This year February 24th marked 95 years of Estonia declaring itself independent and free. Those years were tragically split in half by overpowering military foreign intrusion and a consequent 50 years of totalitarian subjugation.
March 27th of this year marks the day that the second period of the free republic, starting in August of 1991 has outlived the first period which ended in June of 1940. This translates into 7890 days of freedom both times.
Those interested have often asked how different or similar were those two eras of independence. Perhaps the most obvious similarity has been the difficulties, the growing pains of the republic’s initial years as a self-governing country. Both times, the previous regime had been a radically different entity than the one Estonia itself created. Governance had to be built up from nothing. The societal and political leaders had no experience of a free and open system. In 1918, no Estonians had reached the top local levels of the Czarist regime. In 1991 Estonians had gained high positions both within the Communist Party and the government bureaucracy. Whether this was a benefit or not has been widely debated.
Two night-time actions helped to define more sharply the ideological underpinnings of Estonia as a nation-state. In 1922 the monument to Peter I was removed from Tallinn’s Freedom Square. In 2007 the Soviet “Bronx Soldier” was relocated from downtown Tallinn to a military cemetery. The Peter I monument removal started on a Friday night and was finished Sunday night. It was widely demanded by citizens. Present were the city architect, city construction workers, minister of the interior, auditor general and a large crowd with volunteer workers. No public protest ensued. The 2007 monument relocation was done without any public announcement, at night and resulted in orchestrated riots with some participants bussed in from distant locations. (Loe edasi Eesti Elu 8. märtsi paberlehest)
7890 days of free Estonia, then and now