A Relational Approach to Digital Sovereignty: e-Estonia Between Russia and the West

Stanislav Budnitsky


This article explores the cultural logics underlying national digital sovereignty, defined here as statecraft relating to information and telecommunication technologies. Drawing on constructivist theories of national identity and technology, it proposes a relational approach to digital sovereignty that analytically centers national Self-Other dynamics in its development. To do this, the article traces how Estonian governing elites’ constructions of Russia and the West as negative and positive Others have informed the state’s digital institutions and discourses. It shows that Estonia’s nationwide digitization, self-branded “e-Estonia,” has been intrinsic to its existential goal of integrating into the Euro-Atlantic community and distancing itself from its Soviet past and the Russian state. Analyzed initiatives include e-government services of the 1990s, cybersecurity measures in the aftermath of the 2007 cyberattacks, and the e-Residency virtual citizenship program of the 2010s. By illuminating how sovereign powers wield digital technologies according to their national identity constructions, this study ultimately reveals the continued significance of nationalism in the digital age.


digital sovereignty, technological nationalism, e-Estonia, e-government, cybersecurity, e-Residency, national identity, Othering, Estonia, Russia

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