Gamechanger: Lithuania’s Nonviolent Revolution is a new documentary film about how one small nation’s intense desire for independence unified people of diverse politics, professions, religions, ethnicities, and citizenships into an inspiringly successful nonviolent freedom revolution.
On a cold wet night in January of 1991, young Virginijus Druskis left his wife to go to the TV tower to join the unarmed crowds defending it saying “Lithuania will never be free, when everybody is in fear.” He was one of the first shot to death by Soviet forces coming into an unarmed and peaceful gathering with tanks and open fire. Nine months later on September 6, 1991 the Soviet Union recognized Lithuania’s independence.
In its own way the mouse roared and the bear retreated. How did that happen?
Oppression and the occupation of nations by foreign powers or totalitarian regimes have been a part of mankind’s history since inception. For much of that time violent, armed resistance was considered to be the only viable solution. It usually did not work, especially if the majority of the population was unarmed.
Pockets of nonviolent resistance occurred sporadically with a variable success rate. Such methods were used most often by those with nothing left to lose. Until Gandhi and India’s struggle for independence nonviolent resistance was not a major weapon in most resistance movement’s arsenals. Although it had been used before, it was Gandhi who elevated it to the global stage. Others, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, applied nonviolence to their movements with some success. But what was it that made nonviolent methods successful, and how could that be applied universally to other resistance movements?
A Bit of History
Between 1940 and 1945 the Baltics states suffered occupations by the USSR and Nazi Germany, finally being occupied by the USSR and incorporated into it. For Lithuania, this was not the first time. Lithuania’s struggle for freedom dates back almost three centuries. By the 13th century it had become a powerful Grand Duchy, at one time stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea, remaining free until it was divided and became part of the Russian Empire in 1795. Between 1795 and 1918 nonviolent resistance efforts and uprisings took place in Lithuania with various degrees of success. Lithuania became a sovereign nation again on February 16th, 1918 and remained so until 1944.
Armed resistance against the occupying forces held on from 1944 until 1952 when it was ultimately violently crushed. Starting in the 1960’s, a period of nonviolent “underground” resistance began. Underground printing presses printed pamphlets, petitions, books, and letters chronicling the struggle for freedom of religion and absence of human rights. The self-immolation of Roman Kalanta in 1972 brought this struggle to the attention of the world, and the 70’s witnessed a growth in the movements facilitated by the de-Stalinization occurring at the time. The 80’s saw increased efforts culminating in the organization of Sajudis, a unified movement that strategically leveraged nonviolent resistance in a focus way. The strategy was a gamechanger that successfully resulted in Lithuania’s independence.
Since then similar movements have sought to attain freedom of oppression, with many disintegrating into violence and not achieving their initial goals. Why?
From first time producer/director Gamechanger: Lithuania’s Nonviolent Revolution analyzes the 47 year history of Lithuania’s struggle for freedom, its evolution from violent resistance to nonviolent resistance, and how its success can serve as an example to other movements against oppression. Interviews with participants in Lithuania and in the Lithuanian diaspora, supporters in the governments of other nations, academics, politicians, people from all political colors and all walks of life, from President Landsbergis, to Dr. Gene Sharp, as well as historical footage provide a close-up view and insight into these efforts and what made them coalesce into a successful push for independence.
Rima Gungor - Bachelor’s Degree from North Central College, double major/double minor: political science, philosophy, history, international relations. Rima has been a awarded participant, and staff member in Model United Nations since high school. She was a participant and student advisor in the LISS program in Lithuania, and a participant and coordinator in the Refresh Program of Vytautas Magnus University. In 2010, Rima won the Richter Research Grant for the thesis that forms the foundation for the documentary film: Game Changer: Lithuania’s Nonviolent Revolution. Since obtaining the research grant, Rima has written and presented her thesis on Lithuania and Nonviolent Resistance at the Yale Conference on Baltic Studies, the Midwest Political Science Association’s annual conference, as well as the National Conference for Undergraduate Research. She has been invited to discuss the film at several events including the North American Lithuanian Catholic Association’s conference in Washington DC and was most recently selected keynote speaker for the Canadian Lithuanian Community’s Lithuanian Independence Day events. Currently, she has been selected to present her research at CSBE 2015- the 11th Conference on Baltic Studies in Marburg, Germany. Recently she was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center in Chicago as Director of Media. Ms. Gungor, the granddaughter of Lithuanian refugees in the diaspora, has her degree in international relations, philosophy, and history. Like many Lithuanians in the second wave of emigration she has grown up with the history of Lithuania through her family, and schooling. Their stories, documents, and her education inspired her to focus on Lithuania’s history for her research thesis and this film.
Dr. Robertas Vitas, Ph. D. - Scholar of civil-military relations, national security strategy, and Lithuania studies. He was an army officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and a visiting scholar at Northwestern University. He is currently the executive director of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces & Society. He is also the chairman of the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center. He received his PhD from Loyola University Chicago and has produced scholarship with other notable civil-military relations scholars such as John Allen Williams and Sam C. Sarkesian.
Erikas Vizinas - Bachelor’s degree in media production and new technology from Northern Michigan University. Erikas has ten years of experience in filming, editing, production and post-production.
Jeff Chow - Bachelor’s degree in graphic design and film media from North Central College. Jeff has nine years of experience in filming, editing, production and post-production.
Consultant, Music Composition and Score:
Andrius Mamontovas - Undergraduate degree in photo journalism from Vilnius University. One of Lithuania’s most famous musicians, Audrius and his band Foje were intimately involved in the Lithuanian independence movement of the 80’s and 90’s, in the Roko Marsai and other festivals that were a component of the Singing Revolution, and continues to be a heavy contributor to the music scen
Vaiva Rimeika - Bachelor’s degree in Advertising Art Direction from Columbia College. Vaiva is an accomplished artist in her own right, and has eight years of experience in award-winning graphics design and advertising.
Lithuanian Research and Studies Center - Lithuanian Research and Studies Center (LRSC) (Lith.: Lituanistikos Tyrimo ir Studijų Centras (LTSC)) is a non-profit scholarly research organization, which brings together varying cultural and academic organizations towards acquiring and preserving Lithuanian artifacts, documents, and other materials of cultural significance. The LRSC was created in 1982 in Chicago, Illinois to unify a number of other Lithuanian organizations and is located at the Lithuanian Youth Center on Chicago's south side. The Center is the largest Lithuanian scholarly institution, archive, and publisher outside Lithuania. It has published over 50 scholarly books in both Lithuanian and English.