The following is the text of Ruuben Kaalep’s opening talk from the Spring Conference that was held in Tallinn on May 13-14, 2023.
How to secure ethnic continuity? This is a fundamental question that has been asked by nationalists in every country around the world. I will go a step further and say that it is a fundamental nationalist question. One who knowingly and positively asks this question is an ethnic nationalist.
We are here because we dare to ask this question, and for us this question carries immense weight. We want this question to be asked. Our goal is for this question to be asked by our societies, by our politicians, and by our journalists and entertainers, and that this question be central to our collective sense of the future. We want them to ask this question, and not just the question of if we should secure ethnic continuity, but how to secure ethnic continuity.
A society that ponders this question is for us normal and healthy, and much more than that, asking this question is a sign of respect and a demonstration of caring and duty. Asking this question is how we honor our forefathers and how we take care of our descendants. And it goes beyond that — far beyond any individual or collective egotism. Ethnic continuity, as we shall see, is fundamentally related to the continuity of our ecosystem, because every country is an ecosystem where its nature is fundamentally interdependent and its people are one part of that — and ethnic continuity is a great symbol of the ever-present potential of our environment and of our planet to heal themselves and continue the circle of life from times immemorial into everlasting rebirth. It is the spirit of nature that is present throughout the human species, underlying and regenerating all of human history.
Yet, we are living our lives in a specific historical and geographical context that we cannot overlook. We are not just asking this question generally and universally; we are asking it in the post-Second World War era, when asking questions about the nature of patriotism and national identity can be seen as a taboo in the West — and increasingly in Eastern Europe as well. Should we take the rule of so-called liberal European values as a historical inevitability, and as a march towards the end of history, as the neo-Marxists would have it? I say no: There are always signs that history will continue. For example, Ukraine may very well reverse the Western liberal trends such as pacifism. Over the last year, the Western liberals have been rooting for a European nation’s armed struggle to preserve its independence and create conditions for national self-assertion. We are witnessing a strong and rising Eastern European nation that is not afraid to back its identity with military action. Western nationalists hugely underestimate the influence that Ukraine can have.
The question of how to secure ethnic continuity is a deeply political question as well. Every state takes care to regenerate what it considers its values, and these values do not exist in a vacuum. They have preconditions which need to be preserved if they are to continue. This mean that the state has a supreme spiritual function that goes beyond mere politics. It is responsible for preserving and regenerating the values that define us as a people. We cannot ignore the deeply political dimensions of this question. If a state is to live up to its name, it has to take care of its values and also what lies beneath those values. And so, as we celebrate our patriotism and love for our country, we must also be mindful of our duty to preserve the cultural, social, and spiritual traditions that have made us who we are. This is an essential task for every state, and is necessary in order to care for the whole ecosystem.
How do I back this assertion up? It is possible to have a purely theoretical approach to the questions of nationalism, after all. It is possible to create poetry or to train an artificial intelligence to do it — as well as to build castles in the air that have no actual substance at all. Yet, this could never satisfy us, for we have to be able to personify this ethnic continuity in ourselves. In fact, if we limit this continuity to theoretical and philosophical discussions, it may not lead us closer to the actual threads that make up a nation.
In fact, ethnic continuity can very well be preserved subconsciously, without ever openly declaring it. As Carl Jung pointed out, there is a collective unconscious that is shared among the members of a culture or nation that influences their behavior and beliefs. This means that even if individuals are not consciously aware of their ethnic identity or its importance, it can still be passed down from generation to generation through shared myths and traditions. In fact, as history around the world has shown, it is often the peasants who are best at keeping their ethnic continuity alive, as they are more connected to the land and the traditions of their ancestors. If we therefore limit our understanding of ethnic continuity to purely theoretical and philosophical discussions, we may miss the crucial role that the collective unconscious plays in preserving and perpetuating our cultural heritage.
