The address of the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Riho Terras, to the parade in honour of the 97th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia on February 24, 2015 in Narva.Respected President of the Republic!
Honoured Speaker of the Riigikogu!
Mr. Prime Minister!
Excellences! Members of the Defence Forces and Defence League!
Fellow countrymen! Good citizens of Narva!
Last night at sunset we placed a wreath at the Independence War memorial in Riigiküla. This is a small place by the Narva river, where last year they restored the memorial for those that went to war, weapon in hand to defend our young republic.
Riigiküla (“Village of the Nation” in English). For a small village this name is highly symbolic with a very large meaning. The Estonian national forces victory in the Riigiküla battle was just as large and symbolic in its meaning. They successfully repelled a Red Army force three times their size.
Historically we know that the most tense battle actions of the Independence War began around Narva and ended around Narva. Estonia won that war thanks to the Estonian people coming forth to fight the enemy.
Estonians and Russians stood shoulder to shoulder in the Independence War. In the struggles and battles legends and heroes were born.
Many Estonian officers and soldiers of Russian decent with their deeds of valour and heroism in battle earned the highest military decoration in Estonia – the Cross of Liberty.
Without exaggeration we can say that Sub-Polkovnik (Lieutenant Colonel) Konstantin Troitski and Captain Piotr Feofanov were true heroes of the Independence War.
They made life truly difficult for the Bolshevik army as well as for the Red Latvian Riflemen.
History has taught us that if we do not defend ourselves no one else will, and if we leave a security environment vacant it will be filled for us.
The events in Ukraine that have kept the entire world awake, demonstrate very clearly that we ourselves must maintain security and a sense of confidence for our nation. This all begins at home and with family, at school and in society. Trust between the state and the people is the best defence against all threats.
Estonia has chosen a broad-based approach for its defence where every one of us can make a contribution – at work, with service or through volunteering. Everyone’s clear understanding of their role in national defence ensures that the state functions, even at the most difficult of times.
Fellow countrymen, the Estonian Defence Forces is force for every one of us. We have worked for close to a quarter of a century so that we can say that the Defence Forces and Defence League – are a real military power.
We have conducted our activities with the basic principles that real power can be demonstrated in battle by units that are manned and well trained as well as properly armed and equipped.
In a few months this force will be performing its most important exam since its re-creation.
The Defence Forces´ large scale exercise Siil 2015 will be bringing together more than 13,000 Defence Forces and Defence League members. Our friends and Allies will also be participating in the exercise. The experiences we hope to accomplish from this major exercise will be the beginning base for further developing our reserve force.
With full confidence, I can assure you that the Estonian Defence Forces are in better shape than ever before. The nation of Estonia has seriously and constantly contributed to the development of national defence. We are incorporating new weapons systems this year that will further augment our combat capabilities. Here in Narva, today at the Defence Forces parade you will see Infantry Fighting Vehicles that will increase our manoeuvrability and firepower.
Just as important is the knowledge that our conscripts - our sons and brothers, can now fulfil their mandatory service in much better conditions than ever before. We have built new barracks all over Estonia. This is a sure sign that in the great expectations that we hope from our citizens the nation has responded in kind, in a dignified and respectful manner.
Twenty years has now lapsed since the Estonian Defence Forces´ first operation abroad. Looking back in history, we can consider the mission in Croatia very successful because like Estonia, Croatia is now a European Union and NATO member. This is a remarkable achievement that the Estonian Defence Forces members helped bring about.
Over two and half thousand men and women have participated in operations all over the world. Many of them have put their lives at risk in various war zones for their nation. I want to especially note and bring forth as a good example an outstanding non-commissioned officer, Staff Sergeant Artyom Heinsaar, who has done five tours in Afghanistan. He is here today at the parade with the Scouts Battalion. He is one of us, a son of Narva.
Respected citizens of Narva. Throughout history Narva has been Estonia’s most multi-cultural city. People of many ethnic backgrounds have always lived together here. Russian poet Igor Severyanin is well associated with Estonia, especially with Virumaa. He has devoted verse to your city, where he respectfully honours the history of Narva.
О город древний! город шведский!
Трудолюбивый и простой!
Пленён твоей улыбкой детской
И бородой твоей седой…
Here and now, standing in the main square of Narva, we feel the same respect for this city and its citizens. We are surrounded simultaneously with youthfulness, diligence and a distinguished history.
Narva is an international city even today because along with Defence Forces, Defence League, Estonian Academy of Security Sciences, correctional facilities service units, we have our Allies on parade as well. Our friends from the United States, the Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, Latvia and Lithuania are in Estonia to participate in and celebrate our nation’s independence and liberty.
They are here to jointly participate in exercises and train alongside our military. The goal of this joint work is simple and straight forward – to better defend Estonia. We greatly appreciate the efforts of our friends.
My good Estonian people! Our home and roots are important to all of us. I am extremely proud to command the Defence Forces parade in the birthplace of my father. Estonia is big enough to have rich regional diversity, in the context of practices and traditions. At the same time Estonia is too small to have divides between set in stone mind-sets and the prevention of prejudice. It is important that today here in Narva we confirm that there is only one Estonia and all of us together must defend it.
It must be clear to us that our national independence and liberty has never been nor never will be self-evident. The state of Estonia exists to defend our people and our freedom.
Long live the Republic of Estonia!