The President of the Republic on the Viljandi Song Festival Ground on May 30, 2001

Estonia Rememebers

A moment ago, I saw beautiful flowers being handed to my wife. And when coming here, we also saw flowers, we saw lilacs in bloom, and in connection with this day, I suddenly understood that in Estonia, the time of lilacs is so beautiful, and yet so sad. It is sad because we saw lilacs blossoming in the farms, which was lovely, but also amidst fields and in the fringe of woods, where there had once been farms, which have no longer been there for forty, fifty, or sixty years. These blossoming lilacs are the symbol of this day. We call it our mourning day, or - if you like it better - the Day of Broken Cornflower.

I would like to speak of something that we must repeat to ourselves - above all, I mean the great losses that the people of Estonia had to bear during World War II and in the decades following it, just because Estonia had been caught between the grindstones of two big totalitarian states, and could no longer enact the sovereign Estonian law in the Republic of Estonia. And it is especially to you, dear people of Viljandi County, that I would like to speak about this. For several reasons: Viljandi County has given Estonia three Presidents, including Jaan Tõnisson, whose memorial will be opened in Tartu tomorrow. Viljandi County has been the country of wealthy Estonian farmers, and therefore it played such a central and leading role in Estonia before and also after Estonia's successful struggle for independence. And therefore also the brutal inhumanity of the Soviet Union was most cruelly aimed at the Viljandi County, and as a result, Viljandi County (and I include also Põltsamaa that is now part of Viljandi County) lost nearly 10,000 people in the years 1940-1956. Ten thousand people.

My dear friends, today is a day of mourning. But on this day of mourning our thoughts and expectations turn to the future. It is our task to be, and to rejoice over Estonia; and in our joy, let there be the joy of all those who were left in the Siberia country, whose fate was not so kind, who died far away with the blue, black and white flag in their thoughts and their hearts full of hope, but who did not see Estonia rise again.

The mourning day is not the day of our defeat; the mourning day is the day when we must learn what we have done wrong in the past, and this learning must guide us today and tomorrow so that we may not repeat those mistakes. But above all we must understand that those sufferings were possible only because the world abided and tolerated the totalitarian power that was perpetrating crimes every day, and especially against Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians. This mourning day is our day of victory, as we have risen from the deepest pit of humiliation, and restored our state, our societies, our Defence League, our young defence forces. And today we can say: We are not defeated. We have borne human losses, but we have remained true to Estonia and Estonia has remained true to us. I have books with several numbers here, but I saw a counter of books when coming here, and I am not going to read them out to you, as you can read them in the library, or buy some books to read at home. But I would still like to read a small extract from a text to you.

You know that the persistence of the communists and the nazis, which was especially directed against Viljandi County, was born of a very obvious and simple end - they wanted to break the backbone and the mind of our nation. First, they wanted to remove all the nationally thinking people from Estonia - such people are always the greatest threat to a totalitarian regime. And now it might be most interesting to refer to the orders of Mehlis, the once commander of the general political administration of the Red Army, signed in September 1941, when the war had only been ongoing for several months - to remove all Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians from the Red Army and send them to labour camps, where they were to be subjected to the Gulag (or slave labour) regime. This was the price that the Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians had to pay to the Soviet empire of evil. This price was first paid by our mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers 60 years ago, when the first great deportation from Estonia took place, affecting one per cent of the entire population. Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians continued to pay this price during the waves of deportation that followed. And there were several. The first one came already at the end of 1944, and here I would like to point out that at this gathering today, we have the holy task of bowing our heads to all those who have suffered for Estonia, and all those who never returned to Estonia.

This day must also contain something else, it must contain our loyalty to the democratic system, to the system that shall guarantee Estonia's independence, Estonia's good relations with the international community, Estonia's confidence in the future and that would, and above all, guarantee that such crimes against humanity would never again be perpetrated in Estonia, near Estonia, in Europe or in the world. I know that the Riigikogu is currently discussing the resolution on the censure of violence. This is not the censure of communism, but the censure of totalitarian violence. Regrettably, there seem to be different views concerning this resolution; and there are also opinions that it is quite unnecessary to recall all the past once again.

My dear fellow countrymen, we must learn from the past, and above all, we must know that crimes against humanity will never lapse. This does not mean revenge, nor does it mean any of the chicanery that was so widespread in Estonia in autumn 1941. We are not fighting any ways of thinking, but a totalitarian system that evokes evil and opens the way to it. And therefore it is my hope that the Riigikogu will reach a consensus and judge those atrocities that must never happen again in Estonia. This is also our duty to all those who never returned from the frosts of Siberia; in their eyes, where lights went out long ago, we should today see the hope that good, justice and order would prevail in the world. The condemnation of communism and nazism is our historic task, because there are very few countries and nations in the world that have actually experienced an equal share of both.

Once more, my dear friends - today is the day to mourn those who are no longer with us. But for us it is a day of victory, a day of rejoicing. It is the day when we feel proud seeing the Estonian national colours flying, and when we would like to pay our deep respects to all of you, who have survived the unendurable hell of Russian labour camps and stuck to your Estonian language, Estonian way of thinking, and loyalty to Estonia.

Among my papers here there is an extract that I would like to read out to you. It was recorded and sent to Kadriorg by a nice Viljandi County girl, and it reads as follows. She writes about her grandmother, and the story is a simple one. ''Of course, Grandmother had taken something with her to remind us of our home country. She had managed to bring with her a small ball of silk thread, about the size of an egg. When the children got older, she said that the ball was to be well guarded, because it contained history. And yet, one day my grandmother and her sister unwound the ball of thread, and inside it, they found the blue, black and white flag of Estonia, in the size of a small table flag. They wound the thread back around the flag, and actually brought it back to Estonia.''

My dear fellow countrymen, try to imagine this - along with the cold and the hunger, and with those who were left in the cold earth of Siberia, and then you understand what a powerful feeling it is - the Estonians' loyalty to Estonia.

Thank you.