Mr. Speaker, ten years ago with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania threw off the yoke of Soviet domination and regained their independence. Between World War I and World War II, they had been sovereign nations and respected members of the international community. In 1939, however, they were illegally partitioned between Hitler and Stalin as part of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement. Based on this agreement, Hitler gave Stalin the green light to seize the Baltic states.
I am proud to state that the illegal incorporation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into the Soviet Union was never recognized by the United States Government. Stalin’s NKVD killed or exiled thousands of Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians who resisted the takeover and subjugation. If not murdered outright, tens of thousands of Baltic citizens were rounded up and loaded into railroad cars to be shipped to distant regions of the Soviet Union. The current president of Estonia, for instance, grew up in Siberia. The President of Latvia, whom I recently had the pleasure of meeting, grew up in a refugee camp in Germany where her family had fled from the Soviet incursion. Almost 300,000 Lithuanians were deported to Siberia in the 1940s and 1950s.
Those Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians who remained in their homelands saw their native languages and cultures denigrated in favor of Soviet “culture” and linguistic “Russification.” Among the political prisoners in the post-Stalin GULAG, the Balts were well represented. We still remember the names of Baltic political prisoners such as Mart Niklus, Gunars Astra, and Nijole Sadunaite, and many others willing to sacrifice their freedom and, in some cases, give their lives to resist Soviet oppression of their homelands. But the Soviet system was doomed and the people of the Baltic nations knew it. “Glasnost” and “perestroika” gave them the opportunity to resolutely, but peacefully, work to regain their independence.
In August 1989, on the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, about one million Balts created a human chain the “Baltic Way” stretching about 400 miles from Estonia, through Latvia, to Lithuania to protest Soviet rule over their nations. Two years later, after a bloody but ultimately fruitless attempt by Moscow to regain armed control over its unruly subjects, the people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania had regained the independence they had dreamed of for so long. And now, ten years after that momentous event, the Baltic nations are again sovereign nations, respected members of the international community. Their David-and-Goliath struggle is an inspiration to enslaved peoples everywhere.
Today, Mr. Speaker, I am joined by Mr. HOYER, Mr. PITTS, Mr. CARDIN, Mr. WAMP, and Mr. HASTINGS of Florida, in submitting a resolution which congratulates the people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on the tenth anniversary of the restoration of their full independence. This resolution also calls upon the United States Government to continue the close and mutually beneficial relations with these countries that have existed since the restoration of full independence. I hope my colleagues will join us in supporting this resolution.