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Fiona Harrigan | From the December 2021 issue
Reason's December special issue marks the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. This story is part of our exploration of the global legacy of that evil empire, and our effort to be certain that the dire consequences of communism are not forgotten.
The Soviet story of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania begins in August 1939. German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov came together to sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which granted their respective countries partitioning and annexation power over several Eastern European nations. Nazi Germany split Poland with the Soviets, and the Baltic states went to the USSR.
Decades of brutal Soviet rule would follow. On the 50th anniversary of the pact's signing, the nationalist movements of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania decided to issue a collective call for independence. They organized the Baltic Way—a continuous human chain comprised of 2 million people, spanning 675 kilometers, traversing the three nations in a display of solidarity and peaceful resistance.
That unity continued as the Soviet Union fell. Where one Baltic state went, the other two soon followed. Lithuania became the first former Soviet republic to declare independence on March 11, 1990; Latvia and Estonia did the same just two months later. As Estonia pioneered radical economic reforms in its early post-Soviet days, Lithuania and Latvia would often adopt them with minor adjustments. Rejection of the Soviet Union and its lingering shadow came quickly, decisively, and uniformly in the Baltic states.
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