In Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, a monument in honor of the first president of Russia Boris Yeltsin was unveiled on Thursday, August 22. The independence of the Baltic States was recognized under Boris Yeltsin’s presidency
The Speaker of the Estonian Parliament Ene Ergma called Yeltsin “one of the most prominent public figures and politicians of the last decade of the last century.”
Minister of Education of Estonia, Jaak Aaviksoo, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar, former president of the republic, Arnold Ruutel, and Naina Yeltsin, the widow of the late president, were also present at the ceremony.
Education Minister Jaak Aaviksoo praised a citizen’s initiative that saw the opening of a relief plaque honoring late Russian president Boris Yeltsin in Tallinn, while several other ministers were more reserved about Yeltsin’s record.
“Citizens have realized that only the lord God knows how life would have gone on in Estonia had that man not come out of a building 22 years and three days ago, climbed on top of one of the adversary’s tanks and said that the Russian people were taking their destiny into their own hands,” Aaviksoo said at a Cabinet press conference.
“That was the moment that actually sealed the fate of the putsch,” said Aaviksoo, who was in Paris that week in 1991. “When people make historic decisions, we must be capable of crediting them.”
Aaviksoo is the only one of three government ministers who spoke at the press conference to attend the opening. The others were Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu and Minister of Social Affairs Taavi Rõivas.
Reinsalu said that the most important thing about August 20 was “that the Estonian people regained freedom because of their own policymaking and will, not the will or preference of any one politician.”
“But Yeltsin did act like the man of the hour during the January 1991 events in Vilnius, and we’re clearly standing on the same side of the font lines in this case,” said Reinsalu.
Reinsalu said that it should not be forgotten that Yelstin presided over the Chechen war and other matters that could be considered examples of Russian imperialism.
“He was a major politician with positive influence for Estonia at critical moments. But his biography contains pages that certainly deserve to be denounced,” said Reinsalu.
The plaque is being unveiled today on the outskirts of the Old Town in Tallinn. Yeltsin’s widow is due to attend.