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At the 70th anniversary of the March Deportation at the Maarjamäe Memorial

At the 70th anniversary of the March Deportation at the Maarjamäe Memorial © Mattias Tammet/Office of the President of Estonia

25.04.2018

My fellow Estonians,

March 1949 was crisp and snowy. In many of our homes, the wait for spring was cut short by evil knocking on our doors.

In exile, Kalju Lepik penned the following lines:

A sleeping baby torn from a cot,
from father’s arms, the tiny tot.
Father laid to rest in the ground –
where anger is the colour of woe,
where woe is the colour of snow.
No crosses on anyone’s graves.
Rushing and rattling on rails.
To whom can I this evil lament,
for evil to receive torment?

For over 20,000 people, this March day 70 years ago meant the end of life as they knew it. Babes in arms and grandparents, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters were taken from their homes –without mercy.

The same as in June 1941 and in the intermediate and later years of hardship. Because they were taken all the time. Mother and fathers from the street. It could happen every day.

Representatives of a great number of nations were deported – Estonians, Russians, Jews and Germans – they were all enemies of a totalitarian regime. They did not suit this authority. A foreign authority who was afraid and mistrustful of us.

Mass violence against peaceful residents was a cynical tool for the occupation regime, because fear was meant to ensure the future of their system. Innocent people were labelled ‘public enemies’ or ‘bandits’, ‘nationalists’ or ‘kulaks’ for ideological and propagandist reasons so as to spread hate and distrust, to justify cruel deeds.

By our remembrance of our deported countrymen, we offer remembrance to all of the victims of Communism and Nazism, regardless of their nationality, homeland or religion. They are all the victims of crimes against humanity. They are all victims of totalitarian regimes.

The worthiest monument to all of those innocent victims is to ensure freedom, the rule of law and democracy. Only freedom, rule of law and democracy can prevent the recurrence of horrors, because such crimes can only happen in a society without democratic liberties.

This makes the glorification or justification of totalitarian regimes even more unfathomable, because our own Estonian people have suffered the most because of the lack of democracy and the rule of law. The memory of those times is still fresh in our minds and we hope they never return. We have heard these memories at home. We share these memories with our children. And we never want the return of a totalitarian regime. No matter, what kind, even one which is homespun.

Nevertheless, we must always remember that nothing can ever be certain and our rights and freedoms can disappear with only a few choices which may seem useful at the moment or a neutral choice, which is not based on democratic values. Let us recall the words of someone who shared your fate, deportation survivor Lennart Meri, from a time when a big question mark still hung over our accession to the European Union and NATO: “The days of Molotovs and Ribbentrops are over and will never return”–and he added a condition–“if we hold true to our principles. If we prove to the bigger countries that the principles of freedom, democracy and the rule of law can raise a small country above the greatest of the greats.”

I would like to add that only democratic countries which respect liberties can appeal to international law and justice. All of this is our insurance policy.

My fellow countrymen,

we are not alone, and we never wish to be alone again. With us are our allies – and they are our allies because they share our values. Countries which value democracy, civil rights and the rule of law. The world has not seen nor will it see easy times where a world built on democratic values could stand on its own without the cooperation and constant efforts of like-minded countries. Only together can we protect the free world. Only together can we stand against the return of a totalitarian mentality and all-consuming cruelty. We can stand for a society where no one has to fear

My friends, dear all who have gathered here!

Here, by this monument it is the best place to care for our independence, democracy and civil liberties. Here, were we are warned by this black wall, we can be sure that evil will never again knock on the doors of our people. Here, by this new monument, which has already become a place to remember, where to bring candles, where to bring flowers, where to come to think – it feels food to think here. Freedom is most valuable.

Let us care for Estonia!