"Blood and Homeland": Eugenics and Racial Nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe, 1900-1940

By Marius Turda; Paul J. Weindling | Go to book overview

The Self-Perception of a Small Nation:
The Reception of Eugenics in Interwar Estonia

Ken Kalling

Contemporary history has shown that the ideology of eugenics is more diverse as a body of knowledge than as a practical application. The approval of eugenic legislation, especially laws relating to sterilization, provides good criteria for testing the eugenic movements in different countries. The pervasive influence of eugenics in Scandinavian countries, the Us, and Nazi Germany are the most known cases. Less well known is the case of the Baltic states, particularly Latvia and Estonia, and the passing of legislation during the 1930s according to the eugenic principles of obligatory sterilization and abortion. Besides shedding light on the emergence and development of eugenics and its ideology in Estonia, this chapter will explore specific features related to the dissemination and acceptance by Estonian eugenicists of socalled positive eugenics, especially in its pro-natalist forms. Eugenics can be divided into "positive" and "negative" branches. "Positive eugenics" emphasized the need to increase the ratio of racially "superior" members of society; "negative eugenics" was motivated by inhibiting the fertility of those deemed "biologically unfit." In interwar Estonia, the two branches intersected.


The Eugenic Movement in Estonia

Discussions about eugenics in the Estonian language can be traced back to the turn of the twentieth century. Estonians were perceived by non-Estonian members of society, and sometimes even by some Estonian politicians, as a peasant nation "without history," and thus, seemingly, with no future. However, during the Estonian national awakening (commencing around 1850 and culminating in 1918, when independ-

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