Fear of Losing Estonian-ness

As part of being in Berlin this week I attended a lovely hacker conference-party by the name of PH-Neutral. Perhaps the best part of this get together was that I met two very fun new friends, K and F. (maybe they dont want their names used, who knows)

K recognized me from the talk I gave at the congress back in December, she gave me a big smile and told me how much she enjoyed my talk. Turns out K is Estonian but has moved her life to Berlin. She and her boyfriend took me out on the town last night, exposing me to some of the nightspots where other revolutionaries gather. And throughout the evening we discussed education, culture, the internets, and much more.

One very interesting thing I learned from K about what is going on in Estonia, was about how fearful Estonians are that their culture will disappear. With only around 1 million citizens, she explained that the very common political and social discussion is about how things like culture, language, and especially music, must be preserved and passed on. This is, of course, while Estonia also has a very significant Russian minority that has lived in the country for several decades. The conflict she pointed out was that Russia being so huge and right next door, is seen as a force that could erode Estonian culture… and as an extension of that.. there becomes a struggle between the Estonians and the Russians in Estonia regarding language, culture, and from what Ive read – rights.

So then comes the very typical discussion that you here in various countries… the classic question of how minority groups should interact with the so-called national majority.

K and I agreed that neither of us supports the forcing of anyone to be anything. But I understood that the average citizen in Estonia doesn’t share our opinion. Instead it sounds like typical rhetoric about how minority groups must do this and that in order to be good citizens and get “intigrated”. Still it is hard to compare what happens in Estonia to say.. the US or even Germany. Small place. Few people. Unique situation.