Maidan and Sąjūdis: United by History

We forget them not. On the day of January 13th people of Lithuania remember fourteen souls who that night in 1991 gave lives in defense against soviet tanks at the Tower in Vilnius. January 13th is a day to be with those who fought for Lithuania’s freedom and, especially, with the ones who are no longer with us.

25 years ago Lithuania had its Maidan in Vingio Parkas of a capital Vilnius, which was organised by Sąjūdis – a Lithuanian Reform Movement. Today Ukraine has its Sąjūdis in Maidan of a capital Kiev to embark a country on a path of democracy, modernisation and growth.

A quarter of a century ago Lithuania’s way to the independence has been initiated by active civil society, which took every opportunity to position itself independently and in organised way on all possible issues of social life – be it cultural heritage, sport or environmental concerns. Throughout 1987 and 1988, any similar initiative has been scrutinised by public authorities trying hard to block any action which could have political grounds or aim at a wider organised network.

This did not last long. An initiative group of Sąjūdis was established on 3 June 1988. This group included 35 Lithuanian public personalities, mainly in circles of culture and science, who made possible the foundation of Sąjūdis on 22 October 1988. The founding congress of Sąjūdis included 1027 delegates from all regions. They represented around 1000 interest groups and involved around 180 thousand people all across of Lithuania.

Similarly, a nationwide all-Ukraine Maidan movement was initialled in December 2013. Main opposition parties together with NGOs have agreed to create People‘s Union of the Maidan all across the Ukraine – from its west to the east. The conference of Maidan representatives has established an initiative group of 38 personalities of cultural, social or NGO background from 17 Euromaidan regions. This initiative included also representatives from main opposition parties in Ukraine – nationalist political party Svoboda, Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc Batkivshchyna and the Democratic Alliance for Reform.

The group set to initiate a network of Maidan movement across all regions of Ukraine. The first Maidan forum was a priority event organised for this purpose at the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Kharkiv on the weekend of 11-12 January 2014. A forum of 200 representatives was set to define Maidan strategy and to structure its co-ordination in the regions. The declaration will be announced in 13 January 2014, and will list, among others, the demands for securing the safety of Maidan activists as well as will set the guidelines on coordination of activities, on public information and organisational measures.

It was the case 25 years ago, when the founding Congress of Sąjūdis centralised the co-ordination and set to establish its secretariat. The Congress of Sąjūdis adopted its programme, rules of procedure, formalised a relationship with local networks and groups to confront and oppose local offices of then ruling communist party.

Same goes on with political agenda. In December 2013 the Maidan movement in Kiev made a set of political demands for a release of arrested protesters, resignation of entire Government including its Interior Minister, early parliamentary elections or the adoption of a new constitution and amendments to the electoral law.

25 years ago, the agenda of Sąjūdis has been constantly developing from cultural, social or economic towards setting clear political objectives. Finally, at the end of 1988, Sąjūdis has made it undoubtedly clear that an ultimate objective of his actions is the restoration of independent Lithuania. And this was achieved a year later by newly elected Parliament on 11 March 1990.

After the first Maidan forum the preparations now are set to February 2015 Presidential elections in Ukraine. Huge challenges remain to Maidan today as were to Sąjūdis in 1988 – 1992, including that night at the Tower. Continuous harassment and intimidation of opposition activists, tensions among the opposition parties, divide in public society, lack of competitiveness in industry, its reliance on cheap imports, or social costs of modernisation are only few to name.

Photo: Wikipedia

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