Address by H.E. Mrs. Solvita Āboltiņa, Speaker of the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia, at the “Bonfire of Freedom” ceremony Vilnius, next to the building of the Lithuanian National Radio and Television


Honourable Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania,

Freedom defenders of 1991,

People of Lithuania,

“But it was Sunday! Killers always work on Sundays when leaders of states are at rest, asleep; when there is no communication; when there is no response from the media.” Vytautas Landsbergis uses these dreadful words to describe the events which took place in Vilnius on 13 January 1991.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be together with you tonight at the commemoration of the Barricades of 1991 in Lithuania. We still remember the events which 20 years ago changed the course of history of the Baltic States and, probably, to a great extent, of the entire world. The Baltic States were not merely a part in the fall of the Iron Curtain; they were one of the driving forces of these global changes.

In January 1991, Lithuania, together with Latvia and Estonia, attracted global attention. Back then, no one could forecast in what way and how fast the Soviet empire would collapse. But we, here in the Baltic States, already knew that change was inevitable. We also knew that aspirations for freedom had previously been ruthlessly oppressed by the Soviet regime. Our hopes could have been trampled in mud by the same boots that had been worn in 1956 in Hungary and in 1968 in Prague. The people of Lithuania felt it at the moment when OMON troops were storming the building of the Lithuanian television during the live broadcast. People of all Baltic States felt it when tanks were smashing live human beings with their caterpillar tracks  next to the Lithuanian Television tower in Vilnius.

Although the way which the Baltic States took to regain their independence is referred to as the singing and non-violent revolution, we have to remember the names of those who perished during these days.

Our Barricades and our bonfires did not mean that we were afraid of being attacked. To a large extent they were a symbol and a challenge, they were a sign that nations humiliated by the years of occupation ceased to be afraid. Barricades as such have never been an offensive, their aim has always been to stop an armed predominant power from entering, they have always conveyed the message that “This is where we stand, and we will not retreat a single step away from our righteousness!” The people who join barricades are the ones who want to protect their city, homes and streets. They are the ones who join their efforts to protect their country.

Dear audience,

People of Lithuania,

We know what freedom is. We know what justice is. We also know the meaning of constraints, injustice, oppression and aggression. There is a saying: nations that fail to remember their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. One may add that when a nation forgets its heroic deeds and strength, it can irreversibly lose its heroic spirit and strength. This is the reason why I call on you to remember the events that took place on the Barricades – the heroic spirit, strength and faith we demonstrated in the past will also help us in facing our future challenges.

May every hour of these days remind us of the dearest we have – our own state and freedom. May the bonfire of freedom glow in your hearts forever!

May free and flourishing Lithuania, Latvia, and the Baltic States be there forever!


12 January 2011

Sestdien, 21.maijā