Popular Front of Estonia

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The Popular Front of Estonia (Estonian: Rahvarinne), introduced to the public by the Estonian politician Edgar Savisaar under the short-lived name "Popular Front for the Support of Perestroika", was a political organization in Estonia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was to a significant degree the precursor to the current Estonian Centre Party, although with a much broader base of popularity at the beginning. It was a major force in the Estonian independence movement that led to the re-establishment of the Republic of Estonia as a country independent from the Soviet Union. It was similar to the Popular Front of Latvia and the Sąjūdis movement in Lithuania and a number of Popular Fronts that were created almost simultaneously in many parts of the USSR. The Baltic States were in a unique category among the constituent parts of the USSR in that they had been European parliamentary democracies before being annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. The Popular Front of Estonia was founded in 1988 by Marju Lauristin and Edgar Savisaar. Savisaar initiated the founding in April, 1988 in a live broadcast (Mõtleme veel) on Estonian TV, advocating support of Gorbachevian perestroika.

The Popular Front of Estonia together with the Popular Front of Latvia and the Sąjūdis organized the Baltic Way mass "arm-in-arm" manifestation extending through three Baltic states on August 23, 1989 that marked 50th anniversary of August 23, 1939 when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which resulted in the forcible incorporation of these three states into the Soviet Union and the loss of their independence. The front was opposed by the Intermovement that represented the pro-Soviet part of Estonia's ethnic Russian minority and other ethnic groups that had been settled in Estonia during the Soviet occupation period. The Popular Front was a supporter of perestroika, while the Intermovement was seen as opposed to Gorbachev's reforms. As time went by, an ever greater chasm developed between the initial thrust of the Popular Front, leading members of which at first advocated mere autonomy within a Soviet system that Gorbachev was trying to reform in a cautious way, and the eventual context of the Estonian Popular Front, which - although still controlled largely by Edgar Savisaar - came to stand for true independence, an idea supported by the rank and file. Consequently the Estonian Popular Front changed a great deal over time, until political parties came to replace such movements in Estonia during the early nineties. This rendered the Popular Front of Estonia an anachronism, and it eventually faded away.

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