Marina Kaljurand: Estonians living abroad are our greatest potential

On the occasion of 25 anniversary of Estonia restoring its independence, the country’s foreign minister, Marina Kaljurand, sent a video message to Estonian expatriates around the world. Estonian World publishes Kaljurand’s message in a slightly amended version.

On 20 August 2016, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the restoration of the Republic of Estonia. Following the Soviet coup d’état attempt, also known as the August Putsch, which started in Moscow on 19 August, the Supreme Council of Estonia, functioning as a parliament, adopted the resolution that restored the independence of Estonia a day later.

Years of hard work and fighting for Estonia’s independence preceded 20 August both in occupied Estonia and in exile. Estonians in exile carried the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia, explained what had happened to the Baltic states and the importance of non-recognition policy, distributed information on the situation in Estonia, preserved and developed the Estonian language, culture and civic society.

In his new year’s address in 1993, president Lennart Meri said the following: “But the restoration of a state is not as simple as pressing a lamp button which will instantly overpour you with biblical light. A state is born like a baby – in labour and pains. Still, like a baby it is born of love and itself gives birth to love.”

“The restoration of a state is not as simple as pressing a lamp button which will instantly overpour you with biblical light. A state is born like a baby – in labour and pains. Still, like a baby it is born of love and itself gives birth to love.” – Lennart Meri.

Estonia has changed and achieved a lot in the 25 years of freedom, following the restoration of independence. It has changed from a totalitarian society into a country where human rights are respected, freedom of speech applies and the principles of democracy and rule of law are followed. Estonia is a NATO ally, a member of the European Union and belongs to other most important international organisations. We work every day to remain a trustworthy partner and an ally and to share our values with other countries. During the second half of 2017, Estonia will face a new, huge responsibility – presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Global Estonians

For 25 years, there has been no Iron Curtain between Estonians living in Estonia and their fellows abroad. In a globalised and mobile world, the two terms have lost their former meaning and instead of talking about Estonians at home and expatriates, we talk more and more about “global Estonians”. For example, entrepreneur Rainer Sternfeld, active both in the US and Estonia, recently said at the Opinion Festival in Paide that Estonian border is where Estonians are and he does not feel like he has been away from home because technical solutions enable him to keep in touch.

Different estimates say that there are around 120,000 – 200,000 people from Estonia living abroad. It’s our greatest potential. Among yourselves are people who fled from the occupation, but also people that have left during the past 25 years for shorter or longer periods. All of you have a connection with Estonia, your Estonian story, your dreams about Estonia. We are all connected by a wish that Estonia would do great.

I believe that most of you keep in touch with developments in Estonia, are happy with the country’s successes and are worried about challenges facing Estonia. Every one of us – regardless of where we are – has a chance to contribute to the improvement and future of Estonia.

“Estonia’s global influence today is much stronger that one would assume from our small population. It’s partly because of Estonians, who are unofficial representatives of their country in different parts of the world.”

Estonia’s global influence today is much stronger that one would assume from our small population. It’s partly because of Estonians, who are unofficial representatives of their country in different parts of the world. You introduce and share information about Estonia, you help to make it more visible, you brief others about Estonian language and culture. Thanks to you, my work [as a foreign minister] and my colleagues’ work of introducing Estonia as diplomats is much easier.

Keeping in touch

Just like Estonia needs the support of Estonians living abroad, you need the support of our country. Every Estonian representation abroad has to keep in touch with Estonians living in the respective country. Our representations invite you to come together during the holidays important to our country and our nation, they help to organise local culture events, share information and keep in touch with the local Estonian community.

“Every Estonian representation abroad has to keep in touch with Estonians living in the respective country.”

The concept of the 12th Youth Song and Dance Celebration taking place in Tallinn in 2017 is about roots that connect us to Estonia wherever our life takes us and we welcome Estonians from near and far. In 2018, the Estonia will celebrate its 100th Independence Day and we will celebrate it all over the world, regardless of the location, regardless of where we are at that point.

The independence of Estonia is a reason to be happy about our country, our land and our nation. Long live Estonia!

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The opinions in this article are those of the author. Cover: Estonian-Canadian children celebrating Estonia’s Independence Day in Toronto (photo by Peeter Põldre).

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About the author: Marina Kaljurand

Marina Kaljurand served as Estonian foreign minister from July 2015 to October 2016. In 2011–2014, Kaljurand was the Estonia ambassador to the United States and Mexico and in 2011–2013 also to Canada, in 2007–2011 Estonian ambassador to Kazakhstan, and in 2005–2008 to the Russian Federation and in 2004–2006 to Israel. She currently chairs The Global Commission on the Stability of Cybersecurity.