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25 years ago, on 20 August 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia adopted the Resolution on the National Independence of Estonia. The state that had been proclaimed on 24 February 1918 was restored. Estonia gained international recognition and rejoined the global family of independent states.

1991 in Estonia

January

12 January – Treaty on the Principles of the Interstate Relations between the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic and the Republic of Estonia, in which the sovereignty of both countries was mutually recognised, was signed in Moscow.

13 January – Soviet Army troops and KGB special unit Alfa conquered the TV Tower and the Press House in Vilnius. 14 people were killed, hundreds were wounded.

13 January – Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR Boris Yeltsin met with the leaders of the Baltic States in Tallinn to discuss the tragic events in Vilnius. A joint statement on the mutual recognition of each other’s national sovereignty was made. Boris Yeltsin called on the Russian soldiers not to use arms.

Boris Yeltsin and the representatives of the Baltic States at Toompea in the late evening of 13 January

Boris Yeltsin and the representatives of the Baltic States at Toompea in the late evening of 13 January. Graf, Mati. Impeeriumi lõpp ja Eesti taasiseseisvumine 1988–1991 (The End of the Empire and the Restoration of the Independence of Estonia 1988–1991). Tallinn : Argo, 2012.

13 January – The Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia formed the Emergency Defence Council of the Republic of Estonia; members of the Council were Arnold Rüütel (Chairman), Edgar Savisaar and Ülo Nugis. Marju Lauristin and Lepo Sumera were given the authority to be heads of the government in exile, if necessary.

14 January – Meeting of solidarity with the people of Lithuania at the Freedom Square in Tallinn

15 January – Meetings of the Intermovement and strike committee in Tallinn at Toompea, in Tartu, Narva, Kohtla-Järve and other cities. The resignation of the Supreme Council and the Government was demanded.

17 January – Strike at the enterprises in the area of government of the all-Union ministries began in Tallinn, establishing of the direct authority of the President of the Soviet Union over Estonia was demanded.

18 January – First barricades in defence of Toompea were constructed.

Defence structures in Tallinn

Defence structures in Tallinn. Photo: T. Malsroos. National Library of Estonia.

20 January – OMON attacked the Ministry of the Interior in Riga, Latvia. 4 people were killed and 10 wounded.

25 January – The United States Congress passed a resolution expressing support for the independence of the Baltic States.

25–27 January – Meeting of the Government of the Republic of Estonia in exile, the members of the Legal Affairs Committee and the National defence Committee of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia and the representatives of the Committee of Estonia (Congress of Estonia) was held in the Estonian House in Stockholm, where the legal and political problems connected with the restoration of the independence of Estonia and the possibilities for cooperation were discussed.

31 January – The Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia decided to avert the all-Union referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union and to hold a referendum on 3 March 1991. The question put to the referendum was: “Do you want the restoration of the national independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Estonia?”

February

Students of Paikuse Police School at training

Students of Paikuse Police School at training. Risto Kasemäe. Establishing of the Police School 1990-1991. Tallinn: Olion, 2007.

9 February – Independence referendum was held in Lithuania, 90.5% of voters were in favour.

11 February
– Administrative Reform Committee of the Government of the Republic of Estonia was established.

16 February – First 100 junior police officers graduated from Paikuse Police School.

21 February – Prime Minister of Iceland Steingrímur Hermannsson and Prime Minister of Estonia Edgar Savisaar signed the statement according to which Iceland became a mediator in the negotiations between the Soviet Union and the Baltic states.

Negotiations with the delegation of the Government of Iceland

Negotiations with the delegation of the Government of Iceland. Edgar Savisaar. Prime Minister. Recent History of Estonia 1990-1992. Tartu: Kleio, 2004.

Signing of the joint declaration with Prime Minister of Iceland Steingrimur Hermansson

Signing of the joint declaration with Prime Minister of Iceland Steingrimur Hermansson. Edgar Savisaar. Prime Minister. Recent History of Estonia 1990-1992. Tartu: Kleio, 2004.

24 February – Anniversary of the Republic of Estonia was celebrated nationally again in Estonia. A flag hoisting ceremony was held at Toompea and a festive meeting was held in the Estonia Concert Hall. A ceremony to commemorate Konstantin Päts was held at Metsakalmistu. A modest parade was held at Remniku Training Centre, organised by head of the training centre Johan Saar.

Parade of the anniversay of the Republic of Estonia at Remniku Training Centre

Parade of the anniversay of the Republic of Estonia at Remniku Training Centre. Johan Saar. Attention! Salute! Tallinn: Estonian Boarder Guard Officers’ Association, 2004.

26 February – 1 March – Annual session of the Nordic Council was held in Copenhagen, with participation by leaders of the Baltic countries.

Polls in the newspaper “Esmaspäev”, February-March 1991.

Polls in the newspaper "Esmaspäev", February-March 1991

Newspaper “Esmaspäev”.

March

1 March – The Police Act of Estonia entered into force, the militia was replaced by the police.

Painting a militia car into a police car

Painting a militia car into a police car. Eesti Politsei 90 = Estonian Police 90. Tallinn : Police Board, 2008.

