Voters in towns and tiny villages along the vast and frigid coast of Greenland Feb. 23, said naagga (''no'' in the official Eskimo language) to their island's involuntary membership in the European Community.
Rockets and fireworks flared over the snow-bound capital Nuuk and young EC-opponents staged a torchlight parade as the returns came in, showing 53 percent against continuing ties to the Community.
EC membership is seen here as incompatible with the predominantly Eskimo society's three-year-old status as a semiautonomous part of Denmark.
Says Finn Lynge, the Greenlandic member of the European Parliament, ''the idea behind home rule was to shed the yoke of Copenhagen. Why replace it with a new one?''
Jonathan Motzfeldt, the island's premier, complains: ''With a population of only 50,000 we simply do not have the manpower to administer the EC's more than 5,000 ordinances and regulations, which have not even been translated into Greenlandic.''
As an integrated part of Denmark in 1972, Greenland had to submit to the Danish decision to join the EC despite a negative island vote of 70.2 percent.
Since then, the 10 EC nations have faithfully invested $10 million to $20 million dollars per year in infrastructure and education in Greenland. But the positive image thus purchased has been undermined by West German trawlers fishing illegally in Greenland's waters.
The outcome of the advisory referendum does not change Greenland's relations with Denmark, which is supporting its former colony with a subsidy of almost $ 200 million a year.
''We want out of the EC, but we don't want out of Denmark,'' Mr. Motzfeldt says.
Although the Danish Prime Minister Anker Jorgensen would prefer that Greenland maintain its membership in the EC, he has promised that the Danish government will assist the Arctic island in the negotiatons for a new status, a process expected to last well into 1984.
Parting with Greenland's 840,000 square miles of glaciers and snow-covered mountains will reduce the EC to less than half its current territory. As the first country to leave the European Community in its 25 year history, Greenland may set a precedent for other reluctant members of the EC such as Greece and Britain's Labour Party.
It is not, assures Mr. Motzfeldt, Greenland's goal to sever relations with Europe.
His hope is to obtain a less-extensive form of association with the EC, securing access for Greenland's vital export of fish to the European Community, but ending what he sees as ''humiliating'' bargaining sessions in distant Brussels regarding the right of local fishermen to catch cod and shrimp off Greenland's coast.
Neither is it Greenland's intention to end or alter the relationship with another Brussels-based organization, NATO.
The Greenlandic home-rule government has no authority over defense policy. ''And we have no desire to change the status quo of the North Atlantic,'' assures the premier.
Even so, NATO would, in the words of a Western diplomat, ''feel a little more at ease'' were Greenland to continue its membership in the Community.
Located mid-way on the shortest route between the two superpowers, this island of mainly fishermen and hunters is of decisive military importance. The United States operates several installations, of which the most important is the giant radar at Thule Air Base in the far northwest corner.
In various indirect ways the Soviets have shown great interest in the ice-covered island to which they usually have no access. Moscow once offered to develop Greenland's fishing industry on favorable conditions, and Soviet journalists have atttempted to court Danish colleagues specializing in Greenland by sending them caseloads of caviar and vodka.