A change in perspective, the first President of Estonia - Konstantin Pats
Today’s installment of 30-on-30
“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 ESV
Konstantin Päts was born on February 11, 1874 in Tahkuranna, Estonia. His parents were converted Orthodox peasants in Pärnu County, and his brothers Nikolai, Voldemar and Peeter went on to hold prominent positions in Estonian life.
In early 1905 Estonian nationalists began demonstrating against the Russian government, and by October of that year there were people being fired on in the streets. Although Päts organized a memorandum campaign, he did not express radical views during the revolutionary events in Estonia, limiting himself mainly to demanding local government reform. In the spirit of the Social Democratic statement issued to Tallinn workers, Päts was imprisoned by the authorities as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper and forced to flee Estonia. The Rapla military court organized by General Vladimir Bezobrazov, the commander of the penitentiary, had sentenced Päts to death for rebellious activities. In 1905, Konstantin and Voldemar Päts, Jaan Teemant, Peeter Speek, Otto Strandman, Karl Ast, Mihkel Martna and others fled Estonia. For some time, Päts stayed at the Weissenstein manor near Bern, Switzerland. In 1906 he moved to Finland, where he lived under the pseudonym Ivan Ivan and contributed to newspapers. Also in Ollila, Finland, manuscripts bearing radical ideas on local government and agrarian issues were prepared at that time. At the instigation of Päts, the publishing association Ühiselu was founded in St. Petersburg in 1907–1908, which began publishing the St. Petersburg Gazette. Francis Lieber's book, Freedom and Self-Government, published in 1908 by Konstantin Päts, further influenced his political views and activities. Working on Lieber's book, Päts considered his views and accepted them. In Päts' later speeches, literal quotations from Lieber's works always appear.
In 1909, Päts had the opportunity to escape the death sentence imposed by the Rapla military court, as many documents had been lost and there were not many materials binding him on the uprising. After returning to Estonia, he appeared before a Tallinn district court investigator in the summer and was released on bail. In February 1910, Päts was sentenced to one year in prison at an expedition in the St. Petersburg Courthouse in Tallinn; this decision was commuted to 9 months' solitary confinement, which he served from 7 July 1910 in Krestõ Prison in St Petersburg. After his release, Päts worked as an editor of the newspaper Tallinna Teataja and returned to politics. Throughout the 1920 and 1930’s Päts served in high levels of Estonia’s parliamentary government. In 1938 a new constitution was adopted and Päts became the first president of Estonia.
In 1940, as the President of the Republic of Estonia, Päts was in a situation in which no head of state wanted to be. The Polish state was destroyed by war in 1939, Finland was forced to accept degrading conditions of peace, the invasion of the occupying forces was forced to be recognized by Austria, Albania, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and when the Red Army invaded Lithuania the three Baltic states are already fearless. As President, Konstantin Päts also signed documents that enabled the establishment of the occupying power in Estonia before he himself fell victim to the Soviet repressive authorities.
We know little about his suffering in the Gulag machinery, and it would be clearly unfair to talk only about 1934 or 1940 for this man. However, his surest contribution to Estonian history dates back to 1905, 1917 and 1918.
The February Revolution opened a new opportunity for political activity in 1917, and Päts became the commander of the Tallinn militia in March, although the Bolsheviks soon forced him to resign. In June 1917, Päts became the president of the Supreme Committee of the Estonian Military, and his main contribution can also be considered the creation of national military units. In 1917, it was still hotly debated whether Estonia should be one whole or whether Northern Livonia would still be separate, Päts' camp remained here and the territories of the Estonians were still united. The governor was Poska and under his leadership Estonia also gained autonomy.
The silent era inevitably led to silent surrender. Although with dictatorial powers, Päts ruled with a relatively soft hand, and the wasps and Bolsheviks were also released from prison in the spring of 1938. As the Estonian Chronicle notes in 1939, there was practically no unemployment at that time. But stability hid the lack of freedom of speech. Also in 1940, the press did not dare to talk about the real situation;
Päts was arrested on July 30, 1940 on his Kloostrimetsa farm and sent to the Soviet Union with his family. Until June 26, 1941, he and his family were in prison in Bashkortostan, Ufa, and at the end of 1942 in Kirov, a prison of the National Security Government, in a solitary confinement. According to the official Soviet version, he was staged with his son Viktor in Vitebsk in November 1942 and in Peterhof in 1943, but these areas were occupied by German forces at the time, and he was probably in detention in Kirov instead.
Daily Battle Order: What you have read is from an Estonian citizen, writing in what is to him a foreign language, briefly detailing how the nation of his youth was formed. He wrote it as he appreciates his nation’s legacy which has been challenged through the curses of socialism. It captures an era of time where freedom of speech, news and religion demanded decisive and intentional men.
TJC will soon be starting a new series addressing the challenges in our own nation. While new to many of us, other men have struggled against similar challenges. We learn from them.
What have you tolerated, compromised, backed down from in your area of influence ? Let us give thanks for the mighty men from across the globe and centuries who blaze trails of freedom.
Victory is not always immediate or even visible for years to come. But it will be there for those who are obedient, persistent in the Lord and intentional in their walk.
Today Estonia is lead by a strong woman and leads the world in many ways earned through blood, tears and prayer.