal of Russian troops from all Baltic States. It was completed first in Lithuania on 31st August 1993, followed by the Estonia and Latvia on 31 August 1994.

Official Restoration of Independence Day is celebrated in Latvia on 4th May, in Lithuania on 11th March and in Estonia on 20th August, when the Estonian Government made a decision to continue as an independent republic, although Estonians declared their full independence on 21st August.


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Visit to US National Defence University, National Guard Bureau and USSTRATCOM

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