The republics are each about the size of Ireland and combined comprise 175,000sq.km compared to Ireland-the-island's 84,000sq.km. The population in "Baltica" is about 6.2m now (compared to 6.4m on I-t-i). So my Irish readers will easily imagine just how difficult it was to achieve the happening I am about to describe.
On 23 August 1939, the foreign ministers of Soviet Russia and NSDP Germany, Molotov and Ribbentrop, signed a pact that divvied up Eastern Europe between their two empires. Exactly 50 years later in 1989 as the Soviet empire started to heave and shake and rumble, the local independence movements created the Baltic Way - a human chain of people holding hands from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius and all 600km in between. On dit que 2 million people were actually holding hands at 7pm that night as a powerful gesture of solidarity. 600km is 600,000m so either there were kinks (or very small children) in the line or there was no need to stretch out your hand because everyone was standing shoulder-to-shoulder (mine are 50cm wide) or there weren't 2 million adult people taking part. But that is definitely in the right order of magnitude and even if only 1 million Balts took a day off work to participate that is a hugely impressive logistical achievement. The Baltic SSRs collapsed the following year and were reborn as independent republics.
When I say that we in Ireland can imagine how difficult it would be to herd 2 million Kilkenny cats into an unbroken line, I rather understate the case. Because to the logistical difficulties you have to add the fact that the SSRs in 1989 were police-states. For example, 75 people were arrested and banged up in chokey for trying to hold a sympathy event in Moscow that day.
Here's another arresting fact. When the protests were held there were far more people people living in the Baltic SSRs than there are today:
|Area||Pop 1989||Pop 2011|