Independence Day: Feb 16
Independence Day is a public holiday in Lithuania.
Lithuania celebrates its independence yearly every 16th of February. Lithuania is a legitimate member of the United Nations and The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (2004). Although the country originally declared independence from foreign rule on 1918, the result of World Wars crippled the country’s security infrastructure. It later succumbed to invasion but later re-emerged as an independent nation from its last occupier, the Soviet Union, in 1990.
History of Lithuania’s Independence Day
Lithuania used to form a powerful alliance with Poland from 14th to 16th century. The marriage between the two countries was brought about by the actual marriage of King Ladislaus II with a Polish ruler in 1386. The powerful military combination (Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth) sealed the two countries from external attacks by barbaric forces and other European empires. In fact, in 1410 under a united military attack, Lithuania and Poland defeated the German Catholic Religious Order called Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg).
The more than 200 years of confederation between Lithuania and Poland ended in 1569.The two countries came under foreign control. Russian Empire, Habsburg Austria, and Kingdom of Prussia divided Poland and Lithuania in 1772 to 1795 where the Russian Empire covered much of Lithuania’s territory during the partition.
Lithuania attempted to re-establish itself as a sovereign state after World War I when the Lithuania’s Act of Independence (Act of February 16) was signed on February 16, 1918. However, the start of the Second World War did not shield Lithuania from occupation, and in 1940 Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union and then Germany under the Nazi rule.
Lithuania is one of the countries in Europe with high concentration of Jews during the Second World War. It is estimated that there were more than 200,000 Jews killed during the German Nazi rule. When The Nazi’s were defeated, the Soviet Union reoccupied the war-torn Lithuania.
The start of the call for Lithuania’s independence started on 1988. The non-communist Sajudis party leader Vytautas Landsbergis headed the independence movement in 1990. Landsbergis gained the sympathy of the people and encouraged the Supreme Council to reject the Soviet administration in the country. The SU rule was not keen on releasing Lithuania, and as a result it imposed economic sanctions over the country. It, however, did not keep the Liths from continuing their call for complete independence. Lithuania finally gained its independence from the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990. It’s the first constituent republic in Soviet Union that declared its independence within SU’s sphere of influence.
Lithuania’s Independence Day: Traditions, Customs and Activities
Major cities in Lithuania celebrate Independence Day with parades, public speeches and festivities and other exciting state-supported entertainment. Public shows are held including opera and ballet houses (Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater) in Vilnius, the countries capital. Cathedral Square also hosts concert where the public can watch for free.
Governments from the three major Baltic states raise the Lithuanian flag as a sign of commemoration to the brave effort of Lithuanian officials whose effort made way for Lithuanian independence.