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Estonia Claims Rights as a Sovereign Land

Associated Press

The Estonian Parliament today declared its tiny Baltic republic “sovereign,” with the right to veto Soviet laws.

Before the vote, deputies from the Communist Party and government of Estonia held a debate in which they detailed the republic’s need to control land, factories and laws, saying centralized control from Moscow has been ruinous for both the economy and the environment.

The vote on the “declaration of sovereignty” was 258 to 1, with five abstentions. It came after a vote on related amendments to the Estonian constitution that passed 254 to 7.

The amendments include one declaring that Soviet laws will take effect in Estonia “upon their registration by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic in a way regulated by it.” That somewhat vague wording was apparently the result of a last-minute compromise.

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The four other amendments add human and civil rights guarantees, claim the land and natural resources of the republic as the property of Estonia rather than of the “state” and guarantee the right to hold private property.

Moscow Treaty Sought

The declaration of sovereignty stopped short of calling for complete independence but demanded that a treaty be negotiated with Moscow to “determine the status of Estonia in the composition of the Soviet Union.”

The passage of such measures by a government body is an unprecedented act of defiance toward central authorities in a country still feeling its way through President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost or openness.

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Today’s special session of the Estonian Supreme Soviet was called to consider unified opposition to a series of amendments to the Soviet constitution that Estonians say shift power to Moscow and eliminate the republics’ right to secede.

The Parliament compromised on a resolution that originally demanded that Moscow cancel plans to amend the Soviet constitution after Soviet leaders hinted that this would be fruitless.

Estonian lawmakers instead unanimously called for changes in the amendments to reduce the shift in power from the 15 constituent Soviet republics to the central government in Moscow and to retain the republics’ right to secede.

The decisions of the Estonian Parliament were not immediately reported or commented on by state-run media in Moscow.


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