Fighting for the (Step)Motherland? Predictors of Defense Willingness in Estonia’s Post-Soviet Generation

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Christofer Berglund
Kairi Kasearu
Juhan Kivirähk


What makes individuals willing to defend their (adopted) homeland as their own? This is an essential question for all diverse societies. We turn to the case of Estonia, which inherited a sizable Russian-speaking population after the fall of the Soviet Union. Using recent polling data, we test demographic and attitudinal predictors of defense willingness among the first generation of males that have been raised in the republic since the restoration of independence. The results enable us to unpack differences between Estonian-speakers and Russian-speakers, as well as disagreements among the latter, which shed light on the state of social cohesion in Estonia’s national fabric.

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Author Biographies

Christofer Berglund, Södertörn University and Malmö University

Christofer Berglund is project researcher at the School of Social Sciences, Södertörn University, and senior lecturer in the Department of Global Political Studies, Malmö University, Sweden. He is the principal investigator for the project “Conscription as Political Socialization in Divided Societies? Evidence from Post-Soviet Estonia and Post-Independence Finland.” His most recent articles have appeared in Problems of Post-Communism, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, and Europe-Asia Studies.

Kairi Kasearu, University of Tartu

Kairi Kasearu is professor of empirical sociology at the University of Tartu, Estonia. Her primary areas of research are military-civilian relations, conscription systems in Europe, Estonian conscription and reserve force, the will to defend and public opinion, and social exclusion and inclusion. She is the principal investigator for the project “Development of Resource Management in Defense Sector.” She has recently
published in Armed Forces and Society, Journal of Baltic Studies, and Journal of Estonian Military Studies.

Juhan Kivirähk, University of Tartu

Juhan Kivirähk is an analyst at the Institute of Social Studies at the University of Tartu, Estonia. He has over thirty-five years of experience in public opinion and social research in Estonia, with his primary areas of research being political opinion polling and national defense. He has held leading positions in several Estonian polling companies and in the International Centre for Defence and Security. His publications deal with Russian influence activities, the attitudes of the Russian-speaking population of Estonia, and military sociology. He has published in the edited volume Humanitarian Dimension of Russian Foreign Policy toward Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and the Baltic States as well as in the Journal of Military Studies, among other publications.