No. 18




Estonia’s Political Culture: Basic Values

16 December 2008


RiTo No. 18, 2008

  • Leif Kalev

    Leif Kalev

    Professor of Political Studies, Tallinn University

  • Tõnis Saarts

    Tõnis Saarts

    Tallinn University, Lecturer of Political Science

  • Mari-Liis Jakobson

    Mari-Liis Jakobson

    Associate Professor of Political Sociology, Tallinn University

There is extremely little information in Estonia’s cultural sphere regarding both the content of the political culture and the characteristic traits of political culture in Estonia.

Nor, to the knowledge of the writers, has any Estonian-language scientific article been published. There are a greater number of newspaper articles, but understandably they do not contain much space for a more thorough treatment of the topic. This article, which treats of the political culture in a scientific – analytical – vein attempts to fill this gap. In the international scheme of things, Estonian political culture is fairly special, even though there are number of ele-ments that are characteristic of other post communist countries: weak civic culture, low level of trust in institutions, overemphasis on the nationalist component etc. Due to the focus on the weakness of community and survival values (the stress is on materialism and utility, not on self-expression) Estonia’s political culture does not offer fertile ground for development of an open participatory society. Individualism tends to take precedence along with intoler-ance toward other types of opinions and a low ability to look for social consensus. At the same time, an asset of Estonian society is its small size and fairly egalitarian mindset, which has led to fairly good opportunities for the creation of a participatory society based on hori-zontal networks. Much also stands behind political will and setting of political goals: whether the priority is the economy, or whether there is room alongside it for consistent development of democratic mechanisms.

Full article in Estonian