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The Power of Song

Nonviolent National Culture in the Baltic Singing Revolution

Guntis Smidchens

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: University of Washington Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-2

In writing this book I have had the aid of a number of institutions and individuals whose role I gratefully acknowledge. The Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections provided copies of sound recordings that are at the center of this study. The University of Washington...

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Introduction: Three Nonviolent National Cultures

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pp. 3-6

“A nation who makes its revolution by singing and smiling should be a sublime example to all,” wrote the Estonian journalist Heinz Valk, in the June 1988 editorial whose title, “Singing Revolution,” gave the nonviolent Baltic independence movement its name. “It is impossible...

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1. Balts Speak to America, July 4, 1998

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pp. 7-23

They walk onto the main stage at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC: one hundred fifty Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians, carrying the three national flags: blue-black-white, red-whitered, and yellow-green-red. Lithuanian shepherds’ horns and Latvian...

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2. Herder’s Discovery of Baltic Songs

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pp. 24-49

These oaks, three feet in diameter, could be two centuries old. The linden is larger than her neighbors, but probably younger. Beneath the three towering giants stands the white-bearded Oskars Stalts, together with his daughter Helmī, his son-in-law Dainis, and granddaughter...

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3. Three Singing Nations and Their Songs

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pp. 50-106

These songs, and many others, are part of an informal national repertoire. Created by individual poets and composers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and diffused by the mass media, the songs entered oral tradition. They are sung at family celebrations and community...

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4. Songs of Warrior Nations

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pp. 107-134

The 1990 Lithuanian National Song and Dance Festival published a songbook for public singing events. On the first page is a song with a motif common to Lithuanian folk songs about war: a group of brothers riding horses. The singer tells the riders to stop, listen, and...

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5. Soviet Power versus Power of the Powerless

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pp. 135-159

Soviet power was established in the Baltic by military force. On August 23, 1939, Stalin and Hitler divided eastern Europe into spheres of influence. In September, World War II began when first Germany then the Soviet Union invaded Poland, and a second Soviet-Nazi treaty on...

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6. Living within the Truth in Choral Songs

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pp. 160-208

Lithuania’s song festival traditions became explicitly non-Soviet in Vilnius on July 1, 1988. During the opening concert of Gaudeamus, a Baltic university students’ song festival, singers in the combined choir unfurled, for the first time together on stage, the three national tricolors...

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7. Living within the Truth in Rock Songs

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pp. 209-260

The Singing Revolution began in Estonia on May 14, 1988, at the Tartu Music Days, an annual venue for cutting-edge rock music on the westernmost margins of permitted Soviet culture. That day, the nonconformist sprit of rock converged with explicit nationalism and...

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8. Living within the Truth in Folk Songs

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pp. 261-306

In the Baltic, summer nights are short and days are long. It was still broad daylight in Rīga at 8:00 pm on July 13, 1988, when the opening concert of the Baltica Folklore Festival ended and the festival participants walked in a procession from the Daugava Sports Stadium to...

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9. Nonviolent National Singing Traditions

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pp. 307-328

James and Maureen Tusty’s film Singing Revolution documents a critical moment on May 15, 1990, when several hundred Interfront demonstrators broke down the gates of the Estonian parliament and streamed inside, tearing down the blue-black-white flags of independence. Edgar...

Appendix I: Index and Map of Place Names

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pp. 329-332

Appendix II: Chronology

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pp. 333-338

Appendix III: Song Annotations and Index

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pp. 339-356


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pp. 357-408

Bibliography, Discography, and Filmography

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pp. 409-434

General Index

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pp. 435-446

E-ISBN-13: 9780295804897
E-ISBN-10: 0295804890
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295993102
Print-ISBN-10: 0295993103

Page Count: 456
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Song festivals -- Political aspects -- Baltic States.
  • Choral singing -- Political aspects -- Baltic States.
  • Muisc -- Political aspects -- Baltic States.
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