Yes, we are celebrating 29th anniversary of Restoration of the Independent State of Lithuania. It’s OK if you feel a bit confused. Didn’t we just celebrate 101st anniversary of the same occasion? Let us explain.
Our 101 year of independence was interrupted by 50 years of Soviet Occupation. 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 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!
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.
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 this Independence Day?
All day long public transport in Vilnius will be free of charge! So it is a nice opportunity to travel outside of the city center. You can visit Antakalnis cemetery, where freedom defenders who died on 13 January 1991 and border guards killed in Medininkai on 31 July 1991 are burred.
At 12.00, the flags of the three Baltic States will be solemnly hoisted in Nepriklausomybės Square. Right afterwards, the Guard of Honour of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and the Lithuanian Armed Forces Band will march along Gedimino Avenue from Nepriklausomybės Square to Katedros Square.
14.00 Join our Soviet tour to find out more about 50 years of Socialistic Republic of Lithuania and why we call our road to independence the Singing Revolution!
During the open hours from 12.30 to 18.00, Vilnius’ residents and guests are invited to visit Lithuanian Parliament. Take a chance to see the running exhibitions, take part in quizzes and watch short documentaries and performances by art groups in the Gallery of the Defenders of Freedom and the Stained Glass Gallery, Building 1 of the Seimas.
Even though it’s Monday, you will be able to visit the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, Aukų g. 2A, and the Memorial Complex of Tuskulėnai Peace Park, Žirmūnų g. 1F, 1N. Open hours from 10.00 to 17.00. Admission – free of charge.
The Centre for Civil Education will be open to visitors from 11 am to 6 pm (last entry at 5 pm). The entrance and activities are free of charge. It’s a great chance to learn more about the area, population, and sovereign power of the Lithuanian state. The exposition also gives an overview of the history of citizenship, the notion of citizenship and its active forms. The slogan of the Centre is “Freedom to learn and create”, thus the visitors are invited to get more knowledge of the Lithuanian state, to participate in its creation, and to get engaged in addressing its urgent challenges.