The transition from dependence within the Soviet system to independence of a Lithuanian State was markedly influenced by two key political developments, the activities of the Lithuanian Reconstruction Movement (Sajudis) and the change of the Lithuanian Communist Party programme.
Sajudis emerged in the spring of 1988, after the security forces had prevented an unofficial demonstration to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Lithuanian declaration of independence from Russia. In the following months, the movement was responsible for the organisation of several mass demonstrations, for instance, against the ‘russification’ of the national culture and against environmental pollution in the country. It also openly demanded the setting-up of an independent Lithuanian state and the use of the Lithuanian language. At its national congress in October 1989, the Sajudis movement passed a resolution, demanding political, economic and cultural autonomy for Lithuania. It also asked for a separate Lithuanian currency and for citizenship.
The Communist Party of Lithuania reacted to the challenge of the Sajudis movement by changing its political leadership to render the party more attractive to the majority of Lithuanians. Communist Party first secretary Songaila resigned and was replaced by Algirdas Brauzaskas. Under this new secretary the Communist Party adopted a programme which was much closer to that of Sajudis. Moreover, in 1989, the Communist Party stated that it would sever its links with the CPSU, arguing to the authorities in Moscow that this was the only way for the party to avoid being massively defeated by Sajudis at the 1990 election for the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet.
The most serious challenge to the Soviet Union occurred in December 1989 when the Lithuanian Communist Party declared itself independent from the Soviet CPSU, a declaration of party independence which was approved by 855 votes to 160 at the party convention. The first secretary