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The President of the Republic in Jõhvi Park on June 5, 2001

Estonia Remembers

Dear people of Viru County!

Virve Osila's poem, which we just heard, says it all. I would just like to add that at Palamuse, Jõgeva County, I happened to say ''bayonet'', but then corrected myself to say ''cleaning rod''. Also this word was in the poem. And there were other things there that I would like to emphasise very strongly.

It was always in the night that they came for us. Tonight, I read memoirs about Eastern Viru County: about those who were taken away, and those who took them. With certain satisfaction, I read a document from the Soviet times, or 1942, that ''regrettably, it proved impossible to carry out the plan to deport every 100th Estonian to Russia within one night.'' It was to be done in one night! There were reprimands that the trains had been standing on sidetracks for too long time - this was what they said about Viru County. The trains standing on sidetracks awoke great compassion among the people; people tried to get through to them, to take food or clothes there, but in vain. They were not allowed to approach the trains. I would rather not speak of the details right now, I would like to remind you of things that we have to remember if we want to remain ourselves.

Estonia has been and is a democratic country, and all the claims of our eastern neighbour that Estonia had intended to attack the Soviet Union were just as absurd in the year 1940 as they would be in the year 2001. This has never happened. Those few among you who are of my age or older, remember that Estonia was a beautiful country, and that according to the statistics of 1939, it could already be considered a wealthy country. Our wealth was not derived from speculation or deceit. The wealth had been accumulated, as it always has been in the rest of the world, with hour hard work that had made our land - which is not too rich, but a land of stones and pebbles, as the poem just said - so abundant that we were able to feed ourselves and to export our food, our butter, eggs and meat, also to England and Germany, and someone has even said that Georg Stude's chocolate was exported to Switzerland, the real home country of chocolate. We were wealthy and also proud of our petrol that was made of oil shale and smelt very different from the petrol of today. We exported it to Finland. Our radio receivers, produced by the plants RET and ARE, could be bought in Finland, just as we buy Japanese radio sets in Tallinn or in Finland today. It was a nice, lovely country. And the fact that two big robbers, Hitler and Stalin, wanted to divide the world between themselves; and that one of them wanted Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland for himself, and the other then agreed that he could keep Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and that Finland should share our fate - such rhetoric, and such division of the world can only be possible between the totalitarian states of the past. And also in the future, it can only happen if the states that we have nothing in common with, and whom we also in the future must call by their right name - totalitarian states, should again seize power. It does not matter whether they call themselves communists or nazis, because death is always the same, and death is always looking at small peoples with its black eyes. This is one of the conclusions that Estonia draws from our past. What are we going to do with it? We will use it for the greater good of Estonia. We have, in fact, come through those hard times, we have survived. And this - our feeling of guilt before those who did not survive - is another reason why we should understand what an extraordinary bliss it is to see the Estonian flag again, to walk the paths of this small and beautiful country, even though it is a poor country after 50 years of the iron curtain, but still not as poor as some evil tongues want to tell us, and certainly not as poor as some enemies would like us to believe. Even now, some Russian politician is saying that Estonia is only sustained on the transport of Russian oil. Dear people, some big nation may indeed be very slow in learning, in understanding that the world has changed a little. And yet we know that what we have now created in Estonia - it is not much, but there are some outstanding schoolhouses - and the freedom to buy a ticket and go and see the world, even if it is just to see how much it has changed in the meanwhile - all this has been returned to Estonia by your work and your faith. And also the conviction that a free country can shape its own future with its own working hands. This is a great value. And probably the only difference between us and the Estonia before World War II. If there were anything negative to say about the Estonia of my long past childhood, it is perhaps that we were so self-confident - as we are now, and there is nothing wrong with it - but we were so self-confident that it seemed to us that we did not need any neighbours, any helpers, any unions. We can no longer find this in Estonia. Just consider how active today's Estonia has been in making new friends and concluding agreements, and what it will mean to us when Estonia is no longer a dwarf in the shadow of a great power as we were in 1939, but a member of the European Union. Who would attack Europe? If Estonia were a member of NATO - no one has attacked NATO yet! Also this is our duty today. This is also a duty that those who never returned form Siberia would want to hear about; those who cannot share the joy that we are sharing here today. If they could send a message to us from their graves, it would be a very simple one: build up an Estonia that would never have to fear for her future, for her children; a country that could work and prosper, so that everyone could prosper, not just a few profiteers; a country that could bravely defend herself even before it has been attacked, whose will to defend herself would be so great that no attack would work or ever take place; build an Estonia where future would belong to our children.

You see, my dear friends, this is my message today, and my only message to all of you. I wish to thank you from all my heart, especially those who are wearing a small blue, black and white ribbon around their neck, for gathering so unanimously here under these old trees. I wish to shake hands with you, I wish to look into your eyes and say that we have left the past behind us. It will never happen again. Estonia has won!

Thank you!


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