In our time, it is more important than ever to consciously strive for ethnic continuity. Only then we can ensure that our heritage is passed down to future generations. Nationalism is not a political or social construct. It is an ideal that inspires feelings of love, loyalty, and sacrifice. It is a force that can unite people and create a sense of unity and solidarity in the face of adversity. And it is a source of hope and inspiration, giving us the strength and courage to face the challenges that lie ahead.
So, what is ethnic continuity? Nationality and ethnicity are of course one and the same; an attempt to separate them is to fail to understand the value of either. In the Estonian language, making such a distinction would be absurd because it would put ethnicity into the same category as arbitrary laws regarding citizenship. But this is not just a linguistic matter. It is a matter of the soul and of the spirit that unites us and makes us who we are.
Likewise, it is merely an endless distraction to argue about whether ethnic continuity is a matter of genes or memes, of blood or culture, of nature or nurture. This is an old argument, one that has puzzled philosophers and poets for centuries. Some say that blood and ancestry are the only true markers of identity, and that our genes exclusively define who we are and who we belong to. Others argue that it is our cultural heritage, our memes, that truly makes us who we are — that it is not our DNA but our traditions, stories, and songs that connect us to our people and our land.
Truth is far more complex and also far more simple than that. Genes and memes are not separate entities, but are intertwined and interdependent. Our genetic makeup influences the way we perceive and interact with the world, shaping our cultural preferences and predispositions. Our cultural heritage is in turn deeply embedded in our genetic memory, passed down from generation to generation.
We can also consider the role of the village and the city in an ethnic identity. A traditional village in the old times was a microcosm of the whole nation, and a model of our collective values and traditions. In such a village we saw the close-knit relationships, mutual support, and shared customs and rituals that define us as a people, for it is here that our traditions and customs are lived out in everyday life. It is here that our relationships and connections are forged, and where our values are tested and reinforced. It is in this ethnically rooted village that we find tangible expressions of our national identity — the physical and cultural spaces that make us who we are.
But let us not forget that a nation is more than a collection of villages and cities. Let us celebrate both the local and the national, the village and the city, as integral parts of our national identity. Our identity as a people cannot be separated into discrete parts to be picked and chosen at will. Our language, our customs, our history, our traditions, our worldview — these are all parts of a larger whole, and to deny or reject one is to weaken the integrity of the whole.
In 1991, after half a century of Soviet Communist occupation, Estonia finally regained its independence due to the resilience and bravery of our people — but it was not the birth of a new state. Only those who had been citizens of Estonia in 1940 and their descendants were automatically made Estonian citizens. The lands, houses, and other properties that had been confiscated or redistributed by the Soviets were returned to their previous owners or their legal inheritors. What happened was the restoration of a legal, spiritual, and physical entity that had existed prior to the Soviet takeover. The Estonian state was reborn from the ashes of the past.
The Estonian people then looked back to the state that their ancestors had created in 1918, and they used its constitution as the basis for their new government. We declared that February 24, the day our independence was first declared, would remain our independence day. We pledged to uphold the fighting spirit that had inspired our ancestors. The Soviets had thought they had completely erased all remnants of the Estonian state decades before, but they were wrong. It was resurrected not as a mere symbol, but as a living and breathing embodiment of our history, under the principle of ethnic continuity, and was resurrected using a reference to the declaration of independence of February 1918. It turned out that this declaration was still in force and still historically active.
You may think that this was an impossible mission — but hold on. This idea of continuity and resurrection was already in place in 1918, with a reference to Estonia’s ancient history and pagan past. The first lines of the Estonian declaration of independence quote the final lines of the Estonian national epic poem, the Kalevipoeg. Those final lines tell an ancient prophecy which holds that the mythical King of Estonia would one day return to liberate his country and rule over it once again. Now the day has come, says the Declaration of Independence.
