The Popular Front

​A political mass movement in Estonia in the late 1980s

The Popular Front (Est: Rahvarinne, official name Popular Front in Support of Perestroika, later the Popular Front of Estonia) was established in 1988. The idea of the movement was suggested by its later leader Edgar Savisaar in April 1988 in a popular TV programme. Officially, the Popular Front was not a political party, but a broad-based popular mass movement (in autumn 1988 it had about 60,000 members). In spring 1988 the movement was granted an official operating licence. Legalising the movement, the authorities hoped to channel the political discontent in society. The Front, in turn, wanted to democratise society and demanded changes in the leadership of the Soviet Union republics (replacing the conservative leadership with people keen on innovation). During its first year, the Front promoted the idea of more extensive autonomy for Estonia within the Soviet Union. From 1989 onwards, they supported Estonian independence, i.e. declaring support for an Estonian state (the so-called third republic . As a moderate popular movement, the Front was hugely popular, organising various mass events between 1988 and 1991. The largest was the Baltic Chain in 1989, organised by the Popular Fronts of the three Baltic republics and dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

At the 1990 elections of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR, the Popular Front won 24% of the votes, and a broad-based government was formed. The Popular Front dissolved itself in 1993.

Following the example of the Popular Front of Estonia, similar mass movements emerged in the late 1980s all over the Soviet Union, including Latvia and Lithuania.

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