I’m Mr. Beat Say it’s 1986, and you wanna get out of the Soviet Union. Well, you could sing your way out. (Huh?) Here’s the story of the only revolution whose defining characteristic was….um, yeah….singing. (Estonian patriotic singing) Alright you all, they get the point. It was the Singing Revolution. (intro) August 23, 1989. Around two million people join hands to form a continuous human chain spanning 676 kilometers, or 420 miles, across three countries. Those three countries, also known as the Baltic States, are Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Well, today they are independent countries. Back then, not so much. The Soviet Union bossed them around quite a bit, you could say. And that is precisely why these two million people had joined hands. They were protesting being controlled and oppressed by the Soviet Union, a country that uh, does NOT exist today. But hold up, what do I see here? They’re singing? And they’re all smiling? What kind of protest is that? Well, it’s one that worked. The Baltic states were the first three Soviet Republics to successfully declare independence, eventually leading to fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 after 12 other Soviet Republics also declared independence. The Singing Revolution usually refers to all the events between about 1987 and 1991 that led to the restoration of independence of the Baltic states. Heinz Valk, an Estonian artist and activist, first popularized the term, and I think it fits. It started out on February 25, 1987, when Estonian TV reported the Soviet Union’s plans to mine phosphorite in the northeastern part of the state. The ruling government of Estonia, the Estonian Communist Party, had hid the plans from the public and even lied about saying it would give Estonians a say before they approved the mining. Well Estonians didn’t like this so much. These mines would cause a lot of environmental damage. Not only that, the new mines would bring a predominately Russian workforce into their state, and thus further threaten their culture. So they protested, which was a lot easier to do now that Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, had implemented a policy called glasnost, or a policy of having a more transparent government that in turn listened more to the citizens of the Soviet Union. Before, protesting could get you in jail. Now, protesting was easier. Besides, the Estonians protested peacefully. It was classic non-violent resistance. But what about the singing? Well before Estonians had to sing Soviet songs. Now, they could sing whatever. And then two dudes named Alo Mattiisen and Jüri Leesment made a song called “No Land Is Alone,” a song about the bond all Estonians had. A bunch of pop stars performed the song and it became a national hit. And with the song came a huge wave of patriotism across Estonia. Meanwhile, in neighboring Latvia, they had been protesting the Soviet Union’s plan to build another hydroelectric power plant along its largest river, the Daugava, which also would have caused environmental damage. But the Singing Revolution really took off in May 1988, after the aforementioned Mattiisen and Leesment debuted the “Five Patriotic Songs” series at the Tartu Pop Festival. They basically modernized old choral songs, giving them lyrics that referenced the neglect and oppression by the Soviet government. In June, more patriotic songs debuted at the Old Town Festival in Tallinn. Afterward, thousands of Estonians went out to the Song Festival Grounds and continued to spontaneously sing these patriotic songs. A few years before this, they could have been arrested for doing this. Now, it literally seemed like everyone in the country was singing these songs. There was no political party organizing it. It was grassroots…just ordinary people fed up with Soviet rule. Soon after, the Singing Revolution had spread to Lithuania, a heavily Roman Catholic country. They started singing Catholic hymns, in addition to their own patriotic songs. By the end of the summer of ‘88, pop singers were performing these patriotic songs at both music festivals and political events, usually with tens of thousands of folks in the audience singing right along with them. At one festival in Lithuania, singers displayed a pre-Soviet Lithuanian flag on stage. When Soviet officials tried to remove the flag, other choir members blocked them from getting to it. By the end of 1988, the whole world was watching, and Gorbachev knew if he intervened and forced the Baltic state citizens to stop…um…you know, singing, that might look a little bad? And so, they kept singing. In the summer of 1989, the Baltic states united for the first time to send a big message to the Soviet Union, and they wanted to do it on the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, aka the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, the secret deal the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany made when they agreed not to attack each other and control other parts of the world. Yep, it was the deal that first set up forced control of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union. That big message was the Baltic Way. I told you about that already. Remember? In the first minute of the video? Do we really need to go back and watch this thing again? Oh my gosh, ok…go ahead and put the video up here Let’s show them…yeah That’s it…go ahead August 23, 1989. Around two million people join hands to form a continuous human chain spanning 676 kilometers Is it ringing a bell now? across three countries So yeah, around 2 million of the 8 million people who lived in the Baltic states participated. That’s right, a staggering ¼ of the population showed up, peacefully linking hands for 15 minutes along city streets, country roads, and highways, linking the three capitals of the three countries- Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn. It was one of the longest unbroken human chains in history. The Baltic Way showed the world the three countries were united against Soviet oppression. It also inspired singing protests in other Soviet Republics, like Moldova. The Soviet authorities responded to the Baltic Way with verbal condemnation that was mostly ineffective. In the end, the world seemed to be on the side of the Baltic states. Less than seven months after the Baltic Way protests, Lithuania became the first Soviet Republic to declare independence. This was after Soviet troops killed 14 unarmed civilians and injured hundreds more. A few months after declaring independence, Soviet troops killed seven Lithuanian servicemen. Estonians voted for independence shortly after Lithuania, and Latvians voted for it a couple months after that. But the Soviet Union wasn’t done trying to hold on to the countries yet. In January 1991, as many as 32,000 Latvians built barricades to prevent the Soviet Army from reaching their Parliament building and other important buildings and bridges in Riga. The Soviets tried to break through the barricades anyway, killing six Latvians. Estonians chose August 20, 1991 as the actual day that independence was officially restored for the country. The next morning, Soviet troops attempted to take over the Tallinn TV Tower and some radio stations to spew out Soviet propaganda, but were unable to due to Estonian volunteers forming human shields blocking their entrance. After about 10 minutes, the Soviet troops retreated. A few months later, the Soviet Union did not exist anymore. The Singing Revolution was over. The Baltic states had a long history of protesting oppressive governments through singing, so The Singing Revolution seemed like a fitting final chapter for their independence. While researching for this video, I checked out a documentary about the Singing Revolution of the same name and I recommend it if you want to learn more about it in depth. I put a link to the documentary in the description of this video. Oh, and if YOU want to start a revolution, Consider singing. It’s much better than genocide. This video was part of a huge, one could say revolutionary collaboration between myself and 18 other history YouTubers We’ve made a whole playlist, and it’s called Project Revolution It features 19 videos about 19 different revolutions throughout human history. It’s amazing. Just binge watch the whole thing. The video before mine is by Hikma History It’s about the Ataturk Revolution in Turkey The one after mine…well…there isn’t one after mine because I’m the last in the series. I’m LAST. But if you want to go back to the beginning of the series, the very first one is by my friend Stefan Milo. He has a video about the Neolithic Revolution. So again, check out the whole thing. Subscribe to all the channels. Support history on YouTube. Thank you so much for watching.