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By Daunis Auers (auth.)

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These issues proved particularly contentious and polarising in Latvia, which chose to reintroduce its 1922 constitution. Estonia and Lithuania, however, chose to write new constitutions. Indeed, on 4 July 1992 Estonia was the first former Soviet republic to enact a new constitution. It convened a special 60-member constituent assembly to write a new constitution, as the Soviet Union fell apart already in August 1991. To ensure popular legitimacy, 30 members of the assembly came from the Estonian Supreme Council and another 30 from the more radically nationalist Estonian Congress.

In 1979, intellectuals from all three Baltic states called for the nullification of the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact in the Baltic Charter and, in 1980, an Estonian ‘Letter of Forty’ protested cultural Russification in Estonia. At the same time, in Estonia there were a number of small grassroots clubs, such as Club Tõru (Club Acorn, ostensibly a book-lovers’ club) and Noor Tartu (Young Tartu, aimed at preserving towns) that encouraged discussion and debate of the past, and were eventually the basis for the political plurality of the post-1991 era (Bennich-Björkman, 2007).

For one, they could choose to readopt the inter-war constitutions abandoned after Soviet occupation in 1940. The illegitimacy of the Soviet occupation was the driving factor behind the independence movements and thus a return to the pre-1940 status quo would have a certain logical validity. On the flip side, however, in all three states the inter-war constitutional arrangements had been unable to prevent a slide into authoritarianism, and the 1938 Estonian constitution was actually written during the authoritarian era.

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