The anniversary of the Baltic Way human chain was marked in the Baltic states on Monday. But the organizers of the demonstrations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were linked to anti-vaccination and anti-coronavirus restriction protests.
To mark the event's 32nd anniversary, a protest was held in Tallinn in the daytime and a car ride was organized in the evening which tied in with events in Latvia and Lithuania.
The organizer's website said: "Once more, we are being deliberately divided, and once more our freedom is again in jeopardy."
"No matter what you think about the current events – whether you believe we have a medical emergency or that the Covid situation is manufactured for the use of oppressive politics and the deliberate curtailment of our liberties by the controlling powers. Vaccinated or not, it does not matter, we are one people, and we all share our beloved Baltic lands."
Marju Lauristin, a member of the People's Front which played a leading role in Estonia's independence movement, told news portal Delfi she did not support the event calling it the "anti-Baltic chain".
"The slogan of the Baltic chain was 'Freedom', but there is a limit to any democratic freedom - it ends where another person's freedom begins to be harassed. Without it, democracy is not possible. But those who want the freedom to infect others - if such people make the Baltic chain - then it is not the Baltic chain," she said.
Latvian People's Front and a prominent figure in independence fights, Dainis Ivans, told Latvian Television August 24 morning that he was outraged.
"It's stealing an idea. Quite a disgusting thing. Apparently these leaders... they are not leaders - anti-leaders, who have no ideas for their mercantilist political interests, they are stealing these ideas from somewhere in the past... And it must not be used for any vile purpose," Latvia's national broadcaster LSM quoted Ivans as saying. LSM reported the turnout was much smaller than claimed by organizers.
ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported that it saw no anti-vaccine sentiment or placards at the car drive and 100-meter-long human chain on Viljandi Road in Tallinn on Monday evening. Police monitored the demonstrations as neither had been officially registered.
Anti-vaccination posters were seen at the protest on Freedom Square on Monday afternoon, Delfi reported. The portal also saw anti-vaccination posters during the demonstration in the evening.
"I don't like the fact that they want to divide Estonia in two, to divide people - who have received a vaccination and who have not received a vaccination," one of the participants told Delfi. "I'm not against the vaccine."
What was the Baltic Way?
On August 23, 1989, approximately two million people formed a human chain spanning Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - over 600 km - to demand an end to the Soviet occupation. The event has become known as the Baltic Way or Baltic Chain (Balti kett).
The biggest achievement of the protest campaign was getting the USSR to admit to past crimes. The USSR acknowledged the existence of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and declared it invalid. It was one of the most important steps towards the renewal of independence in the Baltics.
Lithuanian broadcaster LRT published an interview with photographer Romualdas Požerskis who was there on the day.
Editor: Helen Wright