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26 September 2018


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The Singing Revolution

Few nations suffered as much under the Soviets, proportionately, as Estonia. After a hard won independence in 1920, followed by almost two decades of freedom, the year 1939 and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact brought a massive Soviet invasion, executions, deportations, denunciations and arrests. Then, in 1941, the Nazis took their turn. In 1944, the Soviets returned, initiating a post-war policy of Russian colonization of the tiny republic.

Through it all, this documentary shows, Estonians had their music, and the power of song played a crucial role in sustaining and expressing their national unity. It was even more significant in helping make the inevitable 1991 revolution more peaceful than it well could have been.

There is no suspense in this documentary – the outcome is well known. But the personal stories of the participants, of those who resisted decades of national repression, who survived the camps, who fought occupation from the forests, make this film a marvel. That and the incredible image of tens of thousands of Estonians singing in one voice.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: May/June 2009