The Road to Freedom: Estonia’s Rise from Soviet Vassal State to One of the Freest Nations on Earth


The Road to Freedom: Estonia’s Rise from Soviet Vassal State to One of the Freest Nations on Earth recounts the fall of Estonian freedom when, for five decades, it was trapped in the Soviet Union. Eventually, following a mostly-peaceful revolution, Estonians regained their freedom and reformed their nation quickly to become one of the freest nations on earth.


Chapter 1: The Emergence of the Estonian Nation: 1850–1940

This chapter details Estonia’s first century as a thriving nation and the awakening of the Estonian national identity.

Chapter 2: Between Two Wolves: 1940–1944 During World War II

Estonia would endure a Soviet invasion, then a Nazi invasion, and another Soviet invasion all in the span of four years.

Chapter 3: Socialism in Estonia: 1944–1991

This chapter documents the misery of Estonians during the nearly five decades of socialist rule, including housing, agriculture, deportations and arrests, industry, and resistance.

Chapter 4: Living Standards in Late Socialist Estonia

A look at Estonians life just before the Soviet Union collapsed, as compared to other Soviet citizens and Estonia’s non-Soviet Finnish neighbours to the north.

Chapter 5: The Singing Revolution: 1987–1991

This chapter chronicles the events that led to Estonia’s independence, when Estonian nationalists capitalized on Mikhail Gorbachev’s new “glasnost” policies and chaos within the Soviet Union.

Chapter 6: Building a Free Society: 1992–

Now free from Soviet rule, Estonians moved quickly to liberalize the economy, create a new currency, introduce sound fiscal policies and provide social services. The results of which have made Estonians among the most prosperous, healthiest, well-educated and freest people on earth.

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About the Authors

Matthew D. Mitchell is a senior fellow in the Centre for Economic Freedom at the Fraser Institute. Prior to joining the Institute Mitchell was a long serving senior fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he remains an affiliated senior scholar. He is also a senior research fellow at the Knee Center at West Virginia University. Mitchell received his PhD and MA in economics from George Mason University. His writing and research focus on economic freedom, public choice economics, and the economics of government favouritism.

Peter Boettke is a professor of economics and philosophy at George Mason University, the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, and the director of the FA Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Boettke’s work has earned him numerous awards, including a doctorate honoris causa in social sciences from Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala and an honorary doctorate from Alexandru Iona Cuza in Romania. Boettke received his PhD in economics from George Mason University.

Konstantin Zhukov is a PhD student in the department of economics at George Mason University. He earned his MA in economics at Troy University, and his BBA in business and accounting at Northwood University. His research interests include Austrian economics and economic sociology.

Realities of Socialism

The Realities of Socialism is a multimedia project—a collaboration between organizations in Canada, Australia, the United States and United Kingdom—to educate people about the experiences of socialism that was imposed on tens of millions of people across the world throughout the 20th century. Here you will find data-driven videos, infographics, short videos and informative studies about socialism’s history in Poland and Estonia, Sweden and Denmark’s short experiment with socialism, and Singapore’s unique approach.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.