Singing Revolution

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The Baltic Way human chain in 1989. BaltskýŘetěz.jpg
The Baltic Way human chain in 1989.

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. [1] [2] The term was coined by an Estonian activist and artist, Heinz Valk, in an article published a week after the 10–11 June 1988, spontaneous mass evening singing demonstrations at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds. [3]

Estonia Republic in Northern Europe

Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland with Finland on the other side, to the west by the Baltic Sea with Sweden on the other side, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). The territory of Estonia consists of a mainland and 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), water 2,839 km2 (1,096 sq mi), land area 42,388 km2 (16,366 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second most spoken Finnic language.

Latvia republic in Northeastern Europe

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate.

Lithuania republic in Northeastern Europe

Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. Since its independence, Lithuania is considered to be one of the Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.7 million people as of 2019, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Other major cities are Kaunas and Klaipėda. Lithuanians are Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, along with Latvian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family.

Contents

Background

After World War II, the Baltic states had been fully incorporated into the USSR after military occupation and annexation first in 1940 and then again in 1944. Mikhail Gorbachev introduced " glasnost " (openness) and " perestroika " (restructuring) in 1985, hoping to stimulate the failing Soviet economy and encourage productivity, particularly in the areas of consumer goods, the liberalisation of cooperative businesses and the service economy. Glasnost rescinded limitations on political freedoms in the Soviet Union which led to problems within the non-Russian nations occupied in the build-up to war in the 1940s.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Baltic states Countries east of the Baltic Sea

The Baltic states, also known as the Baltic countries, Baltic republics, Baltic nations or simply the Baltics, is a geopolitical term used for grouping the three sovereign states in Northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The term is not used in the context of cultural areas, national identity, or language. The three countries do not form an official union, but engage in intergovernmental and parliamentary cooperation.

Military occupation effective provisional control of a certain power over a territory

Military or belligerent occupation is effective provisional control by a certain ruling power over a territory, which is not under the formal sovereignty of that entity, without the violation of the actual sovereign. The territory is then known as the occupied territory and the ruling power the occupant. Occupation is distinguished from annexation by its intended temporary nature, by its military nature, and by citizenship rights of the controlling power not being conferred upon the subjugated population.

Hitherto unrecognised issues previously kept secret by the Moscow government were admitted to in public, causing dissatisfaction within the Baltic states. Combined with the war in Afghanistan and the nuclear fallout in Chernobyl, grievances were aired in a publicly explosive and politically decisive manner. Estonians were concerned about the demographic threat to their national identity posed by the influx of individuals from foreign ethnic groups to work on such large Soviet development projects as phosphate mining. [4]

Soviet–Afghan War War between the Soviet Union and Afghan insurgents, 1979-89

The Soviet–Afghan War lasted over nine years, from December 1979 to February 1989. Insurgent groups known collectively as the mujahideen, as well as smaller Maoist groups, fought a guerrilla war against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government, mostly in the rural countryside. The mujahideen groups were backed primarily by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, making it a Cold War proxy war. Between 562,000 and 2,000,000 civilians were killed and millions of Afghans fled the country as refugees, mostly to Pakistan and Iran.

Chernobyl disaster nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine

The Chernobyl disaster, also referred to as the Chernobyl accident, was a catastrophic nuclear accident. It occurred on 25–26 April 1986 in the No. 4 light water graphite moderated reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the now-abandoned town of Pripyat, in northern Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Soviet Union, approximately 104 km (65 mi) north of Kiev.

The concept of demographic threat is a term used in political conversation to refer to population increases from within a minority ethnic group in a given country that are perceived as threatening to alter the ethnic identity of that country.

Access to Western émigré communities abroad and, particularly in Estonia, informal relations with Finland and access to Finnish TV showing the Western lifestyle also contributed to widespread dissatisfaction with the Soviet system and provoked mass demonstrations as repression on dissidents, nationalists, religious communities and ordinary consumers eased substantially towards the end of the 1980s.[ citation needed ]

Finland Republic in Northern Europe

Finland, officially the Republic of Finland is a country in Northern Europe bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland, between Norway to the north, Sweden to the northwest, and Russia to the east. Finland is a Nordic country and is situated in the geographical region of Fennoscandia. The capital and largest city is Helsinki. Other major cities are Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Oulu and Turku.

Massive demonstrations against the Soviet regime began after widespread liberalisation of the regime failed to take into account national sensitivities. It was hoped by Moscow that the non-Russian nations would remain within the USSR despite the removal of restrictions on freedom of speech and national icons (such as the local pre-1940 flags).[ citation needed ] However, the situation deteriorated to such an extent that by 1989 there were campaigns aimed at freeing the nations from the Soviet Union altogether.

