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Jaan Poska Medal given to Toomas Hendrik Ilves, posthumously to Laas Leivat

At a reception on the 104th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Tartu on Friday, former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and, posthumously, Laas Leivat were awarded the Jaan Poska Medal for their remarkable services to upholding the principles of Estonia's historic peace treaty internationally.

"I am honored to present the Jaan Poska Medal to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who led and supported the process of Estonia joining both NATO and the European Union," Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) said according to a press release.

"Joining the EU and NATO and the signing of the Treaty of Tartu are remarkable events in our history; accession was a strategic step to ensure the economic stability and security of our nation and help uphold our values in the world," he added.

"Laas Leivat was a consummate Estonian; his commitment to the Estonian cause gave hope to many," the foreign minister continued. "He carried his role as the leading figure in the Estonian cause proudly and notably, and maintained the prestige of the positions of honorary consul and editor of the newspaper Estonian Life (Eesti Elu) in Canada. Leivat's importance in preserving the de jure recognition of the Republic of Estonia in the West and restoring Estonia's independence based on legal continuity was invaluable."

Leivat's commitment to the mission of the Estonian Central Council in Canada (Eestlaste Kesknõukogu Kanadas, EKN) cannot be forgotten either, Tsahkna added.

Laas Leivat died in Toronto just two weeks prior, on January 19, at age 82. His funeral was held at St. Peter's Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Toronto on Saturday, one day after being named a recipient of the medal.

Friday marked the fourth time the Jaan Poska Medal was awarded on the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Tartu between Estonia and Soviet Russia in 1920, which Estonia's War of Independence.

The award is named for Jaan Poska, who was appointed the newly independent Republic of Estonia's first minister of foreign affairs on February 24, 1918.

After pursuing diplomatic recognition in Western Europe, Poska would be recalled to Estonia to lead peace talks with Soviet Russia, which achieved an armistice on December 31, 1919 and subsequent ceasefire beginning January 3. He became one of the four Estonian signatories of the Treaty of Tartu signed February 2, before dying suddenly around a month later.

In 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs awarded the first Jaan Poska Medals to freedom fighters Enn Tarto and Mart Niklus, who signed the 1979 Baltic Appeal calling for the end of the annexation of the Baltic states and reiterated the Treaty of Tartu as signed in 1920.

Subsequent recipients of the medal include Tunne Kelam and the Jaan Poska Memorial Foundation in 2021, and Heino Ainso (posthumously), Sirje Okas Ainso, Juta Ristsoo and Urmas Wompa in 2023; the laureates maintained and developed Estonian politics and culture in exile and were active members of the Baltic Appeal to the UN (BATUN).

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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