February 24 — Estonia's Independence Day!

Source: Marek Kusmin, Visit Estonia

February 24 — Estonia's Independence Day!

Each year on February 24th, the Republic of Estonia celebrates Independence Day!

Roughly 100 years ago, from 1918 to 1920, the Estonian people were embroiled in the Estonian War of Independence against the Soviet Western Front offensive. The most significant day was February 24th, 1918, on which Estonia declared statehood. This day is now commemorated as a national holiday, celebrated with a televised flag raising at Pikk Hermann Tower, the ancient defensive stronghold next to Toompea Castle, fireworks, a parade, and a presidential reception.

The first-ever Independence Day

Celebrations on Freedom Square in Tallinn marked the one year anniversary of independence on February 24th, 1919.  

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Fulfilling the dream of sovereignty

Throughout centuries of rule by foreign powers, Estonians never lost sight of their dream to become an independent state. On February 23rd, 1918, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, the Manifesto to the Peoples of Estonia was proclaimed from the balcony of Endla Theatre in Pärnu. The manifesto declared Estonia a sovereign nation, and the crowd below erupted into a rendition of what would later become the national anthem, Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm (My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy). The following day, on February 24th, the manifesto reached Tallinn and was published, and so the Republic of Estonia was born.

How do Estonians celebrate Independence Day?

Each year, February 24th is marked by fireworks, concerts, a parade of the Defence Forces, and a presidential reception. Families come from all over to admire military units and listen to the orchestras of the Estonian Defencse Forces, Police and Border Guard, and the United States Air Force. Following the parade, the Estonian president usually gives a televised speech and bestows state decorations to guests of honour at a national reception. Most events are also broadcast on TV throughout the day.

Here's the schedule for the 105th Independence Day celebration in 2023:

  • The day begins with a flag raising ceremony early in the morning. The ceremonial hoisting of the national flag at the Pikk Hermann Tower is open to the public.
  • The parade of the Defence Forces is scheduled to take place in Tallinn's Freedom Square.
  • President Alar Karis will host a public reception and gala concert at the Estonian Theater and Concert Hall. This will be his first time hosting a full reception, as the event was canceled the past three years due to the pandemic.

This year's events may have a more somber tone since February 24th also marks the first year anniversary of Russia's war against Ukraine.

Learn more about Estonian history

If you feel like celebrating all things Estonian this year and visiting Estonia yourself, there are plenty of places to explore to update your knowledge of Estonian history. In Tallinn, one could pay a visit to:

To get an even deeper picture, visit the Estonian National Museum in Tartu (from recent history to the history of the Finno-Ugric people, this top-notch museum has it all) and make a stop at the memorial Ajahetk which is dedicated to Konstantin Päts, the chairman of the Estonian Salvation Committee who issued the Estonian Declaration of Independence on February 24th, 1918, and formed Estonia's first provisional government. If you want to celebrate Estonia in more of a natural setting, you can also hike the 10 km President's hiking trail in northern Estonia.

Mingle with locals, try traditional foods, enjoy the parade, and wish Estonia a happy birthday!

Last updated : 22.02.2023

In category: Tallinn, History & culture