Estonia

The Soviet government's plan to excavate phosphorite in the Lääne-Viru County with potentially catastrophic consequences for the environment and the society was revealed in February 1987. That started the Phosphorite War public environmental campaign. [5] The MRP-AEG group held the Hirvepark meeting in the Old Town of Tallinn at the anniversary of Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on 23 August 1987, demanding to disclose and condemn its secret protocol.

Government of the Soviet Union main body of the executive branch of government in the Soviet Union

The Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was the main part of the executive branch of government of the USSR. Its head of government was the officeholder known generally in the West as the Premier of the Soviet Union. However, the USSR was a one-party state governed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), the power of which was derived from the Constitution of the Soviet Union. The Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was de facto the most important policy-making organ of the country and made government policy, with the Government being subordinate to the Party.

Phosphorite non-detrital sedimentary rock which contains high amounts of phosphate bearing minerals

Phosphorite,phosphate rock or rock phosphate is a non-detrital sedimentary rock which contains high amounts of phosphate minerals. The phosphate content of phosphorite (or grade of phosphate rock) varies greatly, from 4% to 20% phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5). Marketed phosphate rock is enriched ("beneficiated") to at least 28%, often more than 30% P2O5. This occurs through washing, screening, de-liming, magnetic separation or flotation. By comparison, the average phosphorus content of sedimentary rocks is less than 0.2%. The phosphate is present as fluorapatite Ca5(PO4)3F typically in cryptocrystalline masses (grain sizes < 1 μm) referred to as collophane-sedimentary apatite deposits of uncertain origin. It is also present as hydroxyapatite Ca5(PO4)3OH or Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2, which is often dissolved from vertebrate bones and teeth, whereas fluorapatite can originate from hydrothermal veins. Other sources also include chemically dissolved phosphate minerals from igneous and metamorphic rocks. Phosphorite deposits often occur in extensive layers, which cumulatively cover tens of thousands of square kilometres of the Earth's crust.

Lääne-Viru County County of Estonia

Lääne-Viru County, or Lääne-Virumaa, is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is in northern Estonia, on the south coast of the Gulf of Finland. In Estonian, lääne means western and ida means east or eastern. Lääne-Viru borders Ida-Viru County to the east, Jõgeva County to the south, and Järva and Harju counties to the west. In January 2013, Lääne-Viru County had a population of 58,806: 4.5% of the population in Estonia.

The "Five Patriotic Songs" series by Alo Mattiisen premiered at the Tartu Pop Festival in May 1988. [6] 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 started to sing patriotic songs together spontaneously. [7] The Baltic Way, a human chain of two million people, spanned from Tallinn to Vilnius on 23 August 1989. [8] Mattiisen's "Five Patriotic Songs" were performed again at the Rock Summer festival in Tallinn held on 26–28 August 1988. [9] The Song of Estonia festival was held at the Song Festival Grounds on 11 September. [6] Trivimi Velliste, Chairman of the Estonian Heritage Society, first voiced the public ambition to regain independence. [10] The Supreme Soviet of Estonia issued the Estonian Sovereignty Declaration on 16 November. [8]

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 Supreme Soviet of Estonia together with the Congress of Estonia proclaimed the restoration of the independent state of Estonia and repudiated Soviet legislation. People acted as human shields to protect radio and TV stations from the Soviet tanks. Through these actions Estonia regained its independence without any bloodshed. [11]

Independence was declared on the late evening of 20 August 1991, after an agreement between different political parties was reached. The next morning Soviet troops, according to Estonian TV, attempted to storm Tallinn TV Tower but were unsuccessful. [12] The Communist hardliners' coup attempt failed amidst mass pro-democracy demonstrations in Moscow led by Boris Yeltsin.

On 22 August 1991, Iceland became the first nation to recognise the newly restored independence of Estonia. Today, a plaque commemorating this event is situated on the outside wall of the Foreign Ministry, which itself is situated on Islandi väljak 1, or "Iceland Square 1". The plaque reads; "The Republic of Iceland was the first to recognise, on 22 August 1991, the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Estonia", in Estonian, Icelandic and English. Some other nations did not recognise the annexation of Estonia by the Soviet Union. [13] [14]

Latvia

During the second half of the 1980s as Mikhail Gorbachev introduced glasnost and perestroika in the USSR, which rolled back restrictions to freedom in the Soviet Union, aversion to the Soviet regime had grown into the third Latvian National Awakening, which reached its peak in mid-1988.

