Wednesday, February 25, 2009


An interesting quote at Julien Frist's euroblog (original at EU Observer):

Perhaps the best news is that the outcome of the elections is not known. That is a huge achievement for a post-Soviet state. Pretty much everywhere in the region (with the exception of Ukraine, and to some extent Georgia) election results are known well in advance, and elections do not really matter.

My first reaction is, obviously, "ahem!". The Baltics have their troubles, but we are resolutely democratic; our electorate can be manipulated by populism and appealing to its darker instincts, but the elections really do reflect the will of the people. It is offensive to have Moldova looking down on us in terms of fair representation.

However, I honestly don't think it was malice on the author's part; rather, Estonia and its neighbors are no longer thought of as post-Soviet. Unlike Moldova, which is a semi-artificial nation resulting from the Soviet Union's annexation of a part of Romania and often (if unfairly) mistaken for a shard of Yugoslavia, we have now established an identity that is not dominated by our Soviet past. To the likes of Nicu Popescu - pundits from clear across the continent - we are the plucky little states that are scared of their Russian neighbours, but for some indecipherable reason don't just do the logical bit and become part of Sweden. Also really good with computers. But not really part of the whole mess of former Soviet republics trying to build a working society out of a tribal mentality and the rotting remains of imperial infrastructure.

Which is kind of the effect we've been going for, really.


Karla said...

Well said. A valuable insight worth underscoring, because many don't 'get it.'

Giustino said...

It's been happening quite a bit recently. Saakashvili didn't mention Estonia as a post-Soviet country either, but I am not sure if that was merely for Georgian marketing purposes.

The fact is that Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Western Ukraine only had about 45 years of communist rule under their belts at independence in 1991.

All the other former Soviet republics had at least 20 more years, or a full generation of rule on top of that. I mean, Kyrgyzstan became a Soviet republic in 1924.

The problem for Moldova is that it had been seized and detached from Romania, forcing it to endure a similar post-Soviet identity search to countries like Kazakhstan or Belarus. The Baltics didn't have that problem. Western Ukraine is obviously still attached to Eastern Ukraine, but today you can still see the gap in that country's internal politics.

So, no, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are far from the post-Soviet norm. They are in their own special category.

Colm said...

Well I'm glad Estonia is no longer seen as post-Soviet in at least some quarters.

If the economy was better I'd go asking the Estonian consulate for money for my good PR work in Ireland on Estonia's behalf. Nah, I'd do it anyway I like Estonia so much. Just bothers me how many people think Estonia = Baltic Russia.

I had to correct a Yank the otherday who called Hungary Eastern European. She wasn't too pleased with me.

BTW, someone should protest against Wilde Pubi closing. I wonder what will happen to the statue...


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