The Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) and the August 20th Club celebrated he Day of Restoration of Independence with a festive joint sitting. Speakers of the parliaments of Latvia, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, and deputy speakers of the parliaments of Lithuania and Sweden took part in the sitting.
The sitting began with singing of the national anthem of Estonia, performed by E STuudio youth choir conducted by Külli Lokko. Speeches were made by President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor, President of the 4 May Declaration Club of Latvia Juris Karlsons, President of the August 20th Club Ants Veetõusme, Speaker of the Parliament of Iceland Althingi Einar K. Guᵭfinnsson, Speaker of the Parliament of Denmark Folketinget Pia Kjærsgaard, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and President of the Signatories of the Independence Act Club of Lithuania Birutė Valionytė.
President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor thanked the members of the August 20th Club, who on 20 August 1991 at 11.03 p.m. adopted the Resolution on the National Independence of Estonia.
“Estonia is and will remain a free country. Our restored independence is standing on a much stronger foundation than before. The democratic and free nations of the world are wiser and work together to protect their freedom. And we are doing the same, together with our friends and allies,” Nestor said.
Member of the Supreme Council of Latvia and President of the 4 May Declaration Club of Latvia Juris Karlsons congratulated the August 20th Club on the anniversary of the restoration of independence of Estonia. “In 1990 and 1991, we fulfilled the promise given to our nations and gained corresponding recognition by taking the historical vote for the restoration of independence of our countries after the endured occupation that lasted half a century,” Karlsons said.
President of the August 20th Club Ants Veetõusme recalled that the people of Estonia expected the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia to adopt the resolution on restoring our independence, and the decisive hour had come by the evening of 20 August. “And when the gavel strike of Ülo Nugis sounded, confirming that the resolution on restoration of the independence of the Republic of Estonia had been passed, it was a joy to the people who had gathered on the square in front of Toompea Castle. Such a feeling of unity between the people and members of parliament can emerge only in these rare moments in the history of a country when the vital decisions the people have waited for and wanted are passed,” Veetõusme said.
“With this gavel strike and this resolution, a period in the de facto restoration of the Republic of Estonia had ended”, Veetõusme remarked. “It all started with the Sovereignty Declaration on 16 November 1988 and ended with the triumph of the Estonian people, when the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia passed the resolution that the Republic of Estonia had restored its independence.”
Speaker of the Parliament of Iceland Althingi Einar K. Guᵭfinnsson said that he would never forget the historic events of 1991. “I was proud of my government’s actions, led by Prime Minister Oddsson and Foreign Minister Hannibalsson, strongly supporting Estonia’s claim for independence and being the first to acknowledge your independence. The news from Tallinn and the scenes of brave Estonians defending the Tallinn TV Tower will forever be forged in my memory,” Guᵭfinnson said.
Speaker of the Parliament of Denmark Folketinget Pia Kjærsgaard recalled in her speech how she visited Estonia in the year independence was restored. “I remember the happiness and proudness of the citizens we met. That same happiness and proudness I have met today,” Kjærsgaard remarked. It was with great courage that Estonians reclaimed independence – and without the use of force,” she added.
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas thanked the members of the August 20thClub for their courage to make the right decision. “It is good to build the future of Estonia on the foundation you laid,” Rõivas said.
The Prime Minister emphasised that 25 years is an awesome period in the context of the history of the state of Estonia. The period of restored independence is by now already longer than one fourth of the whole history of the Republic of Estonia. “At the same time a quarter of a century is just a short moment in the history of humankind, and we can be really proud that we have achieved so much during this time,” Rõivas said.
In her speech, President of the Signatories of the Independence Act Club of Lithuania Birutė Valionytė described the events of 1991. “After the failed attempts to quench the democratic processes in the Soviet Union and after the failed coup, i.e. the fall of the Soviet empire, the Estonian Supreme Council immediately declared the independence of the Republic of Estonia on 20 August 1991 at 11:02 p.m. and invited other countries to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Estonia. Latvia did the same on 21 August. On 22 August 1991, the Republic of Lithuania resumed its diplomatic relations with Estonia and Latvia,” Valionytė said.
On 29 August 1991, the Russian Federation recognised the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. On 17 September 1991, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the United Nations, and the flags of the three Baltic States were hoisted simultaneously in the UN headquarters.
“From today’s perspective, it is unbelievable how much was achieved in a short period of time. The three modestly populated Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which had never lost their hopes of freedom, played the major role in destroying the Soviet empire and thus changing the map of the world,” Valionytė said.
Full texts of the speeches made at the sitting (in Estonian)
Your feedback is important. Please share it with us!