Tiny alien territory very close to our heartland is the best description of Estonia’s place in Russian history.
Estonia, like the rest of the Baltic states, was part of the Russian empire since the XVIII century. Aside from the considerable role played by local Germans in the service of the Russian Empire, it didn’t leave very much mark in our collective mind. It was considered a dull periphery, where people speak their unintelligible language going about their dull business on the shores of a dull shallow sea.
This somehow changed in the XX century. After the reconquest of the Baltics in 1940, Estonia, like the rest of them, became a shard of Europe stuck in the hermetically insulated world of the Soviet Communism. For example, their actors were picked to play “Europeans” in our movies, and their tunes were our surrogates for international pop.
We suspected the Estonians didn’t like it very much being stuck with us, so we tried cheering them up with some privileges. Their infrastructure was better, thanks to all the investment in the build-up of bases and the military-industrial complex on their territory. Their grocery shops were better stocked, their writers and artists were allowed to publish things that were oftentimes borderline anti-Soviet.
They didn’t seem to appreciate much any of that. When all things Soviet went pear-shaped at the start of the 1990s, they declared independence, and never looked back.
Now, they are in NATO and EU. They got a Russian-speaking minority that became a sort of new lower class, and sometimes complains very loudly about inequality and discrimination, but never moves back to Russia.
Our attitude to Estonians, like to the rest of the Balts, is very much like of an ex from a lousy relationship. We were sort of married, but it never felt like marriage. More like roommates with privileges. Now imagine your former ex who you tried hard to impress and act cool, but who is now with some other guy, and tells everyone left and right that you were not cool at all.
It kinda hurts.
Disclaimer: The word “Balts” used here is what Russians use about all the three Baltic nations. Most of us know that Estonian language is not related to the other two, but belongs to the Ugro-Finnish group. “Balts” (or the older “pribálty”) denotes geography, not ethnicity or language.