Waiting for the White Ship

​A historical concept in Estonian culture for an unlikely escape from a difficult situation. After WW II it mainly meant people’s hopes of liberation from the Soviet regime.

The concept dates from 1861 when several hundred followers of the religious prophet Juhan Leinberg (the so-called prophet Maltsvet), mostly peasants, waited for a few weeks near Tallinn for a white ship to take them away to a more prosperous and free country. The concept soon spread widely because it was used in literature.

After the Soviet regime was restored in Estonia in 1944, the concept quickly acquired a specific meaning – the white ship stood for the end of Soviet power, either by means of the intervention by Western countries, or by diplomatic pressure. Waiting for the white ship was a popular concept especially in the post-war decade, and the ruling regime had to work strenuously against it.

Estonians’ hopes for the general liberating were beginning to vanish in the mid 1950s, partly because the Soviet regime had become somewhat more lenient and people were trying to adapt to it, and partly because of the easing international tension and the realisation that Western countries were not prepared to take any radical steps to achieve the restoration of Estonian independence.

Details about this article