Ab Imperio, 3/2007

Vello PETTAI

THE CONSTRUCTION OF STATE IDENTITY AND ITS LEGACIES: LEGAL RESTORATIONISM IN ESTONIA*

In the vast majority of political and historical analyses of the Baltic states from the 1990s, scholars have tended to stress the legacies of the Soviet era as one of the most salient problems faced by these peoples.1 The fragility of the Balts’ post-authoritarian political culture, the lack of a market economy, and a low level of social trust were just some of the challenges said to have been inherited from a half-century of Soviet rule. By analogy, the major task faced during the 1990s was to generate pathways out of this predicament, to build new political systems, market economies and civil societies.
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I am grateful to the reviewers of this article for their comments. It would be beyond the available space in this article to list all the works on the Baltic states reflecting this trend, but among those on Estonia see: Toivo Raun. Estonia and the Estonians. Stanford, Calif., 1991; Rein Taagepera. Estonia: Return to Independence. Boulder, 1993; Wolfgang Drechsler. Estonia in Transition // World Affairs. 1995. Vol. 157. Pp. 111-18; Marju Lauristin and Peeter Vihalemm. Recent Historical Developments in Estonia: Three Stages of Transition (1987-1997) // Marju Lauristin, Peeter Vihalemm, Karl Erik Rosengren and Lennart Weibull (Ed.). Return to the Western World: Cultural and Political Perspectives on the Estonian Post-Communist Transition. Tartu, 1997; Mikko Lagerspetz. Consolidation as Hegemonization: The Case of Estonia // Journal of Baltic Studies. 2001. Vol. 32. Pp. 402-20; David J. Smith. Estonia: Independence and European Integration. New York, 2001.

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Vol. This article will offset this focus on purely Soviet-era legacies by arguing that some of the problems faced by the Balts in the 1990s were of their own making to the extent that they derived from the specific choice of a “legal restorationist” form of state identity and the quandaries that this doctrine created on its own. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. however. In others. Vol.” 23-24 September 2004. property restitution. Tunne Kelam declared at the launching of the Citizens’ Committees’ movement on 24 February 1989: The only rope. H. who they claimed were citizens of the interwar republic or their descendants. The Committees held firmly to the belief that because Estonia (along with the other Baltic states) had been illegally occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. 1985. Robert A. The aim of this article is to re-examine these trajectories in light of subsequent events as well as emerging memoirs and archival information The key protagonist in this tale of state identity construction is the movement known as the Citizens’ Committees and its subsequent Congress of Estonia. In this respect. Pp. 247-262. an important dimension missing from this debate involves contrasting the different visions of statehood put forward during the independence struggle and thereby gaining a clearer understanding of how particular the choice of legal restorationism as a state identity would be. but for a specific kind of independence based on an official restoration of statehood with many specific consequences resulting therefrom. The Citizens’ Committees made their strongest appearance as a social movement in the summer of 1989 when they began an unprecedented grassroots campaign to register those people. 1993.2 Although awareness of how the Baltic states have always claimed that they restored their states in 1991 and that they are not Soviet successor states or French style Second republics is widespread. political development. Vol. 329-348. the Committees maintained that Estonia did not have to involve itself with the democratization process of the Soviet Union nor should it under any circumstances “request” independence from Moscow. 6. 4 This article draws on the concluding chapter of my PhD dissertation: Framing the Past as Future: The Power of Legal Restorationism in Estonia / Ph. in some cases efforts to find a way out of these legacies or consequences have been successful.3 surprising little analysis has been done of how this mindset actually came about. 1987. All of this thinking emerged over the course of particular political struggles and political framings of historical events. few would have answered in the affirmative. 301-533. dissertation. 3 Scholarly works include: William J. 24. Columbia University. if one had asked the average Balt in 1985 (the year Mikhail Gorbachev came to power) what is “legal continuity” or whether their inter-war republics still exist as internationally recognized states. Pettai. I will detail the actual legacies left by legal restorationism following independence. or the subsequent activities of the government led by Edgar Savisaar as it began the long process of extricating the country from Soviet rule. the only way out of this situation was to end this occupation and allow Estonia (along with Latvia and Lithuania) to resume their statehood as a direct continuation from that year. nationalism. and post-imperial decolonialism). The ways in which activists from these organizations propagated a new state consciousness different from the more moderate vision of the Estonian Popular Front at the time will be described in a first section. Arno Liivak.. Vitas. Stockholm. Soviet Responses to Western Nonrecognition of Baltic Annexation // Journal of Baltic Studies. one can pinpoint key moments where the tenets of legal restorationism arose and would eventually determine Estonian state identity. An earlier version was presented at the conference “Inheriting the 1990s: the Baltic Countries. The Annexation of the Baltic States and Its Effect on the Development of Law Prohibiting Forcible Seizure of Territory // New York Law School Journal of International and Comparative Law. Pp. 3/2007 The Struggle over State Identity While the history of Estonia’s independence struggle of the 1990s has been analyzed from a number of theoretical perspectives (including democratic transition. territorial borders. D. its defeat of the Estonian Communist Party during the first free elections of 1990.. As will become apparent. In most accounts of this period the activities of the Estonian Popular Front are highlighted in terms of either the movement’s ability to organize mass rallies.V. In the second and main part of the paper. For. and proceed from that basis to demand an immediate end to the occupation. the continuity of the legal. It had simply to insist on the fundamental illegality of its presence in the USSR. These I will break down into six different areas: ethnopolitics. historiography. which we can hold onto as we go through this dangerous swamp is our historical continuity. See references in footnote 1. the complications remain. In one of the most powerful motivational calls for legal restorationism. 2 3 . III Hough. of how Estonian political thinking evolved during this period. The Recognition of Lithuania: The Completion of the Legal Circle // Journal of Baltic Studies. and popular culture. The idea was reconstitute the legal “citizenry” of Estonia based on those people who had been citizens at the moment of Soviet occupation along with their descendants (who were also therefore citizens based on the principle of jus sanguinis).4 Taking a broader view. 2004. 2 Ab Imperio. Pp. Much less did these people have the sense that when democratization began in the Soviet Union they would eventually be fighting not just for independence. 18.

