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Victims of Communism and Nazism to be remembered on Sunday

Varbla church
Varbla church Source: (Kristian Pikner/

On Sunday, the Europe-wide Remembrance Day for the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (MRP) is held in Estonia. Sunday also marks the 26th anniversary of the Baltic Way.

On August 23, 1939, Nazi Germany and Communist Soviet Union concluded a treaty of non-aggression known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which created the basis for annexation and occupation of independent countries and started a chain of events that included extensive crimes of Communism and the Nazism. This year, 76 years pass from the conclusion of the Pact.

Although the MRP and its secret protocols were well-known to democratic Western nations, the USSR denied their existence until 1989, when two million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians linked hands from Tallinn to Vilnius on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the pact, to draw attention to the need to disclose its secret protocols and declare them null and void.

For more on the MRP and its effect on Estonia, click here.

Six years ago, as the 70th anniversary of the MRP approached, the European Parliament called on the member states to declare August 23 as the European Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in its resolution "European conscience and totalitarianism".

On June 18, 2009, The Estonian Parliament approved its support of the resolution and declared August 23 as Remembrance Day.

As a new initiative by Tallinn City Council, church-bells will ring out at 19:00 across the country, as well as in Latvia and Lithuania, to mark the Remebrance Day this year.

A flower-laying ceremony for the victims of totalitarian regimes will take place at the War of Independence Victory Column on Sunday noon. Speeches will be given by the Estonian Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu, a Member of the European Parliament Tunne Kelam and a representative of the diplomatic corps, Ambassador of Great Britain Christopher Holtby.

At 13:00, an international conference “The Criminal Legacy of Communism and Nazism” will start in the Museum of Occupations. Participants include the Lithuanian Minister of Justice Juozas Bernatonis, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Justice Jānis Iesalnieks, the Hungarian Deputy Minister of Justice Robert Répássy, the Polish Deputy Minister of Justice Wojciech Węgrzyn, the Georgian Deputy Minister of Justice Gocha Lordkipanidze, the Czech Republic’s Deputy Minister of Justice Petr Jäger, the Portuguese Deputy Minister of Justice António Costa Moura, and the Director of the International Law Department of the Slovakian Ministry of Justice Michal Kotlárik. Non-governmental organisations will be represented at the conference by the Managing Director of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience Neela Winkelmann, Dr Paweł Ukielski from Institute of National Remembrance, representative of Office of the Committee of National Remembrance Áron Máthé and the Director of the European Network of Remembrance and Solidarity Rafał Rogulski. Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam will also be present. Click here for full program.

The Russian embassy in Estonia has already announced it will not participate in any of the day's events. Vootele Hansen, chairman of the Estonian Institute of Human Rights, which is organizing the events, called the decision unfortunate, if unsurprising, Postimees reported. The Russian ambassador, as the head of diplomatic corps, has passed an opportunity to express his judgement on the crimes of Communism and Nazism, Hansen said.

In addition to Sunday's events, an international Baltic cycling tour, which from August 2011 marks the anniversary of the Baltic Chain, took place in the beginning of the week. The three-stage tour in Estonia and Latvia was won by Ukraine's Andriy Kulyk from Kolss-BDC Team, in front of Finland's Matti Manninen and Sweden's Gustav Höög.

Editor: M. Oll

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