teisipäev, november 21, 2006

Nordic Council Contemplates "Re-branding" Estonia

When I first changed the tag line of Itching for Eestimaa to: "a blog about the world's only post-communist nordic country" many anonymous posters came out of the woodwork to verbally cap me in the knees for suggesting that Estonia, neighbor of Latvia and Russia, would have any business selling itself as Nordic rather than Baltic.

Yet, it appears that the Nordic Council is open to such ideas. Tomorrow the council will meet at Tallinn University to discuss how the Baltic Sea region can best be marketed to outside investors during a talk called "Regional Branding - An Asset in Times of Globalisation."

Estonia’s Minister for Regional Policy, Jaan Õunapuu, and Per Unckel, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, are keynote speakers. Other speakers will be Director Ole Frijs-Madsen, Baltic Development Forum and Director Liisa Hakamies-Blomqvist, from NordForsk.

Bengt Streijffert will talk about the Øresund Science Region between Denmark and southern Sweden, while Katri Liis Lepik will talk about Helsinki-Tallinn Euregio, as examples of the development of smaller regions. The day will conclude with two speakers from Estonia. Jaak Aaviksoo, Rector of Tartu Universitet, will look whether Estonia has an Estonian, Nordic or Baltic identity. The last Estonian parliamentarian, Mark Soosaar, will discuss whether Estonia belongs to today’s global world - with a look to the future.


In my experience as a member of the media that is routinely dealing with regional commercial initiatives, I think it is best to brand your markets from both a large regional-level and then a smaller, local level. So in the case of Estonia, acknowledgement of its membership in the Nordic market would be key for attracting investments - and I think it has been so some regards. But at the same time, promoting specific regions, like Helsinki-Tallinn is also key. For example, I have noticed that Scotland has been able to attract investment and interest by focusing in on its local competencies (which in the case of some industries means Edinburgh and its academic resources) rather than trying to compete solely as a UK market.

However, I think this "local branding" approach tends to favor more unexplored markets. Therefore, in Estonia I would like to see less focus just on Tallinn and more on growing other areas. Increasing investment in Tartu would benefit not just Tartumaa, but also neighboring counties. I also wonder if regional branding has to, in fact, be regional. For example the University of Tartu has many strong ties to the University of Turku and the University of Tampere. Could a "Tampere-Tartu" meme - for example, in pharmeceutical discovery - also work within the context of Nordic regional development?

These are all good questions for the Nordic Council, which apparently is begining to examine ways to sell the post-1991 Nordic market to the world. That will not only benefit Estonia - because the "Nordic" brand means both safe and competitive, but it will benefit the traditional Nordics, which are not growing as fast as Estonia and are reevaluating some of their taxation policies to create new opportunity.

74 kommentaari:

stockholm slender ütles ...

Yep, actually Finland was quite chillingly referred to in the Molotov-Ribbentropp pact as a Baltic country. This was quite common in the inter-war era, amplified by our vocal right wing minority that did not like the increasingly social democratic and non-nationalist Scandinavian model one bit.

It was only after WWII in order to ease the continuous Soviet pressure that Finland made a serious and concentrated bid to be a regular, "ordinary" Nordic country. We have been so succesful that our previous uncertain Baltic-Nordic identity has basically been completely forgotten both locally and internationally. It would seem a shrewed move for Estonia to replicate that project - of course times and context are different now, but a Nordic aspect for Estonian identity would surely be useful.

swede ütles ...

you know what sucks most?
the fact that you (by which I mean like-minded counterparts of yours) prefer to branding in discourse on national identity.
everything doesn't work with the anglo-saxon model of branding all the attractions around us.

Aaro ütles ...

stockholm slender:
according to you Finland made Nordic after the WWII, that's true since the whole idea was born after the WWII!

