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23 Aug: Baltics link hands

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A million-strong human chain links restive Baltic states

EUROPE'S REVOLUTION TIMELINE

More than two million people in the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia linked hands on 23 August to form a nearly unbroken 400-mile-long human chain in protest at Soviet rule.

The demand for restoration of independent statehood came on the 50th anniversary of the Soviet-Nazi non-aggression pact, which included secret protocols to annex the Baltic states to the USSR.

Some protesters carried banners reading "Soviet occupation army go home!" or pictures of the Nazi swastika and Soviet hammer and sickle side by side.

A day before the protest, a Lithuanian parliamentary commission declared that Moscow's annexation in 1940 was invalid, the first official body to do so.

Both developments marked the growing clamour within the Baltic states for greater freedom from the Soviet Union.

Grassroots nationalist organisations emerged in all three Baltic states during 1988 as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ushered in greater economic and political freedom.

The Popular Fronts in Estonia and Latvia, together with the Lithuanian Sajudis movement began openly calling for independence and quickly gained mass support.

Growing anti-Russian feeling was also on the rise, worrying those who had settled in the Baltic states from other parts of the Soviet Union.



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