but also building a place for Estonia in a world much changed since 1940 would be more complicated if the new realities were not addressed. They did not proclaim. the difference between the Committees and the Front lay not only in tactics. Swedes.V. March 9. but also in substance. ise vastan // Maaleht. for example. P. and feel as if things weren’t so bad. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. including averting the danger of a pseudo-transition to democracy. it is especially important to follow the correct goal and lay stress on the real problems. 6 Marju Lauristin. If we let go of this rope or if we forget about its existence. 5. Saadikukandidaat Marju Lauristin: Ise küsin. the Committees contested the more cautious orientation of the Popular Front. As Kelam would state in the same May 1989 interview: Our point of departure is not Estonian ethnicity. our courage and determination. for 7 8 Tunne Kelam. the challenges of rebuilding Estonian society after five decades of Soviet rule were viewed as simply too great to be written off purely as occupation. the Committees saw in legal restorationism a way of rupturing all possible links to the Soviet Union and Russia. who registered.6 Yet. our purity. All of this depends on us.5 In this vein. then we are lost…. Jews. Tunne Kelam. Ibid. Rather. In 5 Ab Imperio. This rope must be secured to poles. 652. legal restorationism offered a clearer way of dealing with the damages inflicted on Estonia by the Soviet era – in particular. the large influx of Soviet-era immigrants to the republic. Secondly. And the courage of a proper conviction will guarantee a continuity of struggle and the achievement of one’s goals.8 For the Popular Front. P. P. This is the raison d’être of the Citizens’ Committees movement. 13. The more the Soviet era could be completely discredited and expunged from consideration. 4 5 . While in their hearts the leaders of the Front agreed with the notion of Soviet occupation and did not deny the plausibility of the Committees’ legalistic claims. would contend in March 1989: Such appeals generally bring to mind a situation in a swampy forest. which believed that Estonia’s independence and longerterm survival lay in a democratization of the entire Soviet Union. 3/2007 doing so we could enjoy the sunshine of liberalization and democratization. the Committees saw their vision as securing a resolute break with the Soviet past. Eesti Vabariik kui reaalsus // Looming. And moral force will guarantee courage. but Republic of Estonia citizenship. as a political strategy. For example. We are being offered a chance to sit in this swamp on the first clump of grass. which encompassed some 8% Russians. 1989. independent Estonian state. they considered legal restorationism naïve and at times even reckless. At the most basic level. it should be pointed out that Committee activists generally did not use nationalist or ethnically-based arguments when propagating the advantages of restorationism. a co-leader of the Front.. that restorationism would return political control to ethnic Estonians by excluding Soviet-era immigrants from automatic citizenship (as would later be the case). along hard ground. but with the understanding that the movement itself was about returning power to the citizens of the pre-war Republic. Germans.” But in order to get to such fields it is possible only to go around. Not only would extrication itself from the Soviet Union be more difficult with this kind of stance. 1989. the more secure independence and democracy would be. since as in any situation of life and death. where there is very beautiful grass-covered bog. our choices. Kõne EMS ja ERSP korraldatud Eesti Vabariigi 71 aastapäeva aktusel Estonia kontserdisaalis // Eve Pärnaste (Ed. Pettai. whose task it is to determine the circle of people eligible to decide [Estonia’s future]. 647. however. “Come quickly. Someone beckons from the other side. if we give into weakness and sit down on a stump in the swamp in order to rest and taste the berries growing there. come straight over. which would simply be controlled by ex-communist nomenklatura. in a May 1989 interview Tunne Kelam continued the indirect exchange of nature metaphors with Marju Lauristin. Tallinn. which have been driven deep into a moral foundation.). this turn of events was only implied by the nature of the Committees’ campaign to register mainly pre-war citizens and their descendants and to offer “applicant” status to non-citizens. In October 1989. 262. But in doing this we could well condemn ourselves to death. P. In this respect. No. and that Estonia would not be able to avoid a serious period of negotiation and accommodation with the Kremlin. Eesti Kongress: Siis ja praegu. etc…. As Marju Lauristin.. the Committees were always open to Soviet-era immigrants registering with them. Interestingly enough. 1989. where there are even some quite flavorful berries. because the correct choice will guarantee purity and moral force. as if some change had really taken place in our lives.7 In particular. since in the minds of the Committees’ activists history had proven that Estonia (and the other Baltic states) would not be safe if left in Moscow’s shadow.

Tallinn. This event again laid down the gauntlet for the Popular Front. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. as part of Estonia’s final transition to independence. which in turn would act as a representative body on behalf of the restorationist doctrine. It ignores existing power structures as well as the de facto situation.. during which delegates adopted a number of declarations reiterating Estonia’s occupied status and insisting that only legal restoration could solve the Estonian (Baltic) question. To this day.V. 3/2007 actual March 30 re-independence declaration. Eestimaa Rahvarinde valimisplatvorm. and proceeding thereafter to hold free elections on February 24 for a 499-member Congress of Estonia. the restorationists’ most fundamental point of departure was proclaimed. the important point from the standpoint of state identity was that the movement had been able to put restorationism firmly on Estonia’s political agenda. The Estonian SSR Supreme Soviet affirms that the occupation of the Republic of Estonia by the USSR on June 17. the Front issued an electoral platform.9 Plainly drawing a line in the sand. this is exactly how the Estonian Foreign Ministry would proceed with its task of formalizing relations with other states: it would insist that all protocols speak of ‘restoring’ relations. 9 Ibid. where Estonia had previously had them in 1940. 11 Eestimaa Rahvarinne. 1990.11 From this point on.000 people by early 1990. example. As the Estonian Supreme Soviet debated the wording of its final declaration of independence. this was not a problem for the restorationists. 1992. 6 7 . P. when the attempted conservative coup in Moscow opened the way for a definitive leap to freedom in the Baltic states. In this respect. Eesti NSV Ülemnõukogu otsus Eesti riiklikust staatusest // Mart Laar. on the level of state identity the tone was set by the legal restorationists. Rather it sets as its goal arriving at a new Republic of Estonia… which while being the legal heir to the first republic will nonetheless not be entirely the same. Tallinn. P. 12 Indeed. The territory of the Republic of Estonia continues to be occupied to this day. In the declaration’s very first sentence.12 To be sure. which would draw up a new constitution and have it ratified by referendum on June 28. the Congress itself was convened on March 11-12. which was destroyed in 1940. and instead the final declaration not only reiterated the legal continuity of the pre-war Republic. However.). instead reducing the entire problem simply to one of de jure [principles] and ascribing to individual formalistic-juridical steps exaggerated decisive significance. the platform declared. Pettai. which meanwhile had focused its attention on upcoming elections for the Estonian Supreme Soviet in the belief that this was where the real power lay and where negotiations with Moscow on independence could be better prepared. Likewise not in terms of its ethnic composition. it was decided to convene a special Constitutional Assembly. neither in terms of its economic structure. When the elections succeeded without a hitch. even though the March 18 elections would see the Popular Front take control of the Soviet legislature as well as form the next government (under Edgar Savisaar). since they argued that the continuity of Estonian statehood rested in the continuity of its citizenry. For the Citizens’ Committees. during the weeks and months to follow. these principles would serve as a touchstone for the continuing struggle between the Committees and the Front. It was this groundwork which therefore allowed the restorationists to spring into action in August 1991. Eeslava. 1989. 1940 has not interrupted the existence of the Republic of Estonia de jure. their Herculean efforts at registering and mobilizing prewar citizens had finally paid off in terms of ultimately registering over 600. efforts by members of Edgar Savisaar’s government to cast aside legal restorationism failed. but it also called on other states “to restore” their diplomatic ties with Estonia. who were able to get their principles enshrined in Estonia’s 9 10 Ab Imperio. 16. P.. All Soviet-era immigrants (and their descendants) would henceforth have to choose either to become naturalized Estonian citizens (including passing a specific EstoEesti NSV Ülemnõukogu. 560. In contrast to the Estonian National Independence Party [one of the main initiators of the Citizens’ Committees]. the country did not automatically revert to its last constitution from 1938 (as Latvia did in relation to its 1922 constitution). Yet.10 It was this struggle of ideas and frames that would carry over into 1990. And this restoration was completed on 7 November 1991 when the Estonian Supreme Soviet passed an official resolution recognizing only prewar citizens and their descendants as automatic citizens. the [restorationist] bloc lacks a program for building up a new Estonia after independence. Urmas Ott and Sirje Endre (Eds. Although it was very much the case that during 1990 and 1991 the strength of the Committees (and the Congress of Estonia) declined rapidly. property relations nor societal organization. the Popular Front does not consider it possible to restore the Republic of Estonia. as both movements approached important electoral milestones. which openly criticized the Citizens’ Committees for their simplicity and instead declared that a new Estonia was inevitable.

