Jüri Ratas: Every Estonian must feel safe and cared for in this country

Jüri Ratas at a joint Riigikogu and August 20th Club sitting.
Jüri Ratas at a joint Riigikogu and August 20th Club sitting. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

We want Estonia to be a cozy and beloved home not only for the nation who has been living in this corner of the world for centuries, but also for everyone who has tied up their life and fate with Estonia, speaker of the Riigikogu Jüri Ratas said at a special Riigikogu sitting on the Day of Restoration of Independence (Taasiseseisvumispäev).

Allow me to start my address on this occasion, the special sitting of the August 20th Club and the 14th Riigikogu, by quoting the first President of the reborn Estonia, Lennart Meri. He writes in his foreword to the book Estonia: Identity and Independence that "the purpose of all Estonian history has been the realization of the right of self-determination, the restoration of independence and the establishment a sovereign state."

That is indeed true. Our independent state was successfully established in the wake of the First World War on February 24 1918, appearing on the world map along with many other previously almost nameless nations who then became subjects to international law.

A dozen years earlier, however, no one had had the courage to publicly speak about a country of our own. This does not mean it had not been a long-time dream. One trace of it can be found in retrospect in a letter sent by the poet Lydia Koidula to her love interest, editor-in-chief of the Finnish newspaper Uusi Suometar, writer Antti Almberg in 1870. In her letter, Koidula declares that although the Finns have a better chance for independence, the Estonians are also not about to give up hope and are working towards bringing back the golden age of their nation.

The striving for independence is even more clearly delineated in the poem Will You Show It? by Juhan Liiv, which was published only after the independence had been achieved, many years after being written. Speaking about the fate of the Jewish people, the poet admits: "And so the same story in Estonia/ And so, life is a swing:/ One day – our thought intact/ One day Estonia is a country."

Why did I start by quoting Lennart Meri? Because the meaning of historical events only reveals itself afterwards. Just like in 1908 it was impossible to definitely foresee the birth of the Republic of Estonia, it was also impossible to foresee its destruction twenty years later, or the following fifty years of occupation, much less the need to restore our country still in the same century. But it was exactly this mandate from the people to restore the Republic of Estonia which brought to Toompea the politicians who passed the historical Resolution on the National Independence of Estonia eighteen
months later, on 20 August 1991.

This decision was historical because not only did it win us back our country, but it also won us back our history, which, as is clear from the quote by Meri, had been one long road towards the establishment of Estonia's independence. It might sound like a paradox, but this Resolution made the
future generations the heirs of their future. It was thus that you, former MPs now in the August 20th Club, were the restorers but also opened the gates of the future for the decision makers of today. Nothing can sully this honour and our gratitude to you for laying the first stone in the foundation of
the enduring Estonian era.

If I am stressing the aspect of the future in this historical event, it is because I am also taking into consideration that the role of the Supreme Council back then was not limited to this one resolution that changed the fate of Estonia. The year running up to it and the period that followed, until the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia by referendum as well as the elections of the President of the Republic and the first post-war parliament, were spent laying the foundation of the Republic with legislation and resolutions. This is the foundation that all the following parliaments and generations of politicians will need to continue building, in order to alleviate, when needed, the sometimes unfair twists of history and unintentional injustices. Everyone in Estonia must be able to trust their country and feel that Estonia is standing up for them just like for everyone else.

Ladies and gentlemen, for the generations for whom these historical moments are part of their childhood, or who are already born or will be born in the independent Republic of Estonia; and for those who are today bearing the responsibility for the decisions and actions that affect our future, the question "Is this the Estonia we wanted?" has already been answered.

Yes, we wanted – we still want – for the independent Estonia to be part of our national DNA, for it to act as a guarantee for the Estonian language and culture, exactly like the preamble of the Constitution says. We want Estonia to be a cozy and beloved home not only for the nation who has been living in this corner of the world for centuries, but also for everyone who has tied up their life and fate with Estonia, and who has Estonia in their heart just like we do.

Distinguished members of the August 20th Club, your contribution to the restoration of our independence has been priceless. On 20 August 1991, this
courage and ideals were summed up by our venerable compatriot Heinz Valk who said "...we have no right to descend Toompea today if we act like cowards and go back on our word to the people. The Estonian nation is looking at us, the whole free world is looking at us. Let us meet their gaze with a clear conscience. I welcome the Republic of Estonia on its day of rebirth!"

This is the kind of mindset and confidence we still need today in building our country, so as to keep to the right path in this quickly changing and distressingly unstable world. Every Estonian resident must feel safe and cared for in this country. We need to make joint efforts to make sure that life is good all over Estonia.

This is the only way to meet the gaze of our people with a clear conscience. This is the role and responsibility we share with each other and with the future generations – because independence obligates! National independence is the corner stone of Estonia's continuation.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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