During World War II, the Soviet Union paid a huge price in human lives. All of the Soviet citizens stepped up in order to ensure Soviet victory. As a result, the late 1940s and early 1950s saw a slight relaxation in what communism meant to the Soviet Union, in order to effectively reconstruct the war-torn nations and satisfy the growing middle class. Known as the “Big Deal”, this period led to a slightly renewed sense of nationalism in Soviet territories, especially so in Estonia, which used music as a way to rebuild its culture.
In 1947, Estonia held a Festival of Song and Dance. First celebrated in 1869, the festival occurred every five years, though it was interrupted during World War II. 1947 saw a return of the festival. The festival was a way for Estonians to celebrate pride in their nation through patriotic songs sung by massive choruses. While Estonia was under the control of the Soviet Union, the songs focused on promoting Soviet values more so than on Estonian national pride, even leading to a replacement of the Estonian National Anthem (listen below). The festival became a careful balance between Estonian pride and Soviet obedience. However, the government still allowed the festival to take place, in order to allow the Estonian citizens to feel that they had some freedom to celebrate their own heritage.
The Song and Dance Festival of Estonia was an important part of the Big Deal for the Estonian people. It allowed them to express love and pride for their heritage, and showed the Estonian people that the Soviet government was generous enough to let them have patriotic festivals.