Estonia is a tiny nation squeezed between the Baltic Sea and the former Soviet Union. For centuries they have been subject to occupation and used as a pawn by larger, more powerful nations. In 1920 they achieved independence and were thriving only to fall victim again to dictators – in 1939 Hitler and Stalin signed a secret agreement that divided Europe between them. Shortly thereafter, Stalin invaded Estonia and brutally suppressed resistance.
This invasion was followed by more than 50 years of oppression, first by Stalin, then Hitler, then Stalin again. Thousands of Estonians were killed or shipped to Siberia to work in the labor camps. The Estonian language was outlawed, thousands of Russians were moved to Estonia (called “russification”) to further dilute the native population and any hint of free thinking was swiftly and severely punished.
However, the Estonians refused to give up their culture or their national identity. One way was through singing – this tiny nation has one of the largest collections of folk songs in the world and singing clubs are very popular. A national song festival – “Laulupidu” – has been held every five years since 1894. The Soviets allowed this festival to continue, but required the singing of Soviet communist songs, sung in Russian. On one occasion the Estonians outsmarted their oppressors and spontaneously began singing traditional folk songs in Estonian. The band was ordered to play louder to drown out the singing, but massed voices were too loud.
As Soviet Russia began to crumble, Estonia pushed for more freedoms and independence. Throughout their struggle, singing became a uniting force, bringing people together countless times. The Estonian revolution remained bloodless and, when the USSR finally collapsed, Estonia emerged as an intact nation, united by their suffering but also by their joyous singing.
The Singing Revolution will leave you with a lump in your throat and goosebumps on your skin. It’s hard to believe that singing can stop tanks, but the Estonians did it again and again. The beautiful, lovingly produced documentary will remind you again of both the price of freedom and why it’s so precious.
It often surprises people that they can call (or email or IM) our reference desk and ask us virtually anything and we will do our utmost to find an answer.
Callers may be looking for facts or articles to support liberal, conservative or libertarian points-of-view. They may want information about extraterrestrial life, Elvis Presley’s current whereabouts or the latest bills on gun control. We apply the same skills and methodology no matter what the topic.
The next time the tv or newspaper prompts a question in your mind, give us a call!
Okay, so I like to think I would defend our intellectual freedoms under desperate circumstances, but what if I was mysteriously kidnapped and dropped into an Utopian community? Yes, I lose my name and I cannot leave the city limits or this weird orb-like creature will eat me, but everyone is so happy and intelligent and beautiful. All I have to do is stop asking questions and I could be content like them. And they have parades, like, everyday.
This is the basic plot of The Prisoner–a 1960’s cult British program starring Patrick McGoohan. McGoohan plays an ex-British Government employee who wakes up to find himself in “The Village” with everyone calling him number Six. Unlike me, Six is not charmed by the pretty landscaping and golf cart rides; he spends all 17 episodes in a constant mind-battle with number Two while alternately trying to escape and find out who is number One. Just writing this blogpost, my brain has gone into overdrive remembering the mental exercise I received from watching this show: What freedoms do I have? What freedoms do I not have? What freedoms would I not realize were gone? What freedoms would I allow to be taken in order to be happy? Would I know the difference between freedom and the illusion of freedom? Ack! Thought-provoking television!
You’ve got several options on experiencing the Prisoner:
Be seeing you!
Since 2004, libraries across the world have organized events about freedom and issues that matter to their communities during the month of September. This grassroots project favors free over fee, public over private, and voices over silence. This year, the Davenport Public Library is posting blogs relating to freedom and democracy, as well as hosting displays about these topics. For more information about the September Project, visit www.theseptemberproject.org
One way libraries and librarians protect your freedom that you probably aren’t even aware of, is Collection Development. That’s a fancy librarian term for what we do every day – buy books (and movies and magazines and audio materials, etc ) But there’s something serious here too – the reference librarians work hard – including going to school and getting a Master’s Degree – to make sure that our collection is balanced and that it, within publishing and money constraints, has something for everyone.
Let’s say you’re an ardent vegetarian. Great! We have books on cooking for the vegetarian and the vegan, books on how to grow your own vegetables and books on the health benefits of this lifestyle. But we also have books about cooking meat and books about baking with sugar and butter. We have books that will appeal to various political parties and religious beliefs, books that cover nearly every opinion and belief with no favoritism for one or another.
Just one of the services your public library provides – upholding the ideals of the Constitution of the United States.