Estonian Singing Revolution By: Abby Fuller

The struggle for Estonia's independence began long before the nonviolence movement even started. After World War II, Estonia was promised their independence by the Russian government, but did not gain it fully until the actual movement took place from 1986-1991. This was because of the Communist rule that took over the Soviet Union and implemented oppressive rule.

Map of countries under communist rule in the post-WWII era

The struggle for Estonia's independence, as well as the other Baltic countries Latvia and Lithuania took place in Estonia and spanned across these three countries. Some of the protesting also took place in Russia as the rebels were infiltrating Russia in order to participate in demonstrations to make their point.

The countries involved in the struggle for independence

The main countries that took part in the movement were Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they were the ones being put under Soviet rule. They were fighting against the Communist power that had taken over the Soviet Union. The main person who led the revolution was Trimivi Velliste from Estonia who was the chairman of the Estonian Heritage Committee at the time.

Trivimi Velliste white presenting his propositions for Estonia's plan of action against the Soviet Union

Trimini Velliste became the Estonian Heritage Committee organizer when the Soviet Union and communist rule came back into power in Estonia after a brief time of independence. He took the position so that he could attempt to bring order back and regain the freedom and self-government that Estonia once had.

Peace treaty made between Russia and Japan, similar to the one desired by Estonia during the independence movement

The struggle that was taking place during this time is referred to as the Estonian Singing Revolution. The Estonian rebel force used nonviolence tactics and civil disobedience movements to attempt and gain their freedom from Soviet rule. They fought the communist governments attempts to suppress them by creating large civil demonstrations such as the Singing movement. During the time, it was illegal to display the Estonian flag or sing any nationalist songs. So, the Estonian people gathered in an outdoor amphitheater by the tens of thousands to sing their native songs and one by one held up strips of fabric that made the Estonian flag visible from the air. They chose to do this to demonstrate that no matter what the Soviet Union did, they kept their culture alive. At one point, all of the people in defiance of the Soviet rule linked hands and formed a chain of people that crossed through three countries while singing their national songs. They were committed to nonviolent tactics, and eventually succeeded in gaining their freedom.

The mass musical festival that used nationalist songs as an act of defiance among the Estonian citizens and neighboring countries

The initial struggle occurred because after World War 1, Estonia was pronounced as an independent nation. But during the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, they were reclaimed as property of the Soviet Union; along with the other Baltic countries of Latvia and Lithuania. Stalin began his takeover of Estonia by colonizing and making it illegal to fly the flag of Estonia or to sing any national songs. His intent was to make Estonia purely Russian, as he already infiltrated 40% of the population into Estonia. When Mikhail Gorbachev took power of the Soviet Union in 1985, he further oppressed Estonia while promising reforms of rebirth and restructuring, as well as politicize openness. This prompted a revolution and people started using mass demonstrations and civil disobedience, flying the national flag and wearing the colors of their country. The progression of the nonviolent movement forced the government to repeal its colonization and in 1991, the Soviet Union formally withdrew the Communist rule from Estonia.

This was considered to be a very successful nonviolence movement, because there was little Soviet retaliation in response to the mass demonstrations. There could have potentially been much more damage involving physical danger , and eventually the Estonians gained their independence permanently and have remained that way since.

Current amicable relations between Estonia and Russia

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