After Estonia restored its independence, and in particular in the last decade, Estonians have become increasingly transnational. Since for Estonians their language is a key feature of national identity, maintaining and preserving the Estonian identity abroad is closely related to the continued use of the language. However, history has shown that preserving one’s native language in a new linguistic and cultural space is not an easy task. Even if the desire to preserve the language is strong, and Estonian is the language spoken in the home, with each generation there is an increase in the influence of the culture and the identity of the host country on a person’s self-image, and on the shared sense of multiple-identity.

However, the preservation of the language and identity also depends very much on how strong the different Estonian communities abroad are. In the same way as an individual’s quality of life in Estonia is determined by the size of his or her local community, whether there is a pre-school and a school nearby, recreational activities offered by the community centre and ease of access to theatres and cinemas, just so does the vitality of transnational Estonian communities depend on the size of the community and how active its members are.

The first part of the article focuses on different ways of defining national identity and how these differing definitions influence understanding of the essence of Estonianness. The objective of the analysis is to demonstrate how the combining of different identity types might serve as a basis for a broad-based understanding of Estonianness, i.e. the Greater-Estonia identity. The second part of the article explains the notion of multiple identity and discusses the strategies of different generations of Estonian expatriates for managing multiple identities. The third part gives an overview of different types of transnational communities and their impact on the preservation of identity and language.

Methods of defining identity

Aune Valk’s analysis in this chapter (see Valk 2017, this Report) highlighted several possible approaches for defining national identity, as well as the fact that for many ethnic groups language is the main distinguishing feature. However, the Estonian language is neither the only, nor even an inevitable part, of the Estonian identity, at least not for all Estonians, as shown by Valk (2017, this Report). A large proportion of ‘home Estonians’ (kodueestlased) and Estonian expatriates feels that even basic knowledge of Estonian is sufficient to be an Estonian and that one can actually be Estonian without speaking the language at all. Of the ‘second wave’ of expatriates, 84% agreed with that statement, whereas only 34% of the ‘third wave’ expatriates agreed (Ojamaa & Karu-Kletter 2014). In Estonia, 47% of ethnic Estonians and 48% of non-Estonians agreed with the statement (Valk 2014). Naturally, there are purists among the Estonians (both domestic and expatriate) who see an accent or influences of other languages as weakening someone’s Estonian identity, but in general older generations of expatriates hold back on criticising the language skills of younger generations in order not to discourage them from using the Estonian language (Ojamaa & Karu-Kletter 2014).

While language as a feature of identity is largely based on ethnicity, nationality (citizenship) as a feature of identity is based on the state. Language skills and nationality do not fully overlap in any country and tension between ethnic and state identity is well-known to all modern nation states. However, ethnic Estonians (both in the diaspora and those living in Estonia) do not distinguish between ethnic identity and identification with the state as a rule (Valk 2014), because the Republic of Estonia is seen and perceived as a self-expression of ethnic Estonians.

It is another thing altogether for speakers of Estonian as a second language – identifying oneself with the Estonian state and one’s ethnic identity are two different things. As recent surveys have shown (Valk 2014), for the Russians living in Estonia identifying oneself with the Estonian state is predicted by identifying as an Estonian-Russian or as a speaker of Estonian plus satisfaction with one’s life. The latter is strongly dependant on the level of Estonian language proficiency; however, a good command of Estonian is not sufficient to identify oneself with the Estonian state – what is important is a self-identification that is linked to Estonia. About one in three Estonian-Russians can be characterised in this way (Valk 2017, this Report).

It is undeniably in the interests of the cultural vitality of Estonia to be as flexible as possible regarding the correlation of language and nationality in the Estonian collective identity: Estonian is the native language of only part of the citizens; the other part use it as a second language. At the same time, there are many non-citizens, in particular among Estonian expatriates, for whom Estonian is their mother tongue, while there are also many citizens who do not speak Estonian (such as the descendants of Estonian citizens who were born and raised abroad). While neither language nor citizenship in itself will ensure emotional connection to the Estonian national identity, both definitely contribute to its formation.

Besides one’s mother tongue and citizenship, national identity can also be defined by bloodlines. Traditionally, such a definition is used by orthodox Jews. According to Orthodox Judaism, a person’s Jewish identity is passed down through the maternal line, regardless of the person’s language skills, nationality or cultural background; however, this has never been a standard (Diamond 2014). Native American tribes also continue to use ‘blood quantum laws’ to determine who is eligible for membership in the tribe: a prerequisite for being a member of a tribe is a Native American ancestor, whereas for some tribes it is sufficient to have a 1/32 degree blood quantum, which corresponds to having one full-blooded great-great-great-grandparent.

