Today we live in a free Lithuania, a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the Eurozone. We see Lithuania as a small Baltic country with a population of about 3 million, but its rich history dates back to thousands and thousands years ago.
The first written records trace back to 1009 AD. In the 13th century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a strong, independent and powerful warrior state, so that by the 15th century it became the largest European state. The Grand Duchy later united with Poland, establishing the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that stood until the Partitions of Poland in the 18th century.
Lithuania was absorbed into the Russian empire where it remained under its rule until February 16, 1918, which marks Lithuania's retrieval of sovereignty and re-eestablishment as a democratic state. Lithuania was then occupied again, by the Soviet Union in 1940 for about 50 years until Lithuania’s successful drive to independence, which was led by Sajudis – a group of 35 intellectuals who organized the reform movement.
This brings us to Lithuania's modern history that took place right here, where we stand today, in Lithuania's Parliament.
On March 11, 1990, members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania sat down, one by one at this table, took a pen in hand, and signed the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania, which we see here. The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic declared its independence from the USSR.
Hearing or reading about this history, and looking at these signatures, it can be hard to imagine and understand the social and political events which returned freedom to Lithuania. But behind each signature lies a story – a story written with hope, resilience, and courage. Listen to the stories of the people who were a part of this incredible moment in Lithuanian history, in their own words.
Valdas Adamkus, Former President of Lithuania
Former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus talks about Lithuania during and after the Soviet occupation and his experiences in America and as President.
More interviews coming soon!
Alfonas Eidintas First Lithuanian Ambassador to the US after the re-establishment of independence discusses the challenges Lithuania faced in its transition to a democratic state.
Julius Pranevicius Lithuanian Consul General in New York City
Former Head of the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas, leader of Sajudis, and chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania discusses Lithuania's drive to independence.
Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States
Lithuanian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; former Ambassador to the State of Israel and French Republic; former non resident Ambassador to the Tunisian Republic, Republic of South Africa, among others