The Estonian Village, Village Leaders, Local Governments and the State
A local initiative workgroup, set up in the Riigikogu in 2001 on the initiative of the Kodukant Small Town and Village Movement, ordered a survey of relations between villages, village leaders, local governments and the state to clarify the need – on a background of regional policy, administrative reform and processes tied with European integration – to regulate by law the activity of village leadership.
Social and cultural aspects of the study: Contemporary people’s territorial identity determines in many respects what they believe in and what beliefs they act upon. A time of shifting spiritual values has now arrived. Experts feel the future of the Estonian village as a state of mind requires, ranked in order of effectiveness, the introduction of new traditions, the preservation of old traditions, growing people’s capacity for initiative, collective responsibility, feeling of unity, generational continuity and capacity for collective action. Rural society must be re-socialized – transformed into units that act in concert. The question is, what are the indicators of village life? Village elders are respected individuals. The neglected village level should be part of future reform plans as administrative reforms continue.
With EU membership looming, it is unclear what will become of the 176,000 rural households and 85,300 farms as family homesteads. Legislative regulation of the functions of village elders and small towns is of the highest importance. Estonia is ready for a social contract to this end.