on citizenship it would have admittedly been difficult to argue in favor of wholesale automatic citizenship for the Soviet-era immigrants and their descendants (who amounted to some 30% of the population). Vol. Indeed. Ethnic Schism and Consolidation of PostCommunist Democracies: the Case of Estonia // Communist and Post-Communist Studies. However. 167-178. 1992. restorationism came to serve many different purposes. Graham Smith and Andrew Wilson. Rein Ruutsoo. Pp. This was an entirely separate choice. the principles for carrying out property restitution might have been less extensive or disregarded all together. 383-388. nian language and civics test). Legal Restorationism and Ethnopolitics Estonia’s dramatic ethnopolitical transformation after the adoption of a restorationist citizenship policy has been one of the most important dimensions of legal restorationism to be scrutinized by scholars and observers alike. National Radicalization in Estonia: Legislation on Citizenship and Related Issues // Nationalities Papers. Motyl (Ed. 1993. The Legacies of Legal Restorationism The decision by Estonia’s politicians to enact a restorationist citizenship policy was but one of many steps that carried the idea of restoration farther than merely representing a certain way of re-gaining independence from Moscow. Vol. Aland Islands Peace Institute. In this sense. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. but not be extended to citizenship. Pp. Vol. Vol. 379-392.. For example. The Ethnic Democracy Thesis and The Citizenship Question in Estonia and Latvia // Nationalities Papers. state continuity under international law is not defined by the need for an integrity of property ownership over time. Pettai. adopt Russian Federation citizenship or remain stateless. 127-141. Pp. 1994. 2. or a combination of these different options. Pp. 1992. Vol. Thinking Theoretically about Soviet Nationalities: History and Comparison in the Study of the USSR. When Democracy and the Nationstate Are Competing Logics: Reflections on Estonia // European Journal of Sociology. the cascade toward full restorationism proved increasingly difficult to stop. Vol. Outbidding to Radical Nationalists: Minority Policy in Estonia 1988-1993 // Nations and Nationalism. These included offering automatic citizenship to those non-citizens born in Estonia (out of a limited application of the legal principle of jus solis). 49. 271-281. 24. Colin W Mettam and Stephen Wyn Williams. 22. Jeff Chinn 9 . Pp. requiring all non-citizens to naturalize but making this a more token ceremony of loyalty. Hank Johnston. It is to these consequences that we now turn. 95104. Jr. Pp. allowing simplified naturalization during an initial period of 6 months after independence but then tightening the rules for later applicants.13 Although previously it was noted that restorationist activists rarely appealed 13 Charles F. The Emergence of Nationalist Politics in the USSR: A Comparison of Estonia and the Ukraine // Alexander J. Vol. Vol. 31. 3/2007 it would help Estonia separate itself faster from its recent Soviet past. 1994. The Domestic and International Consequences of Citizenship in the Soviet Successor States // Europe-Asia Studies. Rethinking Russia’s Post-Soviet Diaspora: the Potential for Political Mobilisation in Eastern Ukraine and North-east Estonia // EuropeAsia Studies. 35. Internal Colonialism and Cultural Divisions of Labour in the Soviet Republic of Estonia // Nations and Nationalism. not all of these were as unambiguous in their consequences as simple state continuity. Pp. Vol. Pp. 23. 731-763. that it would restore the glory days of the inter-war republic more easily than trudging into the future as an ex-Soviet republic. Lowell Barrington. Yet. 1998. Vol. Raivo Vetik. 47. 4. A real understanding of how legal restorationism as a doctrine came to pervade Estonian politics emerges when one lists all of the subsequent extensions of the principle and. and that it represented almost a kind of policy model for post-communist transition.. 845-864. borders or popular culture.V. Pp. Alfred Stepan. Peet Kask. Edgar Kaskla. Furtado and Michael Hechter. Pp. 1998. Restorationism in its extended form became imbued with a perception that 8 Ab Imperio. Five Nationalism: Estonian Nationalism in Comparative Perspective // Journal of Baltic Studies. 1997. Rather. realizes the extent to which each of these was not in and of itself inevitable.). 1996. which would have been less dramatic than full denial of automatic citizenship and yet wholly consistent with the principle of state restoration. These were the kinds of arguments raised by leaders of the Popular Front during 1991 and 1992. Working Paper. Vol. 213-234. property rights. 30. 1993. But at the same time there were many intermediate variations of policy. Pp. 1995. 1996. 57-74. Raivo Vetik. 2000. in a counterfactual world one can entirely imagine how the legal restorationist doctrine might have been left to serve as simply a way to argue re-independence from the Soviet Union. The Comparative Study of Nationalism: Six Pivotal Themes from the Baltic States // Journal of Baltic Studies. Graham Smith. 23. Geoffrey Evans. Lee Kendall Metcalf. Likewise. New York. Pp. Vol. 199-216. in fact. since nothing in the concept of demanding an end to Soviet occupation required that Soviet-nationalized property be equally returned to its owners of 50 years earlier. 42. when legal restorationism began to make its incursions into fields beyond the area of simply ending illegal Soviet rule. 1992. Ethnic Conflict and Accommodation in Post-Communist Estonia // Journal of Peace Research. Transitional Society and Social Movements in Estonia 1987-1991 // Proceedings of the Estonian Academy of Sciences: Humanities and Social Sciences. 195-214. Democratic Multiculturalism: A New Model of National Integration.

