January events in Vilnius

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After Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on August 23, 1939, Lithuania was added to the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. In 1940, the Red Army entered Lithuania. In June, the Independent Lithuanian Republic was liquidated and the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic was established, which became the part of the Soviet Union.

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Lithuanian Parliament – Seimas

This state of affairs persisted until the ultimate decades of XX century. However, in early 80th, Soviet economics was in very difficult situation caused by the fall of oil prices and protracted war in Afghanistan. The new general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev, attempted to revive the economy of the Soviet Union and introduced reforms in economics and in public life, which were called “Perestroika (Restructuring)”. Communist Party was the only political party allowed to participate in all elections, which took place in the Soviet Union before that. In the 1990, the first democratic elections took place in Lithuania and all political organizations were allowed to participate. The people overwhelmingly voted for the candidates endorsed by Sąjūdis, the Reform Movement with the officially stated goal of Independence.

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During the First Republic’s parliamentary assembly on March 11, 1990, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania formally declared the re-establishment of the State Independence of Lithuania. Communist authorities called the Act of Independence illegal and the USSR demanded its revocation. In the short run, the Soviet Union began applying sanctions against Lithuania including an economic blockade. All were confident that if this did not work the next step would be military actions.

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First Lithuanian parliamentary assembly on March 11

On January 8–9 in 1991, several special Soviet military units were flown to Lithuania. The official explanation was that this was needed to ensure constitutional order and the effectiveness of the laws of the Lithuanian SSR and the Soviet Union. On January 10, Gorbachev addressed the Supreme Council, demanding restoration of the constitution of the USSR in Lithuania and the revocation of all anti-constitutional laws. The military started to seize important administration buildings.

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Soviet tanks in Vilnius during January events

On the night from 12 to 13 January column of military vehicles left the military base in Vilnius and headed toward the TV tower. Simultaneously, a few thousands of people gathered around the building and tried to prevent seizure. The army was ordered to storm TV tower. During the assault thirteen civilian were killed and hundreds of people were injured.

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Vilnius TV tower

Following this attack, many thousands of independence supporters gathered around the Supreme Council building. People started building anti-tank barricades and setting up defenses inside surrounding buildings. Due to this, columns of military technics moving to the Supreme Council, retreated instead of attacking.

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People defending the Parliament on January 13

Following the first news reports from Lithuania, the government of Norway appealed to the United Nations. Strong Western reaction and condemnation of the attacks by the Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and other parliaments inside the Soviet Union, forced the government of the Soviet Union to stop military actions. Within a year, the Independence of the Republic of Lithuania was recognized by the European countries, Russia, USA, China and other states.

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Part of the barricades near the Lithuanian Parliament remains as a Monument

After these tragic events, the memorial near the TV tower was built in memory of the victims. Also, part of the barricades near the Lithuanian Parliament remains as a Monument until nowadays.

Source: http://www.wikipedia.org

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