Estonian president: Courage to become free, be free not an obligation, but an opportunity

  • 2023-01-03
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Estonian President Alar Karis said at a line-up of the defense forces, the Kaitseliit (Defense League) volunteer corps and allies on the day of commemoration of those who lost their lives in the War of Independence held in the northeastern border town of Narva on Tuesday that the courage to become free and be free is not an obligation for anyone, but an opportunity.

"Narva chose 'Europe starts here' as its slogan. That is right, the European space of thought begins in Narva. But Narva's slogan could also be 'Freedom starts here'. Because indeed, from here -- along the side of Narva -- there runs a dividing line, where on one side there is freedom and on the other side there is no freedom. It is no longer a notional, but now already a political line that places us at the first meters of freedom," Karis was quoted by spokespeople as saying.

The head of state recently asked the high school students of Narva to write about how they view freedom. In his speech, the president quoted the writings of the highschoolers, stressing the idea that people should remember that "it is necessary to stand for freedom, it must be protected and valued", because "after all, we all have the same country and its freedom".

"The courage to become free and to be free is not an obligation for anyone, but an opportunity. 103 years ago, in the War of Independence, the people of Estonia -- Estonians, Russians, Baltic Germans, Ingrian Finns -- as well as Finnish, Swedish and Danish volunteers fought for the freedom of Estonia, for the right of Estonia to have its own country. It was a brave fight. And this courage remained in us and straightened our backs again more than 30 years ago, when we restored Estonia's independence," Karis said.

"Now, looking at our authorities, the defense forces and Kaitseliit standing here next to allied units, we can see how strong Estonia's security is. In addition to our own will and ability to defend ourselves, we also have the strength and unity of the European Union and NATO to jointly protect the freedom of its member states," he added.

At 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 3, 1920 a ceasefire with Bolshevist Russia came into force that lasted until the signing of the Tartu Peace Treaty on Feb. 2 the same year, which formally ended the War of Independence that had started with an offensive by Bolsheviks against units of the Estonian Kaitseliit and a German regiment deployed in the defense of the border town of Narva on Nov. 28, 1918. 

Since the 1920s, the traditional minute of silence has been held each year at 10:30 on Jan. 3, at the moment when the ceasefire entered into force, to honor those Estonians and foreigners who fought in the War of Independence and gave their lives for Estonia's freedom.

In the War of Independence, in addition to allied soldiers and volunteers, 74,505 soldiers participated on the Estonian side, of whom 5,540 died. As a result of the War of Independence, the Red Army was driven out of Estonia and, with the Tartu Peace Treaty, Estonia's national independence was recognized.