Baltic states mark day of infamy and triumph

August 23 is a special day for the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

On August 23, 1939 the foreign ministers of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed their notorious secret agreement to carve up Eastern Europe between them.

Under the terms of the agreement the independent Baltic republics were effectively ceded to Moscow, while Germany was given free rein in Poland.

The agreement remained in force until 1941 when Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union set the former partners against each other, but the effects of that dirty deal were felt far longer, with the Soviet Union regarding the Baltic states as theirs by right even after the war.

Then on August 23, 1989, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, hundreds of thousands of people joined hands in a human chain from Tallinn to Vilnius via Riga to call for the renewed independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- a goal that was achieved within two years.

Today the flags of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- banned for half a century -- fly again in sovereign, democratic states.

Numerous events are taking place August 23 to mark the occasion.

At dawn a videoproject named 'Baltic Centenary Way' was launched.

"Three symbolic birthday cakes will be delivered from hand to hand to our neighbours – Lithuania, Estonia and Finland – as our greeting on their centenaries. Organized by the Latvian Institute, the event takes place on the anniversary of the historic Baltic Way," said a statement by the organizers.

“We regained our independence thanks to our unity, and today we wish to thank our neighbors and Finland for the opportunity to celebrate centenaries of our statehood and to build the future of our nations during the coming 100 years,” said Aiva Rozenberga, Director of the Latvian Institute.

The cake journey will lead along the historic Baltic Way route by various means of transport – bicycles, vintage cars, motorcycles, tractors – to be passed from hand to hand until they reach their final destinations, Lilli-Unguri on the Estonian-Latvian border, the town of Biržai in Lithuania, and Helsinki in Finland.

The journey will be filmed to create a video greeting to Lithuania, Estonia and Finland on their centenaries.

Since 2009, August 23 is also officially designated as as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Communist and Nazi Regimes, with a conference on the subject taking place in Tallinn as part of Estonia's EU presidency. 

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