Estonian Independence Day, February 24, will see a necessarily different set of events from most years, due to the ongoing pandemic.
The traditional flag raising ceremony will still take place from just after 7.30 a.m. (i.e. sunrise), but the public are asked to stay home and hold their own flag-raising close family gatherings.
The ceremony, at the Governor's Garden on Toompea, adjacent to the Riigikogu, is being broadcast by ETV, as well as in Russian on ETV+, and on radio station Vikerraadio.
Those who will be in attendance are Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE), head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Archbishop Urmas Viilma, and Estonian Academy of Music and Theater (EAMT) student Haardo Adamson, who will read out the independence day manifesto dating back to 1918, as well as President Kersti Kaljulaid.
Commander of the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) Brig. Gen Riho Ühtegi, commander of the Estonian Navy (Merevägi) Cdre Jüri Saska, and U.K. ambassador to Estonia Thereasa Bubbear will also be present, while the National Opera's (Rahvusooper) boys' choir, conducted by Hirvo Surva, will perform several patriotic hymns.
The ceremony lasts about half an hour.
Those marking the occasion from home can also post their pictures on the Riigikogu's Facebook page (link in Estonian).
Meanwhile, the annual military parade is being replaced with a NATO flyover, with jets from several allied nations taking part. The president's annual reception is also canceled; Kersti Kaljulaid will be making a speech from the central Estonian town of Paide, which will also be broadcast live on ETV.
February 24 is a national holiday, while February 23 is set to be a half-day.
Other events in the capital
Meanwhile in Tallinn, smaller events are being organized by Tallinn City Government, both on independence day itself and on the days around it.
Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart said. "Estonia's birthday is being celebrated in every district of the city; both open-air and web concerts are organized, and those interested can participate in the opening of a new snow sculpture park, and listen to an audio program of Estonian poetry."
The events by district are as follows (please note these can be subject to change due to COVID-19 or other requirements).
- North Tallinn (Põhja Tallinn). February 23, a picture exhibition "My Estonia" by the Kopli kindergarten is to be opened at the Salme Culture Center (Salme Kultuurikeskus) in Kalamaja. On independence day itself, 24, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the premiere of an audio program based on Estonian poetry and voiced by well-known actors Hele and Alo Kõrve, Ester Kuntu and Sander Roosimägi is to be broadcast from outside the front of the Salme Culture Center (directed by Diana Leesalu, musical designer Veiko Tubin).
- Kristiine. The Facebook page of Tallinn's Kristiine district (link in Estonian) will broadcast a concert with Hedvig Hanson (vocals), Heikko Remmel (double bass), Kalle Pilli (guitar), live on February 23, at 3 p.m. (February 23 is generally a half-day, while February 24 is a national holiday).
- Pirita. An open-air concert takes place in the ruins of the Pirita Convent on February 24 at 6 p.m. Noted performers Ivo Linna, Antti Kammiste, Kaire Vilgats and Paul Neitsov and Ott Lepland, along with young musicians from Pirita Majandusgümnaasium, are to take the stage. A light installation is also being organized. Please note since the number of participants is limited under the current regulations LINK, guests are obliged to follow the 2+2 rule and wear a mask. The event can also be seen online here.
- City Centre/Old Town (Kesklinn/Vanalinn). On Tuesday, February 23, the Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats) hosts a spruce maze shaped as the Estonian national flower (the Rukkilill, or cornflower) will be decorated in the national blue, black and white colors. Monuments to cultural and social figures will as per tradition also be decorated with tricolored scarves.
- Haabersti. A concert with Tanel Eiko Novikov, winner of "Classic Stars 2018", will take place on Thursday, February 25 at 2 p.m. at Haabersti Day Centre. The number of visitors in the hall is limited, so those wishing to attend should register by calling +3725624925 or +3726579872. Mask-wearing and social distancing are required.
- Nõmme. The national flag is to be hoisted on Nõmme Hill, near the von Glehn monument, close to Ehitajate tee, at the same time as the flag-raising on Toompea takes place. Social distancing and mask-wearing rules apply.
- Mustamäe. A snow sculpture park will be opened in Männi Park on February 23 at 3 p.m., comprising an exhibition of snow sculptures of beloweve cartoon characters. The snow park is designed with smaller slides for very young children and a larger slide with caves for older children. The requirement of social dispersion should also be followed in the park.
- Lasnamäe. A line of honor dedicated to the anniversary of the Guards Battalion (Vahipataljon, organizationally part of the military police) will take place on February 24 in Jüriöö Park, with a fire to be lit on the "Tulila" tower and a wreath to be placed next to the monument to those who fell in the 1918-1920 War of Independence. The event is invite-only.
Other events and installations will be rolled out across Estonia, including in the town of Paide, which will host the president as she gives her annual independence day speech.
Editor: Andrew Whyte