with sizeable numbers of non-citizens (mostly minorities) participating in all five local polls from 1993 to 2005. New York. Globalisation. which Estonia had derived from legal restorationism. there were still some 275. 16 Vello Pettai and Klara Hallik. 2003. they repeated this performance.g. 505-529. Yet. 1996. 8. over the next few years these numbers would recover somewhat. and Lisa Truex.000 non-citizens.000 were “of undetermined citizenship” or in essence stateless persons.15 Out of a total population of 1. Estonia did initiate a large-scale integration program in 1997.. and Citizenship – Prospects for the European Union. in terms of political participation minorities were gaining a foothold.2001/Database/Rahvaloendus/06Kodakondsus/ 06Kodakondsus. Vol.). which attracted over 2 million dollars in foreign aid support and which also did much to promote Estonian language learning and even non-citizen naturalization. as well as the European Union.000 had Russian Federation citizenship and over 170. minority cultural organizations). The restrictive citizenship policy. At the same time. 1998.000 people who received citizenship as a result of having registered in 1989-90 with the Citizens’ Committees as citizenship applicants. despite the minority population constituting some 35% of the general population. Ab Imperio.6%. Prospects for Multiethnic Democracy in Europe: Debating Minority Integration in Estonia // Jordi Ferrer and Marisa Iglesias (Ed. Politics. Dependency and Cooptation in Post-communist Estonia // Nations and Nationalism. For them. vanuse ja rahvuse järgi. Pp.000 non-citizens were naturalized. 10 11 .. of these some 86. which might indicate how many non-ethnic Estonians had citizenship at this point. Indeed. By 2003. Statehood. 3/2007 This rebound in minority presence was reflected also in a rise (albeit slow) in the number of non-ethnic-Estonian citizens.). 7. Identity in Formation: The Russian-Speaking Populations in the Near Abroad. Vol. David D Laitin. Still.000 people (mostly Russian-speakers) actually left Estonia for Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Wien. Understanding Processes of Ethnic Control: Segmentation. along with a number of non-Estonians gaining seats via Estonian parties. This was in part due to the fact that during 1992-2002 over 120. Thus. But public opinion polls from this period (for instance. this desired pendulum swing back toward Estonian domination of the political system became blatantly clear following the first post-independence elections to the Riigikogu in 1992. Likewise. to alter Estonia’s citizenship and other ethnic policies (e. when not a single deputy of non-Estonian origin was elected and not even a single Russian party stood on the ballot. 133-147. See http:// gatekeeper. Law.14 Of course. these did not change the balance of power in any significant way. Ithaca. Last time consulted October 10. the EU’s Eurobarometer surveys from 1992-1994) indicate that non-Estonians constituted somewhere around just 10% of citizenry. roughly 40% of Estonia’s minority representatives were citizens. In 1999. Additionally. this balance was doubly striking since throughout the 1990s it remained largely impervious to efforts even by such actors as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. 2007.8% of the citizenry. on language. Latvia and Lithuania. The Baltic States: The National Self-Determination of Estonia. Estonia was still far from being an inclusive democracy. While Estonia made some concessions in terms of giving non-citizens the right to vote in local elections as well as allowing stateless children to gain automatic citizenship. Democracy. a coalition of Russian parties won 6 seats in the 101-seat Riigikogu. the Russian parties suffered a split and therefore failed to make the 5% electoral threshold. Michael Geistlinger and Aksel Kirch. and Morality: European Perspectives I. Estonia A New Framework for the Estonian Majority and the Russian Minority. a decision by the 1992 Constitutional Assembly to accord non-citizens the right to vote in municipal elections was successfully implemented throughout the 1990s. Pp. 2002. Vello Pettai. according to a census carried out in 2000.16 15 Eesti Statistikaamet. a total of 7 non-Estonians were elected via Estonian parties. 1994. The Question of Citizenship in the Baltics // Journal of Democracy. Already in 1995. Berlin. the overall proportion of minorities in the population fell to 32% and Russians to just 25. had cut down the number of non-ethnic-Estonian citizens so severely that there was no meaningful minority electorate to speak of. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. Pp. directly to ethnopolitical or nationalist arguments in order to gain support for their doctrine. which in turn was seen as the only way to provide a guarantee for the survival and vitality of the Estonian nation after decades of Soviet subjugation.37 million.stat. the proportion of citizens among the minority population rose because during 1989-1994 close to 100. These included some 25. some had also established official Russian sub-sections within these parties. Graham Smith.ee:8000/px-web. minorities continued to comprise only 15. minority education. the restoration of the Republic of Estonia was meant to restore also the spirit of Estonian nation-statehood. Moreover. and that they implicitly saw this as one of the ideology’s inherent justifications. 53-81. 14 No formal statistics exist.V. Ethnic Relations and Citizenship // Graham Smith (Ed. 1995..asp. Pettai. During the 2003 parliamentary elections. there is little doubt that these leaders were aware of the severe ethnopolitical consequences that their program would have. Rahvastik kodakondsuse. They did not in any way alter the bedrock principle of Estonian nation-statehood. et al. on a conceptual level the terms for this minority integration (as written in the official policy document) were largely Estonian-centered. Thus.

