Estonia celebrated Independence Day

TENS of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Estonia to celebrate the Baltic nation’s Independence Day.

Streets were closed in capital Tallin to make way for a celebratory parade led by President Kersti Kaljulaid in landmark Freedom Square, and crowds sang the national anthem in a sunrise flag-raising ceremony in second city Tartu.

Messages of support were sent from the US, Nato and the European Union, amongst others.

Estonia, which has a population of around 1.3 million, joined the continental bloc on 2004.

It reestablished its sovereignty in 1991 after the peaceful “Singing Revolution” against Soviet rule, which saw music used as a tool of resistance and declaration of intent.

Josef Stalin took hold of the country in 1939. After threatening a violent invasion and occupation, leaders there yielded to avoid bloodshed at a time when the Second World War meant international support was unlikely.

Leading figures in politics and business were killed or deported shortly afterwards and a “Russification” policy saw the Estonian flag forbidden, with the language demoted as Russian was made the country’s official tongue.

Today choirs sang out in Estonian in an emphatic show of solidarity, while statues were adorned with scars and hats in the blue, black and white of the country’s flag.

Journalist and columnist for The National, Lesley Riddoch, was amongst the crowds marking the national holiday, tweeting that she was “up at the crack of dawn” to witness the events.

Meanwhile, the European Commission urged people across the bloc to “celebrate Estonia”, tweeting: “Elagu Eesti – long live Estonia.”

In his message, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told how “both the Treaty of Tartu and the US Declaration of Independence speak of a spirit of self-determination, the right of a nation’s people to end the rule of a foreign power over their territory and achieve their own independence”.

Congratulations were also sent by leaders from Armenia and Belarus, amongst other states.

And in Scotland, SNP MPs sent their own messages of congratulation. Stewart McDonald said that as a member of EU, NATO and the UN Security Council, Estonia “show that being a small nation is no hindrance to making your voice heard”, while his colleague Martin Docherty-Hughes said Estonia had “set the standard of possibilities for small and medium sized sovereign nations”.

In its message to the world, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent “congratulations to Estonians all around the world, our friends, our allies”.

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