In 1986, it became widely known to the public that the USSR was planning to build another hydroelectric power plant on Latvia's largest river Daugava, and that a decision had been made to build a metro in Riga.[ citation needed ] Both of these projects planned by Moscow could have led to the destruction of Latvia's landscape and cultural and historical heritage. In the press journalists urged the public to protest against these decisions. The public reacted immediately, and in response the Environmental Protection Club was founded on 28 February 1987. During the second half of the 1980s the Environmental Protection Club became one of the most influential mass movements in the region and began to make demands for the restoration of Latvia's independence.[ citation needed ]

On 14 June 1987, the anniversary of the 1941 deportations, the human rights group "Helsinki-86", which had been founded a year earlier, organised people to place flowers at the Freedom Monument (Latvia's symbol of independence, which was erected in 1935). This is widely cited as the beginning of the National Awakening. However the Latvian Song and Dance Festival of 1985 also had been sometimes named for choirs requesting and performing the song Gaismas pils conducted by Haralds Mednis after the main event. The song, which speaks about the rebirth of a free Latvian nation, usually a staple of the festival, had been removed from the repertoire and the conductor, disliked by Soviet authorities, sidelined. [15]

On 1 and 2 June 1988, the Writers' Union held a congress during which the democratisation of society, Latvia's economic sovereignty, the cessation of immigration from the USSR, the transformation of industry and the protection of Latvian language rights were discussed by delegates. Over the course of this conference, for the first time in post-war Latvia, the secret protocol of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which had determined Latvia's fate after 1939, was publicly acknowledged.[ citation needed ]

The congress of the Writers' Union stirred up public opinion and provided an additional stimulus for the general process of national revival.[ citation needed ]

In the summer of 1988, two of the most important organisations of the revival period began to assemble themselves—the Latvian People's Front and the Latvian National Independence Movement (LNIM). Soon afterwards the more radically inclined Citizens' Congress called for complete non-compliance with the representatives of the Soviet regime.[ citation needed ] All of these organisations had a common goal: the restoration of democracy and independence. On 7 October 1988, there was a mass public demonstration, calling for Latvia's independence and the establishment of regular judicial order. On 8 and 9 October the first congress of the Latvian People's Front was held. This organisation, which attracted 200,000 members, became the main representative of the return to independence.[ citation needed ]

On 23 August 1989, the fiftieth anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the People's Fronts of all three Baltic countries held a huge demonstration of unity—the "Baltic Way". A 600 km (373 mi) long human "chain" from Tallinn through Riga to Vilnius was assembled. This was a symbolic demonstration of the people's call for independence from the Soviet Union.

New elections to the Supreme Soviet took place on 18 March 1990, in which the supporters of independence gained a victory. On 4 May 1990, the new Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR adopted a motion, "Declaration of Independence", which called for the restoration of the inter-war Latvian state and the 1922 Constitution.

In January 1991, however, pro-communist political forces attempted to restore Soviet power. With the use of force, attempts were made to overthrow the new assembly. Latvian demonstrators managed to stop the Soviet troops from re-occupying strategic positions, and these events are known as the "Days of the Barricades".

On 19 August 1991, an unsuccessful attempt at a coup d'état took place in Moscow when a small group of prominent Soviet functionaries failed to regain power due to large pro-democracy demonstrations in Russia. This event resulted in Latvia swiftly moving toward independence. After the coup's failure the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian Republic announced on 21 August 1991, that the transition period to full independence declared on 4 May 1990 had come to an end. Therefore, Latvia was proclaimed a fully independent nation whose judicial foundation stemmed back to the statehood that existed before the occupation on 17 June 1940.

Lithuania

Lithuanian people in Šiauliai (Gorbachev visit, 1990) 1990 01 12 GorbačiovasŠiauliuose10.jpg
Lithuanian people in Šiauliai (Gorbachev visit, 1990)
Ukmergė's monument of independence, "Lituania Restituta", restored in 1989. UkmPaminkl.JPG
Ukmergė's monument of independence, "Lituania Restituta", restored in 1989.

Thousands of people regularly gathered in public places across Lithuania and sang national songs and Roman Catholic hymns. The popularity of patriotic songs had risen significantly during this period.[ citation needed ] Many popular singers had followed this trend, often using the poetry of nationalist poets, such as Bernardas Brazdžionis or Justinas Marcinkevičius as the lyrics of their songs. Rock March also promoted awareness of the issue among the people.[ citation needed ]

On 3 June 1988, the Sąjūdis, a political and social movement to lead the independence and pro-democracy movement, was established.[ citation needed ]

