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Enn Auksmann

 

Since the beginning of the 11th century, the region in Northern Europe, which we now know as Estonia, has been a constant target of foreign conquerors: the Russians, Germans, Danes, Poles and Swedes have ruled or tried to rule over us.

 

Our ancestors were deprived of basic rights, treated as slaves, sold and bought like cattle, beaten and even killed if they were not obedient to their masters.


It is a miracle that our people, our culture, and our language have survived for centuries.

 

And that our people, after 600 (or rather almost 700) years of foreign rule and slavery, found the strength not to avenge, but to rise and grow as a free and democratic nation; to create and build our own country, our own free state, which we call a republic in Estonian.


It was in 1918 that Estonia gained its independence.

 

At that time, Estonia was again a hotbed of foreign conquerors – Bolshevik Russians on one side and Germans on the other.

 

Those who stood for freedom and independence were persecuted, imprisoned and shot.

 

The Estonians had to fight – against both the Germans and the Russians.

 

But never to subdue others or conquer their land; just to live as free people in a free country.


20 years later, Estonia was conquered again. First by the Soviet Union, then by Hitler's Germany, then again by the Soviet Union – this time the occupants remained for fifty years.


In 1991, Estonia regained its independence – through a five-year-long nation-wide resistance movement that we now call the Singing Revolution.

 

Absolutely no violence, rioting or looting. Only peaceful gatherings, singing, prayer, worship. And literally confronting Soviet tanks with bare hands just before the declaration of independence.


June 14th is a national day of mourning in Estonia. On June 14th, 1941, tens of thousands of people from the territories occupied by the Soviet Union were deported to Siberia. One third of them were under 17 years old. 60% of them died.


This was not the only deportation. The largest took place in 1949.

 

On the Day of Mourning we remember these people, we listen to their stories, we ask forgiveness for all who caused this suffering, and we hope that something like this will happen never again.


But our people – at least for the most part – do not hate anyone.

 

Not the Germans, Danes, Swedes, Poles or Russians who enslaved us over the centuries.

 

Not even those who sent our families to Siberia and killed them.

 

We condemn their actions, but we let history be history. Because we know that we have something more important and better to do.

 

Our task is to rebuild a free state of free people, bearing in mind the warning examples of the past.

 

To again build up our own free country.

 

May God bless us all!

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