In just three weeks, on the 23rd of August, thirty years will have passed since some two million people in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joined hands to form a chain of people connecting the capitals of the Baltic States - Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius.
The incredible show of unity that was The Baltic Way, was how the people of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania could remind the world that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with its secret appendices, signed in Moscow in 1939, had divided Europe and condemned the three independent Baltic States to occupation by the Soviet Union. This year, the thirtieth anniversary of the Baltic Way is the cornerstone of Latvia's centenary program, highlighting and recalling the importance of this unique event in the restoring Latvia’s independence.
There will be an extensive program of more than 60 cultural, historical, commemorative, entertainment and sporting events throughout Latvia, culminating from the 22nd to the 24th of August. The route of The Baltic Way will be traversed with a special cycling tour and also with vintage motor vehicles. Music of the time, as well as Latvian, Lithuania and Estonia current hits will be widely heard and there will be an opportunity to watch films, see exhibitions and take part in various campaigns.
The anniversary of The Baltic Way will also be celebrated in many places around the world, such as by building a human chain at the Capitol in Washington (USA), with conferences in Paris (France), Dublin (Ireland), London (UK) and Ottawa (Canada) and film screenings and exhibitions in Poland, Germany, Greece, Moldova and elsewhere. The Baltic Way 30 program is designed to remind ourselves and explain the importance of The Baltic Way both locally and internationally to others. It will continue to capture the memories of the organizers and participants of The Baltic Way, and to engage the general public in a variety of events.
“This is the Year of Heroism in our centenary cycle. It’s a time when we want to highlight the power of our nation's spirit, the same power that in 1919 stood up to defeat the power of war. It was our togetherness and the strength of our spirit that amazed the whole world when we created the unique Baltic Way campaign together with our neighbours. I’m really proud to be part of a nation that has been able to do such a thing. At the same time, it’s important not only to be aware of this, but also to mark such historical milestones, because we must be able to be proud of the victories and successes of our people. More importantly, we need to know how to tell the younger generation who have not been part of the Baltic Way all about it” said the Minister of Culture Nauris Puntulis.
On the eve of the anniversary of The Baltic Way, there will an International Conference called The Continuation of the Baltic Way. As the conference organizer Sarmite Ēlerte explains, this will be a platform for Baltic experts, along with representatives from the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and Germany, to analyse what place and role did The Baltic Way play in the democratic revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe in the 20th Century as well as the challenges faced by democracy now.
The head of the Latvian Centre for National Culture, Signe Pujāte, invites everyone who wants to experience the same sense of community unity that united the country’s bid for freedom thirty years ago, at 7.00 pm - the moment of the handshake in 1989 - to be at the Freedom Monument for a solemn yet musical event. There, together with the President of Latvia Egils Levits and the First Chairman of the Latvian People's Front, Dainis Īvāns, we will celebrate and pay homage to the events that started the restoration of our country's independence, while enjoying music of the time performed by contemporary artists.
On the 23rd of August in the evening at 10 pm, the City of Riga invites everyone to a free performance of a metal opera called Kurbads. The Mare’s Son. The metal opera is a 21st century interpretation of a fairy tale, which saw its one and only performance in Limbaži in the summer of 2017, becoming a significant cultural legend having received accolades from both spectators and professional alike. Performed by the folk metal band Skyforger and contemporary dancers, the show is directed by Inga Tropa. The opening acts are the Estonian band Riffarrica and the Lithuanian Lietis Band. Entry from 6 pm.
Away from Riga, an extensive Baltic Way 30 program of events is planned for the Latvian border with Estonia and Lithuania, as well as in cities where thirty years ago there was a chain of people weaving through. The anniversary of The Baltic Way will be celebrated on the 23rd and 24th of August near the Latvian-Estonian border in Ķoņi, in the Naukšēni district. On the 23rd of August, the festive program starts at 5 pm with, among others, a concert by the Baltic accordion orchestra Baltic Tremolo, a performance by the Jānis Lūsēns group band and a solidarity campfire with folklore groups from Latvia and Estonia. On the 24th of August, everyone is invited to take part in a bicycle ride from Karksi-Nuija in Estonia to Rūjiena in Latvia. On the 23rd of August from 5 pm, the amateur art and popular music event Brālība. Brolybė. Brotherhood will take place on the Latvian-Lithuanian border in Grenctāle. This festival will bring together choirs, musicians and dance groups from Latvia and Lithuania, and will conclude with a concert by Igo. In a similar vein, various commemorative events will take place in Cēsis, Sigulda, Valmiera, Jelgava, Strenči, Plaviņas, Rūjiena and elsewhere in Latvia.
On the 24th of August, at GORS, the Embassy of Latgale, there will be a premiere of a new three-piece work created by a Latvian, a Danish and a Swedish composer, dedicated to the Carion Wind Quintet and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra. Latvian composer Andris Dzenītis has dedicated his piece Delta Returning to the thirtieth anniversary of The Baltic Way. Meanwhile, at the Garden of Destiny (Koknese) there will be a sunset concert called Sun, Thunder, Daugava, which will feature Baltic folk dance groups, the composer Mārtiņš Brauns, conductor Ivars Cinkuss, choreogratpher Agris Daņļevičs and singers Ieva Akuratere and Dace Micāne-Zālīte.
Various events will take place in the run-up to the 30th anniversary of The Baltic Way. In the afternoon of the 19th of August, participants of the vintage motor car rally (about 200 vehicles) will stop in Riga, on Freedom Square, from where they will continue to drive the historic route. From August the 19th to the 29th, a unique photo exhibition The Baltic Way 1989 will be set up in Freedom Square. Dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the campaign, it will feature large-scale photographic records of the campaign, from the collections of the National Archives of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
In preparation for the anniversary of The Baltic Way, everyone is invited to carefully go through the photo-albums of their relatives and friends to find stories about their participation in The Baltic Way. In turn, these stories can be added to the Century Album, a collaborative centenary project by Latvian Museums. You can also find out more about the history of this unique historical event by visiting the Popular Front Museum. Free entry.