Ei Ole Ükski Ükski Maa

Mar 12 2018

Ei Ole Ükski Ükski Maa

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My favorite musical genre of all times is Vietnam War protest songs from the 70s and civil rights songs really fascinate me. Since my blog post is on North and Central Eurasia I decided to look into war protest songs from nations formerly under Soviet rule around the time period of their independence. For as long as people have been making music it has been used move people. Whether it be “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” “Solidarity Forever,” “Birmingham Sunday,” or “The Times They are Achangin” (sorry all of my examples are American) music has been a form of protest and a catalyst to change so I knew there had to be music from this time period as well. I came across something called the Singing Revolution in Estonia, a former Soviet country, and the Five Songs of Freedom. I could not find a recording of a version of the songs from the 80s, but I did find a great parody of one of the songs.

In 1988 a group of around 80,000 people converged on Tallinn, the capitol of Estonia, to sing native songs that had been banned by the USSR. This was merely another year of the traditional festival that had occurred every four years since 1869. This year, however, in a form of protesting the Soviet Union it grew into a human chain that spanned over all three Baltic States from Tallinn to Vilnius in Lithuania. Upon seeing all of this, the Russian government realized that to suppress these singers would be impossible and simply retreated. This is how Estonia gained independence from the USSR without any bloodshed.

One of the songs sung in 1988 was “Ei Ole Ükski Ükski Maa” or “No Country Stands Alone.” This song had been written in protest of the Soviet exploitation of the phosphate supply in the Virumaa region of Estonia that would lead to further pollution of their lakes and rivers and the relocation of many Estonians. This song, sung “We Are the World” style, lead to a national feeling of Pride in being Estonian which lead up to the 1988 gathering and was the perfect song for the Singing Revolution.

Fast forward about 35 years, and we see a parody of “No Country Stands Alone” that makes fun of the hyper-nationalistic and racist views taking hold throughout Estonia. This song was produced by an Estonian comedy show called Tujurikkuja, or Mood Spoiler. This is not the first time that this comedy show has made fun of Estonians. They also did a segment called To Be Estonian- It Sucks!, making fun of how Estonians always complain about how terrible it is to be Estonian. We see this trend of comedy shows breaking into the political sphere here in the United States as well, through shows such as the Daily Show and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

“No Country Stands Alone” goes through each of the sections of Estonia, pointing out situations and sentiments that have occurred. The song talks about the racism and ignorance experienced by Black people, Muslims, and the LGBTQIA+ community in Estonia, and even calls out Kristiina Ojuland, a racist politician from the area. It then goes on to make fun of the internal bickering that they are experiencing by saying that there is only one person worse than all others, and that is their fellow Estonian. One line from this song is “Nature knows, Fatherland knows, we like to hate everything,” pointing out the internal bickering.

The last line is “But no land stands alone, no land stands alone, except maybe Syria.” This is an interesting way to end the song and it can be assumed that this line was thrown in as one last joke, but this time a stab at the international community as well. As we all know, Syria is in the midst of a deadly civil war that has caused many of its citizens to be internally displaced or fleeing the country. This, along with an increase in refugees from other countries, has caused the xenophobic backlash we are currently seeing in much of the western world. This last line is commentary on how the international community has essentially turned its back on these refugees effectively causing Syria to “stand alone.”

Naturally, this song is going to garner a variety of reactions. The then Prime Minister ,Taavi Rõivas, tweeted his appreciation for the parody, but others were not as happy. Some claimed that Estonia was alreadu doing enough to help with the refugee crisis while others were offended that Tujurikkuja chose to parody such a revered national song. Either way, this song did start a national conversation on Estonia’s role in the modern refugee crisis.

By no means is this increasingly nationalistic sentiment unique to Estonia. We have seen this all over the would with the crackdown on immigration in Europe and the United States, the Authoritarian Regime of Venezuela, the close loss of Le Pens in the 2017 French Election, our own election of President Donald Trump in 2016, and the most recent election in Italy. The difference is that Estonia has had a long history of political protest through song that they have been able to tap in to. Below is a link to the song itself.





Reference List

Estonia’s songs of freedom (2011, September 17). Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/estonias-songs-of-freedom-5361444.html


Rock, Roll and Revolt (1990, February 4). The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1990/02/04/rock-roll-and-revolt/2688537b-aa0a-44c9-adef-6796eab1778b/?utm_term=.caceae5c1b70


Külmoja, I., (2016). No Country Stands Alone- Except Maybe Syria!. University of Tatu: UT Blog. Retrieved from http://blog.ut.ee/no-country-stands-alone-except-maybe-syria/

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