It all started in 1987, Estonians began mass protests in the capital city of Tallinn against the Russian occupation of their country.
One of the protests included gathering of 10,000 people in the Tallinn Song Festival where they sang a plethora of ethnic and nationalistic songs which had been forbidden by the Soviet Union. The Tallinn Song Festival can hold approximately the population of current day Estonia which is 1.3 million people.
Meanwhile in Latvia and Lithuania were engaging in similar types of protests. However, nothing could amount to the protest being planed for the 23rd of August 1989.
On August 23rd 1989 2 million individuals gathered from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius , stretching over 600 km, joined together hand by hand to make a statement against the Soviet Union through the art of song. The day marked the 50th anniversary in which Stalin and Hitler decided to divide up Europe, isolating the Baltics from the rest of the world.
The events which followed however were not so peaceful. On January11th, 1991 Soviet troops opened fire on a crowd in Vilnius killing 14 individuals as a result of engaging in civil disobediences. In Riga 5 individuals were killed only 5 days later in similar circumstances. Gorbachev quickly realized that he did not have the means neither the drive to continue with such assaults. In the Autumn of 1991 after years of political repression the Baltic states were freed.
However even today there are still tensions between these countries and Russia. If you want to learn a little bit more check out my blog about the Estonian Education system.