Tunne Kelam MEP is to be awarded the Truman-Reagan medal of freedom at a gala dinner in Washington DC on Wednesday.
The medal is awarded annually by the US-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foudation to people and institutions demonstrating a lifelong commitment to the ideals of freedom and democracy and opposition to all forms of communism and tyranny, is jointly being awarded to Latvian MEP Sandra Kalniete and former Lithuanian president, Valdus Adamkus, as well.
Mr Kelam, 82, is an Isamaa/Pro Patria MEP who sits with the EPP group in the European Parliament, and played a crucial role in the drive for Estonian independence.
In 1972 he prepared, at enormous personal risk, a memorandum for the UN, subsequently smuggled out of the country, which demanded free elections in Estonia and the removal of occupying forces, an action which led to him losing his post as senior scientific editor for the Estonian Soviet Encyclopaedia and demotion to night watchman on a chicken farm.
Following a loosening of repression under Mikhail Gorbachev's reign as Soviet leader, he was a founder member of the first non-Communist party in occupied Estonia and Soviet territory as a whole, the Estonian Independence Party (''Eesti Rahvusliku Sõltumatuse Partei'') and in 1990 was elected to the transitional Congress of Estonia.
He was later instrumental in the agreement between the congress and the Estonian Supreme Soviet in 1991, paving the way to full independence. He subsequently sat in the Riigikogu, serving as its vice speaker, and was first elected an MEP in 2004. He features prominently in the 2006 documentary ''The Singing Revolution'', as does his wife, former foreign ministry spokesperson Mari-Ann Kelam.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to education and human rights advocacy in Washington DC, where it erected a memorial, and committed to maintaining and supporting the memory of more than 100 million victims who continue to live under the authority of totalitarian regimes.
The medal is jointly named after the 33rd and 40th US presidents respectively, Ronald Reagan (R) who played an instrumental role in ending the cold war, German reunification and Baltic independence, not least with his "tear down this wall" speech in Berlin, and Harry S. Truman (D) whose tenure fell conversely at the beginning of the cold war and who is often credited with circumventing full-scale nuclear conflict between the US and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its own satellite states.
Editor: Andrew Whyte