11 March: Day of Restoration of Independence of Lithuania
On 11 March 1990, the Act on the Re-establishment of the Independent State of Lithuania adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania stipulated that the execution of the sovereign powers of the State of Lithuania, abolished by foreign forces in 1940, is re-established, and henceforth Lithuania is again an independent state. This Act is a crucial document for Lithuania, which opened a new page in its history after the fifty-year long occupation and annexation by the soviet powers, as well as the efforts of the nation to preserve the spirit of freedom.
Lithuania’s people demonstrated their aspiration and determination to live in an independent Lithuania by their struggle for freedom, dissident activities, underground press, first anti-soviet demonstrations which evolved into the rallies of the Reform Movement Sąjūdis, attended by thousands, who chanted Lithuania and freedom, and into the unprecedented miracle of the Baltic Way, as well as 11 March 1990. The wings of freedom embraced Lithuania and called people to stand up and overcome the feeling of fear. Truth and publicity were the most powerful weapons against the soviet empire.
11 March 1990 was the day of critical decisions. The Supreme Council adopted the legal acts to change the name of the state and the names of its supreme state institutions and approved the national coat of arms Vytis. At 6.08 p.m. the coat of arms of the Lithuanian SSR was covered and the three-colour national flag was hoisted in the Plenary Chamber. The deliberation on the Act on the Re-establishment of the Independent State of Lithuania and the accompanying documents commenced. The Drafting Committee completed its work at 9.00 p.m. At 10.39 p.m. Vytautas Landsbergis, Chairman of the Supreme Council, announced the results of the roll-call vote on the Act on the Re-establishment of the Independent State of Lithuania– 124 votes in favour with 6 abstentions. At 10.44 p.m. Lithuania became a free state after the fifty-year period of occupation. Members of the Supreme Council and guests chanted in the Plenary Chamber, Lithuania is free! Latvia will be free! Estonia will be free! Near the building of the Supreme Council people cheered and congratulated each other. The media hurried to report the news to the world. At the end of the sitting, the Supreme Council appealed to the nations of the world and the USSR, and Lithuania’s ethnic communities and informed the public about the restoration of the Lithuanian State. It also asked for solidarity and support for Lithuania to return to the family of free nations.
Lithuanian people’s response to the aggression of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin’s demand to abolish the decisions of 11 March 1990, the imposed economic blockade, and demonstration of the soviet military power was rallies in support of Lithuania’s independence, attended by thousands, as well as manifestations and telegrams to USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev. The wave of rallies spread all over Lithuania. It was the best response to Gorbachev’s Appeal to the People of the Lithuanian SSR.
It was not only Lithuania’s people that gathered by thousands in rallies. Solidarity rallies were held across the Soviet Union and in western democratic countries that supported the independence of Lithuania. The Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in the Cathedral Square on 29 April 1990. As a sign of solidarity the symphony was also performed in Latvia, Moldova, and the USA on the same day.
The Supreme Council that operated in the period of 1990-1992 has been referred to as the Supreme Council – Reconstituent Seimas since 28 November 1996.
Compiled by the Office of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, Unit for Historical Memory of Parliamentarianism