Estonia Celebrates 30 Years of Regained Indepedence

Source: Raigo Pajula, Visit Estonia

Estonia Celebrates 30 Years of Regained Indepedence

This year the Republic of Estonia celebrates its thirtieth anniversary of restored independence. The celebrations will take place all over Estonia and the main event will be a synchronized performance by choirs in several cities across the country.

Early Estonia Independence

Ruled by foreign powers for centuries, the Estonian people have never stopped striving for their nation's independence. Independence first came on February 23, 1918. From the balcony of the Endla Theater in Pärnu, the manifesto was read out to the people declaring that Estonia was a sovereign state. In unison, the nearby crowd people sang out Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm (My fatherland, my happiness, and joy), the song that would later become Estonia's national anthem.

The First Anniversary of Independence in 1919

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

The next day, news of the manifesto had reached Tallinn and the document was published for the general public. After that, a new independent Estonia emerged, and today 24 February is celebrated as Estonian Independence Day. Estonia would remain a sovereign and independent nation until 1940 when it was incorporated into the USSR.

A New Wave

During the late 1980s, feelings of national sentiment and independence were reawakening with force. Under the policy of Perestroika, more liberal reforms were occurring within the Soviet Union. On 26 September 1987, a proposal was made for Estonia's economic autonomy within the union were published in the Tartu newspaper Edasi (Estonian for 'forward').

The Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, where the Singing Revolution Began

Photo by: Aivar Pihelgas, Visit Estonia

The Singing Revolution

In the summer of 1988, events unfolded that would be known as the Singing Revolution. In May, the '5 Patriotic Songs' premiered at a music festival in Tartu and in June, the Old Town Festival was held in Tallinn. After the official festival, numerous mass singing events took place at the Tallinn Song Festival Ground with participants focusing on patriotic songs.

Estonians have always found strength and solidarity in singing

Photo by: Jaanus Ree, Visit Estonia

On 11 September 1988, roughly 300,000 Estonians (almost one-third of the population) came together in the Tallinn Song for the national Song Festival. For the people of the Baltic States, choral singing has always been a source of strength as well as national unity. That year, the sense of nationalism was high and singing became a means of expression and protest to Soviet hegemony.

The Baltic Chain

Along with the Singing Revolution, the Baltic Chain (also called the Baltic Way) was instrumental in Estonia regaining its independence. On August 23, 1989, nearly two million people from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania took to the streets and clasped hands forming a chain of people that extended about 670 kilometers.

The Baltic Chain stretched about 670 km connecting the capital cities of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

Photo by: Jaan Künnap, Wikipedia, License: CC BY-SA 4.0

The date of the Baltic Chain was chosen intentionally on the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the actions were hugely successful at gaining attention from around the world and Soviet Moscow in particular.

Renewed Independence

In 1991, the culmination of events came to a head. The widespread push for restoring Estonia's continued and following the August Coup in Moscow, independence was declared for Estonia on 20 August 1991 when the Supreme Council of Estonia established de facto independence. Today, this has become a national holiday in Estonia national holiday, known as Restoration of Independence Day.

Events and Exhibits Celebrating Independence

Of course, you can find plenty of exhibitions and events to get into the spirit and learn more about Estonia's history.

Celebration and Commemoration Events

20 August. The Night Song Festival "Laula Vabalt" (meaning "sing free") celebrates the 30th anniversary of Estonia's regained freedom. More than 450 Estonian musicians are taking part in this 5-hour concert. The event starts at 19.00 and goes until 00:30. You can buy tickets here.

20 August. General Laidoner's Estonian War Museum in Viimsi. As part of the Dignified Land Rover Grand Prix 2021 event, a demonstration of various military equipment and off-road vehicles will take place.

15 Agust. The Estonian National Museum. A concert marking the 30th anniversary of the restoration of independence will take place where Mari Jürjens, Mari Kalkun, and the VHK string orchestra will perform on the ENM summer stage

Exhibitions and Viewings

If you're curious about Estonia's history and want to learn more about what happened in the early 90s, then come visit some of the different exhibitions, where you can learn more about how Estonia made its history

The Estonian National Museum is hosting the permanent exhibition 'Encounters.' This will bring parts of Estonia's past for visitors to understand and learn from. Entrance to the exhibition is free until the end of 2021.

The museum will present an interactive game "Time Travel 1991". The All-Estonian Time Travel will take place from 6th to 16th September 2021.

20-21 August. Palamuse O. Lutsu Parish School Museum. A sound, light, and pyrotechnic performance called Tuledes Paunvere (Paunvere in lights) describing the events of 23 February 1918. Based on the writings of historian Johannes Paju, the story includes both historical and fictional characters.

September 2021. Palamuse O. Lutsu Parish School Museum. Students will be performing the historical events of 1991.

Until October 2021. Museum of Occupation and Freedom Vabamu. The traveling pop-up exhibition "Thirty Years Free" looks back at the restoration of Estonia's independence and the last 30 years and teaches people how important each person's contribution is in building and maintaining an independent democracy.

Until December 31, 2021. The Kumu Art Museum. Some see the exhibition of Estonian Art in the 1990s named "The Future Comes in an Hour. Estonian Art in the 1990s". The exposition explores new phenomena and art forms that emerged during the historic period for Estonia. The new permanent exhibition features works by influential artists who set the tone for the art of the 1990s. The name of the exhibition is taken from the song of the cult brand JMKE and indicates social and cultural changes at a time when everyone was looking forward to the future.

The Estonian National Museum in Tartu

Photo by: ERM - BTH Studio

Last updated : 20.08.2021