ee/index. this was of little comfort for most tenants. During the parliamentary debates of 1991. 18 Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia.18 This measure laid down a number of provisions. To be sure. Instead. Law of the Republic of Estonia on the Bases of Property Reform // Advig Kiris (Ed. See http://www. for it proceeded logically from the entire principle of reversing the occupation. Last time consulted October 10. they argued that a rapid restoration of private ownership would speed economic development.000 people. for example. 21 Essentially. 2003. the European Union ultimately acquiesced in accepting these policies as part of Estonia’s accession to the Union.000 by the time the whole process was over. Yet.V. the 5000 residential dwellings that were restituted after 1991 contained some 22. Eesti Agenda 21. local government officials spent innumerable hours reviewing these claims as well as gathering additional archival documents in order to decide each case. Last time consulted October 10. defined the circle of eligible claimants extremely broadly. Ülevaade erastamisväärtpaberite väljaandmisest ja kasutamisest. to receive compensation for it. a total of 8.).000 plots of land (equaling some 1. Indeed. 20 This represented about half of all vouchers (including privatization vouchers). the Estonian parliament repeatedly adopted laws extending the rights of “forced tenants” to go on living in their apartments without fear of direct eviction by landlords. Estonia’s legal restorationism in the domain of ethnopolitics also achieved an astounding victory in foreign policy.” This meant that within a few months a cascade of claims began rolling into local government offices 17 Ab Imperio. in the event of the property having been lost or destroyed. including the spouse of a child of a previous owner. which entitled all owners of property nationalized by the Soviet authorities in 1940 to apply for the return of this property or. Yet now under a restorationist policy of property reform these people become “forced” tenants. when in June 1991 the Supreme Council passed the Bases of Property Reform Act. according to one Estonian analyst. Ülevaade erastamisväärtpaberite väljaandmisest ja kasutamisest.ee/index. Tõnis Palts and Aare Järvan.).22 Thus. Estonia and Latvia: International Influences on Citizenship and Minority Integration // Alex Pravda and Jan Zielonka (Ed.. in some cases for over 40 years.php?id=6971. restorationists argued that the quick restitution of property was the only just course of action. At no point did Brussels (or any individual EU member state) ever threaten to veto Tallinn’s membership if the latter did not abandon legal restorationism. however. However. Pettai.20 The policy had in one way or another affected hundreds of thousands of people. since many still feared doomsday. 1991.27 billion Estonian kroons (or roughly 600 million US dollars) worth of compensation vouchers were issued by the Estonian state. 12 13 .2 million hectares) were ultimately restituted by the middle of 2003. See http://www. for despite various expressions of concern over Estonia’s ethnic policies (beginning already in the early 1990s). although even here the question remained as to whether one person’s justice was another’s injustice. during the Soviet period these same people had been tenants already. a total of over 5000 residential dwellings and 171. In addition. Mihkel Pärnoja and Aare Järvan. the proportions of the property restitution issue were very much in the league of. as most people living in Soviet-built flats did. Legal Restorationism and Property Restitution A second important legacy of legal restorationism to manifest itself as direct policy concerned property restitution. the citizenship issue if one reckons that in connection with each residential dwelling there might be 2-3 descendant owners. 1991 until which all previous owners could file restitution claims. The June 1991 law established a deadline of December 31. International Influences on Democratic Transition in Central and Eastern Europe. Tallinn.17 Instead.21 Yet. 2003..). since the vast majority of 19 Vello Pettai. Indeed. in the sense that they no longer had an option to privatize their apartment. which would be distributed in Estonia.php?id=1920. many of these people now faced possible eviction if they did not get along with their new (old) landlord. most of all the policy affected those people who lived in restituted residential dwellings and who suddenly became “forced tenants” in the homes and apartments where they had been living. they were tenants of the Soviet state. The law.fin.19 Throughout the 1990s. Tallinn. The identity was too entrenched. 2002. Moreover. Elamumajandus // Ahto Oja and Anto Raukas (Ed. Oxford. Restoration of the Independence of the Republic of Estonia: Selection of Legal Acts (1988-1991). 3/2007 across Estonia – some 220. action in this sphere began even before independence was regained. only the first assertion was partially vindicated. During the 1990s.500 families or upwards of 100. as well as the grandchildren of a previous owner and “other descending relatives. Lastly. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. the EU sought only minor changes – most likely because it realized that this was one area in which the Estonians would not compromise. each with their own families. 22 Krista Loogma. In addition. While many claims were dismissed for lack of substantiating evidence. 2001.fin. landlords were forbidden from forcing out old tenants except through mutual consent.

and therefore represented its own domain of legal restorationist legacy. Eesti Kongressi otsus riigipiirist // Eve Pärnaste (Ed. This was not very difficult. meaning Estonian forces had actually come very close to both St. for example. Estonians. In particular. and about 30 kilometers southeast of the town of Petseri in the area south of the Lake. since as a former leading activist in the Congress of Esto26 Since most Russians in Estonia were Soviet-era settlers. in my view this argument overlooks the point that by definition restitution could only have involved in the main ethnic Estonians. therefore. i. either because they had been given this housing immediately after the war. “The land boundary of Estonia is determined by the Tartu Peace Treaty of 2 February 1920 and by other international boundary agreements. 27 Eesti Kongress. the idea that legal restorationism could engender the return of approximately 2000 square kilometers of Estonian territory taken away by Stalin in 1945 was enough to cause plenty of domestic political turmoil during the 1990s. instead. the issue itself became one of principle for the legal restorationists. and in the south the entire area beyond Petseri was relinquished to Russia along with the town itself. 14 15 . legal restorationism had not actually healed any wounds. in the aftermath of Soviet annexation in 1940. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. Following the restoration of independence. 49. 1993. Yet. then the nature of Estonia’s relations with Russia as well as its borders with Russia were also seen as built upon this accord. the restorationists succeeded in securing a version of §122. had often ended up in pre-war apartment buildings. was over 50% Estonian (as opposed to 5% today). since they were the ones who had owned the property before the Soviet occupation itself. the entire property restitution policy had in fact pitted Estonian against Estonian. and that it therefore had no bearing on future Estonian-Russian relations.24 Legal Restorationism and Territorial Borders The one area in which success for legal restorationism would not come was Estonia’s territorial border with the Russian Federation. Pp. Needless to say. Stalin decided to use the period of chaos in order to effect an abrupt shift in the borders of both Estonia and Latvia in favor of the Russian Federation. However. Tallinn.V. and by the late 1980s there were barely any Estonians left on these lands. 3/2007 Following 1920. a majority of them also lived in Soviet-built apartments. Pettai. Petersburg and Pskov before Lenin decided to make peace. Moreover.27 Finally. Estonia moved to better integrate these territories with the rest of the country.).. they were also heavily settled by Estonians. 25 Edgar Mattiisen. The government of Boris Yeltsin announced immediately that in its opinion the Tartu Peace Treaty had become defunct with Estonia’s entry by the Soviet Union. In formal terms. Eesti Kongress: Siis ja praegu. Still. Estonia’s war of independence during 1919 had in fact been even more successful than these boundaries.25 23 Ab Imperio. Eesti-Vene Piir. which stated. This put the center-right prime minister Mart Laar in a severe bind. The town of Petseri was also a mixed regional center. none of these actions was met with any appreciation in Moscow.3% of Estonian territory. In Estonia’s case. see Erik André Andersen The Legal Status of Russians in Estonian Privatisation Legislation 1989-1995 // Europe-Asia Studies. the final borders themselves were not entirely unfounded. the Tartu treaty had laid down the border between the two countries as running approximately 15 kilometers east of the Narva River in the area north of Lake Peipsi. the Congress of Estonia also took up the issue by adopting a two-page long declaration on Estonia’s state border. Vol. by contrast. these people were ethnic Estonian. Since one of the tenets of legal restorationism was that Estonia’s statehood actually dated back to the February 2..23 In this case. where members of the Estonian Defense League (or national guard) attempted to erect symbolic frontier markers at the site of the old border 10 kilometers east of Narva. 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty between Estonia and Soviet Russia. Although these areas contained a majority population of Russians.26 Although this boundary shift ultimately represented just 4.” Although this wording left open the possibility that some other treaty arrangement could still be worked out. during debates over Estonia’s new constitution in 1991-92.e. it nonetheless declared unequivocally that Estonia’s old borders represented the starting point for any negotiations. One of their first attempts to draw attention to their claim was a vigilante-style action on October 1990. 1997. the northern border was pushed back to the Narva River. 24 Erik André Andersen argues that property restitution was also carried out for clear ethnopolitical reasons. as well as Nazi German occupation during 1941-44. the transfer took place on the basis of decrees “passed” by the Estonian and Russian Supreme Soviet Presidiums. in which it demanded that the Estonian Supreme Soviet begin negotiations with the Russian Federation about a return of Estonia’s territories. 1991. For Andersen’s version. Thus. Tallinn. since the city of Narva. as a way of further marginalizing the Russian minority population. it had created new ones. but they did send a signal. These posts were soon removed by Soviet militia.. or simply because they preferred certain amenities in these buildings such as high ceilings or a garden. 303-316. which in most instances were still open in 2007. which they later freely privatized.

