Republic of Estonia 100

Posted: February 24th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Estonia, thoughts | No Comments »

Today it will be 100 years since the Republic of Estonia was officially proclaimed, which is a cause for celebration. Here is a newsblurb from the NYT:

This is an important event for several reasons. While it was an important expression of self-determination for the Estonian nation, it was as important also because it established a modern democratic state in the territory of Estonia for the first time. This meant a focus on individual freedom and equality, which did not exist during the previous rule over Estonia. It was the replacement of autocratic monarchy with democratic rule.

Later on, this republic was lost, first partially in 1934 with the soft-authoritarian coup by the then president Päts and afterwards the republic was fully destroyed by the totalitarian Nazi and Soviet regimes that installed their respective puppet governments that lead to long-term Soviet authoritarian rule. The return to democracy only took place in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The 1918 proclamation of independence and the later first Constitution were among the closest in the world to the Enlightenment ideals. The manifesto was entitled “to all the peoples of Estonia” and it proclaimed Estonia to be an “independent democratic republic”. Here are the seven principles stated in the manifesto:

“1. All citizens of the Republic of Estonia, irrespective of their religion, ethnic origin, and political views, are going to enjoy equal protection under the law and courts of justice of the Republic.

2. All ethnic minorities, the Russians, Germans, Swedes, Jews, and others residing within the borders of the republic, are going to be guaranteed the right to their cultural autonomy.

3. All civic freedoms, the freedom of expression, of the press, of religion, of assembly, of association, and the freedom to strike as well as the inviolability of the individual and the home, shall be irrefutably effective within the territory of the Estonian Republic and based on laws, which the Government must immediately work out.

4. The Provisional Government is given the task of immediately organizing courts of justice to protect the security of the citizens. All political prisoners shall be released immediately.

5. The city, county, and township local governments are called upon to immediately continue their work, which has been violently interrupted.

6. For maintenance of public order, people’s militia, subordinated to local governments, shall be immediately organized and citizens’ self-defence organizations established in the cities and rural areas.

7. The Provisional Government is instructed to work out, without delay, on a broad democratic basis, bills for the solution of the agrarian problem, and the problems of labor, of food supply, and of finances.”

It should be obvious today that equality and freedom for all, the rights of national minorities and guarantees for political and civil rights were something that the founders of the Republic of Estonia valued highly. The centenary is thus also a celebration of democratic rule, equal human rights for all and Rechtstaat.

Read more:

1918 Manifesto to the Peoples of Estonia 

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