Tartu celebrates 80th anniversary of peace treaty

  • 2000-02-10
  • By Joseph Enge
LAIUSE, Estonia – The small village of Laiuse near Tartu held a prominent place during Estonia's Feb. 2 commemorations of the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty. Laiuse is the birthplace of Jaan Poska, leader of the Estonian delegation for negotiations of the treaty in 1920. Poska was posthumously honored in his hometown with speeches from Interior Minister Tarmo Loodus, Vice President of the Parliament Tunne Kelam, and historians who discussed the significance of Poska's contributions to that era in Estonia's history.

Estonians held celebrations and memorials all over the country to remember the peace treaty ending the war between Estonia and communist Russia. The treaty gave Estonia territories along the eastern coast of the Narva River as well as the Pechory region, which were made part of the Russian Federation again after World War II, when Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union.

A plaque and flowers were placed at Poska's birthplace while the local defense forces stood at attention in his honor. The Estonian Border Guard Band played, followed with a parade and demonstration of their precision marching in the nearby city of Jogeva.

Loodus explained why Poska is considered the father of Estonian lawyers and an advocate for the Estonian people, in particular regarding his accomplishment with the Treaty of Tartu.

Loodus also mentioned the Russian Duma's failure to sign a border agreement with Estonia.

"Today we have negotiations with Russia again. This time it is a border treaty that has been ready, written, and polished for almost nine years and is still not signed," he said. "Is it because we have not yet found a modern Jaan Poska who knows the Russian soul to reach the goal, or perhaps the times are different now?"

A backdrop to the ceremony was the comments made earlier by the Russian ambassador to Estonia, Alexei Glukhov, and Prime Minister Mart Laar's response. Glukhov criticized the high-level political ceremony that commemorated the 80th anniversary of the Tartu Treaty.

"The Tartu peace agreement of 1920 is an event belonging to the days gone by, which should first of all interest researchers of history, not politicians who bear the responsibility for the present day and tomorrow," said Glukhov.

Laar, a history teacher and writer, responded with an offer to give Glukhov a 5th grade Estonian history textbook written by Laar himself, suggesting Glukhov is confused on certain points of Estonia's past.

"Obviously I must grant this textbook book to the ambassador," Laar said.

The Russian position is that Estonia voluntarily joined the Soviet Union in 1940, making the Tartu Peace Treaty invalid.

Noting the significance of the peace treaty, Poska once said, "This day was one of the most important for Estonia in its 700-year history because Estonia was for the first time able to determine its future."