The Congress of Estonia

​People’s representative body gathering in Estonia in 1990 during the process of regaining independence, which aimed to restore the Republic of Estonia on the basis of legal continuity.

At meetings on 24 February 1989, the representatives of the Estonian Heritage Protection Society, the Estonian National Independence Party and the Estonian Christian Union called on people to found citizens’ committees, register the Estonian citizens and prepare for the Congress of Estonia. These proposals relied on the constitution of the Republic of Estonia in 1938, according to which the supreme body of power was the Estonian people. In order to restore the republic it was therefore necessary to register the legitimate population; this task was undertaken by the Estonian Citizens’ Committees founded by public initiative.

On 24 February 1990, the registered legitimate population elected its representative body, the Congress of Estonia. This was not a legislative or executive state authority with real power, but a council of nationalists who aimed to restore Estonian independence. Altogether 557,613 Estonian citizens voted, i.e. people who had been citizens of the Republic of Estonia before Estonia was occupied in 1940, or their descendants, plus 34,345 of those applying for citizenship. The Congress consisted of 499 members with the right to vote, and 43 members chosen among the citizenship applicants. The Congress of Estonia formed an executive body, the Committee of Estonia, and its chairman was Tunne Kelam. The first session of the Congress in the concert hall of the Estonia theatre on 11 and 12 March 1990 decided to restore the Republic of Estonia on the basis of legal continuity. A total of ten sessions of the Congress were held.

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