Was Finland part of baltic also before 1809 (the year when Swedes lost Finland to Russia)

finnster ütles ...

stockholm_slender, little perspective please. We're so tired of that hypocritical bullshit that the whole Sweden is full of. Your ideas are from the cold war period, do you really think that your nation thought of that 200 years ago? You may do it today, because you're as pathaetic as Austrians and Serbs, crying for the old days when you were a real monarchy and powerful empire. Finland ran long after you but made it number one in everything you can compete (innovation, education, economy, EU-integration...)

stockholm slender ütles ...

Hmm, I don't exactly understand the objections. True, before the war "Scandinavia" was the preferred term and concept, and our hard core foreign policy elite was busily trying to attach us to the Scandinavian neutral camp throughout the 30's, but emotionally there were obstacles with the radical right and the "language war", so Finland was naturally often see as a problematic case with a partially "Baltic" identity. After the war the Soviet threat effectively removed the obstacles and Finland was very enthusiastic and as daring as it could be about Nordic co-operation. I would think that there could have been another path as well. Estonia is perhaps in a similar situation where it can up to a point choose which aspects of its society, culture and mentality to stress. Surely nothing very controversial here?

Btw, I am a Finn (and a Finnish speaker). The nick comes from a poem by Wallace Stevens.

Aaro ütles ...

Stockholm slender:

Your nationality makes me wonder even more what "baltic" do you see in Finland. Especially if you see Estonia part of Nordic. Little twisted?

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, the thing is that I really do see Nordic identity as quite natural for Finland. I merely stated that during the interwar period this wasn't so evident. I can also see that a "Baltic" identity can be construed for Finland with relatively little violence. The same I think goes in reverse for Estonia. So, the question to a degree is pragmatic: what is useful for a small nation state in a relatively tight corner next to an archaic great power?

Franz ütles ...

Finland has never been (geographically and historically) Baltic country. This was misconception in West in 1920s, that Finland is Baltic country.
"Nordic" is historical and cultural notion. "Nordic" can not be regarded as level of economic and social development

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

And 'Baltics' is a hypothetical term too. It includes finno-ugrian languages and indo-european. Two traditional protestantic countries and one catholic. One was a big power in the middle ages and a kingdom. The other two were parts of a strange 'state' of an order. The Baltic Germans were mainly from Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania is different here, etc..

Giustino ütles ...

If you look at my tagline, I use the small 'n' nordic rather than the big 'N' Nordic - because I use it as an adjective rather than a noun.

But I personally feel that the false 'separation' of Estonia from the other Nordic Countries is totally ABSURD.

For example, the American-Scandinavian Foundation will award you $2,000 if you translate a work of Finnish literature into English that hasn't been translated before. So you can translate the Kalevala, but you can't translate Kalvipoeg because that's from Estonia and somehow so so different - too different for the American-Scandinavian Foundation.

Or the "Nordic Battalion" in the EU
contains representatives from "the Nordic Countries and Estonia."

Or Estonian musicians must participate in Eastern Europe folk celebrations with folk groups from Bulgaria sporting balalaikas because Estonia can't participate with similar musicians and poets from Sweden or Finland, because it's "not Nordic."

Or if you buy a book about Scandinavian Europe, until recently you'd have to buy a whole NEW book just for visiting Tallinn. Fortunately, Lonely Planet and Rick Steves have started putting Estonia and Tallinn in their Scandinavian Europe guides.

Who are we kidding here? The false separation is a joke. It would benefit countries like Sweden and Finland too to wake up to this new reality. Instead of complaining about lower wages or pollution from Silja Line, they could talk about "Nordic values" in dialogs with their neighbor. That would be a much more persuasive route than fearing the mythical 1994-era Estonia - a corrupt land of casinos and prostitution.

Aaro ütles ...

It may be easier for American-born people say that Estonia is nordic / Nordic, but when you were raised in the Nordic (without controversy) it is so much different. The culture means more than language or religion. It's the mentality of how everyday life goes on.

Giustino ütles ...

It may be easier for American-born people say that Estonia is nordic / Nordic, but when you were raised in the Nordic (without controversy) it is so much different.

