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  • Estonia's Love Affair with Ronald Reagan

    While members of Congress, former cabinet members, long-time aides and assorted VIPs were celebrating Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday at the Reagan Presidential Library in sun-baked Simi Valley, California, I was nearly 6,000 miles away in snow-bound Tallinn, Estonia, a small Baltic country bordering on the former Soviet Union.

    As a Reagan biographer, I was invited by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Amb. Michael Polt of the U.S. Embassy to keynote a conference on President Reagan’s legacy and U.S.-Estonian relations, which couldn’t be much better in large part because of the memory of Ronald Reagan.

    Estonians love our 40th president almost as much as any American because President Reagan was instrumental in gaining for the people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania that most precious of all possessions—freedom.

    It was the Reagan Doctrine that put the Soviet Union on the defensive and forced the Kremlin to abandon the arms race and end the Cold War at the bargaining table and not on the battlefield.

    An essential part of the Reagan strategy was to support the captive nations behind the Iron Curtain—including the Baltic States–and their legitimate claims to freedom and independence.

    Reagan was the first American president to proclaim Baltic Freedom Day Freedom, stating: “The United States has never … recognized the forcible [1940] incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union.”

    Reagan was the first American president to hold a public White House ceremony marking Captive Nations Week. The president reassured all those behind the Iron and other communist curtains: “Your cause is not lost. You are not forgotten. Your quest for freedom lives on in your hearts and in our hearts.”

    In his last Captive Nations message in July 1988, President Reagan said: “The American people, citizens of a land conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality under God for all, support the aspirations of the Baltic people to regain the freedom that was theirs and to chart their own course.”

    The peoples of the captive nations were listening.

    Etched in my mind are the events of 1989, starting in Poland and ending in Romania, that brought about the collapse of communism and the effective end of the Cold War.  Who can forget the pictures of ecstatic Germans dancing and singing and crying on top of the Berlin Wall?

    What most Americans do not know is that two years earlier the Baltic people were holding public meetings demanding the disclosure of the secret protocols of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 that led to the invasion of Poland and the start of World War II.

    When the communist authorities did not suppress the demonstrations, the people were inspired to act more boldly. In April 1988, a large crowd of Estonians gathered in the town square of Tallinn, waving long-banned national colors and symbols and singing patriotic songs.

    The police moved in, but the crowd would not stop. They moved to a giant amphitheater on the outskirts of the city. There, tens of thousands of Estonians—300,000 in all, one-fourth of the entire population—gathered night after night to sing and celebrate and unite in a spirit of national patriotism. The artist Heinz Valk called it “The Singing Revolution.”

    The following year, on August 23, 1989, the 50th anniversary of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, two million Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians—yes, two million–joined hands across the Baltic States, forming an unprecedented human chain as they demanded freedom for themselves and their fellow citizens. And they sang the whole day long.

    It would be two more years before the Soviets would at last give up their decades-long grip on the Baltic States, but in the summer of 1991, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania once again joined the ranks of free nations.

    In his autobiography, Reagan writes that democracy triumphed in the Cold War because it was a battle of ideas—“between one system that gave preeminence to the state and another that gave preeminence to the individual and freedom.”

    But freedom and democracy also triumphed because of the eloquence of an American president and the brave hearts and strong voices of a people who refused to be silenced.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Estonia's Love Affair with Ronald Reagan

    1. Pingback: Estonia’s Love Affair with Ronald Reagan

    2. Walter C. Powers Jr. says:

      My mother was a war bride iafter ww2. She had fled Estonia as a young 17 year old girl in 1944 as the Germans were retreating from Russia. She ended up in Salzburg Austria and met my father who had landed at Normandy and fought across Germany till the war ended. She loved Reagan and taught us to reject socialism and it's inherent evils. We were able to travel to Estonia in 1983 with here to meet our Grandmother and other relatives. They are a truly remarkable people and lived through some of Communisms darkest moments. We to loved Reagan for what he did and stood for. She passed away in 2009 and was still politically astute to changes our nation was headed towards. Sincerely Walt Powers

    3. Eric,Texas says:

      We sure need a President like that again !

    4. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Oh! Lee, don't you wish Obama could learn something of Statesmanship from the Gipper? Our tepid Foreign Policy is more like a Policy In The Foreign Interest! And look! The Egyptian Unions remain bent on destroying the Egyptian Economy just like the Government Unions are bent on destroying the American Economy! For crying out loud! A strike? As your opening 'collective bargain?' That isn't bargaining! That is corruption, gangsterism as good in Egypt as here! In Wisconsin they won't take no! But hey! That is Representative Democracy, you take what the Public Will says. It proves to me that Democracy is not what the Egyptian Unions are after! And Representative Democracy is not what the Progressive Socialists in America are after either!

      Some day I hope the Iraqi People will honor George W Bush for their Representative Democracy. God bless the Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians. Perhaps you can restore the American Ideal after America is gone!

    5. Andrew, VA says:

      With apologies to "All in the Family":

      "Mister, we could use a man like Ronald Reagan again…"

    6. Audrey T. Gallagher says:

      I am so proud to be an American, I remember when our great president Ronald Reagan was in office, he was a true believer in human rights for people to be free of big government and dictators. I only can pray only that our current president was more like Reagan, a great man.

    7. Spiritof76, NH says:

      It is just disheartening to see how far this country has moved in the wrong direction into becoming a socialist country since Ronald Reagan. We have become what Estonia despised in just over 23 years!

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