The majority of European nations, however, do not define national identity by bloodline. At the same time, ethnic roots are recognised as a possible feature of national identity even if the person neither speaks the language nor is a citizen. As new generations of Estonian expatriates are born, the number of people of Estonian origin who value their Estonian identity, yet do not speak the language, is increasing.

This is all the more so because preserving a language is difficult, especially if a person comes from a mixed family with only one parent speaking the language of the titular nation. Accepting the inevitable, Estonian expatriates tend to recognise as Estonian also those who do not speak the Estonian language, as long as there is a wish to learn, and offer an example of Jews, Lithuanians and Poles who have lived in the U.S. for generations and are only familiar with some ritual expressions, yet consider their original identity important (Ojamaa & Karu-Kletter 2014).

For the majority of the third-generation Estonian expatriates their Estonian origin has become the main part of their Estonian identity, as the knowledge of the Estonian language has weakened or even disappeared. Estonian origin is important also in the case of the third emigration wave: it is a sort of cultural capital, or baggage which is impossible to get rid of, and is frequently expressed by respondents with an affirmation echoing a beloved patriotic song: ‘Estonian I am - and Estonian I will remain’ (Ojamaa & Karu-Kletter 2014).

Finally, there is a fourth important factor in determining one’s national identity: a cultural factor, i.e. the core values of an identity. This feature is also very important for Jews whose identity is largely based on their national religion. National religion as a core value of identity is also used by other nations. For example, Greek Orthodoxy is an important factor that helps to preserve the Greek national identity of the Greek diaspora in Australia. Cultural core values also help to preserve Afrikaans in South Africa, where the common language of communication is English.

Core values are also important for Estonian identity; their direct manifestation is the tradition of song festivals, which help to create an emotional connection for people of Estonian origin with their Estonian identity and thus affect self-definition. Second-generation emigrants have, for example, said that participation in a song festival was a turning point that helped them to maintain or discover their Estonian identity. Subjective self-definition is important for Estonian expatriates, even if a person is not always instantly identifiable as Estonian. What is also important, besides self-definition, is love for Estonia, i.e. emotional connection. This feeling is particularly strong among second- and third-generations of expatriates, while those born and raised in Estonia mentioned it less frequently, probably because knowing the language and their cultural background feels natural and intrinsically a part of life (Ojamaa & Karu-Kletter 2014).

Emotional connection with Estonian identity and core values is important not only for individuals of Estonian origin. Song festivals can have an emotional impact also on those who are of a different origin, nationality or perhaps do not even speak Estonian at all. Connected in this way are a large number of foreign partners of Estonians living in Estonia or abroad, who are in close contact with the Estonian culture, either through their partner or because they are interested in it.

Figure 4.1.1. Methods of defining national identity

Source: Figure by the author

As shown in Figure 4.1.1, national identity can be defined in a number of ways. These features or their combination may serve both as a person’s basis for national self-identification and as a criterion used by others to recognise – or reject – such self-identification. National identity, as with any other collective identity, is never just a question of self-identification – it has to be recognised by the community. For example, to be a Native American, self-identification as such is not sufficient – other Native Americans need to recognise such self-identification as genuine.

The choice of the features on the basis of which an individual’s self-identification is recognised is central to the determination of identity. Traditionally, the Estonian national identity has been quite language-centred; therefore many people who, despite their modest language skills, feel emotionally connected to Estonia remain marginalised or are even rejected by the Estonian-speaking majority. In today’s globalised world, such a narrow definition of identity may no longer be sustainable. Given demographic changes, an Estonianness that is based only on linguistic identity is doomed to gradually disappear.

A broader, ‘Greater-Estonia’ identity, which includes both Estonians in Estonia and Estonian expatriates, would allow a significantly larger number of people to be actively involved. Such an identity would include ethnic Estonians based on language and culture (whether they are Estonian nationals or not) and also people of Estonian origin (regardless of their nationality and whether they speak Estonian or not) as well as those who are only emotionally connected to Estonia, i.e. share Estonian core values, even if they have no Estonian roots, do not speak Estonian and are not Estonian nationals. Naturally, the aim of the development of the Estonian identity should be the creation of an emotional connection between the identity and the people who are in one way or another connected to Estonia and may, therefore, consider the creation and strengthening of such a connection enriching. In other words, a broader definition of Estonian identity would increase the number of Estonians and broaden the notion of Estonianness.

