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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Baltic Nationalities

In the 1980s, the most extensive movements among the Soviet nationalities, in terms of both participation and far-reaching demands, took place in the Baltic republics. In 1986 peaceful demonstrations began in Riga, the capital of the Latvian Republic, and from there quickly spread to the other two republics. Originally, the demonstrations were held to denounce Stalin's crimes and to demand that the Soviet government reveal the truth about the forced annexation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union in 1940. In the late 1980s, public demonstrations of 100,000 people or more occurred in all three republics. The republics' parliaments declared their native languages as official and replaced the republics' flags with their pre-1940 national flags. All demanded sovereignty in managing their political and economic affairs, formed quasi-political popular fronts, and replaced their respective CPSU first secretaries with less conservative and more nationalistic party leaders. The Soviet regime made concessions to the Catholic Church in the Lithuanian Republic, permitting the pope to elevate one of the bishops to cardinal. Churches were reopened for worship in all three republics, and a more tolerant attitude toward religion was generally accepted.

Data as of May 1989