Estonia: Challenges and Lessons of the Development of Local Autonomy

Georg Sootla and Kersten Kattai

in The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199562978
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

Estonia: Challenges and Lessons of the Development of Local Autonomy

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  • Regional Political Studies
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This article focuses on the development of local autonomy in Estonia. Estonia emerged as a result of the collapse of the Russian empire in 1918. The emergence of Estonian democracy was guided by the values of national liberation. After the defeat of Soviet Russia, independence was reasserted through the Tartu Treaty. In 1920, the first constitution of Estonia was drafted and a liberal version of parliamentary republic was established. However, the imbalance of the party system in the parliamentary system of Estonia caused instability in the executive of the Estonian government. In the 1930s, the Great Depression reached Estonia and caused political crisis which eroded the democratic regime. In 1934 Estonia through the Päts regime introduced a new constitution that established an authoritarian and corporatist regime. Estonia lost its independence in 1940 after its annexation to the Soviet Union. However, under Soviet Union rule, Estonia slowly began to gain a strong position in the 1960s onwards when the Soviet central administration began to collapse. And in 1991, Estonia ratified its own constitution after its independence from the Soviet Union. This new constitution departed from the principle of the legal consistency of the Russian empire and with the constitution enforced by the authoritarian regime in 1937. This new constitution allowed democratic elections and established democratic self-government institutions. After twenty years of reforms, the Estonian local and regional government today is still in a state of transition. For this reason, current configurations of local governance as well as intergovernmental relations could change drastically in the future. Although there are serious conceptual and political disagreements about the concrete direction of institutional design, there is a general consent that qualitative changes in local governance are inevitable in Estonia.

Keywords: local autonomy; Estonia; Estonian democracy; development; Estonian local government; Estonian regional government; democratic self-government

Article.  7704 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Regional Political Studies ; Comparative Politics

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