Glocal Estonia?

On the imperial dimension of a small culture under Tsarist rule


Keywords: Baltic provinces, nation-building, Russian empire, glocality, transnational history, historiography

This article seeks to understand what a “glocal” approach to local history might add to the story of Estonia’s past. One of the aims in introducing the concept glocal into the social sciences and later also the humanities was to re-assess the duality of global and local processes which are seen as mutually constituent concepts (Victor Roudometof). In other words, a glocal approach deals with tendencies toward homogeneity and centralization that appear alongside tendencies toward heterogeneity and decentralization. As indicated in the article, this parallelism of directions can be observed in the case of the Russian empire, where the process of nation-building, especially in its European parts, appeared alongside tendencies towards unification of the state’s administrative structures and its integration into the trans-imperial competition with other European powers. As it appears, in the case of the Russian empire, global and local processes are not easy to negotiate or to balance, and they are often seen as contradictory. In this respect, it is argued that a historiographical focus on the local – the history of Estonia – does not tell the whole story. Therefore this article considers a glocal perspective to be of great importance if one wants to understand, e.g., the imperial dimension of the path towards Estonian independence. This was at least as much a child of the ideas and trajectories of the February Revolution as it was based on the Independence manifesto of 1918, the victory at Võnnu in June 1919 as well as other local events of that time. A “glocal” approach does not call for rewriting Estonian history entirely but it does raise an awareness for imperial trajectories and translocal interconnectedness that undoubtedly shape local history.


Karsten Brüggemann (b. 1965), PhD, Tallinn University, School of Humanities, Professor of Estonian and General History (Narva mnt 25, 10120 Tallinn), karsten.bruggemann@tlu.ee