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Vintage car rally marks Baltics human chain anniversary


Agence France-Presse

Vilnius, Lithuania   /  Mon, August 19, 2019  /  09:02 pm
Vintage car rally marks Baltics human chain anniversary

Participants of the 'Baltic Way 30' depart the antique cars' event at the Cathedral Square in Vilnius, Lithuania, on August 18, 2019. (AFP/Petras Malukas)

Hundreds of vintage cars set out across the Baltic states Sunday to mark the 30th anniversary of a human chain of more than a million people demanding independence from the Soviet Union. 

Decorated with Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian national flags, some 200 cars began their  journey from the central square in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to the cheers of onlookers. 

A number of concerts are scheduled en route before the convoy reaches the Estonian capital Tallinn on Tuesday.

The 675-kilometer human chain, known as the Baltic Way, linked Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn on August 23, 1989 to mark the 50th anniversary of the infamous Nazi-Soviet pact that carved up eastern Europe and led to the Baltic states' occupation by the Soviet Union.

The vintage cars taking part represent both eras, from Mercedes-Benz and Lincolns of the 1930s to Soviet-era Volgas and Ladas of the 1980s.

One of  the largest demonstrations in the Soviet Union, the Baltic Way was a "life changer" for many of the six million people living in the three countries, said parade participant Raimundas Skridulas.

Read also: Five things to know about Latvia

"We were at the Baltic Way near Panevezys in northern Lithuania. It means everything, it changed our life for the better," the 60-year-old told AFP, sitting in a 1972 Mercedes. 

Six months after the protest, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence.

The three countries won international recognition in 1991 before joining the EU and NATO in 2004.

Organiser Egidijus Einoris said it was the first joint event of this scale for vintage car enthusiasts in the three states. 

"All Baltic people were united 30 years ago and we have managed to repeat that," he told AFP.

"It is hard to describe the feelings in 1989. It was a huge feeling of national pride. I feel nostalgic when I look back at the pictures," he added.

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