Today it is impossible to say who of our ancestors was the first to come up with the idea that the peoples living by the shores of the Baltic Sea could also have their own state. However, it should be pointed out that during the years of the Crimean War (1853–1856), at a time when the national awakening movement had not even begun here, the French journalist Louis-Antoine Léouzon Le Duc put such thoughts into print. On a journey to search for porphyry for the tomb of the Emperor Napoleon, he reached the shores of the Baltic where he met peoples which were unfamiliar to him. In 1855,in Paris, he published a book about his travels, called La Baltique. In covering the general political situation on the shores of the Baltic Sea in the chapter headed [Reval,] his flight of thought even reached far enough to write:
… whatever comes to pass, whether the Scandinavian powers will rally to
the cause of the Western powers or not; whether Finland will be handed
over to Sweden or will stay in the hands of Russia; whether Estonia,
Livonia and Courland will recover their ancient national independence or
continue to be slowly absorbed into the vortex of Moscow…
In some respects it is noteworthy that it was a Frenchman who was the one to put clearly into words the historical choice which has confronted the people of this region for centuries. It is undoubtedly important that this was done in a language spoken so widely. It is, of course, quite another matter how much those lines were read at the time or how much the readers could be bothered to think about that far-off place and the complicated dilemma facing a littleknown people.
It is quite certain that the brightest Estonians at that time had not yet thought that far. In Ferdinand Johann Wiedemann's Estonian-German dictionary, which was published in 1869 and contained over 50,000 words, there are no entries for the words iseseisvus (independence) and vabariik (republic). And there is no reason to be surprised at the absence of the latter as, in the understanding of the country people, czarist power was still in force.