The centennial of the start of the ceasefire of the War of Independence was marked across Estonia on Friday, commemorating Estonians and foreigners who fought and gave their lives for the country's freedom.
On Friday, at 10.30 a.m., over the course of 100 seconds of silence, the bells of every church in Estonia rang, train whistles blew, and ships horns sounded.
Following the ringing of the bells, candles and wreaths were laid across Estonia at all memorials associated with the War of Independence – at the Victory Column in Tallinn, parish columns in the counties, memorial plaques, and the marked birthplaces and graves of those who fought in the War of Independence.
Minister of Defence Jüri Luik placed a wreath at the foot of the War of Independence Victory Column in Tallinn on behalf of the Estonian people, and the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Major General Martin Herem, placed a wreath on behalf of members of the Defence Forces. Wreaths were also placed by representatives of the diplomatic corps.
Luik said in a speech that if one were to take a look at the history of the War of Independence, they would find that it was the ultimate survival course in the story of the Republic of Estonia.
"The Estonian state came out of the War of Independence as a spiritually strong, forward-looking and open country," said Luik. Adding this is confirmed by the Constitution, which was one of the most progressive of its era and based on the ideals of democracy, adopted by the Constituent Assembly during the summer following the war.
"It was an effort that proved to the entire world that Estonia's independent existence was not simply a post-WWI gust of wind, but instead a new reality that had been longed for in the heart and planned in the mind," said Luik.
He added that the War of Independence is a testament to the fact that even a small nation is capable of rising with honour to meet difficult challenges, as well as establishing its own truth and justice in the land that it holds as its own.
"The ideas and principles that were relied upon 100 years ago remain alive and well today," said the Minister of Defence. He added that statehood is ensured today by the ever-growing strength of the Defence Forces and Defence League, and our broad-based national defence, which are joined together by the best skills and knowledge from many walks of life and professions, and which provide protection for, and ensure the security of, Estonia.
"Estonia has powerful allies, who participate in the defence of our country on a daily basis. NATO is not a laughing matter; instead, it is the most powerful military alliance in the world. The combination of all of the above ensures that we are better protected today than ever before," added Luik.
A speech was also given by senior Märten Mikk, from the Tallinn Secondary School of Science, representatives from the League of Estonian Corporations and the diplomatic corps, and the intercessory prayer was read by Andres Põder, President of the Estonian Council of Churches and Bishop Emeritus.
At 10.30 a.m. on January 3, 1920, a ceasefire halting the military conflict between the Republic of Estonia and the Soviet Union entered into force, which was set to last until January 10. Thankfully, hostilities never resumed, and the peace treaty was signed on February 2, 1920, in Tartu, with Estonia emerging victorious in its War of Independence.
The War of Independence lasted for 402 days. Estonia lost more than 6000 people during the war, with nearly 4000 of those lost in direct combat.
Editor: Helen Wright