In his speech given at the Cross of Liberty and the Monument to the War of Independence, Minister of Defence Luik noted that today we are commemorating those people who tried to restore Estonia’s national independence in 1944, during the turmoil of World War II, when one occupation was rapidly replacing another, bringing with it great suffering.
‘The members of Otto Tief’s government demonstrated extraordinary courage during those dramatic days’, said Luik, adding that many of them fell into the hands of the Red Army and the NKVD, including Prime Minister Tief himself.
According to Luik, thousands of Estonian soldiers, who were trapped between retreating and invading forces at the end of September 1944, received inspiration from Otto Tief’s government to defend their fatherland. ‘Many soldiers became Forest Brothers, and their selfless resistance continued for years. Estonian people did not want to live under Soviet rule’, Luik emphasized.
He explained that the Red Army was trying to recruit young people en masse into compulsory military service; however, the young people refrained from doing so and instead formed resistance organizations in which the participants called themselves City Brothers.
According to Luik, the faith and desperate self-sacrifice of Otto Tief’s government and the thousands of Estonians who resisted was not in vain – there was a choice between Germany or the Soviet Union, knowing that one totalitarian power or another would destroy Estonian statehood, but there was also a third option.
‘At that time, it was a completely idealistic choice, which meant hope that Estonia’s independence would be restored with the help of democratic Western countries and by relying on their values’, Luik noted. He added that this road was finally opened to us in August 1991, ending with the peaceful anchoring of Estonia to the West, soon followed by membership in NATO and the European Union.
‘We honour the people who fought for our country, our people and our home. But who is honoured by Estonia’s neighbour to the east?’ Luik raised the question above and noted that this year, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the President of our neighbouring country decided to reward not only Red Army veterans, but also the NKVD members who participated in the extermination of the resistance in the Baltic Republics, Ukraine and Belarus.
Luik noted that the former Soviet forces left Estonian soil three years after the restoration of Estonia’s independence, which the resistance fighters of Tief’s time had dreamed of. ‘We will do everything in our power to remember the contribution of these brave people, and will preserve and protect Estonia’s independence’, he said.
In conclusion, Luik emphasized the importance of Otto Tief’s government for Estonia’s legal continuity, and that the 1939 Bases Treaty and the 1940 June coup d'état, orchestrated by the Soviet Union – which was in some ways similar to the events in Crimea six years ago – did not abrogate the Tartu Peace Treaty.
‘Unlawfulness and violence do not change or give birth to international law’, said Luik. He specified that Otto Tief’s government was the legal executive power of Estonia, as was the Government of the Republic in exile, which was recognized by many countries and operated until the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Estonia.
Minister of Defence Jüri Luik laid a wreath on behalf of the Estonian people at the foot of the Cross of Liberty and the Monument to the War of Independence.
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