Imbi Paju: peita ja unustada hoolimine (Hide and forget about caring)
This is an opinion piece by Imbi Paju, an Estonian author, about how the Soviet occupation and its opression of the Estonian people destroyed caring and sympathy and fomented mistrust and enmity between fellow Estonians. Those events, now long past, continue to affect Estonians to this very day.
The article is unfortunately in Estonian only, and Google Translate doesn’t manage Estonian particularly well. If you are not familiar with Estonian history, you can read a bit more at Wikipedia about the Soviet deportations from Estonia.
Even today, the general tone in Estonia – both in public discourse, in media and in everyday life – is characterised by a relative lack of respect and empathy, by putting each other down and trampling each other in the mud. This article lays bare the roots of this behaviour, which is not so much Estonian but rather the behaviour of an oppressed nation. An abused nation behaves like an abused person.
I notice this every time I read an Estonian newspaper or blog (and I have by now learned to never EVER look at the comments for any newspaper article), and to some extent when I visit Estonia. Less so when I meet Estonians, because the people I meet are of a younger generation, and perhaps they have already managed to put some of that past behind them. To purge all of it will take another generation at least, it seems.
This is why I never seriously consider moving back to Estonia. I like individual Estonians but I cannot live among only Estonians. It would drag me down.
It is very Estonian to identify with the country, the land. Estonia is still close to its farmer roots. People can ask an expat Estonian, how can you leave your country? I don’t identify with the land but with the people, which makes it all the more painful to admit to myself that while I do miss them, I do not really want to live among them.