Our identity and mission today
Bound by a long common history, today's members of the Estländische Ritterschaft see themselves as belonging to a community linked by common values. For centuries frequent political change, and the need to respond to it, shaped the character of individuals in our families. This taught responsibility in the use of power and sharpened an understanding of political context. Education through role models, a belief that the pursuit of common good comes before that of personal well being, standing up for one's convictions, all made a sense of duty, solidarity, courage, the love of one's country and of its nature the key principles of character building.
In substance, the values of our forefathers retain all their validity. They provide us with a guiding thread and are a source of encouragement to lead autonomous, responsible lives for ourselves and for others - marked by a willingness to help others, personal reliability, and a strong sense of honour and justice.
In a constantly changing world we need to keep adapting to new circumstances, as did our forebears, in order to meet the challenges of the present day and secure our continuity:
- Unlike in centuries past in Estonia, our members are now scattered across much wider territories and only in loose contact with one another, even when they still know each other personally. This reinforces the importance of individual families which constitute the bedrock of our association. The Estländische Ritterschaft now consists of the sum of the families listed in its register.
- A further important aspect of our mission, which needs to respond to the changes of our own time, lies in the return to the free world of our country of origin where the overwhelming part of our 750-year history took place. Since the Republic of Estonia regained its independence in 1991, the Estländische Ritterschaft cannot be conceived without lively interaction with present day Estonia. This manifests itself through its own activities and those of individual members, as well as families. These include travels to and reunions in the former homeland, the care of family graves and humanitarian help.
In Estonia, this has been noticed widely, and also led to our being approached and encouraged. The speech of Estonian President Lennart Meri made in Berlin on 3 October 2002, the fifth anniversary of German re-unification, in which he asserted the right of Germans from Estonia to a homeland, was noted well beyond Baltic German circles. The commemoration of the 750th anniversary of the Estländische Ritterschaft at Reval/Tallinn on 7 September 2002 was a key moment in asserting a common history and linked cultural heritage between the Estländische Ritterschaft and Estonians. On that occasion, Estonia's Head of State, Arnold Rüütel, spoke of the role of the Estländische Ritterschaft from the Estonian perspective and described it as having rooted Estonia in Western European civilisation and having played the role of godparent in this process.
The Republic of Estonia's state emblem shows three blue leopards passant - the same heraldic image which has graced the arms of the Estländische Ritterschaft since the Danish period in the 13th century. The bond created by a long common history has thus found a lasting expression.