Speech by Česlovas Juršėnas, Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, at the solemn sitting to mark the 20th anniversary of the Lithuanian Liberation Movement Sąjūdis


3 June 2008


Your Excellency President of the Republic of Lithuania, Members of the Initiative Group of the Sąjūdis, Members of in the Liberation Movement, Signatories to the Act on the Restoration of the Independent State of Lithuania, Fellow Parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen! Dear friends!


We are in the historic hall today. It was here that on the 11th of March the second greatest miracle of the 20th century took place (the first on was on the 16th of February 1918) – our state, trampled on by the Stalinist Soviet Union in 1940, was re-established again.


We are here to mark a very outstanding and dear date, the 3rd of June 1988, when spontaneously but consistently the Initiative Group of the Lithuanian Reform Movement Sąjūdis, comprised of 35 distinguished scientists and artists, was set up. Its members were: Regimantas Adomaitis, Vytautas Bubnys, Juozas Bulavas, Antanas Buračas, Algimantas Čekuolis, Virgilijus Čepaitis, Vaclovas Daunoras, Sigitas Geda, Bronius Genzelis, Arvydas Juozaitis, Julius Juzeliūnas, Algirdas Kaušpėdas, Česlovas Kudaba, Bronius Kuzmickas, Vytautas Landsbergis, Bronius Leonavičius, Meilė Lukšienė, Alfonsas Maldonis, Justinas Marcinkevičius, Alvydas Medalinskas, Jokūbas Minkevičius, Algimantas Nasvytis, Romualdas Ozolas, Romas Pakalnis, Saulius Pečiulis, Vytautas Petkevičius, Kazimiera Prunskienė, Vytautas Radžvilas, Raimundas Rajeckas,  Artūras Skučas, Gintaras Songaila, Arvydas Šaltenis, Vitas Tomkus, Zigmas Vaišvila, and Arūnas Žebriūnas. We bow our heads also in tribute to those who accidentally are not on the list, who joined the Sąjūdis at a later date and became Signatories to the 11 March Act of Independence.


It is sad that we do not have some people with us, that Juozas Bulavas, Julius Juzeliūnas, Česlovas Kudaba, Alfonsas Maldonis, Jokūbas Minkevičius, Raimundas Rajeckas, and Kazimieras Antanavičius have already left us for the Better World. Let me ask you to observe a minute’s silence in their memory. (Minute of silence) Thank you.


Ladies and Gentlemen, the birth of the Initiative Group of the Sąjūdis was a sign to the nation that Gorbachev’s perestroika that was meant to repair the Soviet Empire a bit turned out to be a genuine opportunity to free from the Empire. This was not a publicly discussed matter of course, but it was considered and prepared for. 


The Initiative Group of the Sąjūdis was a lump of patriotic conscience, which resulted in the avalanche of the Lithuanian national activeness, referred to as Rebirth today. It was the wave that swept away all the occupational barriers and restored the independent, free and democratic Lithuania in less than two years.


The 3rd of June, however, was not built from scratch, it was built from many starts, painful, unsuccessful and hopeful, because during occupation and annexation years we cherished the natural and undying dream of every nation - we aspired to having our homeland on the world map. Those starts were the after-war armed resistance, the issues of the Lithuanian Catholic Church Chronicles, the Helsinki and other groups, the sacrifice made by Romas Kalanta and the public response by the Kaunas youth, the repercussions of the Hungarian revolution, the Polish Solidarność in Vilnius, various cultural, monument protection and regional folk study organizations such as “Talka”, “Santarvė”, “Žemyna”, and the Lithuanian Cultural Fund. On the eve of the Sąjūdis, the voice of the Lithuanian Freedom League and other illegal dissident groups was particularly loud at the rally by the monument to Adam Mickiewicz (Lith. Adomas Mickevičiaus) where the Ribentrop-Molotov Pact was openly condemned. The resolute call by the Lithuanian Freedom League to unite into an organisation and to start an open political activity was an encouragement for our academic, artistic and cultural community, previously characterized by individual actions and ideas, which made the birth of the Sąjūdis possible.   


The greatness of the Sąjūdis phenomenon lies in its organisational power, ability to bring the whole nation together irrespective of political beliefs, faith, and education. The aspired   independence united deportees, political prisoners, culture workers and communists for joint actions. Members of the Communist Party of Lithuania were members of the Initiative Group of the Sąjūdis. The Party, except for its non-Lithuanian fraction, chose nationalism rather than the so-called internationalism and class fight. The Lithuanian Communist Party, supported and encouraged by the Sąjūdis, started the destruction of the Communist Party of the empire, the Soviet Union. That is why there were no voices “against” the restoration of independence in this Hall on 11 March 1990. There were only a few who “abstained”.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel I must describe briefly the contributions made by the Sąjūdis, as well as by the Estonian and Latvian Popular Fronts into the “end of the cold war”. The Baltic Republics were at the forefront of those who wished to destroy the Soviet Empire. Before the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the “cold war”, fell on 9 November 1989, they had almost no international support thus were left face to face with Moscow. We may pride ourselves on the fact that the singing revolution of the Baltic countries was not inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall, quite on the contrary, the singing revolution planted a capsule of dynamite under the Berlin Wall, which accelerated the shaping of the new world order.


Ladies and Gentlemen, the two decades that have passed since the day when the Sąjūdis Initiative Group was set up can be considered to be an epoch. We have not only reinstated our name within the world community, we have become a member of the most prominent international organisations. Our flag flies at the entrances of European Union institutions and NATO headquarters. Our society has also changed; we have constructed sound foundations of democracy and respect for human rights. This does not mean to say we have no problems and no mistakes have been made particularly in the context of the globally ailing economy. However we can definitely say that and boast about the Sąjūdis tree and the national efforts give very rich harvest.  


Of course far from not all ideals, particularly value ideals have been achieved – there is still a shortage of justice. Yes, of course, it’s painful reality, but the wish to have them all achieved, maybe, was a utopia. Blame can easily be pinned on politicians, authorities. But has the society never sinned? Social exclusion and flourishing bureaucracy are the results of selfish interpretation of new democratic values when everybody wants to make use of freedoms while duty is sometimes forgotten. No laws or decrees can help implement moral provisions.    


On the other hand, others experience this as well. All Central Europeans hoped for more humanism and quick-to-come prosperity, which continues to remain as aspiration. Human and society laws are the same: the good, law-abiding, unfortunately don’t always win over the evil which is restricted by no laws and no moral standards.    


Ladies and Gentlemen, the Seimas declares 2008 the Year of the Sąjūdis. May this year inspire us to recall and honour the key figures of the Sąjūdis, may we make an assessment of what has and what has not been done. Let us not steer our energy towards search for the guilty or for arguments about who the wisest is and who loves Lithuania truly; let us develop the vision of Lithuania’s future and look for resources to promote it. Thank you.



 © Office of the Seimas, 2008