The Baltic Way was a unique demonstration at the Baltic, European and global level. Never before had the residents of three countries joined hands in a single chain to link the capital cities of the three nations – Vilnius, Rīga and Tallinn. The historical event occurred on the evening of August 23, 1989 and involved some two million people to recall events that had happened 50 years before – the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that allowed the two superpowers of the day, Germany and the USSR, to divide up spheres of influence in Europe before the new world war. The Baltic States lost their independence as a result of the pact.
The chain of demonstrators was some 600 km long, marking out the Baltic Way from Bauska to Rīga and then on to Sigulda, Cēsis, Valmiera and Rūjiena. The route was known and used in the 14th and 15th century, or even earlier. Testimony to this is given by the mighty castle hill at Mežotne and the ancient port alongside it. The Bauska Castle was an important fort during the age of Livonia and, later, one of the residencies of the dukes of Courland. Sigulda was well fortified on the banks of the Gauja River, with three stone castles nearby. It was also a health spa. Līgatne is important in industrial terms because of the paper factory that is there. Āraiši is another ancient trade crossroad with a lake castle, ancient church, castle ruins and a famous windmill. Cēsis is one of the historical diamonds of Vidzeme with its old town, the old and new castle, and the majestic views of the ancient Gauja River valley at the cliffs of Ērgļi. Valmiera boasts of his St Simon’s Church, the Dāliņš stadium, its own theatre and the youthfulness of its own university college. In Rūjiena, there is a monument to the Bugler of Tālava, which was carved by Kārlis Zemdega and installed in 1937 to commemorate the liberation of Rūjiena. The monument survived all of the years after the war. The engraving, “the bugler had to die, but the Latvians heard his call,” is very much in line with the Baltic Way on August 23, 1989.