Who Is an Estonian? A Glimpse into the Story of the Identity of a Nation
The traditional Riigikogu Toimetised conversation circle on 23 November discussed the identity of the Estonians. Mart Nutt (Pro Patria and Res Publica Union), Jüri Adams (Free Party), Aadu Must (Centre Party), Marianne Mikko (Social Democratic Party) and Martin Helme (Conservative People’s Party) took part in the conversation circle. Laine Randjärv (Reform Party) sent her positions in writing.
Each person with at least one Estonian parent or even grandparent can say that he or she is an Estonian, even if that person has dark skin or slanting eyes. But we cannot follow the model of multiculturalism or make large generalisations that an Estonian can be curly-haired and black-skinned, because then the Estonian is unrecognisably changed in comparison to what they have been during the last several thousand years.
In the course of history, many wounded foreign soldiers have been picked up from the battlefilds in Estonia. Thanks to good Estonian women, they learned to speak Estonian. Today we have started to speak more of the civil society and not so much of the nation state. Old values naturally have to be respected, and we must never forget that the Estonian national culture is based on Christian moral and all our experiences, knowledge and education together.
When I was young, it was said about those who were a little different that they do not really belong among us. But by the time we restored our independence, the Estonians had become the opposite of that – all people who wanted to be with us and in whom some similarity was recognised, were considered as belonging among us. During my lifetime, I have seen the positive development that the general feeling of inferiority, which accompanied the formation of our nation, has diminished and by now it has to a great extent disappeared.
The formation of the Estonian nation has followed the same typical path as the formation of other nations of Central and Eastern Europe. I believe that the person who considers himself or herself an Estonian is an Estonian. Or, I am using not an objective defiition of nationality, but a subjective defiition of nationality, where the origin of a person is in my opinion of no importance at all.
A black-skinned person holding the Estonian passport is naturally an Estonian. In my opinion, we should think about why we have lately started to use the term “guesthouse”. In Võru, where I was born and grew up, there was a guesthouse, and it was a rather horrible place, because strangers, and not guests, used it. We should solve the question of what kind of Estonia we want. I believe we want a strong Estonia where the population is not smaller than it is now, with 1.3 million people. Therefore we have to be open, tolerant and accept all those who want to be among us.
It seems to me that those who are interested in stimulating the fiht for Estonian patriotism, which had almost come to a standstill, have today found a new “instrument” in the refugee issue. Being an Estonian is an inherent value for an Estonian. In bilingual families, where one parent is an Estonian and the other is not, children have to make a choice between being an Estonian and being something else. But I would rather like to ask – are the small interest in education and the Englishlanguage cultural space that comes to us through pop music and computer games not the things that threaten the Estonian language as such? English abbreviations and loanwords in our sentence and letters spoil our language in the same way as the Russian language used to do.