Estonia: Return to Independence

Estonia: Return to Independence

Estonia: Return to Independence

Estonia: Return to Independence

Synopsis

After breaking free from the Bolsheviks in 1918, Estonia enjoyed independence until 1940, when the country was subsumed by the Soviet Union. Not until 1991 was Estonia able to make its next successful bid for sovereignty. In this book, Rein Taagepera traces the evolution of Estonia from prehistory to the present, when a radical turn of events in the former Soviet Union once again altered the destiny of this Baltic nation. The author explores in depth the remarkable changes in Estonia since 1980, framing his analysis within the larger picture of the Soviet Union and its demise. He also examines the issue of ethnic tensions between Estonians and Russian colonists and speculates on how unrest will affect the future of the country. Throughout his analysis, the author weaves in such key questions as: Why did Sovietization fail? How did Estonia's quest for autonomy affect Soviet dissolution? What role will the country play on the global stage? What will Estonia's future hold?

Excerpt

The past and the present are intertwined. History cannot be written "as it actually took place." One has to weigh and select, and this means that one inevitably uses filters. Historians who pretend to be neutral merely are saying they have never seriously questioned their biases. Facing our biases does not abolish them, but this is the only way to try to attenuate the effect of filters. What are some of my filters?

There is the filter of a boy of eight hiding in the rye while some village buildings were burning and Soviet troops lined his parents against a wall (they escaped)--and who soon after heard that people he knew had vanished in the antioccupation reaction on trumped-up charges. There is also the filter of a teenager sensing the incongruity of his being part of the French colonial society in Morocco while Russians were colonizing his homeland. Further, there is the Ph.D. physicist trained to ask "But is another explanation possible, and how do you get the precise data needed to tell the difference?" and so on.

Another set of filters made itself felt in September 1991 as Estonia finally regained its independence. One year earlier, when I proposed to Westview Press the title Estonia: Return to Independence, it was an informed act of faith; it still was so in July 1991 as I was completing the draft manuscript. Then, sticking to travel plans made far in advance, I arrived in Estonia on 25 August 1991--five days after Estonia's proclamation of immediate independence, adopted in the midst of a messy coup in Moscow. Two weeks later, fifty countries, including the United States and, finally, the ussr, had recognized Estonia's return to independence. I found myself chairing the first public meeting of a brand new People's Center Party and was elected to the Estonian Constitutional Assembly--its only member to reside in the Western Hemisphere. These were heady days. Obligingly, reality had adjusted itself to my book title. But what about the filter?

When I read my draft in light of Estonia's regained independence, many events as far back as 1938 suddenly looked different; their interpretation and relative importance had changed. I also faced a different read-

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