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Michael Sulick 2

2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of communism in eastern Europe. Lithuania will commemorate several related milestones in 2019, chief among these being the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way, when over two million people on August 23, 1989 joined hands forming a human chain from Tallinn to Vilnius. Less than a year after this seminal event, Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to declare its independence from the Soviet Union.

The U.S. played an important role in supporting Lithuania’s struggle for freedom from the Soviet Union, but that story has not been adequately told in Lithuanian popular media. This media co-op project sent a crew from the public television broadcaster LRT to interview American policy makers, former ambassadors, civil society activists, academics, and diaspora leaders about: how the U.S. supported Lithuania’s fight for independence, the Baltic Way, the circumstances surrounding Lithuania’s withdrawal from the Soviet Union, and Lithuania’s eventual membership in the EU and NATO.

This program raised public awareness of previously unknown stories about America’s support for Lithuania during the collapse of the Soviet Union and in the crucial years afterwards. The program also aimed to help refute false narratives in Russian language media in Lithuania that seek to undermine Lithuania’s friendship with the U.S. and to distort history by suggesting that the Soviet occupation of Lithuania was, in fact, a welcome alliance. Additionally, 2019 is the 15th anniversary of Lithuania’s accession to NATO, which reaffirmed our shared transatlantic values and commitment to European security.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future