It could be argued that the world is moving towards the abandonment of collective identities and, therefore, the development of the Estonian identity may seem obsolete. Unfortunately, there is no answer to this question. What is clear is that the need for collective identity decreases in a safer world and increases in unstable times. It is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming decades. Even in the most cosmopolitan scenario, it will take at least a couple of generations for national identities to disappear. In the meantime it is quite certain that increasing transnationalism will lead to the emergence and spread of various double and multiple identities. This is why developing Estonianness should also be staked on multiple identities, unless we want it to end up as an exhibition at the Estonian National Museum in Raadi.

Multiple identity

Because people belong simultaneously to different groups, they subscribe to not just one but to a number of collective identities. These identities are arranged into various dimensions, such as gender, race, ethnic origin, language, age, religious beliefs, profession, etc. Each of these allows for a certain number of collective identities.

The majority of people subscribe to only one identity in each dimension: a man or a woman (but not both); a Muslim or a Christian (but not both), etc. However, not infrequently, it is possible to subscribe to more than one identity within the same dimension. For example, a person may feel that they belong to two ethnic groups at the same time. This is a multiple identity.

Roccas and Brewer (2002) argue that multiple identity can lead to a greater sense of complexity in social identity and that more complex identities are inherently conflictual and people try to minimise the conflict by different cognitive means. The authors describe four main strategies individuals use to manage and to reduce the conflict between multiple social identities: intersection, dominance, compartmentalisation and merger (see Figure 4.1.2):

Figure 4.1.2. Managing multiple identities

Source: Roccas and Brewer 2002:90

The easiest way an individual can manage multiple identities is to define their identity as the intersection of different group memberships and to see the people who share the same set of variables as their in-group. Such identification is common among the second generation expatriates who, while abroad, feel that they are Estonians and while in Estonia feel that they are representatives of their country of residence. This means that they struggle to fully identity with their national group. However, they have a strong sense of solidarity with other second generation expatriates across the world: they share the same life and identity experience, the same expatriate culture and identity (see Ojamaa & Karu-Kletter 2014: 188). The tradition of international ESTO-Day festivals has definitely contributed to the emergence of such an identity.

Domination is a more complex identity-management strategy. An individual adopts one primary group identification to which all other potential group identities are subordinated. For instance, a female lawyer may assign primacy to her professional identity, while all other identities (ethnic origin, gender, marital status, etc.) assume minor importance. This type of identity is common for many third-generation Estonian expatriates for whom the national identity of their country of residence is primary and the Estonian identity is perceived mainly in terms of historical roots. Such an identity may also characterise first-generation emigrants for whom the Estonian identity was primary. Living in a foreign country for a long period and adapting to its culture has added a new identity layer which, however, cannot compete with the main identity. There are also those among first-generation expatriates who have not developed multiple identities despite the fact that they have lived abroad longer than in Estonia (Ojamaa & Karu-Kletter 2014).

Next in complexity is the compartmentalisation strategy. With compartmentalisation, different identities are isolated and activated separately depending on the social situation or context. For instance, a bilingual person can completely identify with one cultural and language environment, without activating the other identity, and vice versa. Such identity management is characteristic of some second-generation Estonian expatriates (in particular those born after WW2), who were raised in an Estonian speaking family, yet could not avoid the language and identity of their country of residence. This strategy is also adopted by those representatives of the latest emigration wave, who left re-independent Estonia in childhood or were born abroad, but were raised in an Estonian family, went to school in Estonia (for at least a couple of years) and visit Estonia often. As a result of growing up in two different language and cultural environments, they have friends both in Estonia and in their country of residence and they feel confident in both cultural and language environments.

The most complex strategy of managing multiple identities is merger. In this mode, multiple identities are combined and integrated into one and everybody sharing one of the identities is included in the person’s in-group. Such identity is characteristic of some of the third-wave emigrants - those with higher income, level of education and mobility and who merge their national and cosmopolitan identities with that of their new country of residence (Ojamaa & Karu-Kletter 2014). This merger of identities is less common among unskilled workers who are seen as immigrants of a certain ethnic background, rather than digital nomads with a flexible and cosmopolitan identity.

People tend to reduce the cognitive complexity of the world in order to navigate in it with less difficulty and with greater clarity. This means that complex multiple identities also tend to become simpler, which mostly leads to their disappearance. It is true that the speed of these processes depends on a number of factors, such as compatibility of core values, share of mixed marriages and the character of the transnational community.

