Happy birthday, Estonia
Since moving to Estonia, we discovered that we arrived on its birthday!
So, happy birthday Eesti; you’re the ripe old age of… 100?!
Australia is older than Estonia?
It’s strange to think about it; it isn’t as though both places didn’t exist previously, but finding out that Australia became a nation before Estonia kind of prompts more questions than it answers.
For starters, obviously we didn’t move here on the actual birthday – February 24th, 1918 – but celebrations are happening all year long. In fact, official celebrations are taking place over the course of 3 years! This is to reflect all of the defining moments which lead to independence, and the struggles that continued after it.
A brief timeline of Estonian history
11,000 years ago
Oldest known settlement in Estonia. People live in semi-nomadic communities near bodies of water, and subsist by hunting, gathering, and fishing. It is predicated that during this period, the first Estonian supermodel was born.
Age of primitive agriculture begins. Estonians invent the hairbrush in order to comb their lustrous, white-blonde supermodel hair.
Establishment of the first hill fort settlements (presumably to protect supermodels).
1000 BC – 500 BC
A transition from hunting-fishing-gathering subsistence to single-farm-based settlement started around 1000 BC, and was complete by the beginning of the Iron Age around 500 BC. The large amount of bronze objects indicate the existence of active communication with Scandinavian and Germanic tribes, indicating a further refining of the supermodel genes.
500 BC – 1100 AD-ish
Vikings, both Scandinavian and Baltic, do naughty things. Emergening Russian principalities see Tartu, and think “Phwoar, I don’t mind the look of that… Yoink!”, until the locals yoink it back. By the 13th century, Estonia consisted of 8 major and 6 minor counties, which were independent and engaged only in a loose cooperation against foreign threats, and supermodel pageants.
As was typical for Europe at the time, there was a lot of nastiness, including crusades, invasions, rebellions, rulings, and overthrowings.
1558 – 1697
The Russians do a naughty and try and be all up in Estonia’s grill. Some of the locals asked for help from Poland, and the others, Sweden. Then Poland and Sweden got in a fight. Sweden won, and the territory was Swedish. Volvos started appearing everywhere. Unfortunately, due to the near-constant conflict during that time, half of all Estonians perished. Then Sweden started being more chill, and Estonia grew for 60 to 70 years at a rapid pace – both in terms of population and civilisation. Cool stuff like elementary education and printing presses appeared. Stuff was going ok. But then, at the end of this period, a great famine wiped out a further 20% of the population. Models were in turmoil.
1700 – 1900
This is when the Russians decided enough was enough, and yet another war meant the whole of Estonia was conquered by sneaky Slavs. More population devastation. The Russians decree that the Baltic Germans in the territory could be important, and that Estonians are reduced to serfdom. Even supermodels had to do menial work. Though serfdom was formally abolished around 1817, not a great deal changed for the locals until the mid 19th century.
1850 saw the beginning of the great Estonian national awakening, after realising that they had overslept. Estonians began to form a sense of national identity. Things were improving! But then in the late 19th century, those sneaky Slavs didn’t like it, and started to suppress the mad gainz that the locals had been flexing.
In 1901, Australia achieved federation, and the first ever Bunnings sausage sizzle occurred to celebrate the occasion.
But back in Estonia, in 1905, a revolution began! Estonians wanted to make Estonia great again. And who could blame them? They weren’t Russian. They weren’t German. They certainly weren’t Portuguese. The Estonians demanded Russia bugger off back east so that they could be autonomous, and to take their whacky Cyrillic alphabet with them. Predictably, the Russians weren’t too happy with this development, and they cracked right TF down on them, performing hundreds of executions and hundreds more deported to that old Russian cliche of Siberia.
But it was too late. The spark of national identity had ignited the kindling of patriotism, and soon a bonfire of nationhood would be raging.
In the midst of The Great War, Estonians upped the ante and were one step away from independence, after the February revolution. The Bolsheviks saw to that, however, during the October revolution. Revolutions aplenty.
During the short interlude between Russian retreat and German arrival, the locals declared the independence of Estonia on 24 February 1918, and formed the Estonian Provisional Government. German occupation immediately followed, but after their defeat in World War I the Germans were forced to hand over power to the Provisional Government on 19 November. Winning!
However, just 9 days later, the Russians were back. So began the Estonian War of Independence.
The plucky Estonians laid the smack down on the Russians, and after a few months sent them packing. They repelled them a few more times. Come Spring, the army went full beast mode, actually advancing on Russia (and Latvia – it goes a ways back). This was achieved with the cooperation of the White Russian forces, which soon collapsed. The Russians tried to advance again, but evidently, hell hath no fury like an Estonian scorned. The Russians gave up. For now.
On February 2nd, the Tartu Peace Treaty was signed between Estonia and Soviet Russia, with the latter pledging to permanently give up all sovereign claims to Estonia (though as we will see, they had their fingers crossed behind their back when they signed it).
The Soviet Union organised a communist coup attempt, which quickly failed.
World War 2
The Estonians were beaten around the ears by both the Germans and the Soviets, like so much of Europe. By the end of the war, the Soviets decided the wanted 5% of Estonian territory back, and the second Communist Occupation began.
The Soviet Period
After the war, the Estonians attempt to resist the occupation by joining a guerilla movement known as the Forest Brothers. It was pretty full on at first, but the Soviets weathered the storm, and by the mid 1950s the resistance was no more.
Lots more locals get a ticket to Siberia after resisting the inevitable collectivisation of the society.
The Russians started importing more Russians. The percentage of Estonians in their own country fell from 94 to 61 by the end of the occupation. The pool of supermodels started to dry up. There was many pollutings of the natures, and living standards continued to decline until the end. Basically, Russia made Russia Minor.
But then came the Restoration of Independence… And that is the subject of a future post 😉
Back to now
Let’s have a look at some official stuff for the centenary!
(Has anyone ever mistaken Australia and Estonia?)
I really like the logo they came up with, too:
Don’t like the plain one? You can view the official 100 variations here, or even create your own! Personally, I’m getting tattooed on my forehead.