Home Societal / Political Freedom Authority, Identification and Nationalism: The Future of Freedom in Estonia

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

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I would take some exception to Theroux’s conclusions regarding revolt. The Estonians obviously did revolt during the early 1990s. But it was a gentle revolt—the singing revolution. There was exceptional discipline (and collective courage) in the widespread disregard for Soviet rule when singing the songs of Estonia at the song fest and on subsequent occasions (collective actions that I have described in other essays in this series). However, I think Theroux was correct in assessing the Estonian people as orderly and highly regulated—whether it be in their adherence to the old town plan in Tallinn, or their admiration of the choral arts.

While working in Estonia I was intrigued by the similarities I saw in this country regarding orderliness and what I observed in Finland (a country located just to the North of Estonia) and Switzerland. In more recent years, I have observed a similar commitment to order in Singapore. Clean streets and social courtesies are abundant in each of these countries. As I note later in this essay, the messiness of democratic rule that began when Estonia declared its independence must have been (and perhaps still is) difficult for the Estonians to accept. The pull toward order that the Soviet Union successfully imposed for many years must have been strong—and in some Estonian quarters might still be strong.

The lingering desire in Estonia for order and restraint was countered during the 1990s by the perspectives and actions taken by some countrymen. “Outliers” like Tiit tried for many years to keep alive an alternative to authoritarianism. Tiit fought against authoritarian regimes in both his own country and in Central America regardless of the prevalent ideology. Such courageous and idealistic anti-authoritarians often find themselves unappreciated by both the old order and the new order of leadership in a changing world. They often grow tired of always being on the outside looking in, with disdain and disillusionment. Still, we found several Estonians, like Tiit, who continue their oppositional stance. As one of these courageous warriors declared: “I was in the opposition in the last regime, and I’m in the opposition now!”

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