Happy 101st Birthday, Estonia!

By Sander Gansen

Celebrating the day when Estonian Independence was first announced in Pärnu, Estonia on 23 February 1918.

It was 101 years ago when our great-grandfathers and -mothers finally had a chance to proclaim this land as their own. Until that point, our nation had lived under many different regimes and names — by some estimates, since 9th millennium BC. But finally, we had our own country to govern.

The history of Estonians is rich, starting already in Mesolithic times. However, the first mentions of Estonia (or at that point Aestii) come via the Roman historian and senator, Tacitus. Later followed by various stories, including of those indicating that we were the fiercest Vikings in the region. And such that show us fighting against being Christianized in the 12/13th century — still being the most Pagan country in the world.

Ever since then, Estonia has been under the rule of the Danish, the Germans, the Polish, the Russians and the Swedish (not in that particular order).

But finally, a cultural movement sprang forth that ultimately led to us taking the land to ourselves. Until the Russians took it away again in 1940. Only to us proclaiming independence again in 1991.

Now, for the last 27 years, we’ve been free again. Building up the most digitally advanced country in the world. Setting an example to everyone else with our e-Health, e-tax and e-Voting systems. Meanwhile also becoming the birthplace for the biggest number of unicorn startups in any country per capita.

That said, like countries around us, we have recently become ever more afraid of globalisation and outside powers wanting to take the freedom away from us. Not because of any bad examples. Rather because some people want to protect their power without having to try harder.

To some certain extent, those fears have a good reason as well. And thus they must be dealt with. However, I’m 101% certain that the answer is not extreme nationalism any longer.

Yes, 101 years ago, we lived in a time where other powers were controlling us. Sucking us dry. But years later, the situation has changed so much that we finally can dream about uniting the whole world.

More so, the countries have started to lose their nationalistic meaning — becoming something that rather supports people with similar beliefs and goals. With the Internet spreading around us all, we are no longer limited to ideas, things and work from around the corner. We are now free to move and live as we believe to be the best for us.

At least that is the case for many of us, while it is our job to make sure that those without such opportunities could enjoy the prosperity as well.

Yet many still believe that instead of going forward, we should turn around. Instead of creating more value in life, we should focus on protecting the one already created. Also known as staying in the status quo.

I really hope that this will not be the future for us, and we will learn from other countries’ mistakes, deciding to still go forward. And it only depends whether we choose to trust those that support growth or those that want to limit it.

However, this weekend is a time for celebration. So let’s have fun and enjoy the company of our dearest friends and family. Dreaming together how to take Estonia forward in the next 100 years…