3 March – Independence referendums were held in Estonia and Latvia (Eesti Vabariigi Ülemnõukogu avaldus; Tulemuste kinnitamine). In Estonia, 82.86% of eligible voters participated in the referendum and 77.83% of them supported the restoration of the national independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Estonia. In Latvia, 87.56% of eligible voters participated in the referendum and 73.68% of them voted for independence.

Voting at the independence referendum

Voting at the independence referendum. Tiit Made. Eestlaste vabanemise tee : 1985-1994(The Estonians’ Road to Freedom: 1985–1994). Tallinn : August 20th Club, 2015.

11 March – The Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia passed the resolution that Estonia will not participate in the referendum of the Soviet Union on 17 March.

11 March – In Copenhagen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia Lennart Meri and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark Uffe Ellemann-Jensen signed an agreement, according to which diplomatic relations were to be established as soon as the situation permits.

16 March – 4th Session of the Congress of Estonia. The Congress decided to start issuing the identity documents of the citizen of the Republic of Estonia.

22 March – Members of the Council of Baltic States (Arnold Rüütel, Anatolijs Gorbunovs, Vytautas Landsbergis) met in Jūrmala to apply for organising an international conference to resolve the Baltic crisis. Appeal to the participating states of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe was adopted.

27 March – The Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia established the Monetary Reform Committee.

29 March – Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia Arnold Rüütel and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia Lennart Meri met with President of the USA George Bush in Washington.

Arnold Rüütel and Lennart Meri meeting with President of the United States of America George W. Bush

Arnold Rüütel and Lennart Meri meeting with President of the United States of America George W. Bush Photo: National Archives/Tarmo Vahter. Tarmo Vahter. Vaba riigi tulek: 1991. kuus otsustavat kuud (Coming of the Independent State: Six Decisive Months of 1991). Tallinn : Eesti Ekspress, 2011.

29 and 31 March – Good Friday and Easter were celebrated again.

April

8 April – National Border Defence Board was established by a Regulation of the Government.

Receiving of young border guards on the Estonian-Latvian border. Henn Karits, Aadu Jõgiaas. Leegitseval piiril. Varipiirist ja sidesõjast vabaduseni 1990-1991. (On the Flaming Border. From the Shadow Border and Communications War to Freedom 1990–1991) Tallinn: Eesti Kodukaitse Ajaloo Selts, 2012.

Receiving of young border guards on the Estonian-Latvian border. Henn Karits, Aadu Jõgiaas. Leegitseval piiril. Varipiirist ja sidesõjast vabaduseni 1990-1991. (On the Flaming Border. From the Shadow Border and Communications War to Freedom 1990–1991) Tallinn: Eesti Kodukaitse Ajaloo Selts, 2012.

11 April – Committee of Estonia submitted an offer for cooperation to the Popular Front of Estonia to form a representative assembly for the transition period to replace the Supreme Council and the Committee of Estonia.

13–14 April – Third Congress of the Popular Front was held in Tallinn, where the Resolution “The Preconditions for Ending the Transition Period” was adopted and the statement “On the Unity of Independence Forces” was made.

15 April – Meeting of the delegations of Estonia and the Soviet Union, where the time schedule and subjects of negotiations and the composition of working groups was laid down. Ülo Nugis was the head of the Estonian delegation.

Meeting of the official delegations of Estonia and the Soviet Union started on 15 April. Photo: Peeter Raidla. Rahva Hääl, 16 April 1991.

Meeting of the official delegations of Estonia and the Soviet Union started on 15 April. Photo: Peeter Raidla. Rahva Hääl, 16 April 1991.

Meeting of the official delegations of Estonia and the Soviet Union started on 15 April. Photo: Peeter Raidla. Rahva Hääl, 16 April 1991.

15 April – Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia passed the Pensions Act.

25 April – Estonian group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was formed by a resolution of the Supreme Council of Estonia.

Remembering the everyday life – prices established by the Government.

 

Prices established by the Government. Tarmo Vahter. Vaba riigi tulek: 1991. Kuus otsustavat kuud. (Coming of Independence: Six Decisive Months) Tallinn: Eesti Ekspress, 2011.

Prices established by the Government. Tarmo Vahter. Vaba riigi tulek: 1991. Kuus otsustavat kuud. (Coming of Independence: Six Decisive Months) Tallinn: Eesti Ekspress, 2011.

May

7–8 May – Prime Minister of Estonia Edgar Savisaar, Prime Minister of Latvia Ivars Godmanis and Chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania Vytautas Landsbergis met with President of the United States George Bush, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe in Washington.

Meeting of the heads of state of the Baltic States with President of the United States George W. Bush in Washington Vaba riigi tulek : 1991. kuus otsustavat kuud. (The Birth of Free State: Six Decisive Months of 1991), Tallinn: Eesti Ekspress, 2011.

Meeting of the heads of state of the Baltic States with President of the United States George W. Bush in Washington Vaba riigi tulek : 1991. kuus otsustavat kuud. (The Birth of Free State: Six Decisive Months of 1991), Tallinn: Eesti Ekspress, 2011.

