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Estonians for Europe

National Activism for European Integration, 1922–1991


Pauli Heikkilä

Estonians for Europe provides a unique insight into nearly eighty years of the history surrounding European unification. Concentrating on Estonian aspirations for an integrative organization in international relations, the book illustrates a number of parallels and differences between commonly held narratives of twentieth-century European history.
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Chapter 1. Paneuropean Union in Estonia


Estonia first emerged as an independent country out of the turmoil caused by World War I and the downfall of the Russian Empire after the War of Liberation against the Communist revolutionists and the German Landeswehr. The prospects of successful state consolidation were somewhat mixed. As a disadvantage, the new state had a small population, however, to its advantage, it was ethnically homogeneous, with the exception of a Russian minority concentrated close to the Eastern border. Estonians had traditionally resided in both the provinces of Estonia and Livonia before joining to form one administrative unit as late as the summer of 1917. Nonetheless, politicians and administrators had gained previous experience in Russia’s imperial institutions. The constitution heavily emphasized the riigikogu (Parliament) while the governments remained weak. Nonetheless, the greatest danger to the democratic system came from abroad, the prime case of which being when local communists, backed by the Soviet Union, attempted a coup d’état in December 1924. In short, independence gave Estonia the opportunity to rapidly transform economically and culturally from a province ruled by Czarist Russia and to integrate itself more closely with Western Europe.1

Since Medieval times, ideas planning European unification had usually been devised in the aftermath of a calamitous war. The aftermath of World War I was no exception. On the other hand, the League of Nations was founded as an organization that would restrain the prospect of war, maintain peace and retain the status quo. Although the League represented a minor...

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