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The President of the Republic at the Haapsalu Bishopric Castle on June 9, 2001

Estonia Remembers

Dear fellow sufferers,
dear people of Lääne County,

The image behind my back is one of a broken cornflower, and it is meant as a symbol, as a reminder to all those who have survived the turbulent times of the history of the Republic of Estonia - survived the attempts to delete the Republic of Estonia not only from the political map of the world, but also from the memory of the people of Estonia, from your consciousness.

My dear friends, this is not a mourning day. They wanted to extinguish us, they wanted to rob us of our country, our flag, our mother tongue, and yet we proved to be stronger. This is a victory day for all of us, and I am so very happy that also the youngest generation is sharing it with us - this is a generation, from which you, and those who are much younger than I am, will one day elect the President of the Republic, the ministers and members of the Riigikogu.

And yet the cornflower is broken. Why is it broken? We can never forget the losses we have borne. We can never forget those who can no longer share our joy and pride. All those, who lost their lives in concentration camps, labour camps, battlefields, far away in the camps of Siberia or Germany, on the flight over the Baltic Sea; and those who are in faraway countries - Germany, Australia, South Africa, Canada, the United States of America - everywhere where accepted Estonian were refugees.

And so we are faced with the question what is the true meaning of the Broken Cornflower, in what way does it unite us? We should make some simple things clear. No other country in Europe than the small Estonian nation has lost so much of its population during and after World War II. What were the reasons for that? Did we make some mistake that we need to put into words unambiguously, so as to avoid it in the future? Or was it by chance that the Grim Reaper had such a rich harvest here? Dear fellow sufferers, we have gathered here today to be aware of our own strength, and to understand that we stand high above the fate that robbers like Hitler and Stalin once prepared for us. We stand high above the fate that Stalin and his chief hangman Zhdanov had prepared for us. And yet we should recall that in the years 1939-1940 we were alone in the world; it became quite obvious that pressure from the East was increasing, and we saw how the government of the Republic of Estonia was step-by-step forced to concede to the agreements on military bases and the ban of free press, and how it was forced to restrict the movement of information within Estonia and out of Estonia - we will never let this happen to Estonia again.

The forsaken little Estonia, that once looked so mouth-watering to two predatory powers, is today a well-known country in the world, just as Latvia and Lithuania. Even though we are small, our voice rings loud and clear in the big world. We must understand that we are going to face a new future. A future where we can honestly say to our children and grandchildren that the events of the past will never recur in their lives, that they will be independent, that they will always be speaking their holy Estonian language, that the fruits of their honest work will always belong to their rightful owners, and that the whole world will be open to us. And yet Estonia's strong position in the world and in Europe depends on whether we can draw the right conclusions from the years 1939-1940. Estonia was occupied, and the occupying power was the greatest power of the world, and the best armed power of the world. Should we have defied it? Should we have resorted to resistance on June 17, 1940, when the Soviet Red Army tanks were already on the roads of Estonia? I believe that on June 17, 1940, it was already too late to think about that. I believe that no one dares to attack a small country when they know that the small country is prepared to defend itself. At least, this is what the world looks like today, and this is how Estonia also has shaped her policies. We have quickly become part of the international community, we have acceded to numerous agreements, which render the recurrence of the situation of 1939-40 in Estonia impossible. We have come very close to the threshold of NATO, which will bring us security and abolish the threat of war. We have come very close to the threshold of European Union, which means that all the riches, as well as rights and obligations, that the Germans or the Swedes, the Finns of the English have, are now also within Estonia's reach. The integral policy of all Estonian governments has been to strengthen Estonia's security and economic life. Political parties may have their clashes, and unfortunately they seem to have more of them than strictly necessary, and yet I am glad that our parties are unanimous in the most important matters. Estonia is defendable, Estonia's will is strong, Estonia is moving on fast, and what was possible in the times of Hitler and Stalin, will never happen again.

My dear fellow sufferers, I am one of you. Also I had to leave Estonia in a cattle wagon on June 14, 1941. I would just like to add some remarks. When they came to get us, there was a soldier with a bayonet standing at our window, and another soldier was standing at another window with his bayonet, and an officer was reading out a document, of which I did not grasp much, as it was in Russian. There was a soldier with a bayonet also at the kitchen door, but in the next room there were two young Estonian men in light-coloured overcoats, shuffling around; they unearthed the family pictures and photographs, and my father's decorations. They were searching the room as if they had been in the house of a mistress - without shame, and with obnoxious arrogance. The soldiers were the citizens of the Soviet Union, they had come to Estonia as warriors and conquerors, and as such, they were doing their duty. But those two youngsters were citizens of the Republic of Estonia, and they had inwardly betrayed the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia and their duty to their country.

I am glad that the people of Estonia have stuck together, and that few have betrayed their duty as a citizen, and that those have never been in our hearts. And yet I would have been much prouder, if we all could have had a much happier fate, if we had understood our duties to our country and our people. This is the appeal of the Broken Cornflower. We must understand that we can have our differences, but not in this most crucial matter - the protection of our country and our future.

My dear friends, the Broken Cornflower is our beautiful good-bye to the past. We shall never forget those who rest in faraway graves that are no longer even visible. We shall not forget the children who were never born, as our men were separated from the women. But we go on - and not with anger in our hearts, but with the knowledge that our future is in unity - and it is this unity that we must forge today as brave blacksmiths, and hand it on to you while it is still hot. Let this badge of the Broken Cornflower that I will distribute now, be the badge that reminds you of the past that will never recur in the future, the past that reminds us that we must not repeat the mistakes that we once made. Let this badge remind us that the future is ours, that after all these years, we are the ones who have won, and that Hitler and Stalin, or Stalin or Hitler - it is all the same to me in what order to pronounce or announce their names - and all their evil have been defeated, and we shall proudly march on across its ruins.

Thank you!


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