Eesti Elu
Interests and values – compete or complement?
Arvamus 22 Oct 2010  Eesti Elu
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The full house at estdocs10’s recent gala screening of “September” affirmed that viewers have not become complacent about Estonia’s historical fate.

The Soviet Union’s World War II military victory strengthened and invigorated its authoritarian regime. Its totalitarian system, which had been a co-author of the war remained unvanquished through brutality and lies. Western powers were perplexed that such a catastrophe as the war could consume a region that led the world in intellectual and cultural pursuits.

The collapse of the old European powers could be traced to the formation of totalitarian regimes, and full and pseudo-dictatorships. When Hitler and Stalin had “freed” their respective societies from any moral accountability, agreement was reached about the division of the spoils of Europe. Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Baltic states, Bessarabia, these were the first steps on a long road that initiated the catastrophe in Europe and in nearly half of the world. The same collapse of morals and the lowering of values stared the Europeans in the face when the cannons were silenced.

The Russian Bolsheviks, Italian fascists and German national socialists had at least one thing in common – similar interests with the absence of values. They were interested in maintaining power by any means possible and the aggressive expansion of their territories. Basic values were of no concern.

Today’s power elite in Russia displays the same qualities. The Kremlin has determined the Russia’s core idea and goal – the restoration of the pride, splendour and might lost at the collapse of the Soviet Union. The possibility that Russia can be a big player on the international scene without its definite spheres of influence or enemies does not have a logical place in the Putin-Medvedev vision for the future. (Three years ago 60% of those questioned in an opinion poll identified Estonia as “enemy number one” for Russia.)

The Kremlin is not alone in relegating values to a minor role in international decision-making. Other nations also use selectivity in choosing those values that coincide with advancing their national interests. This does not preclude the necessity to have interests, missions, achievements. The question is the delicate balance between interests and values, and what emphasis is placed on one as opposed to the other.

Russia is a good example of a nation where in 1990 hesitant attempts were made to change its societal paradigms. It didn’t take long for the country to fall back on those behaviours that created the nineteenth century’s empires and the twentieth century’s totalitarian regimes. This also showed that the Kremlin didn’t put any stock into the efficacy of the principles and international relationships that are based on European values.

Estonia finds no need to express itself internationally through aggression. Thus the strong adherence to Western values is the natural norm. Transparency in government, self-discipline, pre- and post-regulation of decision-makers and decisions, a sturdy moral imperative, a free press, a community based on a free citizenry – these are all aspects that align themselves with time-worn western democratic values.

The media is often cynical about the strength or weakness of the above list. But international observers often indicated that these qualities have strengthened roots in Estonia so that ratings by internaational organizations put the country at par with established democracies of the west. What needs boosting is participation in the electoral process. Next year’s parliamentary elections will be a new litmus test of Estonian voters’ level of activity in this very crucial aspect of the democratic process.
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