8 May – the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia passed a decision on publishing the concept of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act for public discussion in newspapers Rahva Hääl and Sovetskaya Estonia. It appeared in newspapers on 15 May.

9 May – a blasting charge exploded under the bas-relief of the monument of President Konstantin Päts in Tahkuranna.

Monument to the President of the Republic of Estonia Konstantin Päts in Tahkuranna, damaged in May 1991 Mart Laar, Urmas Ott, Sirje Endre. Teine Eesti: Eesti iseseisvuse taassünd 1986-1991. (The Second Estonia: Rebirth of the Independence of Estonia), Tallinn: SE & JS, 1996.

Monument to the President of the Republic of Estonia Konstantin Päts in Tahkuranna, damaged in May 1991 Mart Laar, Urmas Ott, Sirje Endre. Teine Eesti: Eesti iseseisvuse taassünd 1986-1991. (The Second Estonia: Rebirth of the Independence of Estonia), Tallinn: SE & JS, 1996.

19 and 21 May – special militia units of the Soviet Union attacked the border control points of Luhamaa and Murati
The Council of the Baltic States adopted an address to the parliaments, governments and people of the countries of the world in connection with the attacks against the border control points.

Rahva Hääl, 26 May 1991.

Rahva Hääl, 26 May 1991.

June

4 June – Luhamaa border control point was attacked.

13 June – Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia passed the Principles of Ownership Reform Act in order to return unlawfully expropriated property to its legal owners.

14 June – special militia units of the Soviet Union attacked Ikla border control point.

Ikla border control point after the attack on 14 June. Vaba riigi tulek: 1991. kuus otsustavat kuud (The Birth of Free State: Six Decisive Months of 1991). Tallinn: Eesti Ekspress, 2011.

Ikla border control point after the attack on 14 June. Vaba riigi tulek: 1991. kuus otsustavat kuud (The Birth of Free State: Six Decisive Months of 1991). Tallinn: Eesti Ekspress, 2011.

18 June – 28 members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia submitted a request for the release of Edgar Savisaar from the office of the Head of the Government. It was decided to discuss the request in autumn. The government crisis was widely discussed in the press. PDF (1,48 kiB)

19 JuneEstonian National Culture Foundation was established on the initiative of Eri Klas.

July

1 July Government Regulation on Developing Market Relations in Agriculture entered into force (adopted on 14 June 1991). It became the basis for transition to freely forming prices of food products (except for whole milk, buttermilk and curds).

1–7 July International song festival Bridges of Song was held in Tallinn. Besides musicians, well-known cultural figures, economists and politicians also had meetings. At the economic conference “East-West Economic Relations”, American political scientist and statesman Zbigniew Brzezinski delivered a speech.

Poster. National Library of Estonia.

Poster. National Library of Estonia.

Postcard. National Library of Estonia.

Postcard. National Library of Estonia.

Zbigniew Brzezinski at the economic conference “East-West Economic Relations” Photo: Tiit Veermäe.

Zbigniew Brzezinski at the economic conference “East-West Economic Relations” Photo: Tiit Veermäe.

9 July Explosion in the house of the National Border Defence Board and Home Defence Guard at Toompea in Tallinn.

Explosion in the house of the National Border Defence Board and Home Defence Guard (Commander’s House) at Toompea in Tallinn. Henn Karits, Aadu Jõgiaas. Varipiirist ja sidesõjast vabaduseni 1990-1991. (From the Shadow Border and Communications War to Freedom 1990–1991) Tallinn : Estonian Home Defence Guard History Society, 2012.

Explosion in the house of the National Border Defence Board and Home Defence Guard (Commander’s House) at Toompea in Tallinn. Henn Karits, Aadu Jõgiaas. Varipiirist ja sidesõjast vabaduseni 1990-1991. (From the Shadow Border and Communications War to Freedom 1990–1991) Tallinn : Estonian Home Defence Guard History Society, 2012.

Explosion in the house of the National Border Defence Board and Home Defence Guard (Commander’s House) at Toompea in Tallinn. Henn Karits, Aadu Jõgiaas. Varipiirist ja sidesõjast vabaduseni 1990-1991. (From the Shadow Border and Communications War to Freedom 1990–1991) Tallinn : Estonian Home Defence Guard History Society, 2012.

Explosion in the house of the National Border Defence Board and Home Defence Guard (Commander’s House) at Toompea in Tallinn. Henn Karits, Aadu Jõgiaas. Varipiirist ja sidesõjast vabaduseni 1990-1991. (From the Shadow Border and Communications War to Freedom 1990–1991) Tallinn : Estonian Home Defence Guard History Society, 2012.

15 July – By a Government Regulation, National Customs and Border Defence Board of the Republic of Estonia in the area of government of the Minister of State was formed on the basis of the National Customs Board of the Republic of Estonia and the National Border Defence Board of the Republic of Estonia.

23 July – Local government councils of Narva, Kohtla-Järve and Sillamäe submitted a memorandum requesting special status to North-East Estonia in the Republic of Estonia.

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