Media was a form of power. If the communist party was able to control what a population read and heard, they hoped it could also influence what they thought and believed. This was partly was the press and media was strictly censored in Lithuania during the Soviet occupation. In response to these limitations on the freedom of speech, an underground press emerged in the 1960s. This press reminded people that there was once a different Lithuania - a free Lithuania before the Soviet invasion - and that this free Lithuania could exist again.
The underground press published books and articles that had been banned by the communist government. It also published articles that reported events and human rights abuses that were hidden or rewritten in Soviet press, like repressions against religious acts. While these publications were illegal in Lithuania, people were still able to learn about its content by secretly listening to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.
The underground press was not necessarily run by professionals but citizens who felt the desire and need to tell others of the abuses and persecution that were not reported otherwise. Some of these publications were reproduced by members of the diaspora community, and were also used to show outside governments of Western Europe and the United States that: (1) the Soviet Union was violating human rights in Lithuania, and (2) Lithuania wanted to be free again.
While this underground press helps to show how some of the secret media worked, we can also see the public resistance of media in the national TV and radio building. This is the site that witnessed the events January 13, 1991. Soviet military tanks started to roll towards the tower and hundreds of Lithuanians came to stand in defense, to blockade the storming of the Lithuanian Radio and Television building. This night 14 unarmed civilians were killed and 700 were injured. Mrs. Egle Bucelyte was the journalist in the TV tower this night who courageously died the attacking Soviet soldier by risking her own life to stay on the air and report the unraveling events to the Lithuanian people and world. Please listen to our video interview with Ms. Bucelyte, as well as interviews with other journalists and citizens as they remember this night and time period.
Egle Bucelyte, news broadcaster
The decision of the Lithuanian people to fight for freedom, democracy, and independence from Soviet control was a blow to communist influence in Europe. In January 1991, as the Soviet bloc was crumbling, Russian soldiers attempted to stop the Lithuanian fight for democracy. The soldiers attacked the main television studio and broadcast tower in the city of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. That event is now celebrated as a national holiday. One broadcaster, Egle Bucelyte, courageously defied the attacking Russian soldiers by risking her own life to stay on the air and report the day's events to the Lithuanian people.