No. 27

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Myths

  • Helle Ruusing

    Editor-in-Chief, Information Adviser of the Chancellery of the Riigikogu

The history dispute that broke out in Estonia in the beginning of this year, after the publication of Volume 2 of The History of Estonia, is a clear example that characterises the situation in Estonia. In a sense, Estonia is again at the crossroads: is it better to hold on fast to the values of the nation state, or to be carried along with the current of globalisation and merge into something larger – the Baltic States, the Nordic Countries, the European Union. History and the myths created on its basis have two times been very important for Estonia in achieving independence. Now, when the modern view on history has placed the events of the Middle Ages in Estonia into a wider European context, there suddenly seemed to be less heroism. The fear that an important truth is disputed brought along a wave of criticism.

It seems to the author that Estonians appreciate very clear and unambiguous truth. For example, that if economy and finances are in order, everything else, too, can be achieved, or that a person’s success in the society to a large extent depends on him or her alone. During the last two decades, the rules of market economy have also been applied in the fields where they do not give optimal result. Often the people of Estonia have allowed to turn themselves into a product that has a price, and there is competition in the fields where it is better to cooperate and express solidarity. In the end of the day, nobody is really happy; people are stressed and do not live as long as they could.

In the latest Estonian Human Development Report, much attention is devoted to the welfare state. In the public space of Estonia, the notion of welfare state is interpreted as provision of public aid by the state, and it is presented in a rather negative meaning. At the same time the wish to see the state as the provider of security and quality of life has not disappeared from the world. The ways for creating an environment where an individual can act safely have also developed. Namely act, and not just receive assistance. It seems that Estonia still lags behind in this. Estonian social policy deals more with the redistributing of scant resources than creates policies that correspond to the needs of different groups. Different parts of the state system (ministries, local governments) often are not able to cooperate in the name of the best result but would rather labour by themselves. It can even be said that great reforms are feared and continuing quietly in the old way is preferred. Sometimes examples are brought from the first half of the 1990s when the Government of Estonia was carrying out one large reform after another. One thing that is different with the reforms of today: it is necessary to negotiate with different interest groups much more, to look for consensus, and only when there is enough decisiveness, the plans can be executed. The Human Development Report is not a guideline for politicians but a platform for discussions about the society and initiating different trends for development.

The keyword of the 21st century is globalisation. For a long time already, people do not die in the same place they were born. During their lives, people can live in many countries and on several continents. There is no point in fighting against it and no need, emigration and immigration are the realities of today. The only thing that can be done is to use it to our advantage. The society that can agree that differences are acceptable and where people are tolerant is able to integrate those who are different. In this way it is possible to survive as a nation state in the globalising world.

Full article in Estonian

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