It’s often said that Estonia is so small and there’s so few of us, that in a competitive world we must ‘outperform’ others. This applies in trade, technological innovation, diplomacy, sports and countless other endeavours.
Many insist that this is a requirement for sustainability, both as a state and a people. And ‘outperforming’ certainly didn’t hinder Estonia acceding to the European Union, NATO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Eurozone, in some cases earlier than others with similar totalitarian legacies to overcome. (One must point out here
that even though many Estonians have legitimate reservations about the benefits that accrue to small countries with those memberships, Estonia’s success is constantly measured by the seeming ease with which gained the qualifications to becoming a member.)
Acknowledging Estonia’s small size, Estonia’s first president Konstantin Päts, stated before World War II: “Of course we’re a small nation. But we’re a nation that has emerged from violent battles and wars. We have created and built our own country. We are a people who has managed to preserve for centuries our language, nationality and self-sufficiency in spite of major obstacles. We have experienced untold hardship but have managed to develop our intellectual and economic life. Shouldn’t this bring us pride? We can proudly say that Estonia has been built by our own work, effort and abilities.”
Critics may observe that the quote is bursting with self-congratulatory boastfulness. Yes and why shouldn’t it be? Today Estonia is seen as the country most prepared to emerge from the prolonged economic crisis. It seems that the qualities that Päts extolled have stood her in good stead today. Estonia still needs healthy motivation, clear thinking and an achievement-oriented mind-set to stay ahead of the pack.
These are the same qualities that Estonians abroad could display in ensuring the preservation of a vital community for some decades into the future. In some sense the ex-patriot Estonian community must also withstand the forces that threaten to swallow it as a viable ethno-cultural entity: assimilation, trivializing heritage, loss of identity, apathy and other influences.
On Estonia’s Independence Day we celebrate the most crucial milestone in the Estonian people’s history – February 24th, the day Estonians declared to the world that they intend to be free. Their intention was loudly proclaimed while knowing full well that actual independence could be gained only by winning wars on two fronts – against the Russian communists as well as the German Landeswehr.
As we acknowledge Estonia’s success in achieving full sovereignty as a state we also recognize the attributes that helped her win her national aspiration – freedom from foreign domination. Would it be unrealistic to suggest that the same qualities which have been fundamental in Estonia’s success could also contribute to our efforts in maintaining a vibrant Estonian community abroad?
Thoughts on Independence Day 2012 (1)