After the collapse of the Soviet Union, former Soviet republics became sovereign states and faced a challenge of building new political systems. While some of the countries have become authoritarian, democratic political systems were successfully built in a number of post-Soviet countries. In this study the focus is on these new democracies and their armed forces, as such states face questions related to the armed forces’ monopoly over the means of violence, their subservience to civilian politicians, the core values around which soldiers coalesce, and their legitimacy in the eyes of publics. How then does a military create a tradition in a new democracy? The term “military tradition” is used to refer to public events (ceremonies and performances), symbols (flags and adornments), and narratives (stories and lore) produced and reproduced in and around the armed forces. Accordingly, the article turns to the study of public events in order to further the study of military traditions in new democracies. As empirical focus, the authors propose to look at a key state-centered, national public event, the military parade through an exploratory case study of Estonia, a relatively young democracy of 30 years. The results of the study show that the form and practices of Estonia’s military parade simultaneously signal its subservience to elected officials, its role as defender of a democratic polity and its fate, its closeness and openness to society, and they reflect the wider societal developments centered on individualization, digitization, and marketization.

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