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Statement by the Government of the Republic of Estonia

6. May 2005 - 17:31

Tallinn, 6 May 2005On the 8th of May this year, 60 years will pass since the end of World War II in Europe. By its resolution of 22 November 2004, the United Nations General Assembly declared the 8th and the 9th of May as a time of remembrance and reconciliation. While recognizing that Member States may have individual days of victory, liberation and commemoration, the General Assembly invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations and individuals to observe annually either one or both of these days to pay tribute to all victims of World War II.

Pursuant to the UN resolution and deriving from the fact that Estonia suffered great losses in the war, the Estonian Government commemorates all citizens and residents of Estonia who lost their lives in World War II and celebrates the 8th of May as a day of commemoration for the victims of World War II.

On the occasion of the passing of 60 years since the end of World War II, the Estonian Government would like to underline the following:

1. The Estonian Government declared its complete neutrality in September 1939 upon the beginning of World War II in Europe. Estonia did not support or join any of the warring parties nor did it declare war against any countries.

2. The fate of Estonia was decided by the secret pre-war agreement (the Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact) signed between the Soviet Union and Germany on 23 August 1939. World War II began for Estonia in 1940 with the Soviet occupation and ended in 1991 with the restoration of independence and withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonia in 1994.

3. Estonian citizens were forced to participate in war activities by the two occupying regimes, the Soviet Union and Germany. The Estonian Government treats its citizens as victims of war.

The Estonian Government recognises Estonian Freedom Fighters as those who fought against the Soviet and German occupations with the goal of restoring Estonian independence. The Estonian Government highly values the activities of the Estonian National Committee in attempting to restore Estonian independence during the German occupation.

The Estonian Government would also like to emphasise that the actions of acting President Jüri Uluots, Estonia´s constitutional Prime Minister, and Otto Tief´s new Government, appointed by Uluots on 18 September 1944, were a heroic attempt to restore Estonia´s sovereignty. The Estonian Government highly values the courage of those who, after Jüri Uluots´ appeal, began to engage in fighting for Estonia´s freedom and independence.

World War II was an extremely cruel war that brought unprecedented suffering and sacrifices. The tragic experiences of the war clearly show the dangers that lie in totalitarian ideologies and regimes.

The Estonian Government condemns the actions of people who committed crimes against humanity on Estonian territory and organised mass repressions. Regrettably Estonian citizens were among those who co-operated with the occupying powers.

It is significant that since World War II, human rights and their protection have become pillars of international law. Treating crimes against humanity as timeless international crimes lets us hope that they can be avoided in the future.

Although the Republic of Estonia lost its independence in World War II, we nevertheless recognise victory over the coalition led by Hitler´s Germany in World War II as an important victory over totalitarianism in Europe and the world. This victory created the preconditions for building the existing system of international relations in Europe and for generating Euro-Atlantic security co-operation.

We highly value the contribution of people who fought selflessly to defeat fascism. The end of the war did not result in the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Estonia nor did it bring freedom. Estonia´s occupation continued as one totalitarian regime replaced another.

On the 8th of May, the Republic of Estonia commemorates all those who fell fighting in World War II hoping to restore the free and democratic Republic of Estonia. We commemorate the innocent victims of repressions and crimes committed by the occupying powers during the war. We condole with the victims of the holocaust. We commemorate all who were innocently arrested and executed. We remember the victims of mass repressions. We honour the memory of all who were destined to lose their lives during that war.

The Government of the Republic of Estonia