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The President of the Republic at the Victory Day parade in Tartu

23.06.2019

Dear Defence League members, dear Estonians here in Tartu and at home,

“Once, I saw a peasant with a big beard standing by the Elva bridge, west of the railway line. He had a horse and was doling out something to those around him. I went for a closer look. On a sledge, there was a milk container of about 30 litres, containing a gravy full of bits of fatback. I was fortunate enough to partake of it myself.”

That was how young Ilmar Raamot, who fought on armoured train no. 2, described a day during the War of Independence. One hundred years ago today, there was a little more than six months remaining of the War of Independence. Six long and arduous, yet already hope-filled, months.

A soldier needs not only a rifle and cartridges to fight, but also hot meal. At the beginning of the War of Independence, our army lacked almost everything. Often it was food aid from our fellow Estonians, ordinary people, that filled the bellies of our soldiers in the first months of the war.

The War of Independence was not won just by frontline soldiers, but also by the farmer who gave a coach to the military, by the Defence League member who kept the rear in order, by the tailor who sewed uniforms for our soldiers and by the nurse who took care of the wounded. The War of Independence was won by the entire nation.

It was a collective effort, which led to our victory. Today we call such an effort by the whole society comprehensive national defence. It means that all walks of life are ready for a crisis and protecting the whole society. It means understanding how hospitals can treat everyone who needs care, even in a state of emergency. It means thinking about how we can all get fed during a crisis – as a nation that usually does not grow its own food, unlike 100 years ago.

 Today, national defence means more than preparing for a classic conventional conflict.

It is much more likely that we will experience a major power outage, a snowstorm, a flood or the derailment of a freight train with hazardous cargo. Such crises do not jeopardise Estonian independence but can cripple our citizens’ everyday life and sense of security. But Estonian security begins with every person’s own sense of security.

 There is still much to do when it comes to developing comprehensive national defence. Only the state can keep the hospital network operating, ensure long-term food supplies or keep order in the streets. But the state can’t be everywhere all the time, not every day nor during crisis situations. Every one of us can do a great deal to protect ourselves and our loved ones in all sorts of situations. Simple things: everyone can stock up a small supply of food. Brush up on first aid techniques. Download the women’s voluntary defence organisation’s crisis mobile app or keep at hand the the code of conduct that the state distributed a couple of months ago.

Those instructions are to ensure that as many people as possible act in a premeditated way during a crisis, or even better, in a practised way. Yes, crises always breed heroes because they are able to cope in unexpected circumstances and come up with bold and ingenious solutions. But the more those who are prepared, those who simply quietly do the things they know to do, the less there is need for heroics, which often carry higher risk. 

We need to be prepared. After all, we develop our Defence Forces and Defence League for situations that are unlikely yet still possible. In much the same way, we must all be ready for complex situations that are not very likely yet still possible.

The security and sense of security of the Estonian people are also influenced by foreign crises. Crises that we, like many others, help our allies to resolve. As a result, we can also count on the help of our allies in defending Estonia. Our allies were with us in the War of Independence, and our allies are also here with us today in Tartu. One is always alone in defeat, but with allied support it is impossible to be defeated, because there is always someone with whom to share the load so it is not overwhelming. Together we are invincible.


Dear fellow citizens

The young man eating gravy by the Elva bridge 100 years ago, Ilmar Raamot, volunteered for the War of Independence as a schoolboy from the Tallinn Reaalkool. Like other Estonians, he played his part in the War of Independence so that we can be here today. In the same way, Estonia is not defended today by only the Defence Forces and Defence League; rather, each one of us can play our part.

In the Defence Forces, a new annual cycle is about to start with new conscripts who will be the latest and youngest addition to our reserve forces. I wish success to those starting military service and thank those who entered the reserve in the spring. A welcome to all who have decided to put their Defence Forces experience to good use now and in the future in the ranks of the Defence League.

Let us all cherish Estonia! Happy Victory Day, my dear Estonian people! Long live the Defense League!