Estonia: Identity and Independence

By Jean-Jacques Subrenat; David Cousins et al. | Go to book overview

Mart Laar


The Restoration of Independence in Estonia

In Estonia, 1984 really was 1984, the title of George Orwell's novel. The evil empire stretched across the whole world and resistance seemed a hopeless undertaking. The characteristic traits of this empire, which extended from the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, were lies and violence which, while not reaching the extremes of Stalinist repression, were still pervasive enough to nip in the bud any larger-scale attempts to stand up to the system. Fear was of the essence.

This period also coincided with the entry into active life of the generation born in the sixties in the depths of the Soviet era, a generation which did not have any personal experience of an independent Estonia and which should have been 100% absorbed by Soviet ideology. Indeed, the regime went to great lengths to make sure this was the case. As fate had decreed that I would share Lenin's birthday, 22 April, I was taught at nursery school to be a good Leninist. Later, my grandfather told me of how he almost had a fit when he asked me, [Little Mart, who is dearest to you in all the world?] and I answered, [Lenin and peace.]

Fortunately, in the face of the Soviet reality and the physical pain and suffering which confronted you everywhere, this brainwashing did not have any long-lasting effect. It was impossible not to notice the lies and deception which dominated Soviet society, it was rather a question of being honest enough to admit to it. In addition, during the period while this generation was growing, life in the Soviet system became ever more miserable. As a result of increased immigration, the Estonian people and their language were in danger of extinction.

This led to protests and opposition. As I grew up, I began to understand the real nature of the Soviet system, which was based on uncontrolled and often arbitrary terror. At any rate, our people were heading for annihilation as anyone could be arrested as part of the repression without really having done anything. And so, those born in the sixties became a generation of people without illusions who, by judging the Soviet system realistically and knowing how it worked, tried to build themselves ivory towers or, by [taking arms against a sea of troubles,] engaged themselves in combat.

It then became ever clearer that, by the beginning of the 1980s, the global Communist system was in an acute crisis. The unsuccessful war in Afghanistan was evidence of the vulnerability of the Soviet war machine. The

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