For More Information about The Singing Revolution
The following is a selection of materials – print, audio and visual – on the topics of Lithuanians’ love of song, nonviolent resistance and the events of The Singing Revolution. They are almost all readily available either online or through Wisconsin’s South Central Library System. Some are also available for purchase.
The story of The Singing Revolution has many components and had many, many active participants. Collectively, these resources offer a variety of perspectives and avenues of exploration – from a Sajudis member with a keen political eye to the “Antis” musicians whose rock & roll punk theater drew huge crowds to their shows – and to the singing of the Lithuanian national anthem.
This publication is available from the Albert Einstein Institution as a booklet for $5 or as a PDF, free online. It is the eighth in a series by the institution focusing on nonviolent resistance in various countries in the world. Dr. Grazina Miniotaite chronicles events of Lithuania’s Singing Revolution (1987-1991) with thoroughness and riveting detail, as a scholar who was actively involved as a member of the Sajudis Council of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. The first two chapters lay groundwork by looking at nonviolent resistance against Czarist Russification in the 19th century and resistance to the Soviet rule 1940-1987. The last chapter speaks to civilian-based defense. The 11 Appendices include the texts of fascinating historic government documents from 1990 to 1996, including appeals, decrees and resolutions. Translated from Lithuanian by Algerdas Degutis.
This book is the work of a researcher with an expansive vision yet acute attention to the kinds of detail that bring the past – distant and recent – alive with a sense of humanity. Guntis Smidchens examines the role of song and its relationship to nonviolent culture in Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian cultures using a multi-faceted research approach that incorporates history, ethnography, musical analysis and political science. His primary focus is on The Singing Revolution (1987-1991), but his exploration begins in the 18th century, continues through the 19th and early 20th centuries’ Czarist rule, then takes an especially interesting look at the early years of Baltic Independence beginning in 1918. It all helps lay a foundation for The Singing Revolution. Guntis weaves the stories of the three Baltic nations together well, noting their similarities and differences, and the critical nature of their cooperation. He devotes long chapters – each brimming with information – to choral songs, rock songs and folk songs and their roles in The Singing Revolution. It’s compelling.
This book was published just as The Singing Revolution was coming to a climax. Professor Alfred Senn, a UW-Madison professor and of Lithuanian heritage himself, witnessed the changes happening in Lithuania beginning in the later 1980s. Gorbachov’s Soviet policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) seemed to release a simmering, then powerfully urgent force, as Lithuanians saw the possibilities for freedoms and maximized them. Al Senn, a longtime board member of Madison Vilnius Sister Cities, Inc., who sadly passed away in 2016, brought his historian’s perspective as well as his own experiences to this chronicle and exploration of political action and organization, looking at the range of people involved and how the nation of Lithuania emerged.
Lituanus, the Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences has been publishing academic articles on various aspects of Lithuanian culture and history, including art and literature, for over 60 years.
A special issue in the Summer of 2006, Vol. 52, No. 2, was devoted to Lithuanian Song and featured six articles and an accompanying CD titled Transformations in Lithuanian Song.
Four of those articles, including “Why is Song Important to Lithuanians?” by Zita Kelmickaite, are available free online at http://www.lituanus.org/main.php?id=search-articles
The music from the CD is not included with the online articles. However, the print version of the Lithuanian Song Issue, including all six articles and the accompanying CD, is still available as a gift to new Lituanus subscribers. To find out more, click on the “Subscribe” tab on the website.
There’s more – don’t stop now!
This DVD has remarkable footage of events during the years of the Singing Revolution along with insightful and thought-provoking commentary. Find it and watch it!
This is text from the DVD cover, translated from Lithuanian:
“The story of the film begins in 1984, the very beginning of perestroika in USSR, when a group of architects decided to organize a one-night music band as a New Year’s Party joke in Kaunas. Lithuania. Their joke proved to be so good that rumors about the new exciting rock band ‘Antis’ spread from lips to lips. Imposing make-up and props, stylized show, and lyrics were creating a pervasive caricature of the Soviet propaganda and perfectly discrediting the absurdity of the Soviet reality. Soon their intellectual clownery grew into the rock marches – massive events involving thousands of people – that transformed into the big meetings for Lithuanian independence later named the Singing Revolution. This is the story about the people who raised their independence with the smiles and songs regardless of the danger of the situation.”
Personal statement by the writer and director:
“The era of ‘Antis’ belonged to the generation of my parents, also architects. Therefore, I am quite familiar with this environment. I grew up watching those people and their carnivals. Their spirit of camaraderie and search for an individualistic world in the absurd Soviet reality. I got to directly experience not only the rapid crossover from one historic formation to another, but also the inner transformation of the generation itself. In addition to a new kind of reality, this film is a part of both a nation dear to me and a personal history of every one of us.”
The Singing Revolution, a film (and DVD) by James Tusty and Maureen Castyle Tusty, Docuramafilms. Film release 2007, DVD release 2009. A circulating DVD is available through Madison Public Libraries and Wisconsin’s South Central Library System.
This beautifully researched, written and produced documentary explores the historic events in all three Baltic countries, with primary focus on Estonia. It is one of the earliest documentaries in English to explore The Singing Revolution. It has introduced the story to many. The film’s website is: https://singingrevolution.com/
Baltijos Kelias (The Baltic Way) LRT, 2:48 minutes. Original footage, produced by Lithuanian Television, shows a Lithuanian section of the 600-kilometer human chain that stretched from Vilnius, Lithuania through Riga, Latvia to Tallinn, Estonia in 1989, Year 3 of The Singing Revolution. This footage includes a plane flying overhead and dropping flowers on the singers. If you watch this video, you may also receive suggestions for additional choices from LRT’s protest coverage
The Lithuanian Catholic Press Society, in Chicago, has published Draugas, a Lithuanian language newspaper, for over a century. In addition to the Lithuanian edition which comes out three times a week, the Society publishes the monthly Draugas News – Lithuanian World Wide News in English. Several years ago, the society also became the publisher of Lithuanian Heritage magazine, a full-color bimonthly, also in English. These publications regularly feature stories about Lithuanian song and dance, including the North American and Lithuanian festivals. They also provide substantive historical commentary for notable dates such as the 25th anniversary of The Singing Revolution and Restoration of Independence. Subscribers to these publications gain access to an index of back issues in digital form.
For information about Draugas News: www.draugas.org/news
For information about Lithuanian Heritage: http://www.draugas.org/lh
Examples of stories related to the power of song, nonviolent action and The Singing Revolution include:
“Lithuanian Songs,” by Rytis Ambrazevicius, Lithuanian Heritage, Vol. 21, No. 3, May/June 2014. [This article is from Lithuanian Roots by Rytis Ambrazevicius, and reprinted courtesy of the Lithuanian Folk Culture Center, Vilnius, Lithuania.]
“I Am the Song,” by Andrea Benotas, Lithuanian Heritage, Vol .17, No. 2, March/April 2010
“Setting the Stage, 25 Years Ago: Events which Led to Lithuania’s Independence in 1990” by Aleksas Vitkus, Draugas News, Lithuanian Catholic Press Society, Chicago, Feb. 2015.
“’Singing Revolution’: a piece about history, sorrow, and hope” an interview with Kestutis Daugirdas and Rugile Kazlauskaite by Simona Minns, Draugas News, Lithuanian Catholic Press Society, Chicago, May 2015.