Gallery: Congress of Estonia 30th anniversary commemorated

On Saturday, the 30th anniversary of one of the most significant events in the history of the Republic of Estonia, the Congress of Estonia, was celebrated at the Estonia Theatre in Tallinn.

The chairman of the Estonian Committee, Tunne Kelam (1990-1992) spoke at the celebration. He said the accomplishment of the Congress of Estonia was a heroic act of the whole nation. 

"Reaching the inaugural session of the Congress of Estonia on March 11, 1990, was anything but self-evident. It can be considered a miracle the hero of which is the entire Estonian nation," he said."Our homeland was still under Soviet occupation at the time. Our people were violently proclaimed citizens of a communist dictatorship."

At the beginning of 1989, several national organizations came to the conclusion that if the Republic of Estonia, which was occupied, survives in terms of international law, then the citizens of the Republic of Estonia will also survive. 

On February 24, 1989, the Heritage Society (Muinsuskaitse Selts), the Estonian National Independence Party (Eesti Rahvusliku Sõltumatuse Partei) and the Estonian Christian Union (Eesti Kristlik Liit) announced an initiative to compile a register of all citizens of the Republic of Estonia.

The Citizens' Committee movement became the largest civic initiative in Estonian history, registering every people who could prove that they or their parents were citizens of the Republic of Estonia at the time of occupation of Estonia. In total, 790,000 citizens including children were registered as citizens of the Republic of Estonia.

Each registration meant giving a personal signature to the statement that the person was a citizen of the Republic of Estonia. This meant accepting individual public responsibility by each citizen. What happened in 1989 and 1990 was the most important act of self-determination by citizens of the Republic of Estonia, in essence, a referendum in favor of a fully independent nation-state.

On February 24, 1990, more than 500,000 legitimate citizens of the Republic of Estonia elected the Estonian Congress, which received a mandate from the citizens to decide on the fundamental issues of Estonian statehood and citizenship.

The Congress of Estonia, which held its first plenary session on March 11 and 12 1990, became the most broad-based transitional assembly, uniting all parties and movements of that time.

The Congress of Estonia became a decisive force, which set the goal of restoring the Republic of Estonia as a nation-state, following the legal succession with which the Republic of Estonia was proclaimed in 1918.

This enabled the re-establishment of a state which "guarantees the preservation of the Estonian nation, language and culture through the ages." Without the congress, another option would have been possible - a new state based on the electorate created by the Soviet occupation.

Tunne Kelam, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and Slovak Prime Minister 1998-2006, as well as Mikulaš Dzurinda, President of the Martens Center, spoke at the concert ceremony dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Estonian Congress.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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