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Everyday Life in Stalinist Estonia

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Olaf Mertelsmann

In Estonia, as in other Eastern European countries, the Stalinist era remains in the center of attention of historians. Politics, repression and resistance dominate the historiography, while everyday life is definitely under-represented. This book attempts to close the gap and focuses on different aspects of everyday life in Stalinist Estonia.

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How the Russians Turned into the Image of the “National Enemy” of the Estonians

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The relationship between Estonians and Russians in Estonia appears to be diffi- cult. This is related to everyday and historical experience and also to the con- struction of the image of a “national enemy” among some Estonians. When us- ing the expression “national enemy,” I am not implying ethnic violence, hatred or open conflict. But in contemporary Estonian society one can find the image of a national enemy, the Russians. This image is not shared by everyone, but preju- dice, stereotypes and antipathy are widespread. Since I am not a sociologist but a historian, I will not present data but will refer to media, conversations or online commentaries. Particularly in the discussion about entering the European Union and NATO, there was considerable anti-Russian sentiment.1 Of course, after the restoration of independence in 1991, inter-ethnic relations have steadily improved. In developing a feeling of national consciousness, Estonians followed the Central European pattern of small peasant nations described by Miroslav Hroch.2 What was later called a “national awakening” happened in the late nine- teenth century and was supported by the spread of education and native- language mass media. 3 In defining one’s national identity, the image of the “other” national or ethnic group was used to demonstrate which group one did not belong to. Very often, in the process of nation-building and defining ethnic identity, the image of the other was accompanied by the image of a “national enemy.” The case of France and Germany is a good example. Benedict Ander- son...

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