Types of transnational Estonian communities

Globalisation has made the world smaller. People are more mobile and can move between countries more easily, while the internet and Skype help to keep in contact with loved ones and one’s native culture. Expatriate Estonia is less cut off from ‘home’ Estonia than it used to be, both logistically and mentally. This is why Estonian expatriate communities should be seen as a natural element of Estonia - they are like overseas counties of Estonia and should form a part of the regional policy of Estonia. And to be honest, a critical point concerning Estonian regional policy can be raised: some remote municipalities in Estonia have worse connections with regional centres and a poorer cultural life than quite a few transnational communities. In the same way as Estonian municipalities differ by their demographic, economic and cultural situations, there are also many types of transnational communities and consequently they also face differing problems.

The preservation of the Estonian identity and language among transnational people largely depends on the character of their communities – whether they are scattered or concentrated in one place; whether they are organised or not. Naturally, there are no clear distinguishing lines between different types of community; rather, we can describe expatriate Estonian communities by means of two scales (see Figure 4.1.3). Figure 4.1.3 does not claim to be exact or exhaustive; rather, it is an illustration that helps to systematise the following overview.

Figure 4.1.3. A typology of expatriate Estonian communities

Source: Figure by the author

Concentrated and organised: Eastern diaspora communities

The Estonian eastern diaspora was formed more than a hundred years ago as a result of the first emigration wave. Due to the economic and population policies of that time, it was mainly settlement migration, i.e. the emigrants often came from the same Estonian region, started their journey together and established an Estonian village in their new country of residence (mainly Russia). They built a Lutheran church, community centre and schoolhouse and continued to respect and preserve Estonian national values, although in Estonia they were often regarded as traitors to their fatherland (Jürgenson 2015: 33). The villages were often established in remote areas with no previous human settlements. As the villages were isolated, not everybody was bilingual and Russian was learned only at the minimum level necessary. Also, the attitude towards mixed marriages was very negative and those young people who were dating Russians were openly vilified. Only after Russian was introduced as the language of instruction at schools (under Stalin’s rule, in 1937-1938) and Russian teachers arrived in Estonian villages did the knowledge of Russian become more widespread, particularly as many young female teachers found spouses from among Estonians. (Korb 2012:55).

Due to spatial isolation, each village formed a separate whole where Estonian was used as the language of communication until social factors led to ethnic mixing with the titular nation. Nonetheless, the Estonian villages of the eastern diaspora were very successful in preserving their own language and culture. They survived far beyond three generations, which is considered to be the limit to the existence of a double identity. Finally, the villages of the eastern diaspora did not disappear as a result of natural assimilation, rather it was a consequence of Soviet population and economic policies, aimed at ethnic mixing, i.e. the multiculturalism of that era. The occupation and annexation of Estonia by the Soviet Union provided an opportunity for many to move back to Estonia; some were sent here as representatives of the Soviet regime (Jürgenson 2015). Later the collapse of the Soviet Union started a record-breaking return migration of Estonians from Russia. Mixing with other ethnic groups, combined with return migration, destroyed the internal cohesiveness of Estonian villages that had initially been very strong.

At this point the eastern diaspora is no longer sustainable as an Estonian-speaking and Estonian-minded environment. While the Estonians of the eastern diaspora are ethnically similar to Estonians in Estonia, their national self-identification differs. This is mainly manifested in their values, such as attitudes towards Russia, which are negative in Estonia, but positive among the eastern diaspora. It is not unusual to hear the opinion that Estonia would do better within the Russian Federation (Jürgenson 2015: 46). In other words, the multiple identity of the eastern diaspora is dominated by the local Russian national identity, and their Estonian identity is subordinated to it.

Concentrated and unorganised: Estonians in Finland

Due to its size, the Estonian community in Finland is a spatially-concentrated community (see Praakli 2017, this Report). While a large number of Estonians in Finland live in a narrowly-defined geographical area in and around Helsinki and its suburbs, understandably they do not form closed or semi-closed communities - there are no known city districts or quarters in Finland with a mainly Estonian population. In eastern Helsinki, where the density of Estonians is the highest, they constitute only 5% of the total population of the region.

Historically, there was no Estonian community in Finland; cultural activities were mainly organised around Finnish Estophiles (through the Tuglas Society). After Estonia restored its independence, contacts with Finland developed very rapidly – from tourism in the late 1980s to the resettlement of Ingrian Finns in the early 1990s, to the discovery of educational opportunities in the late 1990s, to the opening of the Finnish labour market in 2006, and through to the large-scale migration of labour in the wake of the economic downturn of 2008 (Jakobson & Kalev 2013). Thus, the Estonian community in Finland is thoroughly an expatriate community established during the third wave of emigration.

