In the English-speaking countries small nations are apt to be regarded with more sympathy than understanding. The sympathy is founded on a sentimental desire to protect the weak against the strong rather than on any deep intellectual agreement with President Wilson's principle that well- defined national groups have a right to self-determination. The understanding is limited to familiarity with a few facts and travellers' tales, neither of which are proof against the blasts of propaganda that arise when danger threatens.
The only facts generally known about Estonia are that it suddenly appeared on the maps of Europe during the first World War and disappeared from those maps during the second. The only travellers' tales in popular currency relate that the capital city, Tallinn (the German Reval), is the most beautiful seaport in the world -- though some modernists have preferred Stockholm and mediaevalists Rhodes; and that the university of Tartu (Dorpat) is the finest in Eastern Europe. Yet all the stories of Tallinn, all the descriptions of the high rock and the mediaeval town below and the modern port and factories stretching down to the great sweep of the bay, have not inspired Westerners with any desire to study the people that inhabit it. And all the reports of the clinics and humanities of Tartu, all the travel-agents' slogans about the Oxford of the North, have not aroused any thirst for knowledge about the men who could create such an institution.
Sympathy without knowledge is a dangerous emotion. To test the claim of a small nation to continued independence two questions must be asked. First: Are the people . . .