General News

Independence Day greetings from AESL President 2023

Greetings to you all, wherever you may be.

24 February – a most prestigious day for Estonians, the day when we celebrate our declaration of Independence, the formal birth of our nation.

But it is also a time to reflect on the past, with a view to the future.

The name Estonia (Estonian: Eesti) has been connected to Aesti, a people first mentioned by Roman historian Tacitus around 98 AD.

A few moments in our history . . .


In 1199, Pope Innocent III declared a crusade to “defend the Christians of Livonia”.  Since those times, Estonia was mainly under the rule of foreign powers.


The Estonian national awakening began in the 1850’s as several leading figures started promoting an Estonian national identity among the general populace.


On 24 February 1918, following the first World war, Estonia declared Independence from the then warring Russian and German Empires.


But this was not automatic – on 28 November 1918, Soviet Russia invaded, starting the Estonian War of Independence. Fighting continued for just over a year. On 2 February 1920, the Tartu Peace Treaty was signed by Estonia and Soviet Russia, with the latter pledging to permanently give up all sovereign claims to Estonia. Unfortunately, we know well how little we can trust Russians.

1920 – 1944

Estonia then existed independently until the soviet Russian invasions starting in 1944.

1920 – 1944

This was a bleak period for us, for close to 50 years, until Independence was again declared in 1991.


Now Estonia is a proud country, well known for punching above its weight in many areas. Technology, start-ups, political thought, childhood education . . .

The first country in the world to have females as both President and Prime Minister; being able to do taxes on-line very quickly, using phones for taxes, travel, etc

So many areas.

And the world has seen us achieve much peacefully – our Laulupidu song festivals are a shining example across the world, as are the dance festivals.

While 24 February is a day of celebration for us, I fear that in history the day will be overshadowed by a major disaster – one year ago, on 24 February 2022, Putin’s Russia declared war and invaded Ukraine.

Some Estonians living in Australia were part of the mass escape from Estonia in the 1940’s. But most of us are here now because our parents or grandparents needed to escape from the Russian hordes and the terrors in Europe. We are probably too young to remember any of that, or to have experienced any of the terrors. But what is happening in Ukraine in the past year is similar to what our parents escaped from.

In 2022, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in a speech prior to the invasion of Ukraine:

“The current situation in Europe resembles the tensions before World War II.”

“Our freedom has never been under such a serious attack in the last thirty years as it is today”

“after restoring our independence, we have raised a generation of young
people who take the current organisation of our society for granted.”

I.e. freedom, democracy, and so on

So while we bask in our freedom now, and celebrate Free Estonia, the Ukraine situation should be a reminder to us all that freedom is not given, it needs to be fought for, and then to be protected.

But we can be proud again, that Estonia has supported Ukraine per capita more than any other country. And we are a leading light in the way to strengthen Europe and our allies against this Putinocracy.

One of the major policies coming from Estonia in recent years has been the notion of Global Estonians – of “Estonian-ness”. Estonia sees all of us – emigrants, children of refugees, travellers, backpackers, our families – wherever we are, as being Estonians. And there are many plans and programs to welcome us all.

But this raises the question

  • What does it mean to “be Estonian”?
  • Does it mean that we eat Estonian foods?
  • That we sing Estonian songs?
  • Do we take part in Estonian singing and dancing?
  • Should we wear our national costumes to various functions?
  • Does it mean that we must teach our children to speak the language?
  • Do we teach them about our history?

So – I ask you – are YOU an Estonian?

Do you FEEL Estonian?

Maie Barrow tells how she was asked how would she know if she were more Estonian or Australian?

She replied that she would not know, until Estonia was playing Australia in the final of the Soccer World Cup, and she then had to decide who to cheer for.

From people I know, or meet – Estonians are a very proud nationality. Perhaps those of us born here feel it more? We were not born there and have not lived there, so perhaps we have a deeper need to connect?

I often notice how many of us feel that we are more Estonian than others, that we feel more deeply. This is not a bad thing, but we all feel differently, according to our own situations and experiences.

The important thing is for us to share our Estonian-ness – whether it be singing, or dancing, or food and drink, the language, or the customs.

Anything at all that helps us to share our heritage with the world.

If we want Estonian-ness to continue and flourish, we need to share it, and
pass it on to newer generations.

2023 Aukiri Awardees

One of the pleasant duties for the annual Independence Day is that AESL, the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia (Austraalia Eesti Seltside Liit) awards an Aukiri to people who have served the community at large, making a significant contribution for a period of time (at least ten years).

The 2023 Aukiri awardees are . .

  • Amelia Tiivas – Adelaide
  • Steven Buchert – Sydney
  • Kuno Mikkor – Melbourne
  • Matti Põldoja – Melbourne

We thank these people for their dedication and their extensive contributions towards promoting and furthering Estonian-ness in Australia.

Congratulations, and Thank You

A quick reminder from Estonia – the federal elections are coming up in the next few weeks, and everyone eligible to vote is asked to please take part, and help shape our nation’s future.

Dear Estonians in Australia, AESL wishes you joyful Independence Day celebrations and success in enterprises that take will take us to the future.
Happy Independence Day!

Long live Free Estonia! Elagu Vaba Eesti!
24 February 2023
Dr Juho Looveer
President, AESL