Unlike the eastern diaspora that formed as a result of the first wave of emigration and the wester diaspora resulting from the second wave of emigration, which were largely collective processes, the third wave is individual, i.e. the emigrants do not leave in groups to establish new agricultural settlements or to flee the Soviet regime; they emigrate at different times and for different reasons - some temporarily, others permanently. Just as the reasons for emigrating are different, so are the economic, educational and political backgrounds of the third-wave emigrants.

This type of community, which results from individuals emigrating, is neither organised nor does it have a single common need for national organisation. Consequently each of the third-wave emigrants promotes their own cause (Ojamaa & Karu-Kletter 2014: 193). Therefore, the Estonians in Finland have had to deal with more difficulty and complications organising their community than did the refugees who fled Estonia in 1944, during the second emigration wave. In part, this may be due to the linguistic and cultural closeness of Finland, which makes assimilation into that society relatively easy.

At the same time, the concentration of Estonians in the Helsinki region is so high that becoming organised at the ethnic level has been inevitable, although its main purpose is getting together and relaxing at social events, rather than the preservation of the Estonian language and culture specifically. In Helsinki there is an Estonian House, an Estonian-language radio channel (FinEst FM), and concerts by Estonian artists as well as parties are frequently organised. Such communal activities are characteristic of many transnational communities in the welfare states. They are organised to offer temporary relief from the stress of adapting, which is often felt in a foreign cultural environment. Such organisation also makes use of the existing identity as a trust network for mutual support in everyday matters or just to boost self-esteem. The Facebook group Eestlased Soomes (Estonians in Finland), with its 33,000 members, fulfils this role rather successfully (Praakli 2017, this Report). Thus, Estonian identity is cultural capital that can be used in Finland as a safety net. Even if there is some bitterness towards Estonia, the Estonian identity fulfils a valuable social function in building a trusted network.

Scattered and organised: Estonian communities in the metropolises of the world

Estonian communities in cities have a long history, sometimes across all three waves of emigration. They continue to exist due to the constant influx of new immigrants. Another reason is that they are strongly organised and supported by economic factors. Starting from the first Estonian associations, the Estonian communities have invested in property, established Estonian Houses, newspapers and even financial institutions. The resources accumulated over generations have laid down a solid basis for such communities and have even instilled a certain sense of obligation in the younger generations to carry on the work.

Estonian communities are undoubtedly the strongest in the largest expatriate centres, such as Stockholm, London, Toronto, New York, San Francisco and Sidney, where they emerged as a result of the second wave of emigration and which continue to attract the third-wave immigrants today. Large cities function as centres for local Estonian communities, but due to enormous urban distances we cannot talk about concentrated communities. However, big urban centres usually have an ‘Estonian House’, which acts as a venue for Sunday school and various associations, and which serves as a magnet for the whole area, including the smaller towns in the vicinity. Such expatriate regions or ‘transnational counties’ may be very large, such as the eastern or western coast of the U.S. (Sööt 2016). Similarly, Estonian communities in Sweden or Australia form a unitary whole.

Estonian communities in metropolises include people of different generations and from different waves of migration, first-, second-, and third-generation Estonians and their family members. In terms of education and economic prosperity, these are people who are better off and more culturally sophisticated than the average; some of them are second- or third-generation emigrants, others have moved abroad for personal fulfilment, to study or to join their partners.

In most of these communities the emigrants of the second and third waves have successfully merged. Given the continuing attraction of big cities and strong connections with the Estonian diplomatic missions, these communities can be considered sustainable, partly because they are able to attract a large number of Estonian digital nomads. We can be confident that these communities are able to provide adequate support to children from mixed families so that they can obtain at least a primary knowledge of Estonian to facilitate the development of their Estonian identity.

Highly-scattered communities

In smaller towns as well as in the countries that do not have a strong community of second-wave immigrants and are not attractive destinations, the establishment of an organised and well-functioning Estonian community is more difficult.

