Diasporaa-eestlaste enesekuvand muutuvas maailmas / The self-image of diaspora Estonians in the changing world


  • Triinu Ojamaa Estonian Literary Museum
  • Kristel Karu-Kletter Estonian Institute




social psychology, Estonia, diaspora, self-concept, cultural identity, interviewing


The paper deals with diaspora Estonians’ collective identity. Our research was based on interviews and Estonian exile literature. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 48 respondents from Europe, Canada, the United States, and Australia. The first, second and third generations were represented; ages ranged from 15 to 93. The respondents were also divided into „old” and „new” subgroups, based on whether they left Estonia before or after the 1990s. We analyzed the responses to the questions „How do you define an Estonian?” and „Do you consider yourself an Estonian, and if yes then why?” These questions were asked in order to examine the concepts of a „proper Estonian” and respondents’ personal ways of being Estonian. An interest in Estonian culture and history as well as an attachment to Estonia and to the Estonian language were almost equally important for all the respondents. The image of a „proper Estonian” was similar across the generations in both the old and new subgroups. A „proper Estonian” is the reflection of traditions and values. In reality, people usually develop identities based on their personal life experiences. The responses to the question „Do you consider yourself an Estonian, and if yes then why?” varied much more, depending most of all on the generation: the first generation of both the old and new subgroups identified themselves 100% as Estonians; the second and third generations consisted mainly of individuals with a conscious double-identity. Some respondents stated that they had been raised to be Estonians. All the respondents agreed that identifying with several cultures was possible whereas the new subgroup showed the highest multicultural scores. The topic that served to unite the diaspora with Estonia and with Estonians elsewhere was the Republic of Estonia: questions evaluating pride in the Estonian state produced the most similar and equally positive responses from all respondents. 


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Artiklid / Articles