Gallery: Victims of totalitarianism remembered in Maarjamäe

On Sunday, a memorial ceremony and concert was held at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism in Maarjamäe, Tallinn, marking the International Remembrance Day for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes.

President Kersti Kaljulaid said at the ceremony: "Remembering democratic freedoms and victims of totalitarianism is connected by one common knowledge - we can not have one without the other, and freedom is always worth the effort.

"Many nations suffered due to the ambitions of totalitarian regimes before and after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and it is our obligation to respect them all equally and to remember them."

In 2009, the European Parliament adopted August 23, the date the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed in 1939, as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.

Kaljulaid said remembering the victims is just one half of the meaning of the day. "Freedom and even more - democracy - is never just by chance. Constant effort must be given to maintain them because we do not want to live in a world where free thought and thinking otherwise means a place in a barrack bed or a shot in the back of the head. We wish for a free and democratic world."

The president said signs of pain from a lack of freedom can still be seen in Europe. "We, who have won back our freedom and human dignity must support the freedom fighters of today. Being left alone always means hopelessness, loss and succumbing to totalitarian regimes."

Speaker of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) also gave a speech, in which he said the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (MRP), signed 81 years ago on Sunday, changed the course of history and the fate of millions.

Põlluaas said: "For Estonia, MRP meant our state disappearing from the world map. Imposing military bases, the entry of Russian soldiers and a silent surrender."

He added: "Today's Russia continues a Stalinist expansion policy. The imperial ambitions of the Kremlin have not gone anywhere. The public has condemned the agressions of Russia in Georgia and Ukraine, the occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the occupation and annexation of Crimea. Unfortunately, agressions against Belarus, currently fighting to escape from a dictatorship, are not excluded either."

The speaker of the Riigikogu said the actions of Estonia's eastern neighbor must be monitored. "We are a small nation, we must act smartly to survive. We must invest in independent protection and that NATO allies are present. That is the only way we can maintain our country, people and independence."

350 names added to the Memorial to the Victims of Communism

Recently, 350 persons have been identified as victims of communism and the names were added to the memorial in Maarjamäe, Tallinn, during recent reconstruction works.

Minister of Defense Jüri Luik (Isamaa), who laid a wreath for fallen Estonian officers, emphasized that the transpired events must be remembered so they could never happen again, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Sunday.

While the Memorial to the Victims of Communism displays the known names of those who perished, the true figures and details of all those from Estonia who disappeared during the mass deportations of the 1940s and in other repressions during the Soviet occupation of Estonia may never be fully known. 

Meelis Maripuu, chariman of the board at the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory, said: "Theoretically tens of thousands could be added because the fate of tens of thousands is still unknown. If we can find even a bit of credible information, the names can be added. It has been taken into account when building the memorial, there is space to add new names."

Luik also reminisced his grandfather, whose name stands on the walls of the memorial.

The defense minister said: "We must be accurate and always emphasize we can never be sure these events will not happen again. Currently, we can see the Russian State Duma discussing a draft law that would cancel the condemnation of MRP. It is a classical example of how important it is to remember those crimes commited by communist and facist regimes and to not forget, so they would never happen again."

81 years since the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a non-aggression treaty signed between Germany and the Soviet Union on August 23, 1939; its secret protocol divided Eastern Europe into two spheres of influence.

The MRP was signed in Moscow by the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, Vyacheslav Molotov.

The parties pledged to avoid aggression towards each other and any unions or agreement against the other party.

The secret protocol of the treaty split Eastern Europe into spheres of influence – Finland and the Baltic countries, plus Bessarabia, which belonged to Romania – belonged in the Soviet sphere, while Poland was divided between both.

The treaty enabled Germany to attack Poland, which took place on September 1, 1939, and is now considered the start of World War II.

According to the secret protocol, the Soviet Union occupied eastern Poland and forced the Baltic countries to accept the agreements of mutual assistance, and installed Soviet military bases there.

Finland refused to sign such an agreement.

The Soviet Union then attacked Finland, starting the Winter War, and was declared an aggressor by the League of Nations, which expelled it.

In summer 1940, the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic countries and Bessarabia (primarily in present-day Moldova).

The Soviet Union denied the existence of the secret protocol until 1989, when the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union declared the MRP and its secret addenda null and void.

Source: estonica


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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