When being expressing one’s patriotism was often forbidden and even dangerous in Soviet Estonia, Estonians abroad thrived in their own communities. They were active participants in the restoration of Estonia’s independence and later they were a great help in rebuilding an independent nation.
5 facts about Estonian Life Abroad
- About 1/10 of Estonians escaped from Estonia to the West during the Second World War, about 20% were children.
- Those who fled came from all social strata, but there were many writers, artists, cultural figures, politicians, and scientists.
- Refugees who came from Estonia were treated either as citizens of Estonia or of the Soviet Union depending on whether the destination country recognized the occupation of the Baltic States. There were also countries where Estonians were considered to be without country because their country no longer existed.
- There were two initial destination countries for the refugees: Sweden and Germany, and from there they migrated to Canada, the United States, Australia, and other countries
- The cultural life of Estonians abroad was vibrant—hundreds of societies were launched, Estonian-language newspapers were published, Estonian businesses were active. For example, during the years 1944 to 2000, more than 4,000 books written in Estonian were published by the refugee community.