The Most Significant Political Initiatives of the Latvian Exile Diaspora. The Example of the 1985 Baltic Peace and Freedom Cruise

Kristīne Beķere


Baltic Peace and Freedom Cruise was one of the most successful Latvian émigré political publicity campaigns during the Cold War to attract the attention of the public at large to the unresolved question of the Baltic States, which had been illegally annexed by the Soviet Union. The main idea of the cruise was to show that the prospects of worldwide peace are inseparable from and dependent on the rights of self-determination for all nations, including Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians.

The Cruise took place from July 26 to July 29 and went on the Baltic Sea from Stockholm to Helsinki and back. Discussions, seminars, press conferences, commemorative events and social gatherings took place on the ship, but stops at Helsinki and Stockholm were marked by political demonstrations.

The Cruise was organised by Latvian émigré youth organizations in close cooperation with Lithuanian and Estonian émigré youth organizations and was supported (including financially supported) by all main Latvian émigré organizations worldwide.

The event resulted in considerable media attention with more than 2000 articles appearing in the printed media around the globe as well as coverage on TV and radio in several European countries. This event and the stir it caused are considered the first heralds of the coming changes within the Baltic States that became more apparent on their own in late 1980s.

Baltic Peace and Freedom Cruise also marks a distinct change in the mood and methods of émigré political activities, which up to this point tended more to react to outside events rather than take active measures on their own. Changes in the global political climate, coupled with internal changes in the émigré community (e.g. generation changes) contributed to this evolution of political activism, of which the Baltic Peace and Freedom Cruise is a signature example.