Resistance Day commemorates Estonian fight against 1944 Soviet reoccupation
September 22 is observed in Estonia as Resistance Day, marking the anniversary of Estonia's attempt to reestablish its independence and resist reoccupation by Soviet forces in 1944 following three years of Nazi occupation. Several events are taking place in Tallinn throughout the day to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the event.
"Estonia never surrendered," State Secretary Taimar Peterkop said according to a press release. "In the context of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, we understand the significance of resistance better than ever before. Our experience shows that territory can be occupied, but for so long as the people do not tire of fighting, democratic states have a reason and duty to not recognize occupations, and that it is possible to restore one's independence, order and freedom."
On Thursday morning, the Estonian flag was raised at sunrise (7:04 a.m.) on Pikk Hermann by members of the color guard of Tallinn School No. 21, honoring both the considerable role played by students in the resistance against occupying forces as well as a June 21, 1940 battle fought between the Signal Battalion and occupying forces on the grounds of School No. 21.
Members of the color guard include Karl Rudolf Kunnas (chief), Jako Julius Schmid (deputy chief), Gregor-Mattias Froš, Arpo Kohv, Gregori Visse, David Richard Jenkins, Georg Keerig, Hendrik Lantin, Orlando Merino, Gregor Artur Mäe and Ernst Johannes Pae.
At 1 p.m., a memorial ceremony will be held at the Forest Ceremony, with a procession, speech and laying of flowers at the grave of Otto Tief and memorial to members of his government. Memorial candles will also be lit at the cenotaph of Estonian state leaders.
Otto Tief was acting prime minister of the Jüri Uluots-appointed Estonian government appointed on September 18, 1944, which reestablished Estonian independence for a matter of days before occupying Soviet forces retook the country on September 22.
A memorial service for Estonian heads of state will be held at Hageri Church at 4 p.m., led by Pastor Jüri Vallsalu and joined by Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) Urmas Viilma. The service will include the lighting of memorial candles and a speech by Konstantin Päts Museum board member Trivimi Velliste.
Eight of Estonia's ten state leaders were killed by or died as a result of the actions of occupying forces.
At 5 p.m., Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom will be providing a free guided tour of the museum's permanent exhibition "Freedom without Borders."
The exhibition consists of five parts — Inhumanity, Exile, Soviet Estonia, Recovery and Freedom — and explores the themes of occupation, resistance, restoration and freedom.
At 6 p.m., a procession of Estonian academic organizations, including fraternities and sororities, will begin in Tallinn's Town Hall Square and move along Harju tänav toward the Monument to the War of Independence in Freedom Square, where memorial wreaths will be laid at the foot of the War of Independence Victory Column by Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform), Tallinn Deputy Mayor Tanel Kiik (Center) and the fraternity korp! Fraternitas Tartuensis. Pevkur will give a speech, with a response given by korp! Fraternitas Tartuensis alum Andrus Karnau.
Student organizations played a vital role in armed and organized as well as intellectual resistance throughout Estonia's decades-long occupation as well as in the restoration of Estonia's independence.
Editor's note: This article was updated to add the photo gallery.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla