February 24th, birthday of a nation

Source: Marek Kusmin Flickr

February 24th, birthday of a nation

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

Roughly 100 years ago, from 1918 to 1920, the Estonian people were caught 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, which is commemorated as a national holiday.

First Independence Day

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

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

The dream of sovereignty

Throughout centuries of rule by foreign powers, Estonians never lost sight of becoming an independent state. On February 23th, 1918, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, the Manifesto to the Peoples of Estonia declaring Estonia a sovereign nation was announced from the balcony of the Endla Theatre in Pärnu. The crowd below erupted into a rendition of what would 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, marking the birth of the Republic of Estonia.


Did you know?

The Estonian and Finnish national anthems share the same melody, composed by Fredrik Pacius. The Estonian lyrics were added in 1869 by Johann Voldemar Jannsen and the title means "My Fatherland, my Happiness and Joy".

Photo by: Guillaume Speurt, Flickr

Each year, February 24th is marked by fireworks, concerts, a parade of the Defence Forces and a presidential reception. Children and adults can admire military units, and rejoice to the music of the orchestras of the Defence 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.

103 Independence Day festivities in Estonia in 2021

Because of the ongoing pandemic, most of the traditional celebrations are happening differently this year.

President Kersti Kaljulaid's reception and gala concert that were supposed to take place in Tartu on February 24, have been cancelled. However, everyone can watch the Head of State's speech and take part of the concert via television, as there will be a full-day ERR television program dedicated to the Estonian Independence Day.

Everyone can also watch the ceremonial hoisting of the national flag at the Tall Hermann Tower at 7.32 AM via the ERR broadcast. This time, only speakers and representatives of academic organizations will attend the ceremony in the Governor's garden. Traditional crowds are not expected to fly the flag on Toompea this year. Instead, people are invited to hoist the national flag at home at sunrise.

The parade of the Defence Forces is also not happening in 2021 but all Estonians can listen to the speech of the Commander of the Defence Forces via ERR. Wreaths will still be placed at the foot of the Victory Column of the War of Independence on Vabaduse Square.

The usual parts of the evening's presidential reception - the speech of the Head of State and the performance - will reach everyone through ERR, with no guests invited to the spot. In 2021, Estonians are encouraged to celebrate the Independence Day at home, and we invite you to celebrate Estonia's birthday with us. Let's sing, eat sprat sandwiches and do other things Estonians do on this happy day!

Estonia invites Estonians abroad as well as travellers to celebrate the Estonian Independce Day at home this year.

Photo by:  Aron Urb, Visit Estonia 
Last updated : 23.04.2021

In category: Tallinn, History & culture