Estonia: Identity and Independence

Estonia: Identity and Independence

Estonia: Identity and Independence

Estonia: Identity and Independence


In the span of only seventy years, Estonia first proclaimed its independence, was occupied and deprived of its sovereignty, saw many of its citizens deported, and yet managed to recover its independence. How did this small nation keep its language and traditions alive during half a century of occupation, and how did it maintain such a vivid sense of identity? For the first time in English, this book gives a comprehensive view of the events which shaped the destiny of contemporary Estonia. The Editor, Jean-Jacques Subrenat, has called upon an unusually broad spectrum of the best experts (in history, archeology, political science, genetics, literature), but also on some of the leaders who took part in the rebuilding of Estonia, to offer more than a history, rather a unique testimony on a nation reborn. Estonia: Identity and Independence provides rare insight into the many aspects of a country whose location in Northern Europe, within the European Union, and as a NATO ally, but also as a close neighbour of Russia, deserves the attention of scholars, journalists, and informed readers today. This volume includes a thorough chronology of Estonia (from prehistory to accession to the European Union), and a brief c.v. of each co-author. Estonia: Identity and Independence is also available in three other languages (A. Bertricau is the pen-name of Jean-Jacques Subrenat, the initiator and Editor of this book): Estonian: 1st and 2nd edition: A. Bertricau, "Eesti identiteet ja iseseisvus," published by Avita in Tallinn, 2001 and 2002; Russian: A. Bertricau, "Samoopredelenie i nezavissimost' Estonii," published by Avita in Tallinn, August 2001; French: A. Bertricau, "Estonie, identite et independance," published by L'Harmattan in Paris, November 2001.


For several decades I have felt towards the French spirit a debt that I will now repay, or at least acknowledge with pleasure. As the president of this small country, I repeatedly emphasised that the purpose of all Estonian history has been the realisation of the right of self-determination, the restoration of independence and the establishment of a sovereign state. We succeeded in that objective on 24 February 1918, in the aftermath of the First World War, which transformed many peoples, previously almost anonymous, into subjects of international law. On the eve of the new millennium this is hindsight, too self-evident to justify wasting words on. But ten years before the Manifesto of Estonian Independence, who would have had the courage to speak of the Republic of Estonia, of the Estonians' own country, in 1908? Yes, Estonian author Juhan Liiv did dare to dream of this, and even put his dream on paper, but he was just a poet, and therefore a madman: even those who quoted him did so condescendingly. Who in 1936 would have predicted that India would achieve independence, or in 1979 that the Berlin Wall would fall ten years later? When politicians quote politicians, history becomes a collection of banalities which, like Jonathan Swift's island of Academia, floats above the real world without ever touching it.

One man who did not quote politicians, and who did not float above reality, but travelled through Estonia's real landscapes, asking, comparing, thinking, and breaking through the wall of political banalities, was Louis Léouzon Le Duc. in his book La Baltique, he, for the first time, alluded to the possibility that Estonia would regain its [ancient independence.] the date? 1855.

That indeed is my debt to France and the French spirit.

Lennart Meri (President of the Republic of Estonia, 1992–2001) . . .

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