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Address of the President at the dinner in the white hall of the Museum of Tartu University

XVIII Gaudeamuse avakontsert.
Festivities culminated with the opening ceremony of Gaudeamus with fire, light and music at the banks of the river Emajõgi in the center of Tartu.
© Raigo Pajula/Vabariigi Presidendi Kantselei


Dear colleagues,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure and great honour to welcome you in Tartu to celebrate among friends the centenary of the Estonian Republic with Gaudeamus – the Baltic students' song and dance festival held since 1956.

As a home to Estonia's oldest university, Tartu has always carried a sense of freedom. Greatest figures of Estonian national awakening time studied and worked in Tartu. And 30 years ago it was in Tartu where our national flag was waved again in public.

I remember that emotional spring day as a student very vividly. It truly felt like spring was everywhere, no clouds in the sky. At least for the young people.

Tartu is not only about being an Estonian, national awakening, independence and regaining it. Tartu, which we also call Athens of the River Emajõgi, has a special place also for Finland, Georgia, Iceland, Latvia and Poland.

As kindred people,

the relations between Finland and Estonia have always had a special importance and meaning. Our languages, culture and similar world perception have brought us close together.

Since 1991 Finland has permanently been present in Tartu – with its students, lecturers, Fraternitas Fennica, cultural and business relations and Tampere Maja to name

a few visible and noticeable links, but also through countless unnoticeable links. Integration between Finland and Estonia through cooperation has become part of our everyday lives. We used to say that our language brings us together, now it is the only thing which separates us.

We feel closeness and mutual understanding with our good friends from Georgia, who also know Tartu quite well.

Seit Devdariani, a Georgian philosopher and social democratic politician,

who helped to establish Georgian Republic a 100 years ago and worked underground after Georgia lost its independence, is just one of many famous Georgians who began his university studies in Tartu.

Our special relationship with Iceland is well captured by Lennart Meri, who said:

„We speak to each other in a common language. It is the language of democracy, freedom and

self-determination. Our shared experience of a successful struggle to regain an independence lost has given us a political experience that many larger nations do not know.

It is an experience, which is unfortunately still denied to many small nations."

As I already said earlier today, you lost the football match today, but you still have a chance to move forward in the tournament. I wish you luck!

Though Estonian sense of humour, temperament and language is different from our southern neighbours, we share traditions, values and history with Latvia. And Latvians have always found their way to Tartu. Alberts Kviesis, the third President of Latvia studied in Tartu, as have done a number of members of Latvian government and Latvian parliament.

Also a number of Latvian scientists, lawyers and teachers consider Tartu their alma mater. These days, Tartu remains one of the most popular destinations for Latvians visiting Igaunija, Latvian youth particularly enjoy the Ahhaa Center in Tartu.

The relationship with Tartu and Poland goes back to 1584 when Stefan Batory, the King of Poland, granted Tartu its flag that is based on polish white and red flag.

Konwent Polonia, the oldest student corporation in Poland, was established here in 1828 and many prominent Polish politicians studied like the first Polish President in exile after the Second World War (Władysław Raczkiewicz). Polish Ambassador to Estonia has said – "It is difficult to imagine Estonian or Polish culture without University of Tartu."

Dear all,

Estonia shares a special bond with you all. A bond that over the past 100 years has been diverse and goes well beyond the centenaries of our countries. The connection we have is of course not limited only to Tartu and education. But it is a fine example of the connection that by now has extended to all areas of cooperation from traditional to digital and in many spheres goes beyond our countries and regions.

And there is one particular thing that binds us together – we all have the same understanding of freedom and independence of our countries. We share democratic values.

At the time when our values, freedoms and way of living are under systematic pressure, we must uphold the cornerstones of our societies and stay united.

Dear friends,

The last verse of Gaudeamus says:

Pereat tristitia,

Pereat osores,

Pereat diabolus,

Quivis antiburshius,

Atque irrisores!

Let sadness perish,

Let haters perish,

Let the devil perish,

And also the opponents of the fraternities,

And their mockers, too!

I raise my glass to the health of free and democratic nations!

Gaudeamus igitur!