BATUN documentary heritage at the National Archives of Latvia

May 5, 2021

In 2019 the National Archives of Latvia received the BATUN Archive, which had accumulated in New York from the beginnings of the organization in 1965 to the early 2000s. The memorandum on the transfer of archival documents was signed by the ambassadors of all three Baltic States to the United Nations and the representatives of BATUN.

The main aim of this BATUN documentary heritage was to introduce the historical contribution made by BATUN in its efforts to introduce the situation in the occupied Baltic States as it relates to international law to the UN and its member states in New York and Geneva. The BATUN Archive is stored at the National Archives of Latvia, at the State Archive of Latvia (Bezdelīgu Street 1a, Riga) under the designation LNA LVA F.2944 (Baltiešu aicinājums Apvienotām Nācijām (BATUN) /ASV/), and soon will be available for every visitor of the National Archive of Latvia. The last systematization and description works are currently underway.

BATUN (Baltic Appeal to the United Nations) was an international nongovernmental organization in the United States of America, created in 1966 by exiled Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians. The main purpose of BATUN was to inform the members of the United Nations about the violations of the rights of the Baltic nations and Soviet colonialism of the occupied Baltic States. BATUN lobbied the governments of UN Member States through their diplomats in New York and Geneva from 1966 to 1991.

BATUN during its 25-year effort to lobby on behalf of the Baltic States, also organized large public rallies at the UN headquarters in New York, worldwide actions and demonstrations that focused attention on the Baltic States.

During the research of the BATUN documents, it was concluded that BATUN’s efforts to get the issue of the Baltic States on the UN agenda, or otherwise to influence the decisions of the UN member states, were unsuccessful. Only in a few cases have references been made to the Baltic issue, which mostly concerned human rights violations against Baltic dissidents and the aggressive geopolitics of the USSR in general. BATUN actions can be divided into 4 important stages, which influenced the nature of BATUN work and the main results – 1) attempts to have the Baltic States discussed in the UN Decolonization Committee 2) protection of human rights and lobbying of delegates at the annual sessions of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva 3) European Parliament resolution on the Baltic issue adopted in 1983 and lobbying of European foreign ministries 4) collaboration with the independence movements of the Baltic States after 1989. The direct impact of BATUN’s activities was established only after the restoration of the independence of the Baltic States, in cooperation with the governments of the Baltic States.

The National Archives of Latvia, based on BATUN documents, has created a new virtual exhibition “BATUN. For the Freedom and Independence of the Baltic Nations”. This virtual exhibition, through the prism of documents stored in the State Archives of Latvia, reflects the activities of BATUN from 1965 until the early 1990s and describes its role in the political processes related to human rights, the independence of the Baltic States, and their ultimate membership in the United Nations. Link to the exhibition in English version –