They Just Are with Us
Twenty five years ago the question “Who is an Estonian?” would have been considered just an attempt of philosophical discussion aimed at shocking people. I remember the events of the Singing Revolution at the Song Festival Ground, where the people were singing “I am an Estonian and I will remain an Estonian”, and the meaning of this was unambiguously clear: opposition to the Soviet power and to the migrants, who were flwing in at an uncontrollable pace that threatened the existence of the Estonian nation.
In July 1991, at the East-West song festival Bridges of Song, several darkskinned people could be seen at the Song Festival Ground, including a 90-year-old composer whose spiritual was performed by the joint choirs. The way we stared at them could most probably be considered impolite. However, I am sure that it was just curiosity, and not malice.
We have walked along way towards the free world, and as the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, it could be said that we have not really arrived yet. This wandering could also be compared to a pilgrimage where we have experienced diffiulties, met different people and asked various questions about ourselves.
President Lennart Meri posed two very simple questions: “Who are we? Where are we going?”
Our identity is not a rigidly fied phenomenon, it has gone through changes. In this issue of Riigikogu Toimetised, you can read an interesting conversation circle of the members of the Riigikogu, where the story of the formation of the identity of Estonians is discussed.
In this issue, Professor Raivo Vetik analyses the defiing of the Estonian state identity among the Russian-speaking population of Estonia and the Estonians. The researchers defie the state identity of the Russian-speaking population of Estonia as their social orientation, which is characterised by attaching importance to belonging among the people of Estonia, valuing the rights and obligations connected with it and adopting the important symbols of the state of Estonia. The author reaches an interesting conclusion that there are more people with strong state identity among the Russian-speaking population than among the Estonians. Another conclusion is that the respondents with strong state identity had more contacts with the representatives of other nations than the respondents with weak state identity.
This conclusion matches the essay “Estonia’s Tethered Space-Time” by Ahto Lobjakas, which the reader can also fid in this issue. “…only by defiing itself through an individual, opening its ground and space to the autonomy of an individual, the Estonian state can last in time and space in today’s Europe. The real strength of a state lies in the ability (and will) of freely acting individuals to reconstruct or recreate it continuously from the bottom up.”
Probably it is not in the interests of the future of our country to be exclusive in the issue of what our fellow citizens should look like. But it is – thinking of the great book “Psychology of Political Struggle” by Anatoly Zimichev – very important which content we give to such universal categories as beauty, truth, welfare and prosperity. These are general human categories, but in different communities or societies their content can be very different.