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Estonia remembers its ‘singing revolution’

By AAP Newswire

Tens of thousands of Estonians have joined in a huge mass choir to commemorate the so-called 'singing revolution' against soviet control.

The Estonian Song and Dance Celebration attracted 35,000 singers, more than 1,000 choirs and 700 dance groups to the capital of Tallinn.

An estimated 90,000 people attended the main concert, which had most of the choirs joining voices for songs with special meaning for Estonians and their national identity.

During Estonia's nearly 50 years of Soviet occupation, some traditional anthems and songs were banned or had their lyrics changed so singing them was an act of defiance.

In the late 1980s, people intentionally sang the original versions of key songs at protests and independence followed their "Singing Revolution" in 1991.

The United Nations' cultural body, UNESCO, has recognised Estonia's folk song festival and similar events in Baltic neighbours Latvia and Lithuania for showcasing the "intangible cultural heritage of humanity."

During the Singing Revolution, 2 million people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined hands to form a 600-kilometre human chain that protested Soviet occupation of the Baltics with a song.

"Estonians love to say that that it was singing that made us free," Heldur Harry Polda, 22, said at the festival Sunday. "I think everybody believes that. And I think we have to kind of respect that and keep our country free."