Reede, 21 Veebruar 2014 19:45
Laas Leivat - Estonian Life No. 08 2014
Freedom and the independence of Estonia have become such self-evident concepts that we hardly ever dwell on them. As we're taking the kids to school, sitting in a meeting or viewing the daily news, the thought of independence has become so mundane it simply doesn't occur.
On Independence Day it's sometimes a topic in speeches. But Estonia's sovereignty quickly becomes top of mind when we feel that something is threatening the country's national security. For Estonians national security addresses not only the country's territorial integrity, possible military threats and defence preparedness. For many it includes broader aspects of being Estonian – language, culture, their intellectual and moral identity, and the defence of these against the ever present encroachment of a "common European identity". The existence of Estonia only has meaning if the Estonian language and its speakers thrive, Estonian culture and its creator thrive. These are the essentials that make Estonia distinct from Finland, Sweden or Brussels.
In fact we should care about our country of heritage and its well-being more than just a few times a year. The nation has for everyone a personal meaning. Its complicated history has produced a thoughtful people who are known to feel concerned about their language and to defend their principles.
Nearly 100 years ago Estonia was just a small province in a large, czarist Russia. In 1917, as Russia weakened and a German occupation was threatening, the reality of Estonia independence replaced prevailing daydreams. A rough prognosis by Estonian nationalists indicated that the people and the country could sustain a viable independent state. The decision was made. These facts show that the most important juncture in Estonian history was based on uncertainty and a volatile geo-political juxtaposition of international powers. The ability of Estonians to grasp the right moment in a rapid changing scenario of military violence made independence possible.
Immediately following the declaration of independence on February 24, 1918 Estonians were forced to prove themselves. With weapons in hand they won their actual freedom on the battlefield. The war of independence was not only the ultimate test of survival but also a war accompanied by misery, broken families and lost lives. But it also strengthened the faith of Estonians, in themselves, the future, and their choice for the future. It reinforced faith in the nation, personal responsibility and readiness to come to the defence of the country.
Estonians are not obsessed with vengeance. But Estonians are determined to live as an independent people, which, if necessary, must be defended militarily. It's said that if Estonian resolve to stay free is clearly evident, if their ability to defend their country is credible, then the cost of challenging Estonia's independence will be so prohibitive that Estonians may not have to defend it by fighting, weapons in hands.
While the above argument might not be compelling, one is convinced that a nation's will is stronger than any weapon. Estonia's prime guarantor of its independence is its citizenry that stands as one when considering independence. Estonians aren't misled by rhetorical threats such as the one last August when Mikhail Aleksandrov stated that if the US attacks Syria, then the Russians should send troops into the Baltic States. It wasn't because of its outrageousness that it attracted wide attention, but because it was utterly childish.
The repetition of Russian accusations against Estonia becomes a mantra of well-worn themes: Estonians' tolerance of anti-Soviet war veterans' yearly reunions as proof of the country's idolization of fascism, Estonia's constant attempts to revise World War II history, the discrimination against minorities. Moscow's political personalities seem to issue statements of that ilk on a regular basis. Observers say that since the authors know they lack credibility for an international audience, they're really meant for domestic consumption.
It's been generally accepted that the time for the Molotov-Ribbentrop brand of aggression is over. In some aspects the German-Russian agreement on the Baltic Sea pipeline, done behind closed doors without considering the inevitable concerns of all the countries adjacent to the pipeline had emotions evoking parallels to 1939. The agreement gave huge geo-political advantage to the parties involved and thus harkened back to the treachery of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, the treachery of large states against the weak and small. But we can show the super powers that freedom, democracy and the rule of law can make, in their own way, small nations larger than the largest.
The international media has consistently stated that Estonia has done quite well. And Estonians have also said that considering they had to start from scratch they haven't done badly at all thank you very much. IT prowess comes immediately to mind and the President's unabashed promotion of it. Even though it sounds like boastful self-satisfaction, it's still a tangible measure of Estonia's potential and what's been achieved. What Estonia can't promote is the reason why tens of thousands are leaving to find their place in the sun. It doesn't seem to be simple wanderlust but a conviction that a place in the sun exists for those searching for it elsewhere. For them that place is just not in their homeland.
Estonia still needs healthy motivation, clear thinking and an achievement-oriented spirit to not only stay ahead of the pack, but to sustain the qualities that make them Estonian – love of freedom, ownership of their destiny, pride in being Estonian. These are the thoughts Independence Day generates.
Laas Leivat (Rather self-indulgent meanderings.)