President of the Republic in Paldiski on 26 September 1995
Today 56 years ago, on 26 September 1939, the then Auditor-General of the Republic of Estonia, Mr Karl Johannes Soonpää, wrote into his diary the following lines:
"Session of the Government of the Republic at 15.30 where the foreign minister reports on his trip to Moscow. It appears ... that right at their first meeting Molotov explained to him that a trade agreement alone would not satisfy them. They wanted an outlet to the sea. To this end they wanted to get from us a naval base on the islands as well as on the mainland. And if Estonia did not comply, they would resort to other means. And those "other means", as both Selter and Rei understood them, would be war.
It is thought (in the Estonian Government) that the base should by no means be Tallinn, but - if it is inevitable - it could be Paldiski." (End quote.)
These old records lead us today to think about a policy of force, about aggression, and about the defencelessness of small nations. Estonia in those days behaved as if it had no choice, although the ultimate choice is always there.
Today this has become the past. Or, rather, history, which is the far-looking opposite of a dark past.
Today I want to speak about Paldiski, the little town here on Cape Pakri, which in the thirties had a fishery, a pharmacy and a customs office, a secondary school and a library, two churches - and peace in the souls of the people.
The year 1939 put an end to the relaxed life of the small and quiet town of Paldiski. For half a century Paldiski was turned into a submarine base and a leading training centre of the Soviet nuclear submarine forces. The military tentacles of Paldiski reached out from the Baltic to all the seas of the world: the Arctic, the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean. A town where before the Second World War camomile had bloomed in the quiet streets accumulated such quantities of power of the Empire of Evil as would have been enough to annihilate several worlds and several humankinds. Now this is also a fact of the remote past. Another fact of the past is that as early as 1296 a harbour town called Lodenrode was founded here: so next year Paldiski will celebrate its 700th anniversary.
Last summer's talks with the Russian President Boris Yeltsin led to the signing of well-known agreements. One of those agreements concerned Paldiski.
Today sees the end of the drama that started in 1939.
The Republic of Estonia has finally resumed control over its town and Cape Pakri.
I pay my tribute to the Russian specialists headed by Mr Aleksandr Olkhovikov, who have completed their work on time, have shipped out the nuclear fuel and conserved the reactors.
Estonia is sincerely grateful to the United States, Sweden, Finland and to the whole international team that have supported the demilitarization of Paldiski.
Today, the 26th of September 1995, gives proof of the possibility of accords in spite of contradictory interests. Let this be a lesson for Estonia as well as for all Europe.
I congratulate you all.
Let us remember this day, the 26th of September 1995, which obliterates the September of 1939; let us remember this railway car behind me, which may remind some people of the car of Compiegne, and others, one of Estonian officers pushed into deep water from this very Cape Pakri by war criminals.
We'll not speak today of the victims of the past and the farmsteads of the past that were submerged by the military base here. Let's speak about the future, about Paldiski as a potentiality, Paldiski as a gift of nature, Paldiski as awaiting an architectural contest to move into its eighth century as a hard-working, beautiful, clean and friendly Estonian town, where the flags of the world's ships are always welcome.
The Republic of Estonia, I congratulate you: your prodigal son has returned.