Process-tracing report on Estonia

In controlling corruption, Estonia is an obvious top-achiever in comparison with the rest of the post-socialist area countries. Some historical legacies apparently facilitated this state of affairs – Estonia was by and large the wealthiest republic of the Soviet Union with the most developed elements of autonomous civil society and considerable exposure to Western information. The strong anti-communist and nationalist mood of Estonians appear to be a key driving force behind the drastic replacement of the ruling elite, which culminated in the 1992 parliamentary elections. This report explores the replacement of the old Communist nomenclature, provides insights into some of the reforms undertaken and the roles of their proponents.

The ruling groups changed again in 1995 but the governments of 1995-1999 were probably too short-lived, too weak and indeed not reactionary enough to reverse many of the positive effects of the reforms of the previous period. New legal guarantees of public access to information and broad access to online public services came after 1999 to serve as another layer of constraints on corruption. It can be surmised that a virtuous circle developed, perpetuated in the interplay between, on the one hand, pressures of public opinion requiring efficient and universalistic governance and, on the other hand, initiatives from government in response to public needs. Episodes of corrupt particularistic acts are still recurrent in Estonia but they do not outweigh the overall success.

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