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President of the Republic At the Festive Meeting Dedicated to the 86th Anniversary of the Treaty of Tartu at the Estonian National Opera House on 2 February 2006

Dear people of Estonia,

Over the years the significance of the Treaty of Tartu in the past and present of the independent statehood of Estonia has had comprehensive and detailed coverage. This is one of the lasting symbols of our independence. However, this is a date, which helps us to understand and evaluate a widely recognised modern value - peace.

The Peace Treaty of Tartu defined a basis for further relations of the states: mutual respect for each other's independent status and common values.

Today several Russian politicians attempt to treat the Treaty of Tartu as a plain historic document. However, for us the treaty sustains a dimension of continuity in international relations.

As a lesson of the Treaty we have to admit that even if treaties are difficult to conclude, they are still possible and necessary between two neighbouring states. Today several important agreements in economy as well as in other fields between Estonia and Russia are still missing. Enforcement of a signed treaty has become a serious problem as well. Although several issues are covered with agreements concluded between the European Union and Russia, they do not replace equal and mutually beneficial bilateral agreements in a number of fields.

This year we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Estonia. Therefore it is appropriate to recall that while restoring our independent statehood, we shared common values with Russia that started building a democratic society.

On 12 January 1991, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Estonia signed a treaty on the basis of the relations. In the preamble Russia recognises Estonia’s legal status pursuant to the Resolutions of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia of 30 March and 7 august 1990.

I am convinced that we remember highlights of our recent history really well. Let us just recall that in the above resolutions the then representatives of the people recognised the unlawfulness of the power of the USSR in Estonia as of its establishment. The Supreme Council also confirmed that negotiations with the Soviet Union would be based on the Peace Treaty signed between Estonia and Russia on 2 February 1920.

The treaty on the basis of international relations as well as the recognition of the Republic of Estonia by Russia on 24 August 1991 confirmed for future relations based on mutual trust. The restoration of such confidence in future is a primary prerequisite to continue a dialogue on the conclusion of a Border Treaty.

Our people should not be ashamed of its history. Recently Estonia's experience caught attention in World Affairs Council of Northern Carolina and the Stanford University. Addressing the audience, I stressed that Estonia's independence was not based on attitudes against certain states but on generally recognised democratic values.

In 1989, this was the platform for a historico-legal evaluation of crimes of the communist regime in Estonia given by the Supreme Council. Along these lines we have had fruitful cooperation with many nations and political forces in Russia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

The history and future of Estonia are bound together with the will of the people. It is appropriate to recall today that the restoration of independence was a long process, taking many years, with each participant playing a highly significant role. The ''Letter of the Forty'' twenty five years ago was followed by a ''phosphorite war'' and events in Hirvepark, Popular Front and Citizens’ Committees, restored self-government and targeted steps taken by the then Supreme Council in creating a legal basis for independence.

An explicit expression of the people's will was also a full assembly of the people's deputies of all levels in the City Hall of Tallinn 16 years ago to the date. The representative forum with its more than three thousand participants confirmed to the world that Estonia was going to restore its independence.

In the City Hall on 2 February 1990, the words pronounced seventy years earlier on the conclusion of the Treaty of Tartu were poignant with meaning. Jaan Poska had said: ''This is the most important day for Estonia in history, in the last 700 years, as today for the first time Estonia determines definitely its future.''

The restoration of Estonia's independence was a kind of new War of Independence under new circumstances, however, without casualties. We could think that the more sacrificed lives there are; the more valuable is the freedom. Although freedom is an ultimate benefit and value, a human life and peace are really priceless. This applied fifteen years ago and applies today.

In 1919-1925 the Republic of Estonia awarded the Cross of Liberty to three thousand individuals. 2150 of them were Estonians who were awarded for the valour in the War of Independence. I am convinced that they would have deserved the recognition also in the peacetime - for their bravery or commitment to work.

There have always been people like that and many are living among us. Annually Estonia acknowledges the worthiest of them. However, their profession is insignificant. How they have worked and lived is important.

As values, gaining and restoring of independence remain intertwined in the history of our people. We should admit that with the accomplishments of the last fifteen years and seeing new possibilities, we have not been able to open up and explain their source, our recent history. It would probably take years to get a balanced picture of the complicated process, with authorities and local governments, numerous popular movements and associations participating in it.

The full picture was created by individuals whose commitment, responsibility for their people and deeds determined both the direction and outcome for the process of the restoration of independence. Thanks to these people the Republic of Estonia could once again ''freely and independently determine and guide its destiny'' as proclaimed in the Estonian Independence Manifesto on 24 February 1918.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

In the history of our state the number of people who established and restored its independence is decreasing year by year. The obligation of a state is to express its gratitude for their work accomplished. This year we are going to acknowledge them on the 88th anniversary of the proclamation and 15th anniversary of the restoration of the Republic of Estonia. On this occasion, let us cast aside political rivalry and admit that independence is an outcome of the aspirations of the entire nation.

Estonian national memory bears a clear imprint of our joint struggle for freedom. An irrefutable place in the history belongs to Estonia's independence and restoration thereof when an aspiration for freedom joined our people. In similar harmony we have to protect peace and democracy all over the world, as this is a guarantee for a nation to last and states to develop.

I wish all of us an unflagging intent to guard the values and possibilities independence has delivered us.

© 2006 Office of the President l tel: + 372 631 6202 l fax: + 372 631 6250 l