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How Estonia Did It: From Soviet Republic to European Economic Model

Recorded on August 8, 2007

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, Estonia has transformed itself from a stagnant, state-driven, socialist system into one of the world's most modern and dynamic free-market economies. 
A member of the 15-state Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Estonia had much farther to go in modernizing and liberalizing than did members of the Warsaw Pact.  Yet, through sound free-market policies, the government in Tallinn transformed Estonia into the envy of the formerly Communist European states.  As a result, Estonians have enjoyed unprecedented increases in living standards as well as economic growth rates well over 5% since the turn of the century.  How did they do it?  How did Estonia form the political will and national solidarity needed to adopt such bold, liberal economic strategies rather than an incremental approach?  How did Estonia stave off all the pitfalls of development which have afflicted modernizing societies since the end of World War II?  Former Prime Minister Mart Laar will tell us.

Mart Laar was Prime Minister of Estonia from 1992 to 1994 and 1999 to 2002.  He guided Estonia through lightning economic reforms that ultimately resulted in rapid economic growth and accelerated acceptance into the European Union.