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The President of the Republic on the Presentation of the Exhibition of Estonian Paintings in Paris, on August 30, 2001

Dear Mr. President of the Senate,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

Estonia is far in the north, under the 58th latitude.

What does this mean in art and what does this mean in politics?

In art, it means the light that is different from the light in France. My friend Jean Cathala called it the pearly light. Our sun does not rise high, but at midsummer, it disappears behind the horizon for a mere hour. In Estonian mythical legends, we speak about Dusk extending her hand to Dawn. One expects darkness, but instead of darkness, he can see the sun rising from almost the same spot where it has just set. Forests and islands, fields and buildings have no time to cool down, they emanate pearly white light also on our white nights. Light is the mother of colours. It will be for you to assess, whether and how the Estonian painters have been able to make light and colours talk.

For Estonians, the opinion of the French is interesting for three reasons.

First, for Estonians, France has always been a country whose esprit knows no limits. Montmartre has also been the main street of Estonian art. Estonian painting, literature, way of thinking and sense of freedom are the children of 19th century France. The Estonian peasants looked forward to the arrival of Napoleon as a liberator. Léouzon le Duc, who spent long time in Estonia, predicted in his book that was published in 1855, that the Estonian independence was only a matter of time. And the first Estonian law magazine was founded at the beginning of the 20th century not in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, but in Paris. So, this is our way to thank France for our being strong Europeans.

Second, as a result of the Hitler-Stalin pact, the Republic of Estonia was caught in World War II and under totalitarian occupation. Those were the times when our tongue had to be silent and give way to Russian, when our Northern individualistic way of thinking had to give way to the obedience of homo sovieticus, and our artists received precise instructions from the Kremlin on what to paint and how. Those were the times when Europe was forced to forget Estonia, but it proved impossible to force Estonia to forget Europe. This was the Estonian Résistance, and we are proud of it. We are also proud of Boris Vilde, the Estonian who gave the word Résistance to France, and also sacrificed his life for your country. So, this is also our way to thank France for our having become strong Estonians.

And third. Estonia has restored her independence and decided to join the European Union and NATO. Last month, we were glad to receive President Chirac in Estonia and to show him the results of our restored state, which means the strong will of the people of Estonia. I am glad for France's full support to Estonia's goals. But as a small country and a small nation, Estonia would especially like to emphasise the greatest value of the European Union: the greater the cultural diversity is among the member states, and the more this diversity is recognised, and the more it arises curiosity, and thus also affection, and thus also love, the stronger the European Union will be.

So this exhibition is also our confession of love to France, and I am proud to add that some pictures hanging here would also add to the beauty of the rich French museums. The European Union is beginning the new discovery of European values, and this is why Estonia has come to Paris.

Thank you for being at the right place.


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