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Estonia Celebrates Re-Independence With Fire, Water and Stone

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Countless flags - and drinking glasses - will be raised across Estonia on Tuesday in honor of Re-Independence Day, the national holiday marking the day in 1991 when the country officially broke away from Moscow after nearly a half century of Soviet rule.

On August 20 of that year, with Soviet special forces troops surrounding the Tallinn TV Tower and an attempted coup d'état taking place in Russia, Estonia's then legislature, the Supreme Soviet, proclaimed the restoration of the country's independence.

The TV Tower, which the Soviet forces stormed the following day but famously failed to shut down, will this year play host to one of the holiday's larger public events.

From 10:00 to 17:00, the tower grounds will be the site of a Family Day that includes games and activities for children, a weapons exhibition by the Defense League, folk dancing, orchestral music and several Red Cross workshops. One of the more spectacular points on the program is likely to be the Rescue Board's demonstration of putting out a fire using water.

The above events will be free of charge, but able-bodied visitors willing to pay for a five-euro ticket can also opt for the stair-walking excursion up into the tower itself. Further information is available on the tower's website.  

Meanwhile, in the center of the capital on Harjumägi, the mayors of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius will preside over the dedication of a memorial stone in honor of another key component of the independence movement, the Baltic Chain (also sometimes known as Baltic Way).

In that peaceful demonstration, held on August 23, 1989, about 2 million people linked hands to form a human chain from Tallinn to Vilnius to mark the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union – an agreement that led to the occupation of the Baltic countries in 1940.

The Baltic Chain memorial stone is one of three created by Lithuanian sculptor Gitenis Umbrasas, each making its home in one of the Baltic capitals, according to an announcement from the Tallinn City Government.

The event takes place at 13:30, also on August 20, and will be accompanied by an outdoor concert given by pianist Rein Rannap and the Collegium Musicale chamber choir.

No doubt the mood will shift to a different type of nostalgia later in the evening, at 21:00, when British pop legend Robbie Williams lights up the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds on his "Take The Crown" stadium tour.

In the nation's intellectual and spiritual capital of Tartu, the largest musical celebrations will be far more homespun and will also start earlier - on Monday evening - with a night-time singing festival called Järjepidevus at that city's own song festival grounds.

A total of 43 choirs will be taking part, as will well-known musical groups The Sun, Ultima Thule, Pantokraator, Justament, Jäääär, Mahavok, Rosta Aknad, Singer Vinger and Jääboiler, according to

For its part, Narva will mark Estonian independence with a free concert by the Narva Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Anatoly Schura. The concert will be held at the Geneva Center and begins at 18:00.

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