Today, 23 August 2019, Vabamu will be opening an exhibition dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way in a previously undiscovered 50-metre time corridor in Telliskivi Creative City. Based on the stories of ordinary people who took part, the exhibition employs a landscape of sound and memory to take visitors on a thought-provoking historical journey back to the day when almost two million people from three countries joined hands to express their yearning for freedom.
The exhibition is a moving experience showcasing the human chain that stretched, unbroken, for 600 km through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on 23 August 1989. It recalls both that historical day and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact entered into by the Soviet Union and Germany 80 years ago, in a secret additional protocol to which the two powers agreed on the division of Eastern Europe into spheres of influence. The exhibition is dedicated to all those who took part in the Baltic Way or followed the event from afar. It focuses on ordinary people and their stories of being part of the chain, lending slightly different shades of meaning to the event and the way it is remembered.
The exhibition is being opened in a previously undiscovered 50-metre-long time corridor in Telliskivi Creative City. “It’s as though time’s been thrown into reverse!” said exhibition artist Mae Kivilo when she first saw the exhibition space. “The corridor’s barely changed over the last three decades, which makes it the perfect backdrop to the images conjured up by the stories of the people were part of the chain, in terms of being true to its era.”
At the exhibition, those who took part in the event can recall the choices they made at the time and share with the museum their own stories of this key historical event. This chronological stroll into the past will also prove exciting for those who were unable to be part of the chain for one reason or another. The landscape of sound and memory presented is a particularly good way of informing youngsters who were not born at the time about the Baltic Way and gives them the chance to be part of this important period in Estonian history in their own way.
“The exhibition recalls the sense of togetherness that prevailed at the time, and not just between us Estonians, but between everyone in the Baltic States,” said Vabamu director Keiu Telve. “It was a moment in history from which we can learn a lot – acting in unison, wanting to stand and stick together and maintaining hope for the future. In preparing the exhibition it became clear that even at that time people had different ideas about the future and differing world views, but more important than all of that was a shared system of values and a belief in independence. Lennart Meri once said that everyone’s responsible for their country both collectively and individually. That’s how it should be today as much as it was 30 years ago.”
The Baltic Way was a peaceful, large-scale political protest organised by the nationalist movements of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and involving around two million people. The choice of date for the event (23 August 1989) was deliberate: it marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. With complete disregard for international law, a secret protocol appended to the pact divided up the Baltic States and Poland into regions of interest, and as a result of the agreement the Baltic States were occupied by the Soviet Union. The main aim of the unbroken human chain was to demonstrate to the world, through peaceful means, the three countries’ yearning for freedom and to draw attention to and demand the public recognition of the secret protocol from 50 years previously.
The temporary exhibition will open its doors to visitors at 19:00 on 23 August, 30 years to the hour since the Baltic Way took place, and will remain open until the end of November. It was devised and produced by Vabamu in cooperation with the Government Office, the organising committee of Estonia 100, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cultural Endowment of Estonia and the Embassy of the United States of America in Estonia and forms part of a series of events dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way. The visual and technical solutions for the exhibition were created in cooperation with Motor.
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Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom
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DIGITAL Estonian Life No. 3 - January 24, 2020
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