„Mein Haus, mein Land, mein Erb und Eigen": Deutsche Reaktionen auf das estnische Agrargesetz 1919

Lepplaan, Heidi
June 2012
Forschungen zur Baltischen Geschichte;2012, Vol. 7, p141
Academic Journal
Estonian independence in the first half of the 20th century is a very complex and contradictory phenomenon. It includes the rise of the Estonian nation as a historic subject, the conflicts between great powers and a not yet recognized small country, as well as the struggle for economic power. In 1918 and 1919 the most urgent problems for Estonian politicians were, on the one hand, securing political power and in order to do that receiving recognition from the European great powers, and on the other hand, gaining economic power. When becoming an independent country, Estonia had to carry out some important reforms that affected fundamentally the society. The agrarian law that was adopted on 10 October 1919 affected enormously the decrease of the Baltic German community's role in Estonian society. With the birth of the Republic of Estonia, the Baltic Germans lost not only their political but also their economic leadership at least in the countryside. For them it meant economic and social deterioration. In the Estonian Constituent Assembly, the only organisation that represented the Baltic German minority in Estonia -- the Deutsch-baltische Partei in Estland -- developed a protective policy. For the Party it was essential to receive compensation for the expropriated estates and to re-establish the German element in the countryside. During the first years, the Baltic German deputies in the Assembly defended strongly the old agrarian system. In the legislative assembly the Baltic German minority could easily be outvoted. But on the international arena, the Baltic Germans were able to gain influence in domestic legislation. The former landowners were understandably more active in this dispute and they considered the question of compensation to be of primary importance. The Baltic exile community in Germany sponsored actively journalistic activities. In the early 1920s several pamphlets were published in the Baltischer Verlag und Ostbuchhandlung in Berlin, attacking the land reform on legal, economic and political grounds. The readership of these brochures was the citizens of Germany and other European countries, because they were published both in German and English. In content, those brochures were declarative and propagandistic. Most of the pamphlets introduced arguments typical for the more conservative faction of Baltic Germans. The main complaint was that the Estonian government, rushing headlong into agrarian reform, had taken land from the minority and given it to the majority. The authors contented that the pre-war agrarian system was already heavily in favour of the peasants, but now that profitable symbiosis had been upset by Estonian avarice. Such highly critical brochures were accompanied with numerous critical articles in various periodicals. The Baltic Germans' main attitude towards the agrarian reform of 1919 remained the same in the course of time. We can notice some differences within the German community because it was internally quite heterogeneous. Most of the Baltic Germans found the agrarian reform to be very radical and mostly a political step, but some of them recognized the necessity of the reform. The propaganda against the agrarian reform, especially in the pamphlets and journals, had considerable influence upon the opinions of the Baltic German community.


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