Promulgation of the Republic of Estonia.

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24. February 1918

February 24, 1918, is generally considered as the the birthday of the Republic of Estonia, as on that day, the Declaration of Independence was read to the people in Tallinn. On that day the Estonian Provisional Government started operating. Led by Prime Minister Konstantin Päts, the Provisional Government tried to assemble the power in Estonia by issuing daily orders. The most important task was to halt the arbitrary actions of the retreating Bolsheviks, and to eliminate their administrative bodies.

The government also declared its neutrality in the ongoing war between Russia and Germany on Estonian territory. However, the term of office of the Provisional Government was extremely short, because the invading German forces arrived already on February 25. Germany did not acknowledge Estonia's independence and by March, the whole country had been occupied. The Estonian authorities regained control in November 1918.

Crowd, that had gathered to Endla Theater to witness the promulgation.

Though February 24 is traditionally considered as the founding date the Estonian independence, it is not the only date in use. A day earlier, on February 23, the Declaration of Independence was read in Pärnu.

This was the first time, when the independence of Estonia was openly declared. This, however, is not seen as the founding day of the republic because the government did not assemble on that day.

November 15, 1917 could also be used, as then the Provincial Assembly of Estonia declared itself the highest power in Estonia. The Provincial Assembly, however, did not pass the decision of creating an independent country, and was swiftly dispersed by the Bolsheviks. Legally put, the decision of the Provincial Assembly had more weight than the events in February 1918, when the republic was declared by a small group of politicians who did not have the mandate of the people. Provincial Assembly, on the other hand, had been democratically elected in the summer of 1917. Despite that, the assembly of the Provincial Diet is not accepted as the beginning of the Republic of Estonia and is more compared to the Declaration of Sovereignty on November 16, 1988. It did not directly make Estonia independent, but cleared the way towards it.

Image source: A.Pajur, A. Kriiska, A. Tvauri, A. Selart, B. Kibal, A. Andersen "Eesti Ajaloo Atlas" Avita 2006

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