Longest human prayer chain: 675 km


The Baltic Way

The longest human chain in history was formed across the Baltics just thirty years ago last Friday as a moral protest against the illegal occupation by the Soviet Union of these lands. It stretched 675 kilometres from the north of Estonia across Latvia to the south of Lithuania.

Exactly 80 years ago, on 23 August 1939, a neutrality pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union was signed secretly in Moscow by foreign ministers Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov, respectively. The infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact affected the fate of millions of eastern Europeans, dividing eastern Europe into spheres of influence, leading directly to World War II and to the occupation of the three Baltic States–Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. On 1 September 1939, the German armed forces acted on the terms of the pact and triggered the war by attacking Poland.

Fifty years later, in 1989, as one more expression of the rising tide of moral and spiritual protest against the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union, some two million people joined their hands to form a continuous human chain stretching 675 kilometres across the three Baltic republics of the Soviet Union. One in every four persons participated in the chain, called the Baltic Way, holding hands for at least 15 minutes. The public protest demanded acknowledgement of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the existence of which was still denied by Soviet officials who continued to assert that the Baltic states had voluntarily joined the USSR.

The massive turnout for the silent protest was a powerful moral and emotional demand for the re-establishment of the independence of the Baltic states. Seven months later, Lithuania became the first Soviet Union republic to declare independence. Latvia gained her freedom in 1990; Estonia in 1991.

(Source: Jeff Fountain)


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Bennie Mostert
By Bennie Mostert