Lithuania celebrates 31st anniversary of Restoration of Lithuanian Independence on 11th of March. You might feel confused a bit. Less than a month ago Lithuania celebrated another Independence day – Restoration of the State of Lithuania on 16th of February. Let us explain why Lithuania has two independence days (actually three, if we count 6th of July – Statehood day of Lithuania , but let’s keep this one for July).
History of the day of Restoration of Lithuania (March 11)
The answer to the question why Lithuania has two independence days is very simple. It is the complicated history of our country. The first independence of Lithuania was declared on 16th of February in 1918 from Germany. However this independence did not last long, only for approximately 20 years. It was interrupted by 50 years of Soviet Occupation and Lithuanians had to declare Indpenence again from Soviet Union in 1990. But let's dive deeper into history.
In August 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact dividing Eastern Europe into spheres of influence. The Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) were assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence and subsequently were occupied in June 1940. After the Second World War Lithuanians tried to resist this new regime and reinstate independence by initiating guerrilla warfare. However, those attempts were unsuccessful and the leadership of the partisans (freedom fighters) was destroyed in 1953, thus effectively ending the underground partisan war. Since then nonviolent resistance continued - secret, illegal movements which focused more on social issues, human rights, cultural affairs rather than political demands. If you are interested to find out more about this part of Lithuanian history, we recommend to join our Soviet Vilnius tour once possible!
The turning point in this story came as Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of Soviet Union. While attempting to revive the economy of the Soviet Union, he introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). For the soviet Lithuanian dissidents and activists, it was a golden opportunity not to be missed! This was a chance to bring their movements from underground into the public life.
The first unsanctioned Anti-Soviet rally to condemn the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was organized in 1987. A year later intellectuals formed an initiative group of the Lithuanian Reform Movement to mobilize support for democratic change and ultimately - Lithuanian independence. After numerous demonstrations and protests (better known as Singing revolution), the first democratic election since the second World War was finally held on 24th February, 1990. To no ones surprise Lithuanian Reform Movement candidates won an overwhelming majority (107 out of 133 seats). The first post-war non-communist government did not waste much time. During their first assembly on March 11, 1990 the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania adopted an Act on the Restoration of the Independent State of Lithuania.
The belfry of Vilnius Cathedral lit in colors of Lithuanian Flag on Lithuanian Independence day
Of course this was only the beginning for our little country. Soviet Union did not want to recognize our independence right away. They initiated an economical blockade and later tried to stop us with armed forces! But that did not scare Lithuanians. And after months of uncertainty Lithuania was finally welcomed as a member of the United Nations in 1991!
Since then we are building our little country, exercising our democratic rights and responsibilities, hopping we will not need to declare a third independence any time soon...
How are we going to celebrate March 11 Lithuanian Independence Day in 2021?
Well, it seems like not much will happen on March 11 Lithuanian Independence day this year. The same as on February 16 Lithuanian Independence day in 2021. Due to the global pandemic and various restrictions for events to stop the spread of COVID-19 , we will probably stay at home, raise our yellow, green and red Lithuanian flags and attend some virtual events:
At 12.00, watch the pre-recorded Flags raising ceremony on LRT channel on Youtube. The flags of the three Baltic States will be solemnly hoisted in Nepriklausomybės Square. It is already the tradition of 11th of March to show the unity of the three Baltic Countries towars their goal to declare independence from Soviet Union.
At 19.00, watch the musical composition recorded for 6th of July celebration by Gediminas Gelgotas on Lithuanian National Philharmonic Digital Hall.
At 19.15, watch a festive concert 'We are together' by St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra performed at Lithuanian Parlaiment building. Listen to the masterpieces by Lithuanian composers. The link is not available yet, but it will be broadcasted on youtube channel of Lithuanian Parliament.
At 21:00, watch another concert 'The time of independence' online from Lithuanian Parliament building on youtube channel of Lithuanian Parliament.
There might be not much to do this year on March 11 Independence Day of Lithuania, but the good mood feels everywhere thanks to happy free Lithuanians walking around and Lithuanian flags raised on every building. Let's hope that next year 32nd Independence day of Lithuania will be a bit more active.