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The President of the Republic made a speech on the occasion of National Day of Commemoration in Tartu

President Arnold Rüütel today in Tartu laid a wreath at a memorial on Riga Hill, and made a speech at a conference "Day of oppressive times" held in the Vanemuine Theatre in commemoration of the June deportation of 1941.

In his opening address at the conference organised by the Society of Broken Cornflower, the President of the Republic said that almost everyone among our small nation had some relative who had to live through the horrors of deportation, flee one's homeland escaping occupiers coming either from the east or the west, or had lost his or her life during World War II. "In a very short period of time, the people of Estonia lost every fifth compatriot and almost all fellow citizens who belonged to ethnic minorities. But the war and occupations caused not only human loss, which amounted to about 180 thousand people counting those who were murdered, deported, had to escape and became victims of war. The loss Estonia had to suffer included decline in the quality of life and the level of knowledge and skills, ruination of the environment and morality," the Head of State said.

"History has taught the people that if we consistently closed our eyes to the restriction of democracy, it would bring about the birth of a totalitarian and ultimately also a criminal regime. This is what happened in Europe between the two world wars," President Rüütel added.

The President of the Republic also noted that less than 20 years ago, according to the official history, which was forced upon more than a hundred nations, those events had never happened. "Under such circumstances it was unprecedented that in 1988 the Supreme Council of the Estonian SSR started discussions on Stalinist violence. The discussions resulted in passing an act, which gave a legal assessment to the mass deportations of 1940 - 1950, declaring them to be illegal and crimes against humanity. In essence, that assessment equalized Stalinism with Nazism," President Rüütel stressed.

The President of the Republic thanked all those who had taken part in writing the recently published "White Book". "This was meticulous and time-consuming work and as a result of that a book was published, which helps us to explain, both in Estonian and in English, what had happened to our people. But we can take that book as an interim report of our work so far, as not all archives are open and many materials are not accessible yet. Research work has to be continued. And it is important that veritable knowledge about what had happened would be passed from one generation to another," the Head of state said.

Public Relations Unit of the Office of the President
Kadriorg, June 14, 2005

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