September 17, 2008

Thank you, Lennart! And farewell.

No longer is it possible for anyone to claim that Estonia is under some historical curse, where one misfortune follows another. In the last decade of the brutal and restless 20th century, Estonia was privy to unbelievable good fortune, probably more than any of our friends and neighbours. A very important part of this stroke of good luck went by the name of Lennart Meri.

No longer is it possible for anyone to claim that Estonia is under some historical curse, where one misfortune follows another. In the last decade of the brutal and restless 20th century, Estonia was privy to unbelievable good fortune, probably more than any of our friends and neighbours. A very important part of this stroke of good luck went by the name of Lennart Meri.

Thank you, Lennart! And farewell.

No longer is it possible for anyone to claim that Estonia is under some historical curse, where one misfortune follows another. In the last decade of the brutal and restless 20th century, Estonia was privy to unbelievable good fortune, probably more than any of our friends and neighbours. A very important part of this stroke of good luck went by the name of Lennart Meri.
The crumbling of an empire built on coercion is a natural thing – nothing lasting can be built on brute force; it will collapse sooner or later. It is also just as axiomatic that the subjects of such an empire will become free again. But if things are to go well, “new” states need the right people to be in place, doing the right things, in those first and hardest days. And that is not at all axiomatic. That is a matter of luck or the grace of God.
It is the people who become the first leaders of a newly free country who have a lasting effect on how the country fares in the longer term. They put in place the new rules for their people: how business is done, what the problems are, where the solutions come from. By their actions, they define democracy, imbue it with flesh and blood. They give their state direction and momentum. And they give it its international face.
We can only feel sorry for states where the right people spend those critical days immersed in mutual strife, letting the wrong people or fools take the helm and commit errors that now inevitably shape the today and tomorrow for these countries, even in cases where the errors have been realised and an attempt made to rectify them.
Estonia was fortunate – very fortunate. We had the right people in the right places doing the right things. And we had Lennart – the most shining example of such a right person.
In these days, Lennart’s lustre, charm and quirkiness has been remembered. This special issue of Diplomaatia takes a look at what was behind it all – what Lennart’s foreign policy actually was and how he effected it. After all, no one doubts that it was Lennart who made foreign policy for Estonia, made the Foreign Ministry.
Lennart has passed, Estonia remains. And Lennart’s legacy is none other than Estonia. Thank you, and Godspeed.

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