TALLINN - Ceremonies in memory of the fallen in the 1918-1920 War of Independence were held on Freedom Square in Tallinn and on Peetri Square in the northeastern border city of Narva on Monday to mark 102 years since the armistice between Estonia and Soviet Russia that ended the hostilities in that war.
Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet said that in Freedom Square as well as in every corner of Estonia we are remembering the thousands of heroes who fell, were lost and injured in the War of Independence, who gave their most prized possession -- their lives and health -- for Estonia.
"Every war brings suffering, destruction and grief, yet they always end in peace. People are only able to live in dignity and work productively under conditions offered by peace. Estonia no longer has to stand alone. We have strong allies, and together we protect and keep each other safe; yet, peace is still not a given. It must be kept and secured every day," Laanet said according to a press release.
The minister added that the security of our continent and alliance is facing a clear and present danger.
"The European Union's eastern neighbor does not want to live on its own or allow others to live peacefully and democratically. Other countries are simply viewed as territories to be conquered, not independent countries, whose peoples have their own language and culture, and an inalienable right to choose their direction of development and partners," Laanet said.
Those who fought in the War of Independence were also remembered on Monday in Peetri Square in Narva, where Kusti Salm, the secretary general of the Estonian Ministry of Defense, took part.
"We had to fight selflessly for our statehood. During the War of Independence, which lasted for more than 13 months, several thousand combatants fell on the Estonian side, including many completely innocent civilians, whom we are remembering at today's ceremony," Salm said. "Freedom was won through a great struggle and the sacrifice of many lives."
In Tallinn, representatives from the defense forces and the Kaitseliit (Defense League) volunteer corps also laid wreaths at the foot of the monument for the War of Independence. Representatives of the Kaitseliit and the Estonian defense forces laid wreaths and lit candles at War of Independence memorials across Estonia.
The Tartu peace negotiations, held between the Republic of Estonia and Soviet Russia, led to an armistice that was signed on Dec. 31, 1919. The agreement foresaw the cessation of hostilities on the front between Estonia and Soviet Russia, beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 3, 1920.
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 addition to allied soldiers and volunteers, about 75,000 combatants took part in the War of Independence on the Estonian side. Nearly 6,000 of these combatants were killed.