Lithuania in the News
16th January 2011
The Heroic Events of Twenty Years Ago Commemorated in Lithuania
Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitë and Latvia’s President
Valdis Zatlers pay their respects at the Antakalnis Cemetary.
Photo courtesy
Twenty years ago, during the night of January 12 -13, 1991, unarmed Lithuanian civilians, with amazing bravery and daring, withstood the onslaught of Russian tanks in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius. This was an attempt by Russia to bring down the Lithuanian government, a year after Lithuania had declared the reestablishment of its independence, and bring Lithuania back into the Soviet fold.
When Russian troops advanced in Vilnius on to the TV Tower, the TV and Radio Centre and Lithuania’s Parliament House, fourteen people were killed and many hundreds wounded. But the attack ultimately failed, as the Russians had seriously underestimated the determination and incredible bravery of thousands of unarmed defenders, who were prepared to confront tanks and machine guns. The TV Tower and the TV and Radio Centre were occupied, but the Parliament House remained in Lithuanian hands. The events in Vilnius that night, when Lithuanians successfully stood up to the might of the Soviet Union, ensured Lithuania’s independence and made the eventual implosion of the Soviet Union inevitable.
Crushed by a tank, January 13 1991.
Photo by Virgilijus Usanavičius
News of the Russian attack reverberated around the world and the attack was widely condemned. On January 13 this year, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Aţubalis made his inaugural address as the new OSCE Chairperson to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna. Referring to the events of twenty years ago, Aţubalis said: “Our courage was met with solidarity across the OSCE area. Lithuania was backed by peaceful rallies in Kyiv, Warsaw, Moscow, Washington and Stockholm, by civil society and governments of most OSCE participating States.” Aţubalis also invited those gathered to honour the memory of the victims with a minute of silence. OSCE is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which encompasses 56 countries, the Chairmanship of which Lithuania took up in 2011.
To celebrate Lithuania’s taking up of the OSCE chairmanship, there was a concert in Vienna’s Hofburg Palace on January 12 by the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra. The program began with the “Dzukian Variations” by the Lithuanian composer Bronius Kutavičius, in memory of the victims of twenty years ago. (“Dzukija” is a region in southern Lithuania) The concert was very warmly received by a distinguished audience of 800 people.
In Lithuania the January 13 anniversary was widely remembered with ceremonies at all significant locations in Vilnius and in many places all over the country. Candles were lit in windows to remember the victims. Distinguished visitors from many countries were welcomed. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI sent a message of solidarity with the Lithuanian nation. Many other messages of support from abroad were received.

Further information:
January Events - Lithuania
Sausio 13 12-13/01/11

Lithuania Breaks Away
Soviet troops vs unarmed Lithuanian civilians, Vilnius 1991