Estonia's move towards independence was similar to that of the other two Baltic States. In Estonia, two different movements developed in the late 1980s – the reform communists and the nationalists. The reform oriented communist opposition grew in strength after the Popular Front of Estonia (PFE) was founded in April 1988. This new group, which consisted of many members of the Estonian Communist Party, advocated the transformation of the USSR into a confederacy, thus expecting a greater political and economic autonomy for Estonia. The nationalist movements, however, formed the Estonian National Independence Party (ERSP), which claimed independence for Estonia, demanded the adoption of Estonian as the language of the state and opposed a compromise with Russian minorities over voting rights.
In March 1990, the Estonian Supreme Soviet conducted a referendum on the issue of independence. The result was clear: 83 per cent of the registered electorate participated in the elections and 78 per cent voted in favour of Estonian independence.
One month later, the Estonian Supreme Soviet elected Edgar Savisaar, the leader of the PFE, as prime minister. One of the first acts of the new government was to restore the first five articles of the 1938 Estonian Constitution. The old Republic of Estonia was independent again, complete with the state emblems and flags. The Soviet Union immediately declared that proclamation void and sent troops to Estonia.
A few days after the Soviet Union military troops occupied Tallinn, the members of the Estonian Supreme Soviet declared full and immediate independence of the Estonian Republic on 20 August 1991. The Soviet coup d'état failed and Estonia was recognised as an independent state by more than thirty countries. Two weeks later, on 6 September 1991, the Soviet Union recognised the independence of all three Baltic States.