Estonia: Old Maps and New Roads // Journal of Democracy. Estonians were quite disposed to voting in September 1992 for more right-wing parties. he saw the need for a more pragmatic stance. Still. Yet now in government. when in May 2005 Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and his Russian counterpart. they even put indirect pressure on Estonia to drop its claims by stressing within the context of NATO and the European Stability Pact that the countries of Europe should not have any “outstanding border disputes” with their neighbors. more hardline forces within Laar’s Fatherland bloc. Thus. During the treaty’s ratification process in the Estonian Riigikogu. 4. Sergei Lavrov. The election winner. Res Publica had just recently resigned from government and had gone into the opposition. It therefore saw its statement as an easy opportunity to play the role of valiant defender of the national interest and score political points with more nationalist voters. Pp. 405-33. who were a blend of Russian and Finnic cultures on the southeast border of Estonia. attempted to insist that from its perspective nothing had changed in terms of the treaty. Legal Restorationism and Political Development Although arguably more indirect in its consequences than property restoration or foreign policy. as well as the leaders of Estonian Christian Union. Moscow served formal notice that it was withdrawing its signature from the accord as a sign of protest. 1993. 33 Vello Pettai. Trivimi Velliste. This message ultimately became clear to Tallinn as well. RTII. Yet this would not end the saga. Pp. Pettai. The Estonian National Independence Party was led by Tunne Kelam. Indeed.V. even after this scale-down.. but also once a treaty had been signed the doctrine prompted even that compromise to fail. Moreover. amidst the exhilaration of re-independence. this kind of 30 These groups represented a special ethnic group known as the Setu. Indeed. as many Western countries made it understood that they would not support Estonia on this score. legal restorationism also could be said to have contributed much to Estonia’s general political development during the 1990s in the direction of democratic consolidation and stability. along with the adoption of a new constitution and the completion of successful monetary reform (all during 1991-92). 32 Most prominent among them was Marju Lauristin. meanwhile. 1. 2005. 18. as well as the fifth-place finisher. there was no mention of the 1920 accord or of any legal continuity of the Estonian state. finally signed a border treaty. together with some grassroots organizations from alongside the southeastern border. No. The issue became an important one internationally. 3/2007 after the Riigikogu had approved the treaty. Eesti Vabariigi ja Vene Föderatsiooni vahelise Eesti–Vene riigipiiri lepingu ning Eesti Vabariigi ja Vene Föderatsiooni vahelise Narva ja Soome lahe merealade piiritlemise lepingu ratifitseerimise seadus // Riigi Teataja. but the situation would still need the political cover of a fall of the Laar government in autumn 1994. the Estonian National Independence Movement. Narratives and Political Development in the Baltic States: History Revised and Improvised // Ab Imperio. 2004. the Pro Patria coalition. deputies from the center-right Res Publica party succeeded in placing into the text of the ratification law a statement reiterating Estonia’s legal continuity despite the border changes. They were also known as strong supporters of Estonian independence. See also Vello Pettai. no less) that the country was willing to accept the current borders. Pp. in 1992 Estonia’s first post-independence elections brought to power a coalition of three parties. But in reality the doctrine of legal restorationism had served not only to delay a border treaty for over thirteen years. all of whom had roots in the Congress of Estonia. Barely a week 28 Ab Imperio. 59. there is little doubt that part of this orientation came from the strong position in Estonian politics that had been gained soon after independence by these same legal restorationist forces.28 put pressure on the government not to abandon the territorial demands. and the nomination of a caretaker administration under the Moderate Andres Tarand before Estonia would make an official announcement (during a visit by Tarand to Finland. was comprised essentially of those ex-Popular Front leaders who had sought cooperation with the Committees and later with the Congress. Estonia would continue to insist that any future border treaty with Russia would have to at least mention the Tartu Peace Accord. It gave them the feeling of further cleaning away the Soviet era and of finally beginning to decide Estonia’s new future. 31 The Pro Patria coalition included the main leaders of the Estonian Heritage Society. 11 July. While Estonia’s success as a market-reformed. 16 17 .. nia he had been wedded to a restorationist principle on borders. 29 Riigikogu. Illar Hallaste and Mart Laar. Tallinn.30 For example.29 In many respects this move was more party-political wrangling than a position of principle. were both direct descendants of the original Citizens’ Committees. Yet it clearly underestimated how risky this symbolic politics would be from Russia’s perspective. But this position was also eventually abandoned. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. it would go on to demand a whole re-opening of the treaty negotiations instead of a simple withdrawal of the Estonian statement.31 The third partner. 81-90. the Moderates. Vol.33 However.32 To be sure. pro-Western and eventual member of the European Union was due to a number of different factors.

