Authority, Identification and Nationalism: The Future of Freedom in Estonia
A flourishing economy might also have played a part: chaos is always a bit more tolerable if a country’s businesses are flourishing and if politics is at least temporarily secondary to economic prosperity. It is to the Estonian people that we must look for the source of many technological innovations—including the invention of Skype. Since the 1990s, Estonia has become a mighty-economic midget, often being rated among the top 20 countries in the world regarding economic strength. We might even suggest that this prosperity reinforces the commodity identification I identified previously. A market orientation might prevail over a political orientation. If the young people are bringing new, Western Europe-oriented business practices and a technological focus to Estonia, then maybe they can also bring in Western European ideas about politics. Perhaps these young entrepreneurs and technological wiz-kids are more qualified to run our country than are the old-timers who controlled life in Estonia during the Soviet era and immediate post-Soviet era.
Putting all of this together, we should not be surprised that the Estonian political process has been compared to the game of “musical chairs.” Repeatedly, political inexperience gives way to old-time political knowledge and there is a frequent return to established political practices. Expedience and frequent realignment of societal values and principles prevail: “What do I have to do and what laws do we have to pass for me to stay in office?” It is little wonder, therefore, that an unpopular law regarding citizen status was overturned—not because it was a bad idea but because it risked the loss of political power by the government officials who passed this law. It seems that democracy is often quite messy, Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why authoritarian rule can sometimes seem quite attractive.
With a rescinding of the restrictive law, Russians living in Estonia could now vote—though they have tended to remain a minority political force in Estonia even up to the present time. The one change in recent years has been the refocusing of much xenophobic attention on the threatened “invasion” of the homeland by displaced refuges from the Middle East. The Russians now look pretty good when compared to those “other” people who come from a culture that is completely unknown to Estonians. At least Estonians know about the customs (and language) of their Russian compatriots.