In regards to the discussion held yesterday, I don't think the other Nordic countries are the ones being marketed to.

Instead it its us Americans or Brits or Japanese or Canadians that would benefit from any "re-branding." And yes, it would make it easier for them to understand that Estonia is not a Slavic, Catholic/Orthodox, East European country.

Because people in the outside world don't know. To an Englishman, catholic Lithuania - part of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth - and Estonia are the same. They are just "Baltic" or "former Soviet" - words that don't really mean anything. I mean Kaliningrad is "Baltic." Kyrgyzstan is "former Soviet" - and Estonia is closer to these than to Finland or Sweden?

I understand that "Nordic" is this mystery ingredient that you can't quite describe in actual language, but that's besides the point. The point is explaining Estonia to the foreign investor.

"What's Estonia like?"

"It's a small, nordic country."

See how easy that was.

Estonia Visitor ütles ...

"Nordic" conjures up more for me than just a location or language. It embodies certain social values and standards, a certain quality of life and social support, and a certain amount of cosmopolitanism and tolerance.

I was in Tallinn over the summer when they tried to have a Gay Pride parade, only to have it disrupted violently by skinheads and various other narrow minded twits. In Western Europe, including Nordic countries, I couldn't imagine such parades being more than a bit of fun.

They can proclaim themselves Nordic till the cows come home but they have got a long way to go to catch up with Nordic standards. The mentality is still very Baltic/East European. Repackaging is only a superficial action, the product needs to be modernised first.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Modernised first? You are kidding. The Estonians initiated great changes in society, greater than Old Scandinavia had to do the last decades. Rapid change is modern. In technology, in adapting new live styles. Maybe some aspects in Estonia are backwards, but here this is totally wrong.
And: I just googled for nordic Estonia. For example 4corner describes it this way: 'The Alpine country of Slovenia may by some be counted to Western Europe, similarly to how some would consider Estonia as a Nordic country, and hence maybe also to Western Europe.'
Still I did not call Estonia nordic, but others do.

mina ütles ...

"It embodies certain social values and standards, a certain quality of life and social support, and a certain amount of cosmopolitanism and tolerance."


Generally I agree – but you can’t expect the same quality of life and social support from poorer country –but it is improving, fast. At the same time one could consider Estonia even more cosmopolitan than Sweden for example. Just look how many different nationalities and languages exist in Estonia… peacefully.

I can’t remember many skinheads from the parade – but the “ radical Christians” were funny: P

Giustino ütles ...

I can’t remember many skinheads from the parade – but the “ radical Christians” were funny: P

Scandinavians are lying to themselves if they don't think they too have neo-Nazis and skinheads - not to mention drug-dealing bikers with rocket launchers.

plasma-jack ütles ...

exactly my point. at least there have been no race-motivated murders in Estonia. Can you say the same, o Scandinavians?

One more remark, skinheads (well, some of them) that attacked Pride in Tallinn were arrested by police. And the march WAS NOT disrupted, but continued. In Moscow, however, the police was involved in beating and the ones to get arrested were the demonstrators, among them a German legislator. Well, that kind of things couldn't happen here.

But yes, we have way too much racism and schauvinism in Estonia. (that's because for me even one nazi-skinhead is one too much..) This fact might be connected to our Soviet past, but I'm personally sick of hearing that excuse. Anyhow, you definitely can't say that it was official Estonian policy.

plasma-jack ütles ...

(that was some really bad English, but I hope I made my point)

Giustino ütles ...

They can proclaim themselves Nordic till the cows come home but they have got a long way to go to catch up with Nordic standards. The mentality is still very Baltic/East European. Repackaging is only a superficial action, the product needs to be modernised first.

Well, this is Scandinavian "missionary" philosophy versus Scandinavian reality.

In fiction, Scandinavians are tolerant towards minorities. In practice, you get situations like the cartoons controversy last year, and the rise of right-wing parties like the Danskefolkepartei or "True Finns". I am sure nobody noticed that the man who killed Anna Lindh was from Serbia, either.

