September 8, 2011

Summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is mostly dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Estonia’s independence – we celebrate it, look back at past achievements and analyse the challenges we are facing today. In addition, as a tribute to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Estonia in August, we take a closer look at the human rights situation in Tibet. Human rights in Russia are also in focus, through the legacy of the late Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky whose death in prison has yet to be investigated properly.

This issue of Diplomaatia is mostly dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Estonia’s independence – we celebrate it, look back at past achievements and analyse the challenges we are facing today. In addition, as a tribute to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Estonia in August, we take a closer look at the human rights situation in Tibet. Human rights in Russia are also in focus, through the legacy of the late Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky whose death in prison has yet to be investigated properly.

Summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is mostly dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Estonia’s independence – we celebrate it, look back at past achievements and analyse the challenges we are facing today. In addition, as a tribute to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Estonia in August, we take a closer look at the human rights situation in Tibet. Human rights in Russia are also in focus, through the legacy of the late Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky whose death in prison has yet to be investigated properly.
In the opening essay that was published in English in Diplomaatia’s Lennart Meri Conference special issue in May, Eurasian expert Paul Goble asks whether 20 years of Baltic independence is a long or a short time. He reminds us of the unpleasant truth that the first period of independence did not last much more than twenty years. While admitting that the world looks much different now from that of the late 1930s, Goble cautions us – without wanting to invoke any scare scenarios – against imagining that history has ended, claiming that both good and bad things are still bound to happen. In his view, it is important to preserve one’s identity and memory, while adapting to the globalising world.
Historian Lauri Vahtre offers a comparative overview of the two periods of Estonia’s independence and assesses their similarities and differences. He also tries to promptly periodicise the decades of regained independence, dividing them into “the prelude” or the time leading to the restoration of independence (1987–1991), “to be or not to be” (1991–1995), “practical state building” (1995–2004) and “the idyll” (2004–2008), which were followed by “blue Monday” and “everyday freedom”.
Mikael Laidre, also a historian, describes independent Estonia as both 20- and 93-years old, emphasising that today’s Estonia as a state and society is indeed older than the twenty years of post-Soviet independence. He focuses on Estonian identity and the values that have formed this identity through history, arguing that Estonia has a deep-rooted connection with Western European traditions. Calling for stronger recognition of those traditions and a more heightened awareness of our values, Laidre argues that today our own identity crisis constitutes a greater security challenge than any external military threat.
 
Professor Viatcheslav Morozov analyses Estonia’s mental position between its past as a Soviet imperial subject and its current role as an equal, but still peripheral member of the European community, through the lens of postcolonial theory. Morozov reveals the manifold overlapping layers of colonial relations, maintaining that those who habitually criticise the West for its alleged imperialism are often themselves oppressors at a more local level. He claims that while Estonia has chosen to be part of the West, our interpretation of ‘Western values’ may differ from that of the mainstream ‘old West’.
In an interview with Diplomaatia’s editor Iivi Anna Masso, investor William Browder talks about what happened to his former Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in prison in 2009 at the age of 37. Browder also speaks about his own experiences in Russia, where he was the largest foreign fund manager until 2005 when he was abruptly banned from re-entering Russia. He now promotes a legislation called the ‘Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act’ that would protect human rights in Russia through targeting the persons involved in Magnitsky’s case and other officials who violate human rights.
In the final essay, politician Andres Herkel describes the human rights situation in Tibet. He details the plight of the Tibetans who have been suppressed by the Chinese powers through ages, especially during the Maoist ‘cultural revolution’ and under assimilationist pressures from the Chinese Communist regime. Although Herkel characterises what has been done to the Tibetans as nothing less than cultural genocide, he is hopeful that Tibetan Buddhist culture can still be saved with the help and support of the whole democratic world.

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