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The President of the Republic at Kadriorg on August 19, 2001

Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends,

To begin with, I would like to welcome and thank you for being together with us in Tallinn today. We are celebrating ten years of the failed coup d'état attempt in Moscow leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union and facilitating Estonia to complete its struggle for the restitution of independence. All of you have contributed to this. Thank you.

What had preceded to 20 August 1991? On 24 February 1918 the independent Republic of Estonia had been proclaimed by Estonian Salvation Committee's manifesto "To All the Peoples of Estonia". Estonia used its inalienable right of self-determination that a nation can use only once in the history establishing its legality. This was a one-page manifesto. It summarised President Wilson's doctrine of the peoples' right of self-determination, values of the German jurisprudence, enlightenment ideas and national yearning for culture. The manifesto informed the world of the political freedoms, national cultural autonomy and power based on the representation of people in the Republic of Estonia. Estonia became, thus, a modern parliamentary state in the European public law environment, a state as old as other European states born out of collapsing empires of the Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns and Romanoffs. Finland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and definitely Latvia and Lithuania are our brethren in destiny, children of democracy. As of the Manifesto of Independence the Republic of Estonia has always existed as an entity on the political map of the world. Under the international law neither nazi nor communist occupation has changed our legal status. The democratic world guided by international law has never recognised these occupations. The world recognised the legal consistency in the restitution of independence, which permitted to restore diplomatic relations and contractual relationships with Estonia in 1991, interrupted by Bolshevik and nazi occupations.

The consistent non-recognition policy led to the return of the Republic of Estonia into the family of democratic countries in 1991 more painlessly and faster than after the declaration of independence in 1918 when Estonia had to fight for its rights both against Bolshevik and German extremist aggressions. The major difference often underestimated lies in the fact that we were a new state in 1918 and had to prove its viability to the world and us. Now we were a state already known but temporarily occupied. The fact that the occupation had lasted long has nothing to do with the principles. The non-recognition policy was an international seal confirming the continuous legal continuity of Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania, clearly differentiating us from such areas as Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan. Estonia had both an advantage as well as an obligation to continue.

The speed with which Estonia restored its diplomatic relations with other countries in 1991 is based on the legal continuity and arose from the political will of the people. The will became manifest in such powerful popular movements as Popular Front, Citizens' Committees, referenda and unforgettable Baltic chain of people, which in one or another way sooner or later focused on the political aim to restore the Republic of Estonia and on the legal foundation to the continuity of the state.

Dear fellow countrymen,

You have directly participated in the restoration of independence in Estonia. Your fidelity to Estonia, your readiness to sacrifice your lives for Estonia if necessary attributes weight and significance to this day. I hope that convening here we will voice our thoughts and can restore at least some details of the proud, difficult and dangerous times. In my introductory speech I would like to emphasise the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia and its legal form - policy of non-recognition. Allow me to quote the statement made by US Deputy Secretary of State Sumner Wells upon the annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on 23 July 1940: "The American people are against such a beastly action, be it achieved through the use or threat of force. They are also against any interference of however powerful a state into the internal affairs of however weak a sovereign state." This ethical attitude set a model for the democratic world and even more. This meant that all steps and decisions taken by the occupation authorities in Estonia will lack any legislative foundation in the eyes of the United Sates and the world until approved in Estonia - IF approved - by the freely elected Estonian parliament and by the government appointed with the parliamentary approval. This exceptionality contains a significant security policy factor that is significant today as well. We are morally obliged to gratefully remember it on the anniversary of our regained independence.

Addressing you, dear friends, here in Kadriorg means that in my thoughts I am addressing the people of Estonia whose mission-focused approach, fidelity and struggle for independence has brought us together here. Unfortunately I have to point out once again that our anonymous officials do not master the Estonian language. The Estonian law and almanac-makers use a strange word "taasiseseisvumine" (regaining of independence) to mark this significant day. This poisonous word has a letter "u", indicating an intransitive and reflexive activity without object or proper subject. In other words, it denotes a change not conducted by the people. As a former author and your President I cannot use this anti-constitutional word. I would be most grateful to the Members if a bill were initiated in the Parliament to eliminate this non-word from our language.

Allow me to finish with words of gratitude. Ten years after the restoration of her independence, the Republic of Estonia extends her gratitude to the countries that decided to restore diplomatic relations with the Republic of Estonia the soonest possible. This was the victory of the non-recognition policy and international law over the collapsing totalitarian regimes. This is how those democracies helped Estonia to join quickly the family of democratic countries. The Republic of Estonia is grateful to you and confirms her lasting commitment to parliamentary democracy and international law. Let me forward to you the cordial wishes for the meetings of today and tomorrow extended by the Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, the Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany Johannes Rau; President Weizsäker, former Secretary of State James Baker, and the Head of the Baltic Department Paul Goble and many other statesmen. In spite of all difficulties, Estonia has learned one important truth: if you wish to be treated as a state, behave like one.


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