After the fall of communism, the dominant political elite in Estonia intended to get as far away as possible from the disliked planned economy as well as from the homo sovieticus. The country thus ended up on the opposite side, proudly presenting itself as the most radical neoliberalist market economy in Europe. Polanyi’s embedded economy had no chance of survival in Estonia.
Nevertheless, since the disastrous economic crash in 2008 the paradigm of scrupulous economic growth (Estonia as a „Baltic tiger“ with 10,6% of GDP growth 2006) as the highest goal is increasingly being questioned. Parts of civil society have discovered a potential „third“ way between the planned economy and the Estonian model of orthodox neoliberalism. As a painfully learnt lesson during the 90s, when self-supply through the dacha was the only guarantee for survival for a majority of people, the dacha is experiencing its come-back as a symbol for self-sufficiency and resilience. Activities such as urban gardening and community organized collective works are becoming increasingly popular. The civil society appears to be ready to explore the middle way as an alternative pathway.
This paper aims to identify certain values and structures of Soviet historic legacy that are now slowly being discovered again in Estonian civil society and to draw parallels. It raises the question whether a sufficient amount of time has passed so that certain communal practices can now carefully be revived without associating it with the terrible failure of state communism. Can Estonian civil society open the third door and thus become the agent of a new transformation, despite the country’s neoliberal political elite?
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Relearning from selected Soviet parallels – „Dacha resilience“ as a degrowth pathway for Eastern Europe in the 21st century?“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.