The idea of a dawn time, which would connect modern Estonians to our pagan ancestors who had been violently Christianized 700 years earlier, was born during the Estonian national awakening of the nineteenth century. That pre-Christian era became the ultimate point of reference for all modern attempts at national self-assertion. The Kalevipoeg became its center. This epic poem was compiled in the nineteenth century by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, a physician and folklorist who saw in the local folk songs and myths a powerful expression of Estonian identity. Despite his German name, he was fully Estonian and was born a serf. Kreutzwald did not simply compile these legends and myths as a curiosity; he saw in them the potential for a truly powerful epic, one that would celebrate the pre-Christian past of the Estonian people and their long history of resistance against outside forces. Kreutzwald knowingly sought to create a powerful symbol of Estonian spiritual and ethnic continuity, a link between the past and the present.
He thus saw his mission not merely as that of a compiler of folklore, nor as an author with free poetic license. He believed that all these myths had been part of a single ancient tale, and that his tale had been lost and forgotten over time, with only fragments remaining. Kreutzwald saw himself as taking on the responsibility of restoring the epic to its former glory, just as one rebuilds an old building from the ground up. He was determined to revive the Estonian cultural heritage, which he saw as his duty as an Estonian.
He himself wrote of it:
What remained of the ancient myth of Kalevipoeg in our day was like an old house that had lost its roof. There, I took an axe and went to the woods to cut timber for the purpose of rebuilding the old house. The forest wardens could not stop me, because the forest was my own and was my birthright as an Estonian. I chopped logs, dug stones and iron from the ground . . . The building now stands in its old place, renewed from the ground to the roof, so that whoever wants to enter it will find shelter from wind and rain.
This also answers the age-old question of authenticity and LARPing. Those who reenact their own ancient history are attempting to reconstruct and revitalize their cultural heritage. The pieces may be scattered or even lost, but the act of piecing them back together can create a new structure that serves as a connection to the past. Furthermore, just as Kreutzwald did, those who engage in reenacting their own ancient history are reclaiming ownership of their ethnic heritage and taking an active role in preserving and perpetuating it. It can be a legitimate and authentic way of engaging with our ethnic heritage as long as it is done with respect and a genuine desire to learn and connect with the past.
We owe our thanks to the philosophy of Romanticism from the nineteenth century to the fact that this was possible. Only the Romantics believed that fragments of our ancient heritage had survived into their time as parts of a single whole. Their vision of a unified, organic culture that incorporated all the diverse elements of a people’s past paved the way for attempts to restore the European pagan past.
One of the founders of this movement was also Jacob Grimm, with his Deutsche Mythologie. This groundbreaking work on the ancient myths and legends of the Germanic peoples inspired a generation of Romantic scholars and artists to rediscover the pagan heritage of their own countries. This movement was not merely an exercise in nostalgia or cultural preservation, but was a vital part of the larger struggle for national liberation and spiritual renewal. I dare to call it completely organic.
Reconstruction and resurrection of one’s ancient ethnic heritage is by no means a modern phenomenon. Our pagan ancestors engaged in this as well. We see evidence of this in Northern European archaeology, in Estonia as well as other countries. Bronze Age burial sites were repurposed by kings and chiefs a millennium later, a testament to their connection to their forefathers. Even more intriguing are the Bronze Age burial sites built upon Stone Age village sites, which are hidden from plain sight and shrouded in mystery for archaeologists.
The continuity of our heritage is not merely a claim without a foundation, but one that is evident in our language, mythology, and culture. The passage of time has not extinguished the flame of our ancient past. This is what continuity is really about.
Let us not forget that our love for our country is also rooted in a deeper, transcendent sense of the sacred. Mircea Eliade, the great philosopher of religion and a man of the Right, observed that the homeland is a cosmic center that connects us to the sacred dimensions of existence. Our attachment to our country is not simply a matter of geography or politics, but also a reflection of our deepest spiritual longings and aspirations.
