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Content updated: 04-02-2020 16:05

The President of the Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas, took part in the events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tartu Peace Treaty

01-02-2020

On 1 February in Tartu (the Republic of Estonia), the President of the Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas, participated in the international conference “Tartu Peace 100”.

The conference was one of the events dedicated to commemorate the anniversary of the Tartu Peace Treaty. During this conference, scholars, diplomats, researchers, journalists, and students discussed issues of history, international law, and foreign policy. Dainius Žalimas spoke about the aspects of international law related to the Tartu Peace Treaty.

The Tartu Peace Treaty between Estonia and Russia was signed on 2 February 1920, following the victory of Estonia’s struggle for independence. The treaty put an end to the state of war between the countries. By this treaty, Russia recognised de jure the independence of the Republic of Estonia and forever renounced all rights over the Estonian territory. Therefore, the Tartu Peace Treaty is sometimes considered the birth certificate of the Republic of Estonia.

Estonia was the first of the Baltic States that concluded the peace treaty with Russia. Later in 1920, Lithuania and Latvia also concluded peace treaties with Russia. According to Dainius Žalimas, these treaties were based on the same grounds of international law: Russia recognised the independence of the Baltic States on the basis of the right of self-determination of peoples, which included the right to secede from the state to which a certain people had formerly belonged; Russia renounced its sovereignty over the Baltic States once and for all and established borders with them.

“These agreements were of particular importance to the Baltic States – upon their recognition by the state from which they had seceded, the countries could establish themselves in the international community. In such cases, secession is indisputable under international law. It is true that for Lithuania this treaty was not unambiguous, as it meant closer ties with Soviet Russia, and all this was unfavourably interpreted by Poland, which also attacked Lithuania.  It should also be noted that it was Poland’s success in countering the Russian attack that determined the possibilities of the Baltic States, which had been recognised on the basis of these treaties, to establish themselves as genuinely independent states, since Russia had already started to plan the seizure of these countries prior to signing these peace treaties.  Such Russian plans were prevented by the success of Poland”, said Dainius Žalimas. In his opinion, from the point of view of the establishment of the borders with Russia, this treaty remains relevant for Estonia and Latvia, but not for Lithuania, as the borders it had set were changed upon the return of Vilnius Region to Lithuania in 1939. The peace treaty between Lithuania and Russia is also specific because, although called the peace treaty, it did not include an article concerning the termination of the state of war, which was included in the treaties of Estonia and Latvia; on the contrary, Lithuania and Russia stated that there was no state of war between them.

Although the treaties of Russia with the Baltic States in 1920 are in most cases a historical matter, they have never lost their significance as treaties that recognised the independence of the modern Baltic States and as treaties that were blatantly breached by the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1940. Such a violation, which was aggression against the Baltic States, was recognised by the Soviet Union itself in 1989 by declaring the secret protocols to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact null and void.