|Speech by the President of the Republic of Estonia Turku University, May 17, 1995
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Here, before the academic community of Finland's oldest university, I have chosen to speak of co-ordinates.
When the meridian was mapped between the Torneo and the Danube between 1816 and 1855, the geodesists used Tähtitorninmäki, the southernmost point of Porkkala, Naissaar's northern cape, and the Church of St. Nicholas as reference points. The cross on the spire of St. Nicholas' Church, dedicated to the sailors of Tallinn, is located at co-ordinates 59° 26' 14.679" N and 24° 45“ 00.216" E. One capital was mapped in relation to the other, and the location of both, in relation to the world, became more accurately defined. The gold cross of St. Nicholas, mapped with an accuracy within 30 centimetres in relation to Washington, Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg, during times of peace, provided more accuracy in shipping traffic, and, consequently, in relations; during the Estonian War of Independence, the cross guaranteed more accurate cannon fire, and, consequently, independence. The effectiveness of a state depends on the state's precise sense of time and space.
A few hundred years before the great Torneo meridian measurement, Ambassador Olearius set out from Holstein to Persia, with the renowned, young German, baroque poet Paul Fleming in his accompanying party. Even after the great age of the Hanseatic league, the roads from Western Europe to the Middle East passed through Tallinn. This noteworthy trip resulted in a beautifully illustrated book of travels, with the added bonus of a handful of poems, singing the praises of the oak groves on Tallinn's Kopli peninsula, Estonia's oldest nature reserve, originating from the thirteenth century.
When the Estonian Association of Writers wanted to publish an excerpt from this book of travels in the 1970s, Soviet censors forbade them from doing so. This seventeenth century text was doomed by the co-ordinates: under the totalitarian regime, neither Estonia nor its capital was allowed to have its own co-ordinates, that is to say, a relationship with the rest of the world, not to mention with Tähtitorninmäki. This may seem comical to you, but above all, it is logical. By understanding, gathering and analysing these and other details, long before the Pentagon, we reached the conclusion that the Soviet totalitarian regime was doomed to fall much faster than those in democratic countries, Finland included, believed. A totalitarian regime may effectively produce rockets, euphemistically called sputniks, but to no other end than to prolong its own agony. A totalitarian regime is not able to reproduce itself. The older generations among you have in one way or another visited occupied Estonia. You did not leave unnoticed that the Estonians complained of a lack of independence, a lack of freedom, maybe of a lack of Paulig's coffee, of the banning of Olearius or Arvo Krikmann's elegantly compiled Estonian proverbs, thus the repression of the national identity. But similarly you did not leave unnoticed the optimism, which the West could not understand: in the eyes of Estonians, Soviet totalitarianism was temporary. It was cruel and dangerous, it destroyed a quarter of our people, it was feared, but even more, it was laughed at. At no other time in history has Estonia produced such a mass of cuttingly sarcastic anecdotes, against which the world's greatest nuclear power had no defence. Witch hunts, which already in the middle ages accounted for more deaths than war and in the former Soviet Union for the deaths of more than seventy million, were of no use. The root of the Estonians' desperate yet carefree optimism lay in our precise sense of co-ordinates, and these were the co-ordinates of Europe.
Kadriorg, where the Estonian President works, is located on the seashore. This shore, the entire North-Estonian shore, is showered with boulders from the ice-age, and in the small fishing village located almost directly across from Porvoo, geologists have determined the origin of every rock: from Saariselä, from the coast, from Tütarsaar. And conversely: last night President Martti Ahtisaari spoke with great warmth and recognition of Estonia's rapid re-unification with Western-European democratic values and free market economy. I feel it is natural to stress here, at the University of Turku to what degree we owe our thanks to the Finnish people, its politicians and government, for the support which Estonia has felt at every step. To return to the co-ordinates, I would add one detail: the state dinner, which was so beautifully concluded with Finnish, Lappish and Estonian tunes by the University Male Choir, was held on the southern point of Vironniemi, or the Cape of Estonia, as it is on the Cape of Estonia that the Finnish President's palace is built. Symbols, like boulders, live an eternal life, patiently waiting for their time to come.
The Gulf of Finland forms the axis of our lives, as one Finnish scientist has said, and today it would be suitable to add: its shores are mirror images.
Viewed from Finland, Estonia, with its recent history, is that which, in the worst case, Finland might have been.
Viewed from Estonia, Finland is that which, in the best case, Estonia might have been.
If Finnish leaders in November of 1939 had not had the courage, and if the people had not believed in themselves, Finland would have had it as bad as Estonia did in 1940.
We can never know what would have become of Estonia if it had gone Finland's route. Today, we all regret that Estonia did not.
