The Singing Revolution

It all started in 1987, Estonians began mass protests in the capital city of Tallinn against the Russian occupation of their country.

One of the protests included gathering of 10,000 people in the Tallinn Song Festival where they sang a plethora of ethnic and nationalistic songs which had been forbidden by the Soviet Union. The Tallinn Song Festival can hold approximately the population of current day Estonia which is 1.3 million people.



Meanwhile in Latvia and Lithuania were engaging in similar types of protests. However, nothing could amount to the protest being planed for the 23rd of August 1989.

On August 23rd 1989 2 million individuals gathered from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius , stretching over 600 km, joined together hand by hand to make a statement against the Soviet Union through the art of song. The day marked the 50th anniversary in which Stalin and Hitler decided to divide up Europe, isolating the Baltics  from the rest of the world.


The events which followed however were not so peaceful. On January11th, 1991 Soviet troops opened fire on a crowd in Vilnius killing 14 individuals as a result of engaging in civil disobediences. In Riga 5 individuals were killed only 5 days later in similar circumstances. Gorbachev quickly realized that he did not have the means neither the drive to continue with such assaults. In the Autumn of 1991 after years of political repression the Baltic states were freed.

However even today there are still tensions between these countries and Russia. If you want to learn a little bit more check out my blog about the Estonian Education system.








8 thoughts on “The Singing Revolution

  1. Katelyn, great post! I think it’s really cool how the nationalist songs were used as a form of protest, and how this was met by so much violence from the Soviet government. Do you think that the freeing of the Baltic states had any relation to the decline of the Soviet Union?

  2. I really enjoyed reading about this! Censorship is such a recurring theme in Soviet history. I can only imagine how the people in crowd who were signing these nationalists songs felt. Must have been very freeing yet bittersweet.

  3. I enjoyed your post thoroughly; the Baltic states are full of interesting history. Do you think that these revolts against the Soviet Union helped lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991? Did it fit a pattern that was occurring across Eastern Europe at the time?

  4. I think this is a great post! It is always interesting to see Soviet response to self determination. I think it is especially interesting to see protestors using cultural objects as a source of power to advance their movement and give themselves power!

  5. Also — Thanks for the crosspost to your blog about the educational system in Estonia! The exclusionary citizenship laws and schooling practices are so complicated in the Post-Soviet Baltic states.

  6. I find it very interesting how protests were conducted by singing forbidden songs and another protests where everyone linked hands. Throughout history it seems that Russia likes to deal with protests by using force. Time and time again, using force never seems to work and only causes more issues for the state.

  7. I thought this was a really cool post. It’s really interesting to see how these people so peacefully sang for freedom, and Russia responded with violence.

  8. So cool to see that the people united under the idea of song to combat the aggressive Soviet government. Its unfortunate to see how those peaceful protests quickly became violent after fire was opened up on them. How are there tensions between these countries and Russia and are they still remnant from these protests?

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