In sum. 39 Arend Lijphart. when she helped engineer the miraculous compromise on independence between the Supreme Soviet and the Congress of Estonia. Oxford. Already in July 1991. 1977. and were thus much weaker when the country held its first postindependence elections in 1993. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. which was an amalgamation of former Latvia Popular Front leaders. The power of legal restorationism has persevered on this Rokkanesque level of political cleavage as well. Estonia’s relatively faster renewal of its political elite would not have happened had we not had that dialogue. Marju Lauristin: elus juhtub täpselt see. part of the explanation for Estonia’s developmental trajectory since 1992 lay very much in the fact that a legal restorationist movement emerged in 1989-1990. which through its mobilization and political success altered the makeup of Estonian political forces and in turn the future choices these forces would make. Pettai. the 32-year-old historian Mart Laar. this outcome was in contrast to neighboring Latvia. In retrospect. the Supreme Soviet and Congress of Estonia were still locked in fierce competition. Lauristin noted. but across Eastern Europe. July 24.37 Moreover. 35 A reference to Stein Rokkan. We have begun to understand that politics is a game played on a court. much of this reform endured despite changes in government thereafter. State Formation.35 Second. This represents a difference also in the political experience of Estonia [on the one hand] and Latvia and Lithuania [on the other]. became prime minister and began an extensive program of economic shock therapy. Institutional Engineering in Eastern Europe.. which created 34 Ab Imperio. 2000. mis juhtub // Postimees. and thereby contributing to a more mature foundation for democracy. since on a political-sociological level the existence of two strong movements meant that both sides of society – those who were more compliant with Soviet rule and those who had opposed it underground – were able to find their own outlet as well as eventually come together. and it was unique not only among the Baltic states. a onetime prominent leader of the Congress of Estonia. Without the restorationist movement this success would have been far less impressive. the winner was the centrist Latvia’s Way party. 1999. Marju Lauristin argued that this rivalry had at least been beneficial in terms of promoting an awareness of fair play among Estonian politicians. Reflecting on these events later in 2000.e.V. and Mass Politics in Europe: the Theory of Stein Rokkan Based on His Collected Works. Eesti Kongress: Siis ja praegu. Oxford. 2001. See his works in Peter Flora. 1999. 37 Vello Pettai.). Indeed. the popular-front-type organizations swallowed up the citizens’ committees and therefore democratic dialogue was minimal. i.39 Lauristin argued that a major socio-political cleavage generated during the Soviet era between conformists and dissidents had been successfully mitigated in Estonia thanks to the fact that both sides succeeded in become mobilized movements. 18 19 .36 Indeed.. Democracy in Plural Societies: a Comparative Exploration. before Estonia’s independence struggle was over. Moreover. which in turn created a Marju Lauristin. pro-Western integration and social transformation – all of which set Estonia on a decidedly different path from its southern Baltic neighbors.). for Lauristin this reconciliation was representative of society as a whole. Marju Lauristin // Eve Pärnaste (Ed. where you have to play based on agreed rules. where the leaders of a comparable restorationist movement were never able to achieve such comprehensive mobilization. but instead became a competition. then Estonian society received almost a kind of vaccination against extremist forces in the future.. an argument can been made that the existence of two rival political movements in Estonia during 1988-1991 also had a positive effect in terms of fostering a greater degree of consensualism among Estonian elites. the well-known Norwegian political scientist and examiner of state formation and social cleavages in Western Europe. it must be admitted that to the extent that the opposition between the two movements did not become one of simply running each other down. Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. despite the many deleterious aspects of legal restorationism for minority political participation and the structure of ethnopolitics. which led to the creation of a constitutional assembly. Tallinn. business leaders and émigré Latvians. Arend Lijphart. That compromise has been at the heart of Estonian democracy ever since. 1991. and how an experience such as this had prepared these forces for real electoral politics in 1992. In Latvia and Lithuania. 36 In those elections. 3/2007 a certain room for development and success. New Haven. simple explanation masks the extent to which these same center-right forces had already been mobilized precisely by movements such as the Citizens’ Committees.38 Similar to arguments made in the theoretical literature on consociationalism or consensus democracy. Nation-Building. The main thing was that for the first time a dialogue developed in society between these two groups of people. 38 Marju Lauristin. it was probably this same sense of consensus which Lauristin herself would bring to the fore barely a month after the publication of those words.34 In Estonia. Estonia: Positive and Negative Engineering // Alex Pravda and Jan Zielonka (Ed. New Haven.

Dainis Ivans. Egils Levits and Lubova Zile. Tallinn. Riga. Mart Laar. Lebers. Tallinn. This competition did not efface these cleavages. 19. Valts: Latvijas Nacionalas neatkaribas kustiba dokumentos. 43 See Küllo Arjakas and Vilja Laanaru. August 20. Indeed. which brought the Estonian people to their ultimate goal—the restoration of the Republic of Estonia on the basis of legal continuity. no comparable collection has been compiled on the Popular Front except a limited circulation compendium from May 1990. Eesti Kongress: Siis ja praegu. It is and will remain a remarkable example in world history of a small people’s extensive ability to organize itself and to maintain peaceful self-discipline. Tallinn. Accounts of the Popular Front have been sparse. the exact opposite is true of emerging Estonian historiography on this period. august 1991. vini luza. a scholarly analysis published in the Estonian journal Akadeemia by Lauristin and Vihalemm is in fact merely an Estonian-language version of an English-language work published a year earlier. flag-bearer and setter of clear goals. Urmas Ott and Sirje Endre. who helped bridge the gap between the restorationists and the Popular Front in 1990 and 1991. Iseseisvuspäeva sünd. 1999. As a result. Tallinn. 10. these analyses do not cover the broader moderate-restorationist conflict. 42 Tunne Kelam. 675-701 and Marju Lauristin and Peeter Vihalemm. Urmas Ott. Eesti Kongress: Siis ja praegu. Tartu. Elmars Pelkaus. See Valdis Bluzma. See Küllo Arjakas. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. 1990. The fact that the dissident sphere of Estonian society had been able to mobilize so effectively was in no small measure thanks to the way in which the original dissident community had been transformed into a mass-appeal legal restorationist movement. 41 Eve Pärnaste. Müürimurdjad. Es lauzu.43 Two works have at40 Ab Imperio. as well as the dozens of interview transcripts and personal reflections contained in Mart Laar. Rahvarinne. all of this stands in interesting contrast to the emerging historiography of Latvia’s re-independence struggle. Kogumik “MRP-AEG Infobülletään 1987-1988”. 19861991. Eve Pärnaste and Viktor Niitsoo. 135. atminu un dokumentu krajums par Neatkaribas deklaraciju. The Estonian Citizens’ Committee movement was [for the Estonian people] a great strategist. Riga. Viktor Niitsoo. 2000. 2000. 2002. 45 Sirje Kiin. 1995. MRP-AEG ja ERSP lugu. Tallinn. respectively. Kadri Must. highlighting the often “heroic” efforts restorationist activists undertook to promote their cause or the valiant spirit of the Estonian people in registering with the Citizens’ Committees and putting their faith in the Congress of Estonia. maijs: Rakstu. Gadijuma karakalps. 2000. 1997. Vol. Tallinn. Tauta. 2000. Sirje Kiin. and Sirje Endre. 1998. Talavs Jundzis. Vabaduse ja demokraatia teel. Tunne Kelam: eluloointervjuu. 