In fiction, Scandinavians respect women and treat them as equals. In reality, they produce a lot of pornography, put it on late-night television, and expect their women to be trim, blonde, and fully manicured ie: Barbie.

In fiction, Scandinavians respect and care for the environment. In reality, no whaling ban could keep a pack of blubber-thirsty Icelanders from making their annual kill.

That being said, I agree with some of your sentiments. Estonia is not exactly like Sweden. But if I have to describe Estonia to someone from Argentina, you can bet your ass I am going to use the 'n' word. Because that word makes a lot of sense.

Anytime I describe Estonian culture or traditions to someone I by default have to use that word. For example, talking about Christmas holidays, I mention mulled wine. And my friend - who has cousins in Norway - replies "Oh that sounds just like Norway." And it is like Norway - for whose sake should I pretend it isn't?

Now, knowing my luck, someone is going to chime in and tell me how Norwegian mulled holiday wines and Estonian mulled holiday wines are SOOOO different from one another.

Go ahead, I know you want to.

plasma-jack ütles ...

okay, o broad-minded and liberal Scandinavians..

"Neo-Nazis held for Oslo 'racist' murder": http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1142780.stm
"Youth, racist violence (etc) in Nordic countries" (analysis):
http://www.alli.fi/nuorisotutkimus/julkaisut/virtanen/
"Three Swedish Neo-Nazis Charged With Murder":
http://www.rickross.com/reference/neonazis/neonazis6.html

plasma-jack ütles ...

okay, o broad-minded and liberal Scandinavians..

"Neo-Nazis held for Oslo 'racist' murder": http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1142780.stm
"Youth, racist violence (etc) in Nordic countries" (analysis):
http://www.alli.fi/nuorisotutkimus/julkaisut/virtanen/
"Three Swedish Neo-Nazis Charged With Murder":
http://www.rickross.com/reference/neonazis/neonazis6.html

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

And now I have to quote this (1998), because of the Finns, the Swedish and the Norwegians:
'The Sami are a Nordic people. In the Sami political programme of the Nordic Sami Council, the history of the people living in peaceful coexistence is chiseled into the first sentence: «We, the Sami are one people, and the national boundaries shall not break down the community of our people.» This is the true Nordic spirit. But still the Sami are not members of the Nordic Council.

The Nordic area is comprised of five states. But the Nordic area also comprises four small «nations». In some fields they differ quite considerably, but they have all a history which puts them in a special position in the Nordic states. The Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland have been given a special form of representation on the Nordic Council together with the five states. But the Sami people, who were settled here before the formation of the Nordic states, are the only Nordic people without representation. '
http://www.uit.no/ssweb/dok/series/n02/en/105smith.htm

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Giustino, allow me to emphazise the Alta controversy of the 80s here. A protest of the Sami against a dam project. A Norwegian women we knew, the 80 years old mother of a friend chained herself in solidarity with the Sami in front of Stortinget, from wikipedia: the Alta controversy:
"In the fall of 1979, as construction was ready to start, two acts of civil disobedience started. At the construction site itself at Stilla, a number of activists sat down and blocked the machines from starting their work; and at the same time, a number of Sami activists camped outside the Norwegian parliament, starting a hunger strike.

The prime minister at the time, Odvar Nordli, pre-empted an escalation by promising a review of the parliament's decision, but the Norwegian parliament subsequently confirmed its decision to dam the river. More than one thousand protesters chained themselves to the site when the work started again in January of 1981. The police responded with large forces, and at one point 10% of all Norwegian police officers were stationed in Alta and quartered in a cruise ship. The protesters were forcibly removed by police.

For the first time since World War II, individuals were arrested and charged with violating laws against rioting. The central organizations for the Sami people discontinued all cooperation with the Norwegian government. Two Sami women even travelled to Rome to petition to the pope."

Anonüümne ütles ...

Being nordic does not mean we consider (or should consider) ourselves scandinavian. Finns and Estonians seem to have this real, rough honesty that the scandinavians lack these days, and that's what I call nordic/northern.

