August 23, 1939 was one of the darkest days in history. August 23, 1989 was a day of great redemption.
On August 23, 1939 the pagan Nazi Germany signed a non-aggression pact with the atheistic Soviet Union, uniting two evils in an alliance that would launch the most destructive conflict in human history. The pact, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact has reverberations that are felt even today.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet and German Foreign Ministers, had several secret clauses. The first and most immediate clause was that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would invade the sovereign state of Poland; Germany from the West and Russia from the East, and carve up that nation so it could never be resurrected. The German invasion of Poland a little over a week later on September 1, 1939 saw Britain and France declare war on Germany and the beginning of World War II. A little over two weeks later, on September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union commenced its invasion of Eastern Poland. Britain and France did not declare war on the Soviet Union.
German and Soviet Forces soon united and held joint military parades to celebrate their spoils.
Further clauses of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact allowed Nazi Germany to receive raw materials from the Soviet Union while the Soviets received military equipment and other assistance from the Nazis.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was consolidating its hold and, in 1940, invaded the sovereign Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. It also took Bessarabia from the Kingdom of Rumania and initiated war against Finland. Germany ran amok and took over almost all of the rest of Europe, save a tiny island less than 20 miles from the continent, along with its Empire and Dominions, fighting alone. As Germany consolidated its gains in Europe, it began making its plans for the Final Solution to the Jewish question.
As 1940 progressed, there were even talks regarding allowing the Soviet Union to formally join the Tripartite Alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan. Indications are that Stalin was in favor of such an agreement until Hitler broke off the talks during the time frame in which he was planning in June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. Hitler did this for many reasons but most of all because Operation Barbarossa was a race war and the Final Solution could not be completed without the killing of Soviet Jews and associated Slavic peoples. After the invasion, the Soviets joined the Allies. As Germany retreated, the Soviet Union took the areas back that it had been promised under Molotov-Ribbentrop. It did not stop there and swallowed up most of Eastern Europe.
Their secret deals with the Nazis came to light during and in the immediate aftermath of the first Nuremberg Trial but, despite overwhelming evidence, the Soviets denied their existence until 1989.
Poland, the Baltic States, and the rest of Eastern Europe suffered terribly for almost fifty years under Soviet rule. However, the desire for freedom, very often motivated by the Christian faith of the oppressed peoples, would not die despite intense efforts at Russification. Small size of the nation notwithstanding, forest fighters from Latvia mounted the longest resistance to Soviet rule; using guerilla tactics in waging warfare against the Soviets well into the 1950s. Hungarians revolted against the Soviets in 1956 and Czechoslovakia revolted in the 1968 Prague Spring. The unquenchable desire for freedom was most memorably exemplified in Poland and the Baltic States. In Poland, millions turned out to see Pope John Paul II in 1979 and chanted, “We want God!”
On August 23, 1989, the fiftieth anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, millions of peoples of the Baltic States joined hands in the Baltic Way, forming a human chain that linked Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The Baltic Way, part of the Singing Revolution, denounced the Pact and brought to light that, once again, the Soviet Union was shown to be lying to the world about the existence of the Pact. Doing so, would disavow Soviet claims to the Baltics. However, the Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian people would not be intimidated any longer.
A small band of people, from the smallest of nations, showed the lies, deceit, and godlessness of the largest nation on earth. Due to insurmountable public pressure that they could no longer squash, the Soviets acknowledged the existence of Molotov-Ribbentrop on Christmas Eve 1989. While most of the nations of Eastern Europe regained their freedom that year, it would take a couple more years for complete restoration of independence for the Baltics. The Soviets would acknowledge the right to an independent Poland, but giving independence to the Baltics would expose even more so how the evil of the Soviet Union partnered up with the evil Nazi Germany. Finally, truth won out and the truth set people free.
In these nations that suffered so much the memories of Communism and Nazism will not fade away, nor should they. Freedom must be defended in every generation. The Soviet Union actually proved this as the Soviets thought history would erase their deeds but individual peoples, united in their nations and having faith in God, did not forget. The truth gave the Baltic States a richness that only free peoples know.
We should always be thankful that God allowed these brave people to not only fight evil, but doing so in such a brave way as to turn a dark day, that what was always known as one of betrayal, into one that is also a day of redemption, freedom, and remembrance.