The supporters of Sąjūdis joined movement’s groups all over Lithuania. On 23 August 1988 a big rally took place at the Vingis Park in Vilnius. It was attended by approx. 250,000 people. A year later, on 23 August 1989 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and aiming to draw the attention of the whole world to the occupation of the Baltic states, a political demonstration, the Baltic Way, was organized. The event, led by Sąjūdis, was a human chain spanning 600 kilometres (370 mi) across Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn, indicating the desire of the people of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to break away from the Soviet Union.
On 11 March 1990, the Supreme Council announced the restoration of Lithuania’s independence. Lithuania became the first Soviet occupied state to announce restitution of independence. On 20 April 1990, the Soviets imposed an economic blockade by ceasing to deliver supplies of raw materials (primarily oil) to Lithuania. Not only the domestic industry, but also the population started feeling the lack of fuel, essential goods, and even hot water. Although the blockade lasted for 74 days, Lithuania did not renounce the declaration of independence.
Gradually, economic relations had been restored. However, tensions had peaked again in January 1991. At that time, attempts were made to carry out a coup using the Soviet Armed Forces, the Internal Army of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the USSR Committee for State Security (KGB). Because of the poor economic situation in Lithuania, the forces in Moscow thought the coup d’état would receive strong public support.
People from all over Lithuania flooded to Vilnius to defend their legitimately elected Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania and independence. The coup ended with a few casualties of peaceful civilians and caused huge material loss. Not a single person who defended Lithuanian Parliament or other state institutions used a weapon, but the Soviet Army did. Soviet soldiers killed 14 people and injured hundreds.
A large part of the Lithuanian population participated in the January Events. Shortly after, on 11 February 1991, the Icelandic parliament voted to confirm that Iceland’s 1922 recognition of Lithuanian independence was still in full effect, as it never formally recognized the Soviet Union’s control over Lithuania, and that full diplomatic relations should be established as soon as possible.
On 31 July 1991, Soviet paramilitaries killed seven Lithuanian border guards on the Belarusian border in what became known as the Medininkai Massacre. On 17 September 1991, Lithuania was admitted to the United Nations.
On 25 October 1992 the citizens of Lithuania voted in a referendum to adopt the current constitution. On 14 February 1993, during the direct general elections, Algirdas Brazauskas became the first president after the restoration of independence of Lithuania. On 31 August 1993 the last units of the Soviet Army left the territory of Lithuania. Since 29 March 2004, Lithuania has been part of the NATO. On 1 May 2004, it became a fully-fledged member of the European Union, and a member of the Schengen Agreement on 21 December 2007.
Lithuania is located in the Baltic region of Europe and covers an area of 65,200 km2 (25,200 sq mi). It has around 99 kilometres (61.5 mi) of sandy coastline, only about 38 kilometres (24 mi) of which face the open Baltic Sea, less than the other two Baltic Sea countries. The rest of the coast is sheltered by the Curonian sand peninsula. Lithuania’s major warm-water port, Klaipėda, lies at the narrow mouth of the Curonian Lagoon, a shallow lagoon extending south to Kaliningrad. The country’s main and largest river, the Nemunas River, and some of its tributaries carry international shipping.