On August 23, 1989, around two million people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined hands to form a human chain known as the Baltic Way. Also known as the Baltic Chain or the Chain of Freedom, it stretched for six hundred kilometres. The peaceful demonstration was a show of togetherness as these countries sought to cast off communism and break free from the Soviet Union.

Thirty-one years later, on August 23, 2020, Lithuanians marked the anniversary of the chain by creating a new chain — dubbed by many as “Freedom Way” — to send a message of solidarity to pro-democracy protestors in Belarus. The chain stretched for more than 30 kilometres from Vilnius to the border with Belarus.

Reuters reports that around 35,000 people joined the chain. Among the political figures were Robert Gilchrist — the U.S. ambassador to Lithuania — and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda. “I am proud my nation heeded the call and came here to encourage Belarus,” the president said. “We are not indifferent and we will never be indifferent.”

In neighbouring Latvia, hundreds of people marched along the border with Belarus. They formed a human chain in a border village — in full view of Belarusian border guards on the opposite side of the Daugava River.

Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader who left Belarus for Lithuania in the aftermath of the election, did not attend events in Vilnius owing to security concerns. But in a video message she sent her thanks and explained the weight of the gesture.

“More than anyone else, you can understand Belarusians, because not so long ago you went through the same as we do now,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

Several Lithuanian Eurovision stars attended Monday’s demonstration, including its most recent act The Roop. Bandmates Robertas and Vaidotas wore white t-shirts and carried a red flag — helping create a sea of red and white which have become the colours of the #FreeBelarus movement.

Eurovision’s Next Top Male Model 2016 winner Donny Montell attended the demonstration with his family, writing: “For our free future #freebelarus”.

View this post on Instagram

Už M?S? laisv? ateit? #freebelarus

A post shared by Donny Montell (@donnymontell) on

As you’ll recall, Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko — frequently referred to as “Europe’s last dictator” — was declared the winner of August 9 elections, which are widely considered to have been rigged. In the capital Minsk, as well as smaller towns and cities, locals took to the streets in numbers rarely seen before. Lukashenko responded with riot police and violence, leading to the deaths of several Belarusian citizens.

Initially, it was a protest against the official exit poll results after the election. But gatherings soon shifted their themes to broader goals, such as the ability to protest peacefully and to be able to speak one’s mind, alongside the previous goals of free and fair elections.

Lukashenko has said he isn’t going anywhere. And protests have continued.

Watch today’s live stream of events from LRT, the Lithuanian broadcaster:

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xohxoh
xohxoh
3 months ago

We don’t wanna put in…

Alex
Alex
3 months ago

It looks weird to me how the Lithuanian broadcaster LRT visibly supports the protests. Shouldn‘t they be neutral as a public service news broadcaster?

Anyway, cool to see so many Eurovision stars join the human chain!

Joe
Joe
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex

Baltic broadcasters have historically been willing to state their opinions politically when the situation arises. There was nearly a full-on Baltic boycott of the 2009 contest in protest of the South Ossetia invasion. And by virtue of most public broadcasters being connected to the government, they typically lean wherever the government leans at a given time, whether that means more politically-oriented content or strictly neutral content depending on how strict the government is.

NscoN
NscoN
3 months ago

People who disliked are only hoping that one day the great people of Russia will finally enjoy democracy.

Una
Una
3 months ago

I remember reading about the human chain from 1989 and being impressed – I had not idea it happened in all three countries – from memory I only knew about Estonia.

Badwoolfgirl
Badwoolfgirl
3 months ago
Reply to  Una

Truthfully, I knew nothing about the Baltic way (or really anything about the Baltic countries at all) until I got into the Hetalia fandom. Heck, I got into Eurovision because of Hetalia, through videos like these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOaHlvRmUmA

Roy Moreno
Roy Moreno
3 months ago

Sending lots of love and support to our friends in Belarus <3

James
James
3 months ago

Litesound (Belarus 2012) released a Belarusian-language version of “We Are The Heroes”. A very timely and relevant release.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28UJCpLJvEE

Joe
Joe
3 months ago

They’re both terrible

Hrvatska
Hrvatska
3 months ago

A valuable gesture, but Lukashenka, with a rifle and in a vest, hides in the building and is guarded by the army and the police

Joe
Joe
3 months ago

Sending nothing but respect and love to those protesting in Belarus and around the world. The heat is getting higher indeed!

Ashton
Ashton
3 months ago

I have no choice but to stan