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Conference this week marks historic Baltic event

By Andra Kunstberga. 20.08.2014

Baltic Way coin
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Two-day conference starts in Riga marking 25th anniversary of momentous event in Baltic history

A two-day international conference will start in Riga tomorrow, marking the 25th anniversary of a momentous event in recent Baltic history.

The conference, entitled “25 Years after the Baltic Way and the Collapse of Totalitarian Communism: European Memory and Political Inspiration,” will be held to mark the quarter-century anniversary of the Baltic Way, a unique and powerful peaceful protest in which 2 million people across the three Baltic states stood hand-in-hand in a human chain spanning 600km.

The event is being organized by the Latvian Academy of Sciences and the Riga 2014 Foundation, in collaboration with the Latvian Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The Baltic Way affirmed the unity of the Baltic countries and expressed their yearning for freedom on what was itself an anniversary – of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that secretly divided Europe between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.

The Baltic Way was a milestone on the path to regaining independence in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and drew the world’s attention to the region as the totalitarian Soviet regime began to fragment.

Today, the conference’s organizers said in a statement, it is not only a historical symbol but a source of inspiration for those nations in Europe and elsewhere that are still fighting for freedom from undemocratic influences or totalitarian regimes.

The aim of the conference, according to the organizers, is “to consider the fall of totalitarian communism in its historical and current geopolitical context. Panel discussions and presentations will address achievements in the post-Soviet bloc over the last 20 years, as well as leftovers and influences of the era.”

The conference will be opened by Dainis Ivans, the first chairman of the Latvian Popular Front, followed by current Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma, Norbert Lammert, MP and president of the German Bundestag, and Refat Chubarov, chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, the highest executive representative body of the Crimean Tatars.

Participants will include former Latvian president Vaira Vike Freiberga; Marju Lauristin, MEP and founder of the Estonian Popular Front; Pawel Kowal, MEP and chairman of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee in the European Parliament; Leszek Balcerowicz, former deputy prime minister of Poland; Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete; Göran Lindblad, president of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience; Egils Levits from the European Court of Justice; Mustafa Dzhemilev, former chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, and others.

[pictured: Latvijas Banka "Baltic Way" commemorative coin]

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