Prime Minister Jüri Ratas on Tuesday opened the Alzhir memorial stone in Astana, Kazakhstan, dedicated to the victims of political repressions and totalitarianism. While in Kazakhstan, he also visited Petrovka, a 125-year-old village with Estonian roots.
The memorial stone commemorates a camp where, from 1937-1953, Soviet powers imprisoned nearly 18,000 women whose husbands were sentenced to prison for "betraying their homeland." The prisoners of the camp included women of 62 different nationalities, many with children. 21 Estonians were reportedly among the prisoners, according to a government press release.
"These women and children were victims of a monstrous crime against humanity — a terrible injustice and tragedy that is hard to forget and forgive," Ratas said. "Moments such as this remind us of the horrors of the past, but I hope that they will also offer comfort and help attain peace of mind for the future."
Estonian children raised in Kazakhstan
On Tuesday afternoon, Ratas got to see a fragment of Estonian history in the 125-year-old Kazakh village of Petrovka, which has Estonian roots.
"Meeting with Ms. Aliide Mägi, who will soon be celebrating her 90th birthday, and speaking with her in Estonian was remarkably touching," the prime minister said. "Every time I meet Estonians living abroad, I am once again moved by how the Estonian language and culture are passed down from generation to generation with pride in these communities.
According to Ratas, Petrovka is an inspiring example of how people of different nationalities can live together in peace and friendship.
In the 1930s, Petrovka had a population of just a few hundred people, including both Kazakhs as well as migrants from the Baltics, Germany and elsewhere. Many residents spoke three languages, and Estonian children were able to learn their native language.
Today, Petrovka is a modern settlement with a population of 1,200 and including people of 20 different nationalities, all of whom have the freedom to live according to their customs and culture, the government said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Ratas met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and attended the opening of a business incubator in Astana. Ratas affirmed to Nazarbayev that Kazakhstan is an important partner for Estonia and the EU alike and that Estonian companies have a strong interest in revitalising trade relations with Kazakhstan.
The prime minister also met with Nurlan Nigmatulin, chairman of the Mazhilis (lower house of the Parliament of Kazakhstan), the Estonia-Kazakhstan Parliamentary Group, and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, chairman of the Senate (upper house of the Parliament of Kazakhstan).
Editor: Aili Vahtla