Vilnius TV Tower is Lithuania’s tallest building, but also the scene of a bloodbath during a few shocking days in the history of the Baltic states.
Vilnius TV Tower was part of the Soviet Union’s five-year plan and was completed in 1980. It was then Lithuania’s tallest building and measured 326.5 meters in height. To build this, 25,000-30,000 square meters of concrete was used.
165 meters up is the observation deck which is also a restaurant. From the ground level to the restaurant it takes 40 seconds with the fast lifts.
In clear weather, it is possible to see up to 40 kilometers away. In particular, the view gives a good view of Vilnius’s suburbs and high-rise buildings in the center.
The platform with observation deck and restaurant rotates slowly at 360 degrees. A full lap takes about 45 minutes.
The bloodbath January 13, 1991
The Soviet had begun to collapse and on January 2, 1991, the population occupied important state buildings in the Baltic States. The Soviet leader Gorbachev won’t surrender and let airborne parachutes jump over Lithuania and Latvia. Gorbachev refuses to let the former satellite states become independent. At least, he wants them to be part of a union.
The occupation of state buildings continues and on January 13, 1991, 20 tanks were launched against Lithuanians who barricade themselves in Vilnius’s TV tower.
Soviet tanks and soldiers attacked with smoke grenades and bullets. More than 1,000 Lithuanians are at the place and many are crushed under the tanks while others are fleeing.
Via a loudspeaker placed at the TV tower, the Soviet regime announces the following:
“Brothers and sisters, the fascist, bourgeois regime in Lithuania have fallen. All power is now in the hands of the” National Rescue Committee “.
The National Rescue Committee was the group appointed by Communists to prevent the newly formed Lithuanian parliament from steering the country against independence.
The parliament of Lithuania, however, continues to exist despite the fact that the Soviet opposes the opposite and after the events at the TV tower, the Parliament calls for a meeting. The meeting is protected by 20,000 Lithuanians that makes a ring around the building. To stop the meeting, they would need another bloodbath. Soviet reactions fail.
The last dramatic days in Vilnius
Three days after the massacre at the TV tower, a million people gather in front of the cathedral in Vilnius. It is not a bad figure for a country with a population of about three million.
They gather to honor the victims of the attack on the television tower. The Soviet does not intervene. Only on January 20th, a Soviet counteroffensive will take place.
Soviet occupies by force the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the police headquarters in neighboring Latvia, which is in the same situation.
Then something happens. On January 22, the “National Rescue Committee” discontinues. Soviet troops withdraw. The situation is stabilized.
Gorbachev’s game has been too bold. In Moscow, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrate to support the Baltic States. Should Gorbachev have a chance to remain in his position, the violence must be replaced by diplomacy. But it’s a story we will come to later …
If you visit Vilnius TV Tower, you can see markings that remind you of the people killed on the site. In the tower, there is also a small museum housed.