Perestroika and the "Singing Revolution"

to map


By 1985 it was clear that the USSR is facing serious economic and political problems. The enourmous country needed a reformer, who was the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Perestroika begun, which tried to make the Soviet society more liberal, while maintaining the supremacy of the Communist Party. Ultimately, such politics meant that Soviet empire would collapse, and small nations will get their chance to become independent.

In Estonia, things started to change in spring 1987, when a protest campaign against planned phosphor mines in Virumaa was launched. This mining project was enormous and extremely damaging to the environment. For the very first time, large crowds felt unified. The same year, Estonian Heritage Society (Eesti Muinsukaitseselts) was found, which besides protecting heritage sites, started to actively participate in politics. It was from EHS that the Estonian National Independence Party (Eesti Rahvusliku Sõltumatuse Partei) grew from. This party started to demand for the restoration of Estonian independence already in 1988.

In 1988, another party-like organization was found - The Popular Front of Estonia (Eesti Rahvarinne). This brought together both reform-minded communists and ordinary people. The agenda of the PFE was, initially, considerably moderate: wide autonomy inside USSR. PFE organized several political demonstrations on the National Song Festival grounds, where, under national tricolor, up to 150.000 people participated.

Wave of national awareness reached it peak in September 1988, when The Popular Front of Estonia organized a mass event on the National Song Festival grounds, called "The Song of Estonia". It turned out to be an event with unprecedented size - with 300.000 participants. Appeal to restore nationhood was presented in front of this enormous crowd. The whole process of becoming independent has been named "The Singing Revolution" after this event. At the same time, power change was attained in Estonian Communist Party, conservative Karl Vaino was replaced with reform-communist Vaino Väljas. In spring 1989, the leadership of Estonian SSR decided to espouse with the national politics and to the tower of Tall Hermann, the national tricolor was lifted again.

Baltic Way

On the August 23, 1989, an enormous protest action was organized by the Baltic Popular Fronts: from Vilnius in Latvia to Tallinn in Estonia, continuous human chain was created. The length of the Baltic Way was 600 km and more than 2 million people participated, demanding simultaneous freedom to the Baltic States. The Baltic Way got lots of attention in the Western media and sped up the condemnation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact inside the Soviet Union.

1990 saw the first, more or less free elections in over more that 50 years. The Popular Front of Estonia got most seats in the Supreme Council of Estonia. Soon, its government declared a transition era, that was supposed to end with the restoration of Estonian nationhood. In March 1991, polls about restoration of the nationhood, were hold in the Baltic States. 77,8% of voters wished for the restoration of the Republic of Estonia.

Source: M.Laur, A. Pajur, T. Tannberg "Eesti ajalugu II" Tallinn 1995 "Avita"


You have finished watching the story. You can play the story again or close it and choose new stories from story selection menu. You can watch up to three stories simultaneously

You can choose up to three stories, if you wish to change choosen stories, please uncheck previous selections

Choose stories



  • ajalooline
  • kirik
  • kivid
  • mõis
  • NB
  • nool
  • ring
  • sadam