Gallery: Bonfires mark birthday of former Estonian President Lennart Meri

A ceremony at the Kaali meteorite crater on Saaremaa on Wednesday marked what would have been former Estonian President Lennart Meri's 94th birthday.

The ceremony, whose focal point is the lighting of a bonfire, was attended by local residents and children, and was back after a three-year absence due to the Covid pandemic.

Since 2006, bonfires have been lit across northern Estonia, from Ebavere mägi in Lääne-Viru County, to the Kaali Crater, over 260km to the southwest, in the center of Estonia's largest island.

This is because Meri believed that the trajectory of the meteorite which created the crater, around 3,000 years ago, followed that route, as referenced in his books "Hõbevalge" and "Hõbavalgem."

Lennart Meri (1929-2006) was President of Estonia  1992-2001, and was the country's first foreign minister, following the restoration of independence, in 1992.

He was also a prolific filmmaker and writer, and was the first Estonian to get to publicize Soviet plans to strip mine Estonia for phosphorite – a project which would have had catastrophic environmental and demographic effects, had it gone ahead, and was a leading figure in the drive towards restoration of independence, from the late 1980s onward. He features quite prominently in the movie "The Singing Revolution" (2006), released the same year that he passed away.

The Kaali Crater is the largest of a group of nine such indentations, thought to have been caused by meteorite impact 1530-1450 BC. That event, roughly comparable in impact energy with the August 1945 atomic explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the resultant main crater, which is practically circular (see gallery), formed a major part of the mythology of the region.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Margus Muld

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