Dr. Mart Laar, on whom the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation this year bestows its Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, is a historian, professor, and scholar who became the first official Prime Minister of Estonia’s Second Republic in 1992.
Dr. Laar’s time in government was dedicated to the creation of accountable government for post-Soviet Estonia and the implementation of free-market principles in the economy. During his first tenure as Prime Minister, from 1992 to 1994, Laar established a flat tax and took steps to privatize previously state-run industries and services. Laar left office in 1994 but was elected again in 1999 and served as PM until 2002. During his second term, he laid the groundwork for Estonia’s accession to the European Union and to NATO, which took place in 2004. He also served as Estonia’s Minister of Defense from 2011 to 2012. Today, Laar is the chairman of the Bank of Estonia (Eesti Pank).
Before his career as a politician, Laar studied history at Tartu University, where he was awarded a PhD in 2005. Dr. Laar’s scholarly œuvre is built on historical studies of the Estonian anti-Soviet resistance. His numerous books include War in the Woods: Estonia’s Struggle for Survival, 1944–1956, a history of the “Forest Brother” partisans who fought the Soviet occupation of Estonia, and The Power of Freedom, a history of Central and Eastern Europe after 1945.
Dr. Laar is involved in many human rights, economics, and historical foundations, including the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, the Human Rights Foundation, and the International Advisory Council of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. He is also a founding member of the Unitas Foundation. In addition to the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, Laar has received the Hungarian House of Terror museum’s Petőfi Prize and the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty.
On receiving the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, Dr. Laar provided these remarks to be read at VOC’s 10th Annual Commemoration and Roll Call of Nations Wreath Laying Ceremony by a representative of the Estonian government.
I want to thank you for the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom. This makes me extremely proud and happy as it is a recognition to my long-lasting commitment to study communist crimes and to honor their victims. Estonia and Estonians lived for decades under the rule of communism, so we know precisely what communism is. This is why our task is not to let it happen again. This demands that we all keep memory alive. In this work, we stand side by side with all freedom-loving people around the world. Let’s make the Museum of Communist Crimes happen—this is the most certain way to put communism on the ash heap of history.”
We thank Dr. Laar for his encouragement and support. It is an honor for us to recognize him with the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom.