Estonia has been a part of the Danish and Swedish Kingdom and until today there is a small Swedish minority living in Western Estonia and on the island of Ormsö (the Estonia’s Aland). Increasingly more Estonians learn Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish and the Nordic countries have always been quite popular here.
However the data of the international organization The World Value Survey (WVS) speak another language. The map of values (countries listed according to value systems) designed by WVS, positions Estonia next to Russia and far from the Nordic Countries. Why is the Estonian value system more similar to Russian than to the Nordic countries?
Patrik Göransson, priest of Estonian St. Michael’s Swedish Parish in Tallinn believes that the Estonians nevertheless belong to the Nordic nations. Göransson was born and grew up in Sweden, graduated from the Gothenburg University and has worked for the past ten years in Estonia. He now speaks fluent Estonian and meets many Estonians through his work, thus he can easily compare the value attitudes of Nordic and Baltic nations. Why does Estonia belong to the Nordic countries?
The cold nations
"Swedish and Estonian people are not very communicative, making acquaintances and friends takes long here. In this sense I as a Swede feel at home here in Estonia. Too much talk is also tiring for me” Göransson sais. Both Estonia and the Nordic countries are secular and only few people believe in God. The survey of the WVS confirms this supposition. The Swedes and the Estonians are the most secular nations in the world, according to WVS.
Secondly both Estonians and Swedes can be described as „cold” nations, Göransson adds. For example they often ask the priest how much they are supposed to donate to the church. They are good at calculating and want to be sure not to pay too much or too little. Göransson has also worked in the Eastern part of Estonia where Russians live and he noticed that Russian people never asked how much they ought to donate – they simply gave what they could.
But on the other hand Göransson agrees with the World Value Survey’s conclusion that by certain value attitudes Estonians are more similar to Russians than to the Nordic nations. As in Russia so in Estonia people are very patient and forbearing, much more patient than in Sweden, Göransson has noticed. Estonians and Russians do not protest easily against injustice, they prefer to wait and see.
Estonians and Russians like to complain. Their society is not well-functioning, but history has taught them that citizens cannot do anything about it. Göransson jokes that nowadays when it rains Estonians and Russians prefer not to wear a raincoat and this is maybe because they actually prefer to complain about the bad weather.
Thirdly Estonian and Russian people are not very friendly and do not like to smile too much. But during the past five years this has changed a bit in the service domain, for example customers feel that they are actually welcome in the shopping centres now. But in some older shops Nordic people still feel that they are disturbing the shop assistants.
Middle-aged Estonians and Russians in Estonia are the most forbearing, complaining and unfriendly, Göransson points out. He supposes they are the alumni of Soviet time. Young and old Estonians born in independent Estonia are more similar to Nordic people by their value attitudes and behaviour.