1998. Tallinn. Riga. 1998. Likewise. Sandra Kalniete. Eesti Kongress: Siis ja praegu. 19861991. 1995. Their value as an example of non-violent resistance is held up as a model for the rest of the world. 1996 and Eve Pärnaste. 2000. Whether judged on the basis of narrative chronicles. 2000. Riga. Tallinn.). Eesti Kongress..42 those keen on stressing how Estonia became independent precisely through legal restorationism have dominated the historical record. Zeme. Karl Erik Rosengren and Lennart Weibull (Ed.V.45 lacks the Front’s later documents. Tallinn. 1986. Recent Historical Developments in Estonia: Three Stages of Transition (1987-1997) // Marju Lauristin. Riga. valik artikleid ja esinemisi. Kaks otsustavat päeva Toompeal. augusti klubi and Riigikogu kantselei. which obviously 20 21 . Lauri Vahtre. including the Front’s decision to participate in the Congress in early 1990 only to undermine it later by failing to take it seriously. the tone of pro-restorationist accounts has been relatively triumphal. Eesti Kongress: Siis ja praegu. and ultimately a better understanding of democratic tolerance and cooperation throughout society. degree of competition. Nii nagu see oli // Eve Pärnaste (Ed. 3/2007 tempted to give a prominent place to Estonia’s day of re-independence. Pp. 1998.. Edgar Savisaar is generally portrayed as a villain. Tallinn. 44 20. 1998. Moreover. Latvijas Tautas Fronte. 2000. P. Riga.). Janis Skapars. 1996. such as Marju Lauristin and Liia Hänni. Talavs Jundzis. Return to the Western World: Cultural and Political Perspectives on the Estonian Post-Communist Transition. Janis Freimanis. Tallinn. 4.41 or memoirs. Riga. The Citizens’ Committee movement was the broadest movement of civic initiative ever in Estonian history. Tartu. Kaks aastat Eestimaa Rahvarinnet. 1991. Lastly. Pettai. Nii nagu see oli // Eve Pärnaste (Ed. in contrast to the existence of two comprehensive anthologies covering all of the documents of the dissident grouping MRP-AEG and of the Congress of Estonia. 1996.. Latvijas valsts atjaunosana.).40 official document collections. Teine Eesti: Eesti iseseisvuse taassünd. Dietrich A. The pro-restitutionist accounts also rank the Citizens’ Committees among the most impressive and influential civic movements in Estonian history. Vabanemine. vs. Credit is given only to moderates. Legal Restorationism and Historiography It is perhaps the most telling as well as potentially longest-lasting mark of legal restorationism that while most Western studies of Estonia’s independence movement have focused on the role and activities of the Popular Front. Postkommunistlik siirdeaeg // Akadeemia. Tallinn. 1996. these accounts portray the Popular Front as stubbornly opposing the restorationists at every turn. Teine Eesti: Eesti iseseisvuse taassünd. tu lauzi. Eesti Kongress. Tallinn. Peeter Vihalemm.-20. Compare Marju Lauristin and Peeter Vihalemm. 2002. Visu veju virpuli: LTF kareivja-zinatnieka acim. being either limited to mere picture books or embedded in more wide-ranging accounts of Estonia’s entire democratic transition. but it did prepare them better for future democratic competition. mes lauzam.44 however. in which quite contrarily the moderates have dominated over the restorationists. Ojars Celle.-1993.

For example. Pettai.. as soon as she had uttered those words. Such was the impression left by a 1997 press release issued by the Estonian Border Guard.” she said. The movement had succeeded in transforming the very existence of Estonians. but we’re still young in terms of recent development. the years from 1940 to 1991 are still presented as part of a history spanning more 46 Ab Imperio. publicized its “75th anniversary. rather than an “adolescence” of just a fifteen years since 1991 or even a “mature adulthood” of thirty-five years (if one adds the interwar years). 47 Ibid. “Estonia is a young country. The Construction of State Identity and its Legacies. It happened during an undergraduate admissions interview at the University of Tartu when the female applicant fell into a quandary as she tried to analyze Estonia’s most recent political development. part of this celebration was simply to commemorate the day when the first Estonian border guard was formed in 1922. she suddenly felt obliged to correct herself by adding. 80 aastat Eesti Vabariigi Justiitsministeeriumi 1918-1998. especially thanks to its spread to popular culture during the 1990s. In turn. Still. most Estonians did not undergo such a dramatic process of self-reidentification as Kiin suggests. government institutions and offices all began to date their histories back to the 1918-1920 period. Estonia’s entire state history has come to be seen in “octogenarian” terms. in 1993 Estonia celebrated its “diamond” (seventy-fifth) anniversary. They are treated as years when the ministry or office in question was in active operation. There is a need. P. as in 1940 the force had been completely disbanded and replaced by the KGB. “Well. alluding to the fact that independence had been restored only in 1991. my aim has not been to undermine the legal arguments behind state restorationism or to disparage their meaning in Estonian state identity and politics. Yet in the case of the guard. where already in the title (“80 years of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Estonia”) there is an ambiguity as how this can also include the Soviet era and still represent the Republic of Estonia. See. 22 23 .. legal restorationism pervaded deeper and deeper into Estonians minds. and at the same time by its more distant past (since 1918). when Estonia regained independence in 1991. but still tout eighty or more years of legacy. to be followed by an eightieth anniversary in 1998 and an eighty-fifth in 2003. even though on another level what it was doing was simply serving an occupation regime. there was outright rejection of a proposal to declare August 20 a national holiday. every citizen to think through in his or her deepest core a fundamental existential question: who am I and am I a citizen of the Republic of Estonia? And from there. which did not exist in any form during the Soviet era.V. in which it. on the one hand. For example. Most obvious among these trends was the official practice of observing Estonia’s national day only on February 24 (the date of the first declaration of independence in 1918). 138. while on the other hand filling them with some content in order to appropriate them for a larger anniversary.47 Even more so is this the case for institutions. 1999. This was done only in 1996. popular culture attempts to have both aberration and continuity. In this respect. to separate off these years as deviant. Moreover. “And it takes time for things to change.” Yet. Tallinn. do I have the courage to admit this to myself. 3/2007 than seven decades. Yet on the sub-conscious level. these analyses underscore the changes in people’s consciousness that took place thanks to the restorationist movement. actually we all know that Estonia is eighty-five years old. August 20 was of little particular significance. Peeter Järvelaid and Maie Pihlamägi. while largely downplaying the significance of August 20. during the first parliament of 1992-1995. and even furthermore. thanks in large part to the nature of a consciously constructed political doctrine known as legal restorationism. the historiography of the Citizens’ Committees and of legal restorationism would seem to have touched ontology itself. in popular culture such anniversaries were appealing. Legal Restorationism and Popular Culture In reality. while these publications often talk about the Soviet period as illegal. Likewise. and even issued commemorative albums to reinforce this claim. for example. do I have the courage to go and publicly register myself as a citizen of the Republic of Estonia?46 Thus. and even then President Lennart Meri during his time in office (1992-2001) reserved his major public activities for February 24. there was clearly no continuity of service to be observed since then.” This left Estonia in a considerable degree of flux – influenced on the one hand by its recent history (since August 1991). too. In such a way. It forced every person. Both of these factors are very real. Conclusion In this article.” To be sure. as the author of this article himself realized during an incident from the summer of 2003.