At today’s wreath-laying ceremony at the Lithuanian Parliament, the United States joined Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Baltic States’ re-establishment of their independence from the Soviet Union, and honored the brave men and women who sacrificed for their countries' freedom.
In January 1991, thousands of ordinary Lithuanian citizens surrounded the Lithuanian Parliament for weeks to protect those inside as the nation worked to secure its freedom. Fourteen Lithuanians lost their lives defending the institutions of their fledgling democracy. Latvians and Estonians banded together to repel efforts by the Soviet Union to reestablish power in their countries. Today, we look back on this event as the first step in the collapse of the Soviet Union and a seminal moment in the restoration of freedom and democratic values throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
Today, as the United States commemorates the reestablishment of Baltic independence after years of Soviet occupation, we also celebrate the tremendous transformation that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have made over the past twenty years. As NATO allies and European Union members, the Baltic countries have become strong, effective partners committed to democratic principles and values.