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Ceremonies in Tallinn and Narva mark War of Independence anniversary

War of Independence Victory Column.
War of Independence Victory Column. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Ceremonies were held in Tallinn and Narva today to commemorate those who lost their lives in Estonia's War of Independence. The events also marked the 103rd anniversary of the ceasefire between the Republic of Estonia and Soviet Russia.

In Tallinn's Freedom Square, Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) laid a wreath at the foot of the War of Independence Victory Column "on behalf of the Estonian people."

According to a Ministry of Defense press release, Pevkur said, that the loss of 6,000 people was a high price to pay for a small nation. "It is our duty to remember with dignity and to be grateful to all those who, at the cost of their lives, brought freedom and the right to self-determination to a nation of just one million," he said.

Pevkur also used his speech to draw parallels with the ongoing war in Ukraine.

"Today, the people of Ukraine are waging their own War of Independence against the forces of darkness. It is far from quiet on the front. Bombs fall on towns and villages, one avalanche of attacks after another. The Ukrainians have shown unprecedented courage and proved that they can act in an organized and effective way against a force that is many times more powerful. What happened on the fronts of the Estonian War of Independence in 1918 and 1919 is very similar to what is happening in Ukraine today, but sadly it is on a much larger scale there," Pevkur said.

The Minister of Defence added, that the War of Independence taught us how important it is for a small nation to have friends and allies. "We must not be left alone. But this also means that we must never leave our friends and allies alone.  Estonia is, and will continue to be, an ally that can be counted on, and not just in words," stated Pevkur.

"Estonia is free and protected. For this, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who won the War of Independence. Now it is our turn to preserve and defend Estonia's freedom! Let us protect Estonia!" said Pevkur in conclusion.

On December 31, 1919, Estonia signed an armistice with Soviet Russia. The armistice agreement provided for the cessation of hostilities on the fronts between Estonia and Soviet Russia from  January 3, 1920 at 10:30 a.m. On February 2, 1920, a peace treaty was signed in Tartu, with the War of Independence having ended in victory for Estonia.

In the 1920s, the tradition of a holding a minute's silence at 10.30. a.m. each year on January 3, began, marking the time when the ceasefire entered into force. The silence is held to honor both Estonians and foreign citizens who fought in the War of Independence and gave their lives for Estonia's freedom.

In addition to soldiers from allied forces and volunteers, approximately 75,000 combatants took part in the War of Independence on the Estonian side. A total of 6,000 of these lost their lives.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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