By Cacinda Maloney
Tear Down That Wall – Freedom for the Baltics
“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev,
“Tear down this wall!”
I remember this exact comment made by American President Ronald Reagan:
“Tear down this wall!“
to the Soviet President Michael Gorbachev in June, 1987. He was speaking at the Brandenburg Gate behind a bullet-proof glass in Berlin, Germany. His backdrop was the Berlin Wall, known at the time as the symbol of communist oppression.
The West German Chancellor would never forget standing near Reagan when he challenged Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. He said of Reagan:
“He (Reagan) was a stroke of luck for the world, especially for Europe.”
In the late 80’s, a massive resistance campaign against the Soviet rule, known as the Singing Revolution began in Estonia. The Singing Revolution was a spontaneous mass night singing demonstration that encouraged the Baltic people to sing national songs that had once been forbidden for them to utter. An event known as the Baltic Way occurred, where over 2 million people began a human chain that stretched from Tallinn, Estonia to Vilnius, Lithuania. In the wake of this campaign, Gorbachev privately concluded that the departure of the USSR from the Baltic States had become “inevitable”.
A lot has happened since those days, and as we all know, that wall in Berlin did eventually come down and the Soviet Union (at the time called the USSR) was dissolved. The Baltic countries succeeded from the USSR in September 1991. But have you ever thought about what happened to those countries that were a part of the Soviet reign? I truly hadn’t given it much thought until I was invited on a trip to the Baltic Capitals: Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. Doing my research about the three countries I was about to visit was eye opening and extremely interesting. So there you have it, a bit of back history of the Baltic States.
History tells us a lot about people and the way they function. I have come to realize that the people of the Baltic countries are resilient. They are strong. They have endured so much, yet have been able to keep their wicked sense of humor and wits about them. That is what I saw when I visited the Baltic Capitals, I saw the humor of the people. I am about to take you on a journey thru these three places, so stay tuned for a series of articles about the Baltic Capitals: Tallinn, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; and Vilnius, Lithuania. It was a whale of a journey and one that I am grateful I went on. I invite you to visit them too, as they are all incredible!
Can you guess which one of the Baltic Capitals was my favorite? Was it Tallinn, Estonia? Riga, Latvia or Vilnius, Lithuania? I suspect the answer may surprise you.
This is a continuous series on the Baltic Capitals:
Disclosure: My trip to the Baltic Capitals was sponsored by JayWay Travel, but the awe-inspiring time I had was all because of the Capitals themselves.