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Estonians for Europe

National Activism for European Integration, 1922–1991

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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 2. Creating Contacts and Joining

← 118 | 119 → CHAPTER 2

Extract

An Estonian at The Hague Congress

After the Soviet Union invaded Estonia in September 1944, roughly 70,000 Estonians fled to the West. Approximately 20,000 of them remained in Sweden, while others travelled via DP camps in Germany mainly to the U.S., Canada and Australia. Politically, questions surrounding the legitimacy, continuity, and importance persisted in this community throughout the Cold War period. Nevertheless, the Estonian National Council (ENC) became the main exile centre in Sweden. It was a sort of exiled parliament, where the parties of democratic Estonia of pre-1934 were represented. The leaders of the Council remained the same throughout the entire period. The leader, August Rei, had been Head of State and Foreign Minister in the independent Estonia. Former envoy in Helsinki, Aleksander Warma, became the most important foreign affairs commentator and actor of the ENC.1

Additionally, Rei continued to maintain the legal status of the Estonian republic. Therefore, he assumed the position of the “Prime Minister in capacity of the President of the Republic in exile” and established a government-in-exile in Oslo on January 12, 1953. Warma became Foreign Minister, and other ministers included Johannes Sikkar, Tõnis Kint and Arvo Horm. Rei justified his authority, because he was the oldest minister of the last, short-lived, government in Estonia of September 1944. Rei’s stance was supported by the majority of Estonians in Sweden but at the same time, Alfred Maurer established a parallel government-in-exile two months later in Augustdorf, Germany, which died...

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