Speaking at a ceremony held to commemorate the 94th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Tartu on Sunday, Parliament Speaker Ene Ergma said that the border treaty with Russia, which is expected to be signed in a few weeks, will not diminish the importance of the 1920 peace treaty.
When the initial border treaty negotiations began in the mid-1990s, the government decided to drop demands to restore the borders fixed in the peace treaty, but not to relinquish the principle of its legal continuity, Ergma said on Sunday.
According to the former Estonian chancellor of justice, Ergma said, the Treaty of Tartu will remain in effect, even if the border between Russia and Estonia is shifted, adding that the treaty will remain one of the legal cornerstones of Estonian independence.
It was then Chancellor of Justice Allar Jõks who, in 2005, proposed that Parliament add a preamble mentioning the Tartu treaty to the text of the draft border treaty with Russia. Separating the concept of legal continuity from the path of the border was not to the liking of Russia however - the addition of the preamble prompted Russia to freeze ratification.
Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu said at the ceremony that the peace treaty brought international recognition to Estonian independence.
He added that Russia renounced claims to Estonian territory after signing the document of February 2, 1920 in Tartu.
Opponents of new border treaty protest in Tartu
But in the university city of Tartu itself, attitudes were different from the more nuanced legal position in Tallinn. A public meeting was held where a number of former Soviet-era dissidents and politicians called for the treaty to be scrapped.
“The foundation of Russian foreign policy is dominance and they want Estonia and other partners to be weaker. We should not scurry off to Moscow each time we are called,” former IRL MP and historian Tõnis Lukas said at the meeting.
"When our guys go to Moscow to sign agreements, we have fared poorly. But always when Russian guys come here - as in 1920 in Tartu, or 1991 when Yeltsin came to Tallinn, that has boded well, they have come as friends," he said.
He added that if the border treaty did go ahead, it should be signed digitally - Estonian politicians would not have to travel to Moscow, and it would show more equality between the two nations.