RIGA - Latvia and most of Europe on Aug. 23 marked Remembrance Day for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, reports news agency LETA. Victims of the Stalinist regime in the former Soviet Union reached 20 million people; however, unlike the crimes committed by the Nazis, most crimes committed by the Soviet war criminals have been left unpunished.
Aug. 23 is also the 72nd anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Way.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is also known as the Hitler-Stalin, or the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and the official name of the pact is the ‘Treaty of Non-aggression between the Third German Reich and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.’ This pact was signed on Aug. 23, 1939 by then-Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. The agreement was in force until June 22, 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union.
Although the pact was officially a non-aggression agreement, the pact included three secret protocols, dividing Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania into German and Soviet spheres of influence.
According to the secret protocols, Finland, Estonia and Latvia were assigned to the Soviet sphere of interest. Poland, on the other hand, was cut in half and divided between Soviet and German spheres of influence. Lithuania would be in the German sphere of influence; however, a second secret protocol signed in September 1939 allocated the majority of Lithuania to the Soviet Union. However, a part of Romanian territory was also annexed by the Soviet Union.
On June 17, 1940, Soviet tanks occupied independent Latvia, carrying out its division of the sphere of influence mentioned in the pact, thus ending Latvia’s independence.
As an answer to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, on Aug. 23, 1989, more than one million people joined hands forming the Baltic Way - a human chain more than 600 kilometers long stretching from Tallinn to Vilnius, going through Riga and across the River Daugava. These three nations on the Baltic Sea joined their hands, jointly demanding public recognition of the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and calling for the renewal of the Baltic States’ independence.