TRAMES 1, 2, 1998

Anu Realo. Collectivism in an individualist culture: The case of Estonia

Department of Psychology, University of Tartu


In this article the position of Estonia on the map of individualism-collectivism, is examined. Since Schwartz’s (1994) worldwide study of human values, covering more than 40 cultural groups in 38 nations, Estonia has occupied a firm position among the collectivistic countries in cross-cultural literature. The Estonians themselves, however, seem to have quite a contrary opinion on that matter: being labeled as "collectivists" is in sharp contrast with the Estonians’ own national myth about their extreme individualism. In addition to the Estonians’ autostereotype, several other factors speak against the Estonians’ excessive collectivism – a number of recent cross-cultural studies has shown that at least the Estonian students do not differ significantly from their Finnish and North American counterparts in individualistic-collectivistic attitudes. It is concluded that the dissonance between the results of various empirical studies, on the one hand, and between the public opinion of the community of cross-cultural researchers and the Estonians’ autostereotype, on the other hand, is most likely due to the all-embracing definition of the individualism-collectivism constructs that holds and tolerates a wide range of miscellaneous opinions. 

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