A good example is Germany, where the community of Estonian expatriates is weak and which, after the restoration of Estonia’s independence, was mainly a destination country for young women who then also started families while studying or working in Germany (Kälissaar 2010). Only when their children reached school age did they feel the need for and interest in the development of their Estonian identity, which resulted in the establishment of Estonian Sunday schools. Due to long distances, the activities of Estonian expatriates in Germany are not very dynamic. With immigration increasing, new opportunities are emerging for communal activities. A good example is Berlin, which attracts many artists who are keen on the open atmosphere there, as well as students (Praakli 2017, this Report). This lively and mobile community of young Estonians has successfully started up communal activities from scratch (for understandable reasons, no Estonian communities were established by the refugees who left Estonia in 1944).

Another example is Ireland, which also does not have an Estonian expatriate community or an Estonian House. Estonians started to emigrate to Ireland after Estonia joined the EU. Currently there are approximately 3,000 Estonians living in Ireland, the majority of them in Dublin and Cork. Ethnic community organising has begun. A society of Estonian families Üheskoos was established in 2009 in Cork, and the Estonian Cultural and Sports Society was established in 2012 in Dublin. Both associations also run an Estonian school, have a folk dance group and a project-based choir; there is also a Facebook group with some 1,000 members (Soone 2016). The majority of the Estonians in Ireland are those who have decided to settle down in that country; cross-border commuting is less common. A large number of people are in mixed marriages and there are many children (perhaps influenced by the local culture). The number of travel documents applied for children under 12 months was 40 in 2006 and 50 in 2007 (Rohtla 2008). The Estonian community in Ireland is somewhat similar to that in Finland in that it emerged relatively recently and is still in the initial phases of organisation; the difference is the size. This is partly compensated perhaps by the greater solidarity of the Irish Estonians, caused by geographical distance from Estonia, the convenient size of the community and bigger cultural differences with Ireland (Rohtla 2008).


Globalisation has significantly increased the mobility of Estonians and resulted in the third wave of emigration. Compared with the previous waves, the current one is occurring under very different conditions: international transport is significantly faster and cheaper, border crossing is smoother, keeping in contact with family back home is easier and there are plenty of opportunities to keep track of current affairs and participate in Estonian culture. This entails both risks and opportunities for Estonian society.

On the one hand, free movement makes emigrating psychologically easy - which, in the event of national economic problems, may however lead to mass emigration that can affect Estonia’s sustainability. On the other hand, information technology enables the integration of Estonia and its transnational communities into a single global Estonian society, which can create better economic, cultural and demographic development opportunities. Whether the third wave of emigration will hold back or accelerate Estonia’s development will depend on how the majority of Estonians define their national identity.

Traditionally, Estonian national identity has been based on the Estonian language; therefore, it is inevitable that the generations that have been born and raised in transnational communities have had no opportunity to feel ‘fully’ Estonian. In the past, limited travel opportunities and rare contacts prevented the formation of emotional connection with Estonia - people with Estonian roots gradually lost their multiple identity and assimilated with the population of their country of residence.

Undoubtedly, the processes causing cultural integration continue in transnational communities also in the context of globalisation, but advanced technology and transport have significantly simplified keeping in contact with Estonia. This means that preservation of Estonian national identity depends less on circumstances and much more on whether the Estonians born and/or raised abroad wish to identify as Estonians and whether the Estonians in Estonia are willing to recognise the self-definition of the former.

The recognition of a person’s national self-definition depends directly on how society defines national identity - in narrow or broad terms. For the global Estonian society to emerge and form, we need a broad definition of national identity according to which anyone who wishes to identify as an Estonian based on some characteristic indicator is free to do so. Such broadening of the definition of national identity should not be mere indifferent acknowledgement. It should rather be an active and inclusive attitude, which invites people to establish emotional connections with Estonia - a necessary prerequisite for the formation of a balanced and permanent multiple identity. It is encouraging that the definition of national identity used by Estonians in Estonia has become broader (see Valk 2017, this Report).

Naturally, a broad definition of Estonian national identity will not ensure the preservation of Estonian communities abroad if emigrants are not interested in preserving their national identity and transnational communities remain weakly organised. Language learning and Estonian-medium education as well as close contacts with Estonia will probably remain the key issues (Praakli 2017, this Report). The experience with previous emigration waves shows that highly-organised communities preserve the Estonian language longer and have stronger national identity. The current, third wave of emigration has brought new people and new energy to the second-wave communities, while at the same time benefitting from the resources and infrastructure accumulated over decades. This has created a unique opportunity to unite the expatriate and ‘home’ communities into one global Estonian society by using modern information technology. If this happens, the current, third wave of emigration will not necessarily weaken Estonia but may actually become a developmental leap.

This article was prepared in the framework of the research topic The sustainability of the Estonian language in the open world (IUT20-3).


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