In 1991, Estonia rejected the Soviets and brought the Evil Empire to its knees by rising to its feet -- in song. Filmmakers James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty have uncovered a true story that would escape the clutches of even the most imaginative in Hollywood. "To be an Estonian today," they explain, "is to have been a member of the Singing Revolution yesterday."
Estonia loves to sing. The "Laulupidu," or the Estonian Song Festival, was established in 1869 and served as a rallying point for national pride throughout all the awful years that followed.
In 1947, the Soviets took control of the festival, replacing the traditional music with Soviet propaganda films honoring Vladimir Lenin and Stalin. But composer Gustav Ernesaks pulled a fast one on the communists. He inserted "Land of My Fathers, Land that I Love" into the program. Unbeknownst to the Soviets, it was actually a protest against them. Immediately it became the unofficial Estonian national anthem.
It was through the singing of this anthem, by tens of thousands of Estonians at a time, that national defiance was born and nurtured. From this defiance a cluster of protest groups emerged. And from these organizations came a movement demanding and finally, against all odds -- the Soviet empire! -- achieving glorious independence.
History will chronicle that the Soviet Union was defeated by the vision and perseverance of three world leaders, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. But every nation in Eastern Europe that freed itself from the yoke of Soviet occupation also has its own story to tell. Many were chronicled by the Western press as they occurred. We followed the heroics of Lech Walesa and Solidarity in Poland; the weekly Leipzig demonstrations in East Germany; Vaclev Havel's Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.
But history overlooked little Estonia -- until now. What the Tustys have delivered, after exhaustive research, with spellbinding first-person interviews and heretofore unknown footage of the events as they occurred, is breathtaking.
"The Singing Revolution" is essential viewing for every child whose parents cherish this thing we call freedom. It is essential viewing for every adult wishing to see and hear a national miracle in the making.
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