Satyagraha and the Singing Revolution

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  • Topic: World War II, Baltic states, Estonia
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  • Published : April 27, 2011
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Jillian Mullen2/14/11
English 802-Emma Crandall
Assignment 1

Satyagraha and the Singing Revolution: Voices That Needed To Be Heard

One of the axioms of religion is there is no religion other than truth. Another is, religion is love. And as there can only be one religion, it follows that truth is love and love is truth. We shall find too, on further reflection, that conduct based on truth is impossible without love. Truth-force then is love-force. We cannot remedy evil by harboring ill will against the evildoer. -Mahatma Gandhi

Nonviolent resistance is the practice of achieving socio-political goals without the use of violence. An advocate of this practice was Mahatma Gandhi, who through his use of civil disobedience, gained independence from the British in India. Gandhi defined this form of civil resistance as Satyagraha, which meant to respectfully disagree with one’s government. There have been many nonviolent resistance movements following Gandhi’s that have used the same strategy of civil disobedience. One such event was the Singing Revolution in the Baltic States, which was used to release those countries from the control of the Soviet Union. In this particular movement, Gandhi’s use of Satyagraha proved to be effective due to the success of the Baltic States regaining their independence from the Soviets without any bloodshed.

In Gandhi’s letter “Meaning of Satyagraha”, he describes the literal meaning of Satyagraha as “insistence on truth, and force derivable from such insistence” (Gandhi 447). Satyagraha is more than just a form of passive resistance, but an actual spiritual feeling of strength brought about by practicing these methods of nonviolence. He also emphasizes strongly the insistence on and power of truth. His goal was to unite the people of India to stand up against their oppressors. In this case, it was British imperialists. However, by the laws of Satyagraha, it was not the responsibility of the Indians to gain their independence through defeating the British, but rather cooperating with them in order to prevent a war. And India did just that. Through their act of nonviolent resistance, they convinced the British that they deserved their independence, and in return, they received it. The Indian independence movement is proof that Gandhi’s method of Satyagraha works, and can result in success regarding nonviolent resistance occurrences. In the case of The Singing Revolution in the Baltic States, the use of Satyagraha allowed for success in this social justice movement regarding the Baltic countries of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia’s strive for independence from the Soviet Union.

The Singing Revolution, which occurred from 1987-1991, was a civil resistance movement that dealt with restoring independence to the Baltic States of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. After World War II, those States were under control by Soviet Russia. The first straw for the Baltics was the public airing of Estonia’s discontent with foreign ethnic groups who were taking away job opportunities in Russia. Estonians were concerned about the demographic threat to their national identity, and the Soviets leaked this information to the public. This caused many people to feel deep dissatisfaction with the Baltic countries (Chakars 111). The last straw for the Baltics occurred in the late 1980’s, when the States, particularly Estonia, began to have informal relations with Finland and became acclimated with Finnish television shows that depicted a Western lifestyle. The Soviets were not pleased with these relations, and began to repress all groups ranging from nationalists, religious communities, and ordinary people. This caused massive demonstrations and protests in Russia. The largest instance occurred when the regime failed to take into consideration the national sensitivities of the Baltic States. This included restricting freedom of speech and national icons such as flags. Even...
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