In a video message dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Estonian expatriates living around the world today, Minister of Foregin Affairs Marina Kaljurand recongized the role Estonians in exile played in preserving the Estonian language and culture during decades of occupation, and pointed out that in an increasingly global society, over the 25 years since independence was reestablished in Estonia, the line has blurred between Estonians living "at home" and those living abroad.
[On Saturday] we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the restoration of the Republic of Estonia. Surely many of you remember those anxious days in August 1991. 25 years ago today, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia functioning as a parliament adopted the Resolution on the national independence of Estonia that restored the independence of Estonia. Years of hard work and fighting for Estonia’s independence preceded 20 August both in occupied Estonia and in exile. Estonians in exile carried the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia, explained what had happened to the Baltic states and the importance of non-recognition policy, distributed information on the situation in Estonia, preserved and developed the Estonian language, culture and civic society.
In his new year’s address in 1993, Lennart Meri said the following: “The restoration of a state is not [as simple as] flipping a switch on a lamp, from which biblical light is then produced in an instant. A state is born like a baby — in labor and pains. Still, like a baby, it is born of love and itself in turn gives birth to love.” Many people forced to leave Estonia against their will and Estonians born abroad have contributed to rebuilding Estonia and to its development. Many of them have helped reconstruct the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Representations, many of them are my good colleagues even today and many are still working on ensuring Estonia’s security and developing foreign relations.
Estonia has changed and achieved a lot in the 25 years of freedom following the restoration of independence. Estonia has changed from a totalitarian society into a country where human rights are respected, freedom of speech applies and the principles of democracy and the rule of law are followed. Estonia is a NATO ally, a member of the European Union and belongs to other most important international organizations. We work every day to remain a trustworthy partner and an ally and to share our values with other countries. During the second half of next year Estonia will face a huge responsibility, Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
For 25 years, there has been no iron curtain between Estonians living in Estonia and Estonians abroad. In a globalized and mobile world, the two terms have lost their former meaning, and instead of talking about Estonians at home and expatriates, we talk more and more about “global Estonians.” Entrepreneur Rainer Sternfeld, active both in the US and Estonia, recently said at the Opinion Festival in Paide that the Estonian border is where Estonians are and he does not feel like he has been away from home because technical solutions enable him to keep in touch.
Different estimates say that there are around 120,000-200,000 people from Estonia living abroad. It is our greatest potential. Among yourselves are people that went abroad before the Republic was declared, those who fled from occupation, but also people that have left during the past 25 years for shorter or longer periods. All of you have a connection with Estonia — your Estonian story, your dreams about Estonia. We are all connected by a wish that Estonia would do great. I believe that most of you keep in touch with developments in Estonia, are happy with the country’s successes and are worried about challenges facing Estonia. Every one of us — regardless of where we are — has a chance to contribute to the improvement and future of Estonia.
Estonia’s global influence today is much stronger that one would assume from our small population. It’s partly because of you who are unofficial representatives of Estonia in different parts of the world — you introduce Estonia and share information about Estonia, you help to make Estonia more visible, you speak about the Estonian language and culture. Thanks to you, my work and my colleagues’ job of introducing Estonia as diplomats is made much easier.
Just like Estonia needs the support of Estonians living abroad, you need the support of Estonia. Every Estonian foreign mission abroad has to keep in touch with Estonians living in their respective country. Our foreign mission invite you to come together during the holidays important to our country and our nation, they help organize local culture events, share information and keep in touch with the local Estonian community.
The concept of the 12th Youth Song and Dance Celebration taking place in Tallinn next year is roots that connect us to Estonia wherever our life takes us, and we welcome Estonians from near and far. You all as well. In 2018, the Republic of Estonia will celebrate its 100th Independence Day, and we will celebrate it all over the world, regardless of what country we're in, regardless of where we happen to be at that point.
The independence of Estonia is a reason to be happy about our country, our land and our nation. Long live Estonia!
Editor: Editor: Aili Sarapik