Peace is not a given and should never be taken for granted, defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) said Monday. The minister made his remarks after attending a ceremony in Tallinn marking 102 years since the end of the 1918-1920 Estonian War of Independence. A ceremony also took place in Narva.
Laanet said: "Every war brings suffering, destruction and grief, yet they always end in peace. People are only able to live in dignity and work productively under conditions offered by peace. Estonia no longer has to stand alone."
"We have strong allies, and together we protect and keep each other safe; yet, peace is still not a given. It must be kept and secured every day," he went on, according to a ministry press release.
In every corner of Estonia, as well as at the War of Independence Victory Column in Tallinn's Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square), site of Monday's ceremony, the thousands who fell in the conflict would be remembered, as would the many more thousands who became casualties, Laanet added.
The fact that the security of the continent and the alliance is facing a clear and present danger makes the commemoration even more poignant.
"The EU's eastern neighbor does not want to live on its own or allow others to live peacefully and democratically," Laanet added, likely referring to the build-up of Russian Federation forces close to that country's border with Ukraine through last month, as well as the implementation of the human trafficking of vulnerable people as a form of hybrid warfare on the part of the Belarusian regime, since mid-summer.
"Other countries are simply viewed as territories to be conquered, not independent countries, whose peoples have their own language and culture, and an inalienable right to choose their direction of development and partners," Laanet, who laid a wreath at the Victory Column during Monday's ceremony, continued.
Meanwhile Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense Kusti Salm took part in a ceremony in Peter's Square (Peetri plats) in the eastern border town of Narva.
Salm said: "We had to fight selflessly for our statehood. During the War of Independence, which lasted for more than 13 months, several thousand combatants fell on the Estonian side, including many completely innocent civilians, who we are also remembering at today's ceremony."
"Freedom was won through a great struggle and the sacrifice of many lives," he added.
Allied personnel from the NATO base at Tapa also took part in the Narva ceremony.
Members of the regular Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) and the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) alike also laid wreaths and lit candles at War of Independence memorials across Estonia.
An armistice was signed on December 31 1919, and hostilities between Estonia and the fledgling Soviet Russian state began at 10.30 a.m., on January 3 1920.
A minute's silence has been held on the same day every year in independent Estonia's history, both in the first and second republic, and honors all the fallen, including foreign nationals who volunteered to take part in the multi-faceted conflict on the Estonian side.
Estonia's front also spilled over into Latvia, where joint forces saw off enemy troops – in this case fighting for the former Baltic German aristocracy's cause rather than the Reds.
Losses on the Estonian side totaled around 6,000, through the entire war.
Editor: Andrew Whyte