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Ratas to attend service, concert at Estonian church in Saint Petersburg

St. John's Church in Saint Petersburg, Russia is owned by the Republic of Estonia.
St. John's Church in Saint Petersburg, Russia is owned by the Republic of Estonia. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

On April 8, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and Secretary of State Heiki Loot will attend a thanksgiving service and concert at St. John's Church in Saint Petersburg to mark the 100th anniversary of an Estonian demonstration there.

The events at St. John's Church, part of the country's Estonia 100 celebrations, will celebrate the passing of 100 years since Estonians in St. Petersburg demonstrated in support of Estonia's autonomy, according to a government press release.

The 100th anniversary of the demonstration will be celebrated with local Estonians at St. John's Church in Saint Petersburg. A memorial plaque will be unveiled at the church honoring the demonstration and an exhibition of the links between those events and the church will be opened.

Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) Urmas Viilma will lead the religious service, following which Ratas will give a speech. Welcoming remarks will also be made by the Consul General of Estonia in St. Petersburg Jaanus Kirikmäe. The Estonian National Male Choir (RAM), conducted by Mikk Üleoja, will perform a concer titled "Holy Place" ("Püha paik"), the program for which will focus on Estonian composers associated with Saint Petersburg, including Cyrillus Kreek, Mart Saar, Artur Kapp and Rudolf Tobias.

40,000 Estonians marched for autonomy

April 8 marks the passing of one hundred years since the day on which 40,000 Estonians gathered in Saint Petersburg, known then as Petrograd, to take part in a demonstration demanding self-governing autonomy for Estonia. Demonstrators convened at St. John's Church before heading toward Tauride Palace, which housed the Russian Provisional Government.

Four days after the demonstration, on April 12, the Russian Provisional Government issued an order on the provisional autonomy of Estonia. According to the order, the northern part of the Governorate of Livonia was united with the Governorate of Estonia, forming the Autonomous Governorate of Estonia.

The Estonian St. John's congregation was established in Saint Petersburg in 1842. The church was expropriated from the congregation and religious services banned in 1930. The Estonian Lutheran congregation was reestablished in 1994 and the church reopened on Feb. 20, 2011, with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and Minister of Culture Laine Randjärv in attendance.

As of March 2014, St. John's Church in Saint Petersburg has officially been under the full ownership of the Republic of Estonia.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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