Back by Popular Demand: ‘The Singing Revolution’

Published May 15, 2008

“The Singing Revolution” — a new documentary film on the nonviolent defiance of Soviet occupation by the Estonian people and the remarkable events that led to their independence — has been invited back to the Gene Siskel Film Center from May 23 through May 29.

“A wonderful film. … [It] will unquestionably have the effect of strengthening the belief in freedom on the part of anybody who watches it.”

Milton Friedman
Nobel Laureate

A small country with a large and rich history, the Republic of Estonia is one of the three Baltic countries, along with Lithuania and Latvia, to have suffered greatly during the Soviet and Nazi aggressions of the twentieth century.

A Baltic Sea gateway into Russia, Estonia survived hundreds of years of invading forces who coveted the land. But after finally establishing themselves as an independent European State in 1918, waves of Soviet and Nazi occupations nearly destroyed them.

Yet a 100-year-old tradition, founded as a symbol of Estonia’s desire for independence, would emerge once again as a national symbol to a rising independence movement right under the noses of the Soviets.

The Song Festival, “Laulupidu,” founded in 1869, would keep hope alive during the entire occupation. In 1969, 30,000 singers took the stage to sing one exceptional song–an extraordinary act of non-violent resistance as Estonians raised their voices together as one.

Forbidden to sing anything other than Soviet propaganda songs, the choir and the crowds rang out as they sang “Land of My Fathers, Land that I Love” with lyrics from a well-known 100-year-old Estonian poem. All Soviet attempts to stop the singing failed. This one act alone would re-energize a decades-long fight against the oppression of the Soviet regime.

The Singing Revolution was a movement that would, in the last days, pave the way to bringing the Soviet Union to its knees, and Estonians to their feet. After nearly 50 years of murder, torture, deportation, and ultimately a cultural genocide by the Soviet system, the massive power of a nation dedicated to its own independence would alter the course of history.

“The Singing Revolution” chronicles Estonia’s non-violent march toward freedom. From the 1939 secret (and illegal) protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Stalin and Hitler that would ignite World War II, to the Siberian Gulag and the Estonian underground resistance known as the Forest Brothers, “The Singing Revolution” stands as a tribute to a people whose spirit as a free nation was kept alive under astonishing circumstances.

For theater information and tickets, visit:

The New York Times made the film a coveted “NYT Critics’ Pick” and alludes to Casablanca when describing The Singing Revolution: