Two members of the Riigikogu belonging to the opposition Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) praised President Kaljulaid’s criticism of the plan to erect a monument to Estonia's first president, Konstantin Päts, next to the seat of the Estonian parliament.
A proposal to place a statue of Päts in the gardens next to Toompea Castle has recently stirred up a debate surrounding the actions and the role of Estonia’s first president. Päts introduced authoritarian rule in 1934, changed the constitution, and had the resulting two chambers of parliament elect him the country’s first president in 1938.
Henn Põlluaas, deputy chairman of EKRE’s parliamentary group, said on social media that the president’s statement was very positive. “To put up a monument next to the Riigikogu to a person who staged a coup, imposed authoritarian rule, banned political parties, jailed his political opponents, and dismissed the Riigikogu would be tantamount to spitting in the face of democracy.”
Jaak Madison, MP for EKRE, joined Põlluaas in his praise of the decision, saying that she showed courage highlighting “the tragic role of the authoritarian rule imposed by Päts in the loss of our independence”.
In an interview with regional newspaper Sakala published on Saturday, President Kersti Kaljulaid said she did not support the plan to build a monument to Konstantin Päts, but would consider it appropriate that all the founders of the state were honored with a common monument.
The president said that the way how politicians informed the people in the 1920s and 1930s differed greatly from the value attached to the free exchange of thoughts and the freedom of the press. She also hinted that she sees Päts along with then-defense chief Johan Laidoner, at whose initiative authoritarian rule was imposed in Estonia in 1934, as partially responsible for the country’s eventual loss of its independence.
Several prominent members of the heritage conservation movement proposed to place a monument to Päts in the garden of Toompea Castle on the occasion of the centenary of the Estonian state in February 2018.
Even though the idea has drawn criticism from opponents pointing to the role of Päts in the silencing of political opposition and putting an end to the multi-party political system in 1934, as well as his eventual agreement to the Soviet invasion which led to the loss of Estonia’s independence in 1940, none of the country’s top officials have spoken up against the plan as openly as Kaljulaid had in the interview, Sakala said.
Päts was one of the three members of the Salvation Committee that issued the Estonian Declaration of Independence in February 1918. He then served five times as state elder, the country’s top executive position, from 1921 to 1934, in which year he staged a coup to neutralize the populist anti-parliamentary Vaps Movement. Though they rejected the ideologies of the German and Italian ruling parties, the movement showed strong fascist tendencies, and their symbolism included the Roman salute.
Päts and his supporters used the political situation to create an ever more authoritarian state, which included a new constitution, and Päts’ eventual election as Estonia’s first president. The time that followed became known as the Era of Silence, as freedom of speech was curtailed more and more.
After the Soviet intrusion in 1940, Päts and his family were deported to Siberia, and again arrested in June the following year. Päts spent the next decade in various prisons in Russia before undergoing forced psychiatric treatment in 1952. He died in the psychiatric hospital of Burashevo in Russia’s Kalinin oblast in January 1956. His remains were reburied at the Päts family plot in Tallinn’s Forest Cemetery in October 1990.
Editor: Editor: Dario Cavegn
Source: BNS, ERR