For Estonia, Finland has above all served as an inspirational example. For Finland, Estonia is a cautionary example, and a very convincing justification for Finland's recent history.
Finland has more of almost everything than Estonia: wealth, stability, security, law, order and unemployment.
Finland has a far more developed statehood. Estonia, on the contrary, has less than it had in 1939. The strengthening of statehood, frankly put, the building of the state, is our most difficult and urgent task. We must only be careful that this pressing work be done in parliament, not in a panic.
Finland's assistance, assistance from the Finnish parliament, ministries, local governments, defence forces, schools and children, from the Finnish President, has been invaluable.
But there is nevertheless something, in regard to which Estonia is no poorer than Finland. Our hope may not be as rainbow coloured as it was in the days of the Singing Revolution, but it has not expired. We have no less faith in better times than you in Finland, sometimes even more. The will to work is there. The dynamics of change are for us perhaps even greater. Estonia is an exciting place.
Security is a complex element, and, what is more, it comes in a great number of varieties. In Finland, this precious substance has been produced with care, and today you hold enviable resources of it. Estonia had been removed from this sphere of production for half a century. All other goods are readily available, which our kinsmen can come buy from us, even by the armful, and they do. But our security deficit remains. For this reason, Estonia cannot afford to be as lukewarm towards NATO as Finland, which is far richer in security.
Nevertheless, there can never be too much security for any small country. Even Finland could not stay lukewarm to the security which the European Union so abundantly, if indirectly, offers. For Estonia, this is our foreign policy priority.
The world is integrating in all areas, and we together with it. We know and believe -- although there are some that do not -- that this will bring both advantages and disadvantages.
It will guarantee security, will increase prosperity, but will leave a nagging doubt in our hearts. What will become of our lifestyles and language, of our two small islands in the great Indo-European ocean, which surrounds us on all points of the compass? How can we remain true to ourselves, in the midst of so many demanding friends? If the millennium of the European Union actually comes to pass, shall we not lie dormant there for eternity?
To be honest, we do not have a choice. It is inevitable. Inevitabilities can be directed and corrected. Here we can support each other, assist, even defend each other. Estonia has survival experience it can share.
Finns are used to the fact that Finland is a state. Finland has the great inertia characteristic of every state. The Finnish state moves smoothly; the Estonian state must continually change gear. Yet we both know that without their own states neither of our peoples has a future.
At the same time, we must recognise that our states do not have a future outside of unions of states. Today's world is simply so, our corner of the world in particular. And if so, then our place is in the best possible union, in the best possible unions. In the best possible world. There are no doubt better unions, but the choice of worlds is limited.
History shows that all economic, political and military unions of states are, compared to the age of the states, relatively brief and unstable. If a union of states wants to last for a long time, historic experience to date shows that it has no other choice than to change into a state, or a least into a state-like structure.
How to cope in such a state-like union, how to make use of its potential advantages, and avoid the disadvantages, this will be one of our common and most interesting concerns. A concern we can share and share alike.
Today, a Jekyll-and-Hyde-like danger lurks in classical democracy. Through CNN, ABC and countless other channels, the present-day world intrudes into bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens, creating the illusion that everyone is participant in video reality. But television programmes do not allow individuals to make their voices be heard in the solving of problems.
And problems are not in the jurisdiction of just one electorate anymore. Today, global problems need twenty, thirty, even fifty years to be solved. Unfortunately, immediate needs are often made priorities. The voter continues to elect, above all, the person who can promise him lower taxes so his family could buy a new car. And this is one manifestation of the crisis in Western democracy. There is no mechanism that would instil into people worry and concern about their children's future.
The threat of aggression has not disappeared either. Aggression, since prehistoric times, has been an attempt of one population, one tribe, one state, to derive additional energy at the expense of another. Aggression is an extensive policy instead of an intensive one. As a remnant of the Soviet empire, such an extensive policy continues to fester in Russia, but it exists elsewhere as well. Where democracy should be growing, the world is faced with another threat of redistributing the social product: this time by nuclear extortion rather than according to Marx. Unfortunately, there are few who comprehend this apocalyptic danger. This is primarily understood by the men and women of the academic and political elite, who, precisely because they are members of the elite, very seldom are elected to parliaments.
The collapse of the Soviet Union came unexpectedly to the West. Not to Estonia, not to Latvia, not to Lithuania, probably not to Ukraine, but this I spoke of earlier. What is dangerous is if the disappearance of the name "Soviet Union" is automatically associated with the disappearance of the command economy, in other words, of the extensive economy, in other words, with the disappearance of a hotbed of aggression. Three years ago, the peoples of the Soviet Union would probably have gratefully set out on the road to a free market economy, which, with difficulty, would have led to democracy. Because free market economy is no more than man's right and duty to make free decisions, which is the very precondition for democracy.
