While the end of World War Two in Europe 76 years ago to the day brought relief to many in the continent and beyond, for others, including Estonians, freedom remained only a dream, Defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) says.
Laanet noted that while Europe beyond the Iron Curtain labored for decades under the yoke of so-called Soviet liberators, freedom had now been reestablished in many of these counties, adding this freedom should not be taken for granted.
Laanet said during a speech Saturday that: "Today, we are doing everything we can to ensure that a blanket of freedom covers Europe, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean Sea, forever."
The defense minister also evoked British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's "Sinews of Peace" speech, made less than a year after the end of World War Two, on March 3 1946, where the phrase the Iron Curtain first appeared.
Marking the 76th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, Laanet said that: "Most of its victims were civilians, allied defenders and ordinary soldiers, who were simply following the orders given by the aggressors. War is unfair, as it is led by the blind anger and ambition of a select few people, but countless innocent people suffer."
Laanet also noted that the totalitarianism associated with World War Two and its causes had far from disappeared, even nearly eight decades later.
He said: "The threat from the east will not disappear as long as the Kremlin fights aggressively against the western world and stifles democracy in Russia. Totalitarian superpowers never respect international law, nor the love of peace and independence of small countries."
Laanet noted that May 8, anniversary of the end of the war in most European countries, was being marked by EU and NATO member states and others, commemorating the tens of millions of victims, of all nationalities.
The Cold War which followed almost immediately after World War Two has taught Estonia plenty of lessons, he added, not least the need for strong allies and relations with allied nations.
May 8 is a dignified day of reflection for Europeans, along with North Americans, and as declared by the UN itself, and not a day for posturing via shows of brute military force.
May 9, while it is deemed victory day in the Russian Federation, and marked as such, is also Europe Day, the minister noted.
"Keeping the peace is the main goal of Estonia and its NATO Allies," Laanet concluded.
Government and religious leaders laid wreaths Saturday morning at the graves of Estonian, German and Red Army victims alike, as well as to the Jewish victims of the Nazi occupation at Rahumäe Jewish Cemetery.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in November 2004 where both May 8 and May 9 were declared days of remembrance and reconciliation, and which called for one or other day, or both, to be marked in an appropriate way, one which would pay tribute to all those who lost their lives in World War II.
Representatives of allied forces and German forces signed the capitulation act in Reims, France, on May 7 1945, which was followd by the formal end of the military conflict in Europe the following day.
The Pacific War continued until August 15 1945.
Editor: Andrew Whyte