Temporary Exhibition

US Declaration in Support of Estonian Independence

27 May–24 October 2021 

In this jubilee year of the restoration of Estonian independence, we should cast a glance back to a crucial document that did so much to reiterate the continuity of our state. On 23 July 1940, the US Department of State issued a press release condemning the occupation of the Baltic States by a foreign aggressor. That statement came to be known as the Welles Declaration after the then US Secretary of State, Sumner Welles. The document was composed by Welles, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Loy W. Henderson, an expert on Eastern European foreign policy.  

Despite the fact that it was a mere press release, the message was resounding: the USA would never recognise the occupation of the Baltic States. This stance continued until 1991, where Estonia referred to this statement when attempting to regain independence.

The Vabamu exhibition entitled ‘US declaration in support of Estonian independence’ offers a glimpse into the story behind the Welles Declaration with the aid of animations and portraits created in cooperation with the Estonian Academy of Arts. Learn how the US policy of non-recognition helped keep alive the idea of the independence of the Baltic States during the Second World War and the Cold War and how important it was when the countries proceeded to restore their independence.  

Curators: Liina Koitla, Piret Karro
Drawings: Milly Yencken  
Animations: Milly Yencken, Priit Tender (Estonian Academy of Arts), Mart Alaru, Katrin Pärn
Archival research: Barbara Florence Sanford, Michael Byrne Carragee (Stanford University)

We are grateful for the advice of: Kaarel Piirimäe, Mihkel Laar, Tõnu Miller

We would like to thank the Embassy of the United States of America for their support.