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« Tuna 3 / 2020

The Concept of kadakasakslus in Public Opinion in Interwar Estonia

The point of departure for this article is the concept of kadakasakslus, which is widespread in Estonian and has generally been used to denote demeanours and choices by which people have tried to create the impression as if they were German. The article maps out the contexts of usage of the term kadakasakslus, and notions in Estonian interwar public opinion of the nature of the phenomenon denoted by this word. Thereat the article aims to identify why this term became so popular in that period. The article draws on texts that appeared in the interwar Estonian press, a varied selection of which makes it possible to treat them as a reflection of public opinion.

The contexts in which kadakasakslus was used indicate that on the one hand, its users presumed that everyone knew what the term means and understood it in the same way, yet on the other hand, it can also be seen that the meaning that was given to this term in reality was variable, ambiguous and contradictory. Hence it was possible to use this term, which was familiar to readers yet at the same time had no clear definition, in the service of all manner of objectives that the writers happened to have at any given particular moment. Thus, descriptions of kadakasakslus in the press were diverse, ranging from ridicule to depictions of threats to national security. In any case, the term was used so frequently that readers could easily get the impression that kadakasakslus in all its manifestations was a widespread vice that definitely had to be fought against using all possible means. At the same time, it could also be seen that consensus was not always arrived at concerning whether or not specific individuals and phenomena were examples of kadakasakslus.

Nevertheless, the use of the term kadakasakslus reflects numerous problems that were topical in society, such as existential fears, political struggles, and the world view and biases of writers. For the most part, the use of the term kadakasakslus was connected to the opinion that the Germanisation that had been characteristic of the period prior to independence continued to spread in society. What shines through is the attitude that the continuation of Germanisation at the same pace threatened the existence of the Estonian people, and by extension, that of Estonian statehood as well. Even though mass Germanisation had long since ceased, it was very easy to utilise this widespread irrational belief regarding what was happening in society in the service of the personal motives of the writers, for instance, or of political objectives of political parties.