Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has said that she does not support the plan to build a monument to Konstantin Päts, the first President of Estonia, considering it more appropriate if all the founders of the Estonian state were honored with a single monument.
In an interviw with regional paper Sakala due to be published on Saturday, Kaljulaid said that the means by which politicans considered it right to inform the people in the 1920s and 30s differed greatly from how we in the present day have learned to attach value to the free exchange of thoughts and freedom of the press.
The current president also hinted that she saw Päts and Lt. Gen. Johan Laidoner, Commander-in-Chief of the Estonian Army, at whose initiative authoritarian rule was imposed in Estonia in 1934, as partially responsible for the destruction of the country's freedom that followed a few years later.
"While it is true that everyone's actions must be evaluated in the context of their time, I, too, am among those who believe that the Era of Silence had its role in things going as wrong for us as they did," Kaljulaid explained. "When the circle of decision-makers becomes narrow, the politician no longer has a strong enough base and this is definitely a problem — it was a problem back then as well."
Asked whether she supported the erecting of a monument to Konstantin Päts on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia in 2018, Kaljulaid said that she thinks it would be better to discuss a joint monument to the founders of the Estonian state. "A monument to Konstantin Päts next to the Riigikogu... I wouldn't go to dedicate it," she commented.
The proposed monument
Several prominent members of the heritage conservation movement, led by its former leader Trivimi Velliste, have proposed uilding a monument to Päts in the garden of Toompea Castle in Tallinn in time for the centenary of the Estonian state in February 2018.
Although the idea has drawn criticism from opponents who have pointed to Päts' role in silencing opposition and putting an end to the multi-party political system in 1934, as well as his eventual agreeing to the Soviet invasion which led to the loss of Estonia's independence in 1940, none of the country's top officials have spoken out against the plan as openly as Kaljulaid did in this interview.
In February 1918, Päts was one of the three members of the Estonian Salvation Committee that issued the Estonian Declaration of Independence on Feb. 24. Päts thereafter served as state elder, an executive president, five times from 1921 to 1934, in which year he organized a coup to neutralize a populist anti-parliamentary movement seeking an extraordinary presidential election which it was poised to win. The "Era of Silence" that followed saw a new Constitution adopted in 1938, after which Päts became the first President of Estonia.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla