Estonian Independence Day

Declaration of Independence
Estonia is an East European country that celebrates its National Day on 24th February.

The country gained independence on 24th February 1918. This day is officially known as Eesti Vabariigi aastapaev and is a federal holiday in the country.

The people of Estonia had long demanded a separate sovereign state to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. The opportunity came during the revolution of 1917. The entire Russian Empire was going through a highly unstable time. The National Front was the main ideological movement of the country and it drew its ideals from those of the principles outlined by the US President, Woodrow Wilson.

On 8th April 1917, more than 40,000 Estonians held a peaceful demonstration in Petrograd to demand self governance. Impressed by this, the Russian provisional government signed the Law of Estonian Autonomy on 12 April. It united Livonian counties of Tartu, Voru, Viljandi, Parnu and Saaremaa with Estonia and Jaan Poska - an Estonian, was appointed the provisional governor. A provisional National council consisting of six members was elected. It was called the Maapaev.

On 3rd and 4th February, 1918, the election to the Estonian constituent assembly was held. Parties supporting the idea of full national independence gained two-thirds majority. At this time, the Maapaev elected a salvation committee titled Paastekomitee which had three members. It was entrusted with the task of finalizing independence. They drafted a Declaration of Independence which was approved by the Maapaev on 19th February. Finally, on 24th February, the Paastekomitee declared Estonia to be an independent, democratic republic. Estonia came under the rule of Soviet Russia. On 2nd February, 1920, the Tartu Peace Treaty between Estonia and Soviet Russia recognized Estonia as a de jure independent state. Since 1980s, the hope of restoring independence grew stronger and people publicly began to celebrate the Independence Day. Finally, independence was restored on 20th August, 1991.

Songs: The song "Mu isamaa, mu onn ja room ("My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy")" was adopted as the national anthem of Estonia in 1920 and again in 1991. It is written by Ohann Voldemar Jannsen and is set to the music composed by Fredrik (Friedrich) Pacius. It was first sung in 1869. An English translation of the song is as follows: My native land, my joy - delight, How fair thou art - how bright!

For nowhere in the world around Can ever such a place be found So well belov'd, from sense profound, My native country dear!

My tiny crib stood on thy soil, Whose blessings eased my every toil. With my last breath my thanks to thee, For true to death I'll ever be, O worthy, most belov'd and fine, My dearest country mine !

May God in Heaven thee defend, My own, my dearest land!

May He be guard, may He be shield, For ever bless and guardian wield Protection for all deeds of thine, My own, my dearest land!

Celebration- The Estonians celebrate their National Day with a lot of enthusiasm, though the weather towards the end of February is often severely cold. The tri-color flag of Estonia is the most important symbol of this day. The blue symbolizes its history, the black its dark past and white the snow - an important element of nature in the country. This flag is proudly displayed on homes, public and private offices throughout the country on the National Day. A festive Independence Day reception is organized by the President of the country. Regardless of the weather, which can be very inclement indeed, a huge military parade is organized. It is done in different cities in different years. The parade also honors fallen soldiers. Schools are often given holidays from 23rd February and a number of celebrations are organized. There are special gatherings of children in formal dresses. The national flag is hoisted and the national anthem is sung. Several festivities are organized like concerts and contests. Large scale sports marathon is held throughout the country.

Customs-The most important custom of Estonian National Day is the 'Penguin Parade' or the Katlemistseremooniat. This is a huge reception organized by the Estonian President and his wife. A number of people are invited and the nation gathers in front of the television in the evening to watch the celebrations. Similar other receptions are organized in cities and municipalities.

Facts: The Independence Day is a public holiday in the country. For schools, a longer holiday is often given.

Last Updated on: August 8th, 2018