President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) marked this year's Victory Day by issuing a video statement in which he said it was the duty of all Estonians to defend their homeland.
Tuesday, June 23 is Victory Day (Võidupäev) and marks the anniversary of the victory of Estonian forces over Baltic German troops at the Battle of Võnnu, during the 1918-1920 Estonian War of Independence.
The annual flag-raising ceremony was necessarily a more modest affair this year with the coronavirus restrictions on mass gatherings not wholly lifted; at the ceremony at the Governor's Garden, adjacent to the Riigikogu in Tallinn, Põlluaas issued a video address in which he said Estonians had many reasons to be proud of the achievements of their nation.
"We won the War of Independence and founded our state. We have passed a complicated path of history. It is necessary to know this, and tell about this to the young people," Põlluaas said, according to a Riigikogu press release.
"If we do not know our history, if we do not have national self-awareness and pride, we will lose our roots. And a tree that has no roots perishes."
Põlluaas added that deeply ingrained Estonian values would see the country through thick and thin in future too.
"In a fight with no matter how powerful or strong enemy, those who uphold the principles of morality, and defend their family, their country and their people, will always win in the end. It is important to have will – will for freedom, will to defend your fatherland, will to be and to remain masters of one's homeland. We have this will," he said.
Põlluaas added that it was all Estonians' duty to hold and protect the country to ensure its inheritance by future generations of Estonians.
The events started at 7 a.m. Wednesday with the traditional flag-raising ceremony at the foot of the Pikk Hermann tower, attended by members of the four sub-sections (men's, women's, girls', boys') of the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), followed by a fire-lighting ceremony. Burning brands of the latter will be brought to the president's palace in Kadriorg, east of Tallinn city center, whence brands will be dispersed to all 15 counties in the country.
The Battle of Võnnu (Latvian: Cesis) took place over the border in Latvia on June 23 1919, and saw a joint Estonian-Latvian force commanded by Ernst Põdder and Nikolai Reek (Estonia) along with Krisjanis Berkis (Latvia) defeat a combined Baltic Landeswehr/German Freikorps force, the latter including the famous Iron Division and consisting mainly of disaffected German veterans of World War One. The aristocracies of both Estonia and Latvia had been predominantly German-speaking and culturally German even as the two countries were under Russian Tsarist rule for over two centuries prior to independence. Earlier in the war, patriotic Estonian forces' primary enemy had occupied the opposite end of the political continuum in fighting Red troops backed by the fledgling Soviet Russian state.
Editor: Andrew Whyte