Browse our Baltic Way scrapbook

Take note – story published 4 years and 9 months ago

When the Baltic Way took place 30 years ago, it was in a world without the internet, email and social media where the cutting edge of communications technology was the fax machine, which itself was put to brilliant use to spread the word as this famous document from the time demonstrates

Despite the strictures of the Soviet occupation regime in the Baltic States, news about the Baltic Way quickly reached the wider world thanks to the efforts of many dedicated reporters, photographers and producers. 

In an effort to give a flavor of those days, and how news of events between Vilnius, Rīga and Tallinn reached mailboxes, street corners and living rooms around the world, here are some press cuttings, photographs and other materials that we hope will be of some interest.

Turning on your TV set in the United States 30 years ago, you might have been surprised to see this news from faraway lands topping the news hour on ABC, featuring impressive pictures and interviews from Tallinn - still behind the iron curtain - and an excellent commentary from Jim Laurie in Moscow that is an object lesson in journalistic economy.

There's also a comprehensive explanation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact to provide context. It's hard to imagine a such prime airtime being given over to such difficult-to-explain matters today. The segment concludes with news from Solidarity in Poland - a reminder that things were changing fast in Poland, too.

One day after the Baltic Way, the Hartford Courant, a regional newspaper in the U.S. reports that about 700,000 people from Tallinn to Vilnius joined hands to form a "human chain" of 370 miles (about 600 kilometers).

The Poughkeepsie Journal, one of the oldest newspapers in New York state, upped the participation estimate to more than a million the same day.

The Oshkosh Northwestern gave considerable coverage to the Baltic Way. What's notable about many of these regional stories is the very accurate and clear graphics that accompany them, showing where the Baltic states are and the path of the Baltic Way. Reporters and photographers often get the plaudits, but let's spare a thought for the graphic designers too - and again, this is the days before photoshop and screen grabs.

A further reminder of the important role played by the regional press in the United States - increasingly squeezed out of business by online media in today's world - comes from the Idaho Times-News.

Moving up to nationally significant papers, the British daily The Guardian not only reported about the Baltic Way, it had a man on the scene just outside Vilnius. You can hear his memories of the day in our earlier report. As the page that carried the report shows, there were significant events happening elsewhere in the world too, including South Africa, which was on its own path towards transformation.

Another major newspaper, El Pais, carried news of the Baltic Way to the Spanish speaking world on its front page and also featured an unusual and powerful photograph.

Canada boasted a large diaspora population from the Baltic States - including a future President of Latvia in Vaira Viķe-Freiberga, who would find herself in Rīga Castle just a decade later. The Windsor Star carried a Baltic Way story notable for the fact it gave the population of the Baltic states combined as around 8 million. Today the figure is just over 6 million. It seems there were also some great deals on waterbeds.

You can see more archive photographs and read a comprehensive account of how the Baltic Way came to be in this downloadable English language booklet and this fact sheet (see attachment). 


Baltic Way Fact Sheet.pdf


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Meanwhile, the LSM Latvian language service has an extensive range of features and photograph albums that are well worth looking at.

You might also like to browse these Baltic Way images from Lithuania and watch this raw footage shot by a Lithuanian cameraman on the day.


In a similar vein, here is some raw footage from Latvia.

Yet perhaps nothing is quite as evocative as this video of the contemporary song "Arise, Baltic states" which is performed in Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian and is regarded as the Baltic Way anthem. 



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