You don’t hear much about Estonia, which is in part why this documentary is so extraordinary.
It illustrates how thousands of Estonians gathered to sing patriotic songs in defiance of Soviet rule.
It provides a brief history of the country, which was a small playing piece during the second world war.
Singing has long been the national pastime of Estonians and its power is evident as the nation’s citizens got bolder and bolder, particularly from 1987 to 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.
What is remarkable is how peaceful the freedom movement was. Blood was shed in other former Soviet states during that time of revolution.
In one scene, pro-Soviet people gather in a public square in the Estonian capital of Tallinn and are quickly surrounded by freedom supporters.
What looked like it would be a riot was anything but as the revolutionaries allow the Soviet supporters to leave the square unharmed.
The documentary also provides a timeline of the rule of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was general secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union from the late 1980s until the nation’s dissolution in 1991.
It shows how Gorbachev’s programs like perestroika (“restructuring”) and glasnost (“openness”) inevitably led to the country’s downfall. Despite his attempts to reverse some of what happened as a result of those policies, it was too late: the genie was out of the bottle.
This is a moving and informative documentary. Its only flaw is that it portrays ethnic Russians as unsympathetic at best.
Despite that, however, it reveals a unique way of achieving change peacefully through the power of the human voice.
The Singing Revolution is available to rent.
Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]