The Singing Revolution: Music for Independence

Josselyn Rodas | CONF 340 | October 28th, 2019

When we think about the word, “revolution”, we usually paint a picture of a momentous event with loud expressions and fists raised up high. We don’t typically think of a music festival in this context. For example, when we think of the word “music”, it can connote a range of emotions whether they be of happiness or even hardship but not necessarily a revolution. When would we relate a political revolution to music? Well, in June 1988, Estonia created a relationship between music and a revolution; known as the “Singing Revolution”. Estonia has had a history of utilizing music as a coping mechanism for its citizens. Dating back to as early as the 1800s, music festivals were held that were filled with double entendres in the lyrics during the era of the U.S.S.R, eventually becoming the Soviet Union. Music gave Estonia a platform and a voice to express themselves amongst one another through songs and in unity. It was the Singing Revolution in the 1980s that allowed Estonia to create their own revolution. Through five long nights of singing for their independence from Soviet control, Estonian’s sang their songs of protest until their goal was achieved. Estonia gained their independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991 through music; a nonviolent protest.

Courtesy of
Statue of Gustav Ernesaks – Director of Estonian Male Choir – at the Song Festival Grounds

The Estonian Singing Revolution is an example of a nonviolent protest that can be a resource for everyone to learn from. Utilizing nonviolence for protest, and in this case by means of music, is applicable to people and communities of all ages. Although it can be implemented in a variety of different educational settings, it is most suited for settings of practicing nonviolent protests but can also be implemented in classes that have the ability to touch on the history of peaceful protests. Because nonviolence practices are not limited to age, it can be useful to younger audiences and adults. Educating the youth on nonviolence through history and with relatable examples like music, can serve as a successful tool to inform formal classrooms about nonviolence.

Educators can implement this source through nonviolence educating workshops. This includes teaching what nonviolence protests are and practicing it. By discussing with classrooms what different forms of nonviolence practices exist and learning the historical significance of these forms of protest, the example of the Singing Revolution is a helpful resource that shows a new method of nonviolence. I believe it is important to show that nonviolent protests are not done in just one way. They can include a variety of practices and the Singing Revolution is one of many forms of expressions applicable.

This source is supported by nonviolence peace education. The Singing Revolution was a protest done for raising awareness through solely singing; without the use of force in any physical way. It is supported by this form of peace education because of how it was conducted and the type of practice it used to create a protest. Students engaging with this source can gain skills of nonviolent practices, knowledge on peaceful protests, and find new tools to apply to their own ideas of peaceful protests. I believe this source will allow students to view peaceful protests in not only its definition but in a relatable aspect. It is important to have learners be able to not only be educated on peace education but also allow them to explore what peace education means and can mean.

Two specific stakeholders who may find this source and my post beneficial include nonviolent protests educators and nonprofit organizations. Nonviolence educators can use this source as an example to their classrooms when teaching about the history of peaceful protests and the many methods applicable to protesting nonviolently. Nonprofit organizations can organize workshops that support teaching nonviolence practices like in ways such as the Singing Revolution.

Historical events such as the Singing Revolution serve as great examples that peaceful protesting can be conducted in more than one way and still be just as effective. The Singing Revolution serves as a form of protest that shows audiences that their voice can be heard by singing their hearts out which can lead to something as groundbreaking like attaining freedom and gaining independence.


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