The role of science in post-independence Estonia

Scientists belong to the Estonian national elite. Scientists played an important role in the restoration of independence, although some have expressed nihilistic ideas, e.g. Ado Grenzstein at the beginning of the century and Gustav Naan in the 1970s and 1980s, who preached a bitter truth based on scientific methodology, and expressed a pessimistic outlook on the future of the Estonian nation. The rise of national identity in the last years of the Soviet regime was connected with environmental issues. Scientists took part in plenums of artistic associations and other events anticipating the restoration of independence. Independence brought with it a flourishing of the national sciences, a competition for the scarce resources of a small state, and the involvement of scientists in political parties.

As members of parties or independently, the scientific community presently tries to maintain the high reputation of Estonian science. An important factor is the concentration of scientific centres in Tallinn and Tartu, where an infrastructure is being created for science and the universities are interested in the administration of the institutions which were established in the Soviet era. Creating the conditions for scientific activities means that Estonians can gain experience abroad and, more importantly, return to develop sciences at home. The prestige of science and science as a means by which Estonians may become a large nation are held in high regard.

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