6 March 2011

The Singing Revolution - Sunday Music

Libya is on everybody’s mind today. Revolutions are bloody events, often with hate and revenge. But we know of one exception. In the Baltic states singing was the weapon of choice against the Soviet Union in 1989-91. Kováts is even lucky to be old enough to remember these events. (A family friend has brought a Lithuanian pin and he went to school with it the next day to the envy of his classmates.)

The Singing Revolution and the Baltic Way relate to the freedom struggle of the Baltic states in general. The actual events behind the phrase are those June nights in Tallinn, when people started gathering and singing Estonian songs. “We sang all night and everybody went home early in the morning. It was emotionally so strong that the next day there were even more people. The day after, there were even more people. People took out their hidden flags. They had these flags hidden for 50 years and now they took these out and started to wave them.”(Artur Talvik)

These night singings culminated on 11 September 1988, when a massive song festival was held at the Lauluvaljak just outside Tallinn. Almost 300,000 people came together, which means a quarter of the whole country’s population was there. Here Trivimi Velliste made the first public demand for the restoration of independence.

To feel the emotion here is the trailer of a US documentary:

The Estonian Song Festival remains a regular event (every 5 years) with incredible turnout. Worth watching this second video:
Finally a historical remark. Most Western European countries together with the USA have never recognized the annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union. Here is an interesting resolution by the European Parliament, the „Habsburg report” from 1983. The first country to re-recognize the independence of the Baltic states was Iceland in 1991.


  1. You would nt believe it, gentlemen - but Estonians never really stopped singing ever since : )

    Many thanks for posting on my home region.

  2. @Anjci - I first read about the Festival in Hidden Europe, which is a magazine I strongly recommend to you given your track record in travelling off the beaten path.
    Its a lovely quarterly travel guide with a special emphasis on trains, Europe's periphery and everything non-touristy (http://www.hiddeneurope.co.uk/)

    As for the Baltics, you know I am a fan, and my colleague shares that - we like their atitude and we realize the significance of their success.

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