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The President of the Republic at the Opening of the Exhibition ''KGB & STASI - tools of totalitarian power'' at the National Library on April 3, 2001

Dear Federal Commissioner, Dear Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, dear fellow countrymen and guests.

In history, there are always points of contact, even when the countries in question do not have contacting borders. This has also happened today. Today, a committee lead by Enn Tarto has convened in the Riigikogu to investigate how the KGB archives were handed over and how it happened that some parts of the archives were not handed over and how it happened that some parts of the archives were even destroyed.

And this reminded me of my first meeting with our esteemed guest in Berlin, unfortunately during the state visit. I said ''unfortunately'' during the state visit, because during state visits there is always too little time. Mrs. Birthler, I remember your words that in Germany, after the breakthrough, which you denote with a very mild word Wende, - which in Estonian is something else, because in the Estonian language, ''pööre'' is connected to a coup d'état, - well, to be brief, you said that after the breakthrough, the terror of the DDR had already been destroyed, but the STASI, the main tool of that terror, still survived. The STASI still continued to exist in its huge building and went on with its work - destruction of its archives.

Of course, this is a little anecdotal and a little morbid parallel - they destroyed their archives with paper shredders brought from the East. And those eastern paper shredders were of low quality, so they could not destroy much paper at a time. And what did STASI do? If I remember right, they sent their men to West Berlin to buy good paper shredders so they could continue their work. So those were the problems in Berlin after the breakthrough, after the Wende.

And we here, eleven years after resuming power step by step, have only got as far as trying to find out what is left of the KGB archives in Estonia and how they were handed over. Let us give the investigators time to do their job properly. I would like to tell you why we are all interested in it: We are not countermining some abstract philosophical outlook, we are working to prevent our democratic parliamentarism from becoming a non-democratic system by any knack. We must know everything about the mechanism of terror that turns citizens into subjects.

This word, now almost obsolete in the Estonian language, is a word that we should mention much more often. Why so? It seems to me that in the last eleven years, or to be more precise, ever since the people of Estonia adopted their Constitution and begun to restore the Republic of Estonia - we have accomplished very much, and the past has retreated into distance. We have accomplished so much because we have all worked very hard. Democracy is work. Democracy is an atmosphere that has given every individual the opportunity to realise himself or herself as a citizen according to his or her best abilities. It is not a simple political system; it may be the most complicated one, and it is, in any case, a system that must, day after day, also reproduce the certainty, the security that the system will prevail.

Lately, we have paid shamefully little attention to that, or even if we have paid attention, we have mostly published the sources in an academic manner, and even before the sources, we have published some generalisations, so that at times it would seem that in Estonian national character the skill of writing comes before the skill of reading.

I remember how, on one of my first public appearances in Germany, when I had to answer questions at a press conference - and this was in 1990, when the great breakthrough in Europe was already obvious to everyone - one of the speakers said that communism was dead. I managed to interject a sentence, or actually a quotation saying that while everybody talks of communism being dead, no one has actually seen its body. It seems to me that today, eleven years later, it is time to repeat these words, because the part of humankind living in a democratic system has decreased. And the part of humankind still living under a totalitarian system has increased.

Also something new has emerged: democracy requires work, it requires intellectual work, it requires remembering. Not necessarily for retaliation, but for avoiding the errors that we have already made. And do not forget that Estonia differs from many European countries in this respect that our historical experience includes both the communist and the nazi dictatorship. Sometimes it seems to me that the Estonian public is tired of the past, tired of crimes that every normal human being would want to leave behind. Now we will leave them behind, but only on the condition that we shall remember the malice, the evil, the mechanism that produced the terror. And I am not quite convinced that we will remember. Also in Estonia I have noticed the readiness to turn a blind eye on crimes committed 60, 50, or 40 years ago; and this is happening here, in a small country where one quarter of our citizens have suffered; they were murdered, spent years in the hard labour camps of Siberia or had to sail off as true seafarers to look for freedom and immunity in democratic countries.

It seems to me that such universal forgiveness towards the past is dangerous to us and to our state. I believe that such occurrences are numerous, and I would like to read you a letter I received some time ago, a letter that may already be known to many of you. It was written by Matti Päts, the grandson of our President before World War II, and the extract, which will also conclude my speech, reads as follows:

''Looking at a memorial plaque on the wall of the Estonian Parliament House, I saw - beside the names of my grandfather, President Konstantin Päts, and my father Viktor Päts, the name of Maksim Unt, the first people's commissar of internal affairs of the ESSR. The red agent Maksim Unt, who had been appointed to the ''parliament'' and ''government'' of quislings by Andrey Zhdanov who was in charge of occupying Estonia, was the man who supervised the deportation of our family on July 30, 1940. This meant death for three of our family of six - two of them members of the Riigikogu. How can something so abominable happen on the eighty-third year of the Republic of Estonia? Whose dirty hand is trying to whitewash the agents who betrayed the Republic of Estonia? I remind that the sole criterion for assessing Members of Parliament of the Republic of Estonia is the solemn oath published in ''Riigi Teataja'' in 1937, which reads as follows: ''Assuming the duties of a member of Parliament, I am aware that in these duties, I bear responsibility to the Republic of Estonia and to my conscience, and swear solemnly to remain loyal to the Republic of Estonia and her constitutional order, and to dedicate my powers to secure the welfare and future of the Republic of Estonia and the people of Estonia.''''

Dear fellow countrymen, we have a strong experience behind us. We know that freedom can be destroyed with guns and tanks, but even more efficiently with words and falsehoods. For this last reason, we have to remember the past, the distant past and the near past, in order to avoid the errors that several much older democracies were unable to avoid and that brought unbelievable suffering to Europe.

The exhibition that is going to be opened in this building at this very hour, and for which I am deeply grateful to the Federal Republic of Germany, will give you an idea of the workings of the terror machine in the so-called German Democratic Republic, where there was no republic, no democracy and no German culture, but a totalitarian power machine. I wish that we all would have time to remember, in order to prevent the errors and never to repeat them. So that the island of democracy and the island of the independent Estonian state could be secured to our children and grandchildren today, and as it is said in church, forever after.

Thank you.


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