February 24, 2012 - Independence Day in Estonia

You can see the modern
city behind the old-town
buildings of Tallinn, Estonia.

There was a lot of chaos in Europe during the first part of the twentieth century. World War I was killing millions of soldiers and civilians. In Estonia, which had been ruled by the Russian Empire, Russian troops were retreating and German troops were advancing. Estonia declared its independence on this date in 1918, but Germany ignored the declaration and occupied Estonia. Later in the year, in November, Germany formally handed over political power to the Estonian government, but the Bolshevik (Communist) invasion followed. It took another year and a half before The Republic of Estonia was able to establish peace with Bolshevist Russia.

Estonia was a republic for 22 years.

And then World War II broke out, and the same two nations tore up Estonia's land and people again—Russia (now the Soviet Union) and Germany fought over, and occupied, Estonia. When that war was over, Estonia was (unwillingly) part of the Soviet Union. It took until the end of the twentieth century, when the Soviet Union collapsed, for Estonia to regain its independence—which it re-declared in August of 1991.

The best part of all this freedom fighting might be the Singing Revolution, on June 10-11, 1988, when more than two million people created a human chain that stretched through Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, singing illegal patriotic songs all night long. Actually, massive sing-alongs sprang out in Estonia for six nights in a row! The Singing Revolution was non-violent—a much better symbolic, defining event than the destructive Boston Tea Party or the violent storming of the Bastille.

Singing is still important in Estonia. Listen to the crowd singing “The Most Beautiful Songs.”

A crater made
by a meteorite.
Here's a challenging puzzle showing the old-town portion of an Estonian city. (Click the words “Compose Puzzles” to play. You have to enter a nickname—NOT your full name or even, necessarily, a nickname you actually use—and choose your country in order to play.)

Also on this date:

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