February 16, 2018
A century ago today, a new European country was born.
A century ago, a small nation with an ancient history struck a blow against the age of imperial domination.
On February 16, 1918, amid the chaos following the Bolshevik Revolution, Lithuania became the first of the three Baltic states to declare its independence from the Russian Empire.
Estonia followed suit a week later and Latvia joined them later in the year.
Just like its fellow Balts, Lithuania’s century of independence was, of course, brutally interrupted by half-a-century of occupation.
And even after restoring its sovereignty from Moscow’s domination more than a quarter of a century ago, Lithuania, in the words of Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, “can never feel relaxed.”
The main reason for this is because of all the empires that declined and fell in the aftermath of the First World War, only one has fought tooth and nail over the past century to remain intact.
That empire, of course, is the Russian Empire and its Soviet successor — and the so-called Russian World, which largely exists in Vladimir Putin’s imagination.
And this is why Lithuanian independence — like that of Estonia and Latvia — is important and relevant today.
It’s an ongoing affirmation that the age of empires and the world of spheres of influence is over — and that in a rules-based international order, the sovereignty of small countries is no less sacrosanct than that of great powers.
So, happy Independence Day Lithuania!