In the modern philosophical worldview and in modern mass culture, doing something does not automatically mean that you care about the result. You could very well view your whole life as a routine, insignificant drills that you run in order to receive money and a limtitd, individualistic form of happiness. In this case, you live your life as a routine, and the things that you care about can be created and canceled at will — which is technically the ideal of liberalism.
My deepest opposition to liberal philosophy arises precisely from the question of how we treat those of our own characteristics that we cannot choose. In the classical liberal perspective, such qualities are ultimately bad; you have to be able to choose everything voluntarily. Yet, from a metaphysical perspective that is shared in every traditional worldview and religion, it is very important to treat your fate as something you voluntarily choose.
From whichever European nation your ancestors came from, you share the heritage of a great tradition that stretches back through the centuries. Continuity is key. Continuity takes place within a wider framework in which it is possible to communicate between different eras. We should not be limited by the narrow view of the present moment. We must understand the historical and cultural context in which we exist and recognize the continuity of our ethnic heritage throughout time. Our pagan ancestors engaged in the reconstruction and resurrection of their ancient ethnic heritage, and evidence of this can be seen in archaeology.
By asking the question of how to secure our ethnic continuity, we are not passive participants in the crisis of our nations. We also shape what our nation is. Our response shapes the essence of continuity, and the roots of our response come from our ethnic past and our ancestors. Ethnic continuity involves the continuity of struggling to secure it.
It is true that our very existence as a people is at stake. Our ethnic continuity is threatened by the forces of modernity and globalization, who seek to strip us of our heritage and turn us into a homogeneous mass. But we must not sit idly by and let the Great Reset and Great Replacement happen. We must take action, just as our ancestors did in times of crisis. We must defend our homeland against invasion, and fight to support our families and communities. We must resist the temptations of a demoralizing mass culture that seeks to rob us of our identity and sense of purpose.
But it is not enough to simply resist. We must also cultivate a sense of mission and honor, a deep conviction that our culture and traditions are worth preserving and passing on to future generations. We must support young families, who are the future of our people, and teach our children to take pride in their heritage.
Only then we can ask: What if the question outlives the threat? Then it becomes more than a simple response or reaction. It becomes an ethnic agenda, an opportunity for us to explore our heritage and identity in depth.
As the arts and sciences flourish in a nation’s best times, so too does the struggle for ethnic survival become an art and a science. The history of nationalist politics in Europe has been viewed too often through the narrow lens of party politics. We must recognize that European nationalism has earned its place in the history of European arts and spirituality, and that it is a vital part of our national identity.
We will truly understand nationalism when we see it as a love for the entire ecosystem that sustains us. This love is rooted in a deep appreciation for the natural world, which was celebrated by our ancestors as a source of inspiration, beauty, and spiritual renewal. In this view, our love for our country is not merely a matter of one’s political or social allegiance, but is rather a reflection of our deepest spiritual and cultural values. These values are rooted in a sense of connection to the land, to the natural world, and to the cosmic forces that sustain us.
It is our birthright to feel a connection to our ancestors and to honor the traditions that have been passed down to us. It is also our sacred birthright to resurrect the missing pieces of our ethnic heritage, and to always recreate a tapestry that spans the ages and connects us to our past. Our ethnic spirit is sacred par excellence, and according to Mircea Eliade, the sacred is self-referential and untranslatable.
Nationalism in our time needs more than ever to go beyond politics. It needs to return to the environment, the lifestyle, and the arts. Let us channel that spirit into action! We must take responsibility not only on a political level, but on a personal level as well. We must actually carry on, develop, and resurrect the deeper layers of our culture and language!
My fellow European nationalists, let us not be content with talking about our national heritage. Let us take action to preserve and revitalize it for future generations. Let us be the generation that reclaims our ethnic spirit and ensures its continuity throughout time!
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 Source in Estonian: https://dea.digar.ee/article/postimeesew/1903/12/19/2
 One such example is the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age burial site of Võhma in North Estonia, under which a Neolithic Corded Ware settlement site has been excavated.
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