The active nationalist opposition towards the regime culminated in the return of Vilnius Cathedral, formerly used as a museum of fine arts, to the Catholic community on 21 October 1988, followed by the gradual restoration of national symbols, which included the erection or restoration of independence monuments throughout the country. The national anthem of Lithuania and the traditional national Tricolore were legalised in Lithuania on 18 November 1988, officially replacing the flag and the anthem of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic.[ citation needed ]

Five decades after Lithuania was occupied and incorporated into the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first republic to declare its independence from the USSR on 11 March 1990, and was later followed by Latvia and Estonia. However, almost all nations in the international community, except Iceland, hesitated to recognise independence for Lithuania until August 1991.[ citation needed ]

The Soviet military responded harshly. On 13 January 1991, fourteen non-violent protesters in Vilnius died and hundreds were injured defending the Vilnius Television Tower and the Parliament from Soviet assault troops and tanks. Lithuanians referred to the event as Bloody Sunday. The discipline and courage of its citizens—linking arms and singing in the face of tanks and armour-piercing bullets—avoided a much greater loss of life and showed the world that Lithuania's citizens were prepared to defend national independence.[ citation needed ]

The international governments recognised Lithuanian independence after the failure of the coup d'état in August 1991.

Notable protest songs

See also

Related Research Articles

Occupation of the Baltic states period in history of the Baltic States (1940–1991)

The occupation of the Baltic states involved the military occupation of the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—by the Soviet Union under the auspices of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in June 1940. They were then incorporated into the Soviet Union as constituent republics in August 1940, though most Western powers never recognised their incorporation. On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and within weeks occupied the Baltic territories. In July 1941, the Third Reich incorporated the Baltic territory into its Reichskommissariat Ostland. As a result of the Red Army's Baltic Offensive of 1944, the Soviet Union recaptured most of the Baltic states and trapped the remaining German forces in the Courland pocket until their formal surrender in May 1945. The Soviet "annexation occupation" or occupation sui generis of the Baltic states lasted until August 1991, when the three countries regained their independence.

Territorial changes of the Baltic states refers to the redrawing of borders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia after 1940. The three republics, formerly autonomous regions within the former Russian Empire and before that of former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, gained independence in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917. After a two-front independence war fought against both Bolshevist Russian and Baltic German nationalist forces, the countries concluded peace and border treaties with Soviet Russia in 1920. However, with World War II and the occupation and annexation of these republics into the Soviet Union twenty years after their independence, certain territorial changes were made in favour of the Russian SFSR. This has been the source of political tensions after they regained their independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Some of the disputes remain unresolved.

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Baltic Way protest

The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain was a peaceful political demonstration that occurred on 23 August 1989. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning 675.5 kilometres (419.7 mi) across the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which were considered at the time to be constituent republics of the Soviet Union.

Baltic Assembly international organization

The Baltic Assembly (BA) is a regional organisation that promotes intergovernmental cooperation between Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It attempts to find a common position in relation to many international issues, including economic, political and cultural issues. The decisions of the assembly are advisory.

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<i>The Singing Revolution</i> 2006 film

The Singing Revolution is a 2006 documentary film created by Americans James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty about the nonviolent Singing Revolution in Estonia in which hundreds of thousands of Estonians gathered publicly between 1986 and 1991, in an effort to end decades of Soviet occupation. The revolutionary songs they created anchored Estonia’s non-violent struggle for freedom.

Popular Front of Estonia political party

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Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic union republic of the Soviet Union

The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, also known as Soviet Estonia or Estonia was an unrecognized republic of the Soviet Union, administered by a subordinate of the Soviet government. The ESSR was initially established on the territory of the Republic of Estonia on 21 July 1940, following the invasion of Soviet troops on 17 June 1940, and the installation of a puppet government backed by the Soviet Union, which declared Estonia a Soviet constituency. The Estonian SSR was subsequently incorporated into the Soviet state on 9 August 1940. The territory was occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944 and administered as a part of Reichskommissariat Ostland.

Baltic states under Soviet rule (1944–91)

This Baltic states were under Soviet rule from the end of World War II in 1945, from Sovietization onwards until independence was regained in 1991. The Baltic states were occupied and annexed, becoming the Soviet socialist republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. After their annexation by Nazi Germany, the USSR reoccupied the Baltic territories in 1944 and maintained control there until the Baltic states regained their independence nearly 50 years later in the aftermath of the Soviet coup of 1991.

Soviet occupation of the Baltic states (1944)

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Armenians in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania settled there mostly during the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States.

Estonian Restoration of Independence is celebrated on the 20th of August as on that day, in 1991 at 11:02 pm local time, the Estonian Supreme Soviet, in agreement with the Estonian Committee proclaimed Estonian independence from the Soviet Union. August 20 is a public holiday in Estonia.

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