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The Politics of Popular Initiative: The Radical Right in Interwar Estonia

Kasekamp, Andres; (1996) The Politics of Popular Initiative: The Radical Right in Interwar Estonia. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The thesis examines the development of the Estonian Veterans' League and its profound impact on Estonian political life during the 1930s, which resulted in the demise of liberal democracy and the emergence of authoritarianism. Founded in 1929 as an association of veterans of the War of Independence (1918–20), the League became increasingly involved in politics during the economic depression of the early 1930s. It attacked corruption, Marxism, and the weakness of parliamentary democracy and advocated the establishment of a strong executive and an integrated national community. Through the means of popular initiative the Veterans were able to present their constitutional amendment proposal introducing a powerful presidency and reducing the authority of the parliament. The result of the referendum on the Veterans' constitutional amendment in 1933 was a landslide victory and the League appeared set to triumph in elections, but was thwarted by acting president Konstantin Pats' imposition of martial law in 1934. Though Pats claimed to have acted to save democracy from the threat posed by the radical right, his authoritarian regime appropriated many of the more popular ideas of the Veterans. The League continued its activities underground and attempted to overthrow the government in 1935. The uncovering of the conspiracy led to the imprisonment of the Veterans' leaders and the effective crushing of the League. Some former Veterans later played a prominent role in the collaborationist administration during the Nazi occupation 1941-1944. The dissertation also compares the Veterans with radical right-wing movements in neighbouring Finland and Latvia. The thesis questions whether the Veterans could be deemed a fascist movement and concludes that the Veterans, despite many similiarities, differed significantly in important characteristics and could not be considered a fascist movement.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Politics of Popular Initiative: The Radical Right in Interwar Estonia
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10101057
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