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President of the Republic on the opening of the summer co-operation event of umbrella organisations of Estonia and national minorities

President of the Republic on the opening of the summer co-operation event of umbrella organisations of Estonia and national minorities © Mattias Tammet

18.08.2017

Dear all who have gathered here!

I am pleased to see that people in Estonia organise a variety of events on a variety of grounds. They do so with pleasure, voluntarily and they do so with different people. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion on whether it is appropriate to feel proud to be an Estonian at all. I do believe that this discussion can be extended to include all other nations too – is it appropriate to feel proud to be a nationalist?

My answer to this question is the following – it is very appropriate. I am an islander and Estonians have a president who is an islander and they just have to accept it. As we know, identity is very important for each and every one of us. Where we come from ourselves, and where our grandparents and our grandparents' ancestors came from. Here are people with ancestors that came from the Nordic countries, people whose ancestors may have come from beyond the Urals – perhaps the roots of all of us, all Finno-Ugric peoples, can be traced back to beyond the Ural mountains.

Our origin is important for us; we cherish our origins and in Estonia everyone can and should certainly be proud of his or her origin. Proud of our language, our culture and even the food you offer to your families and in your homes, honouring your own traditions.

Nationalism is not egoistic; nationalism is open. We have lots of events through which we proudly show the whole world what it means to be an Estonian, and what Estonian folk music, Estonian culture, Estonian national culture and Estonian song festival culture are. Yes, I'm still very proud of our song festival. And we always extend invitations to such events. Representatives of other nations are present, for example, at Viljandi Folk Music Festival, proud of their tradition, their gorgeous traditional culture.

You have all come together here, at the Estonian Folk Museum today, which represents a consolidated portrait of being an Estonian. Yet everyone feels good here today, regardless of our nations. I think that this is the very idea established in the Estonian Declaration of Independence – "to the Peoples of Estonia!"

I'm happy to see that you've all assembled here today to discuss how together we can develop the patterns for Estonia in the 21st century. And I support you in coming up with an Estonian pattern that represents a multiplicity of colours. Lots of diversity of colours, loads of linguistic plurality and, of course, cultural diversity.

For me, one of this year's most powerful symbols was an Estonian folk skirt combined with Ukrainian blouse sleeves that I saw at Viljandi Folk Music Festival. And you know, I liked it a lot. One doesn't have to wear a folk costume assembled from items of the set of the same nation. As I saw myself, different folk costumes can be successfully combined; I had never seen anything like that before and, for me, it became an excellent symbol of the idea of open nationalism.

Needless to say, you will not be limited to thinking of your roots and descent today. You are to co-operate and will think of things that are different altogether. Not just about what has been, but also what will be, what your hopes and expectations are for the future via your own happy voluntary activities and co-operation. I'm quite sure that the future will be creative, logical and our society in general will gain from it.

The more co-operation there is between very different people, the better our comprehension of the features of interest that are included in the spectrum we enjoy. The more we involve all the participants in our society – people of all backgrounds and also more vulnerable people, such as disabled persons – in our activities and efforts, the better our comprehension of the meaning of humanism, of being a human being.

As we look at the events that take place in the world, including those in Europe, and consider the incident in Barcelona, we understand that the era of explaining the essence of being a human being is definitely not over in the world. The essence of a man being a friend, not a wolf, for another man.

Our Estonia is a peaceful place. Physically peaceful, but our souls don't always feel peaceful, as we all know. The more we talk to each other and the more we can see that we're all exactly the same – despite being different – the greater peace we will feel in our souls. The greater will be the confidence that we have the power to maintain this island of peace here, in this region and Europe, to the benefit of everybody. And I do believe that we are linked by the wish to offer happiness to our grandchildren and give them confidence that we keep moving in the right direction.

Have a nice day; thank you for listening! I wish you a successful co-operation not just for today but for the year ahead, up to your next convention. Enjoy your day!