Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) gave the customary independence day speech at Wednesday morning's Toompea flag-raising ceremony.
The speaker, whose term ends next month, took the opportunity to deliver a direct swipe at the Reform/Center coalition, which entered office in January, over its policy towards Estonia's border with Russia and any potential compromise over the 1920 Tartu treaty which delineated a border which has since changed and sees some Estonian territory at that time now under Russian rule.
The speech is reproduced in its entirety in English as follows:
Good morning, people of Estonia. Today is a special day – Estonia's birthday and a day of joy for us all.
Estonians have lived here, on the shores of the Baltic Sea, longer than anyone can say for certain, and longer than many other European nations have in theirs. We know and love every square inch of this land; it has become part of us. We have given every spring, hill, valley, island, river, and lake a name. We know every forest, boulder, bog, and marsh. We have cultivated and shaped this land, and ploughed the waves of the Baltic Sea too. This land and this sea have maintained and fed us. This is home and sanctuary for the Estonians. This land that our forebears called Estonia, is sacred to us. It is our land.
Yet we have not been the lords of our land all this time. Our ideal and dream – an independent and free Estonia – was born 103 years ago today. A year later, our blue-black-and-white national flag was raised on top of the Pikk Hermann Tower for the first time.
But freedom and sovereignty did not come easily. It was not long before red hordes from the east invaded Estonia, and we were forced to take up arms, in the War of Independence, one of the most heroic fights in our history. During the War of Independence, we achieved something incredible – we were victors in a war against Russia. It is remarkable what a nation can do if it believes in itself, its national ideals, and dignity, and if its heart beats with the undying flame of freedom. This is something that we must never forget, and which we cannot overestimate.
This year, we celebrated the 101st anniversary of the Tartu Peace Treaty between Estonia and Russia. The Tartu Peace Treaty, which has been set in stone with our Constitution, is still wholly valid today under international law. The same goes for the state border the treaty laid down, although Russia continues to occupy the areas around Pechory (Estonian: Petseri – ed.) and beyond Narva (the former Jaanilinn, now Ivangorod, a straight translation of the name – ed). We have no need, still less any obligation, to legitimise this criminal occupation by signing a new traitorous border treaty and surrender these areas to Russia, which views us with overt hostility. And yet this is what the current government is discussing. The timid and the submissive have no future.
Where have we lost the ideals, the values, and the dignity that inspired our forebears to establish our country and to defend it? The same ideals, values, and dignity that we kept alive in our hearts for the fifty brutal years of occupation and that prompted us to restore our country and independence?
In fact, these have not disappeared. These national ideals, European values, dignity, and undying yearning for freedom that have proved their value throughout the centuries still fill the hearts of our people. The convictions that have brought us here will also take us further, and ensure the continuation of our nation and our country in times to come. I know that it is difficult in this modern volatile and immoral world which is being forced upon us, but we must not let ourselves be led astray.
The philosopher Hegel once said that only those who value freedom above their lives will become masters. It is up to us to make sure that we remain masters in our own country and defend our nation state and national values. If we want the Estonian state, nation, and culture to persevere, we must all do our best. Each and every one of us. The state: This is us.
Congratulations to you, the people of Estonia. Happy Independence Day.
Editor: Andrew Whyte