Authority, Identification and Nationalism: The Future of Freedom in Estonia

Authority, Identification and Nationalism: The Future of Freedom in Estonia

What is the Future for Estonians?

We can step back a bit and reflect on what we now know and what we think we know about the future of authoritarian rule and nationalism in the country of Estonia (and by extension in many other 21st Century countries). First, it is important to note that nationalists are unabashedly boosters, as anyone who has ever been a sports fan can fully appreciate. The commitment contains an element of loyalty-in-the -face-of a philosophical element of looking in the face of humility and seeing pride and valor, as well as doubt and fear. The nationalists tend to be less educated, less “cosmopolitan” (which carries a lot of baggage, including irrational fears of conspiratorial forces such as “International Jewry” and David Rockefeller’s fabled Tri-lateral Commission). They are often not very articulate in expressing their emotional attachment to their country—they rely on their leader to be the articulate spokesman (another example of projective identification and the diminution of self). Power in this instance comes not from individual competence or knowledge, but from blind obedience and collective action: the irrational herd overwhelms the individual proponent of rational discourse.

While it is tempting to strike a pessimistic pose regarding the future of authoritarianism in Estonia and many other 21st Century countries (including the United States), there is some reason to hope for democratic success. As Hannah Arendt (1966) noted, authoritarianism and nationalism are incompatible with more entrepreneurial and internationally oriented middle-class values. Arendt’s insights were affirmed by Serge, the purported Russian arms dealer in Estonia I interviewed in 1991.

Both Arendt and Serge suggest that the Soviets feared the emergence of a middle class precisely because of the competing international perspective that the middle class would offer. If Arendt and Serge are accurate, then we should expect a decline in nationalism with strengthening of the middle class in Estonia. While economic prosperity in Estonia might have helped to produce a messy political process, it also helped to ensure that this messy democratic process was not replaced by less messy authoritarian rule (as has occurred in Russia and many other countries).

Still, it is difficult to remain positive about democracy and the decline of nationalism in the near future. Given the threat of massive immigration caused by political upheaval in other parts of the world, nationalism and authoritarianism might prevail in the near future. This threat is coupled with and exacerbated by current health emergencies and the virus-influenced temporary (or long-term) collapse of European (and world-wide) economies.


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William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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