In my rare pessimistic moments, it seems that these three years have been fatally lost. I hope, nevertheless, that this is not so. Now and in the future there will be the possibility of choice. A choice must be made between the difficult road of democratic development and the road of aggressive command economy which promises quick, but illusive gains. We must, however, recognise the moral responsibility which falls upon us -- and it falls upon us already today in this hall -- to facilitate this choice for the people of the Russian Federation. In three years it will be even more difficult for the people of the Russian Federation to make the right choice.
Perhaps it is too late to ask whether World War II could be repeated. It seems to me that we have with stirring solidarity forgotten to notice World War III. This broke out when Soviet forces, without particular cause, stormed into Manchuria in August of 1945, which was followed by communist coups d'etat and wars on three continents. If this is not a world war, what then is? We note only those wars which destroy the cathedrals of Coventry, Cologne or Kiev or that same spire of St. Nicholas' Church. We do not comprehend that sooner or later we will pay for the superficiality, which has pushed Rwanda's million victims to the furthest recesses of our consciousness. To this day, the unbroken chain of wars in the world continues, whose victims no one has bothered to count. In one way or another, the reason has always been the violent re-distribution of the economic product.
We have not recognised World War III. Are we sure that we will recognise World War IV? Its forms could be so varied that they could provide huge headlines on the front pages of newspapers, yet fail to rouse our concern for the survival of democratic values. Naturally, I am referring to the Tokyo subway, Oklahoma, Yokohama. Democracy will loose this battle if it retreats in the face of extortion backed by nuclear or biological weapons or of some other, even more crafty terrorist threat. Terrorism is not an amateur pastime. Lenin, I will remind you, was a professional terrorist, and built his state on this foundation. If the oil or electronics industries have formed global associations, why then do we underestimate the ability of international terrorism to create a global state to redistribute the social product, with the cost of sacrificing democratic values?
A small state has its advantages. A small state like Estonia has more mobility to restructure its economy. Like an Inuit kayak, it is capable of turning around on its heel. For this, a supertanker, with its tremendous inertia, requires eight nautical miles, which in historic time and space could prove to be fatal. What a charming topic for deliberation: time and space in correlation with a state's population and area!
Much like the heart of an elephant or whale, the heart of a large state beats more slowly; a small state's hours or weeks could fit into a whale's second. A small state also has other advantages: it may speak about simple things frankly and amicably , which will make large states cringe. A small state's charm lies in its transparency: everyone knows everyone else. In a transparent small state, principles are always visible, which tend to fade in the anonymity of large states, together with causes and consequences. Estonia's message to the world is simple: principles can not be for sale. This seemingly moralising message is by no means naive. It is, if you prefer, a piece of Realpolitik wisdom. A betrayal of principles can provide success and survival for one day, but the next day or the next generation will have to pay the price of success and lives many times over. I will try to prove my statement based on recent history. You cannot fight evil in league with evil. In Tehran and Yalta, the independence of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and parts of Poland and Central Europe were sacrificed. But by abandoning his principles in Tehran and Yalta, President Roosevelt, above all, sacrificed his own citizens, Americans, and all those who lost their life in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Poland, Indonesia, Cuba, the Horn of Africa, Angola, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya. The conclusion, which we so desperately try to ignore, is simple and cruel: a principle, once betrayed, unleashes a domino effect, which requires even more effort and human sacrifice to stop than would be needed to remain true to the principles in the first place. Today we speak of peace and stability and try to turn a blind eye to the fact that the Second World War has already been succeeded by a Third, which continues even today in Europe, Asia and Africa. President François Mitterrand, whose retirement today marks the exit of a symbol from the European scene, said in his recent speech in Berlin: "Europe has conquered itself." This is true, insofar that for the first time a large part of Europe has joined in the defence of the bulk of European values. This last sentence evokes the image of a photo of Europe, taken with its leg up in the air. Is the leg stretched out, in order to take the next step towards expanding the island of democracy, to encompass all of Europe's principles in their indivisible form? Or is the leg frozen in the air, to wait for safer times for Europe to come? Are we standing on two legs or one? Mitterrand's testamentary sentence, addressed to heads of state, calls upon emperors to admit that they may have been wearing no clothes. But it may also be that a bitter truth is hidden in this sentence as well: that no one, not even children, are surprised by this nakedness any more. Europe's will, morals and democratic principles stand before a serious test.
At the same time, I understand democracy's limits. Every national parliament will find it hard to explain to its constituents why they should have concerns and expenditures outside the borders of their state, and often beyond the borders of their continent. Marshall McLuhan's vision of the world as a small village knocks more loudly than ever on the hedonistic European's dining room door, just as he is deciding whether to order turkey or ham or a whole calf for Christmas dinner.
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