Post-Cold War Identity Politics: Northern and Baltic Experiences

By Marko Lehti; David J.Smith | Go to book overview

8

Estonia and Europe: A Common Identity or an Identity Crisis?

VAHUR MADE

For Estonians, the notion of belonging to Europe has always posed a dilemma. Estonia can be incorporated into the grand scheme of Europe by telling the story of historical connections across the Baltic Sea, such as Viking treks, Christianization through German conquest in the thirteenth century or the Hansa trade which involved four Estonian towns-Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu and Viljandi. Today, Estonian political leaders frequently invoke these historical traditions in order to justify current moves towards integration with European co-operative structures such as the EU or NATO. However, any approach that treats belonging to Europe as axiomatic necessarily avoids more awkward questions as to the connection between Estonian and European identity. While some maintain that this link is already firmly established in the minds of Estonians, others insist that Estonia's 'European identity' remains a vague construction still very much in the process of formation.

By examining the historical evolution of narratives on Estonian nationhood, this chapter will examine how 'Europe' and Estonia's immediate neighbours have figured in the discursive construction of national identity. It will also argue that contemporary processes of European integration and globalization have posed a serious challenge to more traditional narratives and their constituent elements, giving rise to a full-scale identity crisis. 1 A likely outcome of this crisis, I suggest, will be a shift away from modernist, ethnocentric discourses towards more 'postnational' narratives open to different cultural influences and focused on active participation in international decision-making.

National narratives-'the story of our nation'-are integral to the contingent and shifting construct known as national identity. As other chapters in this book make clear, national identity is grounded in collective interpretations of historical, political, cultural and economic reality, and is forged in the interplay between the 'self and the 'other'. 2 The

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