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President of the Republic at the opening event of the Republic of Estonia's 100th anniversary celebrations in Kurgja on 16 April 2017

16.04.2017

Dear Estonian people!

It feels good to stand here in Kurgja, a small place in Estonia with a great history, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia.

There are countries that measure their existence with a much longer history. However, for a small country located in a geopolitically seismic region, one hundred years represents a huge number. It is greatly significant because the vitality of this small nation has been constantly questioned over the years. Indeed, many nations have disappeared but the Estonian people have persevered. We have always harnessed a great inner power, even in the darkest and most difficult times.

This power is the strength of the story of our ancestors. I am convinced that the source of the mentality that Estonia has today was laid down not 100 hundred years ago, but generations earlier. We cannot pinpoint the exact moment. But as we travelled through time, three powerful, persevering and impelling wishes became clear for our people:

To become masters of our own homes, our own country.
To sing in the Estonian language.
To give our children a good education.

These became the foundation for the Estonian spirit and have remained so to this day.

Wars, difficulties and occupation have not side-tracked us from the chosen path. Those wishes have kept us going and ensured the continuance of Estonia.

Today, we have reason to reflect and be thankful to all those who showed us the way, and who determined our fate and direction. As we think about them, we can indeed feel touched by time, as the 2014 Song Celebration taught us. All our predecessors have names, some of which are significant to us. However, it is always only the combined ambition of a people that matters.

Once again, fate has given the people who live in Estonia today the opportunity to harbour, protect and develop. At this time, it is natural to be driven by the multiplicity of opinions. We are supported by Estonian culture, which is diversified and multi-faceted, and often international by nature.

Never before has the Republic of Estonia seen an era as free and as prosperous.

We are protected, and we are supported by a common understanding of a nation of free citizens that is shared by other democratic nations. Furthermore, we represent one of the few global success stories – we have made it from occupation and misery to a digital, middle-income society in 25 years. We punch far above what our size on a map or our population statistics show.

We are on the right track, as small nations must not think small.

However, the skies above our world are not cloudless, as many new and unexpected threats have emerged. We need to reaffirm our right to be free and independent every day. Even a nation 100 hundred years young needs constant attention and nurturing. This is not difficult – a thousand small details all around us serve as evidence of the love that we feel for our country and we can see them every day. We see the love for our country in our eyes as we smile to each other. The love for our country is also shown by those who are stronger showing understanding for those who are weaker and reaching out to help them.

Representatives of more than 100 nations live in Estonia. The stories and histories of their ancestors are often completely different. We are not necessarily connected by history, but we can be connected by the Republic of Estonia – a democratic, free Estonia.

Telling the story of Estonia and of joint endeavours to everyone, along with introducing history and culture in an extent never seen before within the framework of various anniversary events – all of this will help those who in their hearts have connected their fates with Estonia to feel proud of our country with us.

There is nothing more endearing than a proud citizen. There is no better guarantee for security than a proud citizen. No one can be more successful in life than a proud citizen.

Today, here, in Kurgja, in a small place in Estonia with a great history, we can clearly feel that there is more good will in Estonia than good weather in April. And it is good will that is decisive. It is crucial to allow the anniversary year fulfil its role with dignity. People don't celebrate anniversaries to simply rest on their laurels, but to confirm mutual respect and appreciation through shared events and by being together.

For Estonia not to be just a country and a place to live but, above all, a home. We all know that the world 'kodu' – home – has a special meaning in the Estonian language.

Home is where we can and must think about the future, generations from now. And this is an opportunity in abundance in this anniversary year.

And then, somewhere off in the indeterminable distance, over the rainbow, our descendants can celebrate the Estonia of a thousand years. Our ancestors have left us with the most precious gift – an independent Estonia. We have come together here, in Kurgja, and will come together many times in the future to fulfil our responsibility to time – to pass this gift on to the future generations.