Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Political Science

Thesis Type

Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors

First Advisor

Michele Commercio


Estonia, song festivals, social movements, collective action, nationalism, collective memory


This paper examines the role of the national song festivals in the Estonian independence movement during the years 1987-1991. Drawing from theory on social movements, collective action, nationalism, identity formation, collective memory, musicology, and festival studies, I argue that the song festivals created the atmosphere of mass confidence, euphoria, safety, and solidarity that propelled the Estonian people to demand independence from the Soviet Union. I take a cognitive, individual-based perspective of the political events to emphasize the significance of micro-level explanation of political protest and participation. This research was informed by qualitative interviews with native Estonians and contemporary publications of The Current Digest of the Soviet Press. Analysis of the song festivals in the context of theory on nation-building and collective action, supplemented by qualitative materials, suggests that the festivals played a much larger role in the movement than most of the literature acknowledges. My findings reinforce the need for cognitive, individual-level research to explain processes of political mobilization.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.