Speech by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at Soome 100 concert on 10 June 2017

The theme of our evening is the Shared Melody which can so genuinely be heard between our countries. A strong, spiritual bridge spans the Gulf of Finland and music is one of its age-old building materials. 

In their day, the Kalevala and Kalevipoeg were the same tale, sung by our rune singers. The heroes were brave and their fates hard. They were also apt descriptions of the times to come. Throughout our histories, both of our lands have had our share of bitter endings, while our peoples have had to show bravery time and again. Hopefully, those times are over, but we have good reason to remember them.

We Finno-Ugric peoples are not known for discussing our feelings. Fortunately, we do express them in music and verse.  Grief, joy, love and disappointment have always formed the basis of the most heartfelt music.  

The same applies for longing for freedom. Estonia sang its way to freedom, and we Finns sang with you, even if we could not always be heard across the Gulf. It is precisely our singing traditions that make it so wonderful and touching that we are celebrating 100 years of Finnish independence, Finland’s freedom, here at this joint concert in Tallinn.  

The artists here today will sing to freedom, just like in the summer of songs of 1988. Perhaps neither Finlandia nor our national anthem would have been permitted at the RockSummer Festival, but they were sung anyway. “Finland, behold, your day is now dawning” was given a new meaning on that day. We remember Tere Perestroika by Villu Tammi and Koit by Tõnis Mäki – chosen as Estonia’s greatest song of all time and which was sung as people marched, with heads held high, into the dawn of freedom. 

We also have vivid memories of how Juice Leskinen longed for Estonia – Estonia, Estonia, Estonia how I yearned to be there… …or how did the rhyme go? Then there was the pop group Miljoonasade and its longing for Tallinn. 

However, there is no longer any need to yearn or pine. Freedom has brought our countries and peoples back together. This evening we are sharing a celebration, whereas we customarily share our everyday lives. We now take it for granted that we can come and go across the Gulf. And that is how it should be. 

We also share a national anthem. The words are different, but the feeling is the same. Love for our homelands and belief in the future on both sides of the Gulf of Finland.  “My fatherland, my joy and happiness – Oh our land, Finland, land of our birth.” 

As I said, we Finns do not usually express our feelings. However, I would like to say that my heart sings when I look at you here today.   

It is a unique experience to see a crowd like this celebrating Finland’s independence in the capital city of our neighbouring country. The songs and stories that we will soon hear in the Freedom Square will only reinforce the bridge between our two countries. 

I would like to thank all of you – our Finnish and Estonian artists and Finnish and Estonian audiences – together, we are making this an evening to remember.  Together, Yhdessä, Tillsammans, Ûheskoos. Thank you.