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What is the Singing Revolution?

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The Singing Revolution is a commonly used name for events between 1987 and 1991 that led to the restoration of the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The term ‘singing revolution’ is also used to generalise the important role of patriotic songs in the similar processes of regaining of independence of other two Baltic States – Latvia and Lithuania.

During the same time period Berlin students were calling for the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in Poland, the Solidarity movement was re-emerging from the underground.

Singing Revolution in Estonia

Singing Revolution in Estonia

From 1987, a cycle of mass demonstrations featuring spontaneous singing eventually collected 300,000 Estonians in Tallinn to sing national songs and hymns that were strictly forbidden during the years of the Soviet occupation.

On 14 May 1988, the first expression of national feeling occurred during the Tartu Pop Music Festival. Five patriotic songs were first performed during this festival. People linked their hands together and a tradition had begun.

In June, the Old Town Festival was held in Tallinn, and after the official part of the festival, the participants moved to the Song Festival Grounds and similarly started to sing patriotic songs together spontaneously.

The Song Festival Ground in Tallinn, Estonia

The Song Festival Ground in Tallinn, Estonia

On 11 September 1988, a massive song festival, called “Song of Estonia”, was held at the Tallinn Song Festival Arena. This time, nearly 300,000 people came together, more than a quarter of all Estonians. On that day political leaders were participating actively and were for the first time insisting on the restoration of independence.

The Singing Revolution lasted over four years, with various protests and acts of defiance. In 1991, as Soviet tanks attempted to stop the progress towards independence, the Estonian Supreme Soviet together with the Congress of Estonia proclaimed the restoration of the independent state of Estonia and repudiated Soviet legislation.

Though one of the world’s smallest countries (as of 2009, the population is estimated at approximately 1.3 million), Estonia has one of the world’s largest repertoires of folk songs and the Estonians have used their music as a political weapon for centuries.

Since its successful independence struggle, Estonia has maintained a parliamentary democracy, primarily under the leadership of center-right parties.  In 2004, the country joined NATO and became a full member state of the European Union.

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Singing Revolution



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