Sergey Chernov for The St. Petersburg Times
Estonia’s St. John’s Church in St. Petersburg, one of the symbols of the country’s struggle for independence, was reopened Sunday, February 20, after years of neglect and decay under the Soviets. The re-consecration ceremony, conducted by Andres Põder, Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia, was attended by the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
It was in this church in 1888 that the minister of St. John’s congregation, Jakob Hurt, made his “Call for the Nation to Collect Intellectual Heritage.” This speech played an important role in resisting the Tsarist government’s Russification policy, helping Estonians to preserve their national integrity and historical heritage. It was also from the church that, on March 26 1917, 40,000 Estonians marched with songs and national tricolor flags to St. Petersburg’s Tauride Palace, where the Provisional Government sat, to demand autonomy for their country.
When the group, which featured brass bands and choirs as well as 12,000 Estonian soldiers of the St. Petersburg garrison, arrived at the palace, a 600-strong choir directed by Estonian composer Mihkel Lüdig sang “My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy,” which would become the anthem of the Republic of Estonia in 1920, and then again in 1990.
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Symbol of Estonian Resistance Reopened