February 20, 2020

Centenary of the Tartu Peace Treaty


A large portion of the February issue of Diplomaatia is dedicated to the centenary of the Tartu Peace Treaty. This agreement guaranteed the Republic of Estonia’s right to exist and signalled Estonia’s foreign-policy victory.

Our interview with Jüri Luik, the Estonian minister of defence, touches on the subject of the ratification of border treaties among other things. “The current members of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu) and the Russian State Duma are not prepared to move ahead with the 2014 treaty,” he says.

Kalev Stoicescu, the ICDS’s research fellow who participated in the border negotiations as a diplomat, discusses what to do with the territory that initially belonged to Estonia but Russia annexed in 1945. “Do we want to import 35,000 Russian citizens to Estonia in addition to the existing numbers (nearly 100,000)—especially if we consider that most of them don’t want and can’t get Estonian citizenship and are not that favourably disposed towards the Estonian state?” asks Stoicescu.

Eiki Berg, Professor of International Relations at the University of Tartu, explores the nature of borders in the context of the Tartu Peace Treaty. “The Estonian language allows us to derive verbs (piirnema, piirduma, piirama, piiritlema) and nouns (piirang, piiritus) from the word piir or border,” says Berg. “If we place these in a specific context, we can deduce conceptual connections and patterns. For example, we may claim that the primary task of states is to protect a limited (piiratud) territory, i.e. resources, jobs, industries and ideology, as well as to monitor.”

Russian historian Andrey Zubov makes some provocative statements in his interview with Diplomaatia. “I think the Tartu Peace Treaty was a tactical and, to a great extent, incidental victory but also a huge strategic defeat for Estonian diplomats in 1920. They committed the moral mistake of making peace with the bandit,” says Zubov.

Historian Küllo Arjakas explores the historical background to the Tartu Peace Treaty.

Among other topics in this month’s issue, Middle East expert Üllar Peterson writes about Iran. “Iran has two ancient geopolitical enemies: the steppe in the north and east that is populated by Turkic tribes, and the Arabian desert in the south,” says Peterson. “The bloodiest pages of history written by the Mongols, a steppe people, have been forgotten, even in Iran. The Iranians’ animosity towards the Arabs in the south, however, is one of the longest confrontations in human history, which has reached another high point right now.”

Analyst Andres Mäe did some calculations and concluded that giving up Russian natural gas wouldn’t be a great loss for EU member states. Ethnologist Aimar Ventsel visited the European Parliament and writes about its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Jaak Uibu covers an interesting case at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. Kadri Peeters, defence counsellor at the Estonian Embassy in Washington, reviews Jim Mattis’s book Call Sign Chaos. This issue also includes the text of the speech by German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem. Kadri Jõgi writes about the kingdom of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland.


This article was published in ICDS Diplomaatia magazine.

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