At first glance, it seems that Slovenia and Estonia have nothing similar. The first one is partially Central European, partially Balkan country with Slavic origin. The second is a Baltic country’s official language of which is not even in the Indo-European language family. Different worlds, but not really. In fact, they have a lot in common.
Slovenia and Estonia are similar in their mentality, despite the fact that they are distanced. They are the most successful countries of Central-Eastern Europe, both with former republics of big federations, and both with good connections to their wealthy neighbors.
Why Do We Compare Them?
Eastern Europe and the Balkans are quite interesting regions to discover. Almost everybody is aware of such well-known countries of Western Europe as France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, or the Netherlands. The Scandinavian countries are also famous for their happiness ranks and richness. However, what about Central-Eastern Europe?
In fact, it’s a highly polarized region. Thus, you can find a variety of interesting things here. Slovenia is a country that belongs to both Central Europe and the Balkans. In our blog, we already compared Slovenia with a bunch of countries from this region. We analyzed why Slovenian and Slovakia have such similar names. We compared most of the post-Yugoslav countries from a historical and economic point of view. And this is not even half of all the possible collations.
However, I personally found an interesting case of analogy in two seemingly opposite countries: Slovenia and Estonia. The first thought appeared in my mind after considering their net average monthly salary numbers. In Slovenia, this reading is 1175 euro, whereas, in Estonia, it’s 1214 euro. The difference is 40 euro, that is nothing in terms of today’s world. Moreover, these are the highest numbers among all the Central-Eastern European countries. Even Portugal and Greece that had joined the EU much earlier, have lower salaries.
This made me think about the probable reasons for such success. After I dived into the reflections, I found many interesting facts I’m going to tell you about now. So, make yourself comfy, and let’s begin!
Both Countries Were Most Successful in Former Federations
As you all probably know, Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia, while Estonia was a part of the Soviet Union. Somehow, both of them managed to succeed, compared to other republics within those two big federations.
Slovenia was more successful in these terms because Yugoslavia gave more freedoms to its republics. In general, it was the idea of a socialistic market economy, a mix of socialism and capitalism. This meant that employees shared the ownership of big enterprises, and small businesses like restaurants, crafts shops, cafes were allowed. Also, the agriculture field wasn’t communal.
The Slovenian government managed these factors wisely and created a successful economy on that basis. This led to the situation when workers from other Yugoslav republics were moving to Slovenia for higher salaries and better life.
Estonia did a similar miracle. Of course, the Soviet republics didn’t have so many freedoms. The government hierarchy was centralized in Moscow. However, Estonians still managed to have good infrastructure, clean streets, and higher salaries. I’m from Ukraine, one more post-Soviet republic, and my father told me stories about how he visited Estonia and realized that it was a different world.
Baltic people weren’t so “Sovietized”. They never considered themselves as Soviets and were the first republics that left the Soviet Union. This happened after the massive social action called “The Baltic Way” happened, when thousands of people created a live chain from Vilnius, through Riga, to Tallinn connecting the three capitals.
Good Relations with Neighbors
Slovenia became a separate state only in the previous century. However, Slovenians as a nation and their language exist much longer. Historically, most of the territory of Slovenia was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for centuries. Therefore, Slovenians were integrated into the Austrian society well, they knew German as their second language, and even had families there. The situation in Italy was similar. Even after the Second World War, Italy got some of the Slovene ethnic territories. In general, 327,000 Slovenes started to live in Italy at that time.
These two countries became perfect neighbors for the country. They shared a part of their mentality to Slovenians that played a great role in the creation of their own, distinctive from others Slavic nations, Slovenian identity. Thus, after Slovenia became an independent country, the Western neighbors accepted it immediately. First of all, the European Union helped to regulate the Ten-Day War that happened after Slovenia’s independence proclamation. After this, Slovenia started to take active steps in the direction of the EU and NATO. The neighbors favored this and helped Slovenia in its development.
Estonia was also lucky with the Western neighbors. However, geographically they are in the North. Finland had played a great role in Estonian development. Furthermore, Finnish people and Estonians are mentally close people. They even share languages from the one language family, Finno-Ugric. This means that Estonians and Finnish are brothers and sisters.
Unfortunately, the history of Estonia turned in the way of the Soviet Union’s occupation of these territories. By the way, it wanted to occupy Finland as well in some times but faced powerful opposition. After the breakup of the USSR, Estonia empowered links to the neighboring country in fields of economy, politics, culture, and so on. Moreover, it gained new relations with Sweden and Denmark due to the close location to the last ones.
This allowed Estonia to build a shared experience with them and create a better economy as well as improve the social level. Now, Estonia has a highly developed technology niche and Estonian programmers gave birth to such big projects as Skype, Taxify, Bolt, and others.
The Similar Mentality
The attitude of conscious not fast-paced approach. Finnish people are well-known for this. In general, Nordic people value spending free time wisely, having a good rest with family and friends. They don’t rush and believe that everything has its own time. In Scandinavian languages, they even have a special term for this, “hygge”. This means having a good time in a cozy environment, with friends or family, talking, watching movies, or other activities.
This is applicable to Estonians as well. That’s why they felt like a dark horse being in the Soviet Union. There was even a stereotype of a slow Estonian at that time. However, time showed that this is the most successful approach.
I knew this about Estonia but didn’t expect that Slovenians have the same paradigm. Their approach was described perfectly by one of our interviewees, Alexander from Moscow. You can check his interview here if you would like. In general, Slovenians don’t rush as well. They know their time and value it. For example, it’s ok for them to leave an email unfinished if the working time is over today. It’s ok for them to answer emails only once per day because this is the usual time for this activity or they have more important things to do.
Therefore, this way of thinking creates a conscious realization of your life. If you run, you don’t see what is going on around, you start to fail a lot. However, when you think seven times about any next step, it brings a clear picture of your future. This paradigm is programmed deep inside Estonian and Slovenian genes. That’s why they are most successful among other Central-Eastern European states.
Not Only Similarities
Of course, there are more similar countries than Slovenia and Estonia. The first is an Alpine country that borders the warm Adriatic Sea, whereas the second one is a cold Baltic country with almost Scandinavian weather. Slavic people and Estonians are different in language, culture, and other things. The only far family of Estonia in Europe, except Finland, is Hungarians. They also are descendants of people who came from the Uralic mountains.
However, the main idea of this article was an experiment. There are a lot of Slavic countries in Eastern Europe, but the point was to take two different successful countries and find some similarities understanding their mentality. This works on the level of either states or personalities. Having the right friends around and being conscious, calm, and peaceful about your future is working every time.
This article turned out to be a reflective-philosophical one. It’s almost impossible to compare countries objectively from different worlds but still sharing a lot of similarities. On the other side, Slovenia and Estonia are still European countries with the Western paradigm.
In general, I do recommend visiting them both if you wish to feel these differences and similarities in your personal experience. Slovenia and Estonia are extremely beautiful countries, each one with its own peculiarities. Even if you are from one of them, you definitely have to visit the other one! Undoubtedly, you will find a lot of similar sides there.
On the other hand, if you decide to visit Slovenia first, check out the rest of the articles on our website! They will help you from where to start.