After Estonia's systemic change and restored independence in 1991, Estonian civil servants must re-conceptualise their relationships with other spheres of society and with what they see as the 'Public Good'. They are involved in the adoption and creation of new value judgments, professional identities and views of ethical and unethical conduct. This article presents an empirical examination of these processes. Carried out from June 2005 to January 2006, it makes use of group interviews (N = 58) and a national e-mail questionnaire (N = 960) of civil servants. According to the results, the officially adopted Civil Service Code of Ethics is seldom relied upon. The idea of civil service as a vocation, preference for self-regulating measures, suspicion towards external control and avoidance of media publicity are indicative of the respondents' view of the overall role of civil service in society. The paternalist attitude inherent in this discourse is considered in this article to be in line with the specific functions of a state still completing its systemic transformation.