TALLINN - The controversial and much delayed Victory Monument to the War of Independence was finally unveiled in Tallinn's Freedom Square at midnight on June 22.
An impressive ceremony took place in front of a huge crowd on a beautiful midsummer evening. It was a far cry from the arguments and controversy that have dogged the monument since its inception.
The issues surrounding the construction of the monument have been incredibly sensitive and divided the community. The April 2007 riots 's largely conducted by the local Russian population 's still stand vivid in many people's memory. The riots took place over the removal of a Russian war memorial that was located only a few hundred meters from the new monument, sparking new tensions over the recently unveiled monument.
The symbolic nature of Estonia establishing its own memorial was a very sensitive issue. This combined with escalating costs, a controversial design and construction delays have resulted in a sharp controversy surrounding the monument.
The Estonian government has so far been keen to remind Tallinn residents that the monument is about the country's fight for independence 90 years ago. President Toomas Hendrick Ilves summarized the historical perspective in his speech.
"Our ancestors had to fight for the very liberties we take for granted today. They had to go to war and many faced death and disablement."
"In Vonnu, 90 years ago, our forefathers saved the Estonian nation and again six months later at the Eastern Front. They won for us the right to exist and to live in our own country," Ilves said.
"Had our forefathers and mothers lost back then, we would have shared the Stalinist horrors in the decades preceding World War II."
"Would we be standing here today? Would we be speaking Estonian?"
"This is why every Estonian should understand the meaning and importance of the War of Liberation," the president said. "This, literally, was a war for freedom."