Frank ütles ...

Just to add to the confusion and the controversy: up to World War I "Baltic" would have been understood by most as a word to describe the elites in nowadays Estonia and Latvia with German as their mother tongue (further enlightenment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltic_Germans
I guess that the tag "nordic" fits Estonia in many ways, and that a certain sense of humour and honesty is part of that nordic appeal, qualities that may have been lost with parts of the Swedes who tried all too hard to embrace Anglo-American ways and a philosophy that shies away from responsibility...
(Moomins, to name something utterly nordic, certainly make more sense in Finland and Estonia than in some parts of Scandinavia proper ...)

stockholm slender ütles ...

I don't know - to me this question as such does not mean such a crucial matter. I would absolutely think that the Nordic societies are as far as the humankind has progressed so far (which is to say not that far), but the this particular question about Estonian identity is largely a pragmatic one: what approach makes practical sense at this point in time? I'm sure there were lots of people that were not that thrilled about the sudden Finnish enthusiasm about the Nordic co-operation and integration after the WW2. Life is tough...

Aaro ütles ...

Stockholm Slender:


Of course all the people in Finland were not thrilled about Nordic Council in the mid 1900s, but you seem forget to put their view on historical context. They lived in different world back then, they remembered the fact that Sweden refused of helping Finland in WW2, maybe some people had even knowledge over the fact that Swedish-speaking identity would make Finland "less Finland" since the whole Finnish-movement (since 1860ies) reminded the nation of existence.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

And to add to plasma-jack links about racist violence in Nordic States. Gothenburg is a place where several riots happened. Estonia have not seen it in this intenseness so far. I know the anarchists are planning a demo against the US President in Tallinn.
But this is what happened in Sweden during an anti-Bush demo:
quote:
'I came home on Sunday and the first thing I did was cry. The days in Gothenburg were a couple of the worse days in my life. Am I exaggerating?

Maybe it was the fact, that we were so closed to getting hurt that scares me. What frightens me the most are the discussions we are having in Sweden now. Public opinion feels that the police did a good job and they should have greater authority. They should use water-canons and tear-gas and not have numbers on their helmets. Few care that they fired at a 19-year old boy and that he might not survive. Instead they think the police should have fired sooner, and as for the boy, he was throwing cobble-stones so he had it coming. How can people be so cruel?'
http://www.spectrezine.org/global/Bibi.htm

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Have to correct me a little it started with an anti-Bush demo and ended in one of the biggest anti-EU demonstrations in Sweden. This eye witness reports.

Estonia Visitor ütles ...

Regarding the postings about racist crimes in Sweden, the point is, for right or for wrong, there are way more visible minorities in Sweden so some tension and reaction between communities is bound to happen (always will). But in Estonia, where the number of non-white residents in the whole country probably numbers less than a hundred, WHY is there a skinhead movement at ALL? I think the far-right movements in Western Europe are a******s, but I DO at least see that there might be an immigration issue that could lead to this, get the ball rolling with these crazy ideas. But in Estonia, I just don't see the justification for this - there is no immigration from 3rd world countries to speak off, so a far-right movement being there to me signifies something more sinister. By the way, I'm not Scandinavian, I'm just writing as someone from the UK and explaining what the term "Nordic" conjures for me, as a neutral person.

Don't get me wrong, I love the country, been going last 3 years, my girlfriend is Estonian, I can speak some basic estonian (ma raagin natuke eesti kelt, blah blah) and I definitely don't put it in the same category as some Slavic country from the Communist bloc... but to package it as Nordic by any other measure than geographical at this point is premature.

I think Aaro is absolutely right, it's more than about language or religion (or geography), its about the mentality of how everyday life goes on.

Estonia Visitor ütles ...

By the way, don't get me wrong, I think, provided the government emulates the social policies of the Scandinavian countries, and with Estonia being a part of the EU and more and more young Estonians working/living abroad and being more exposed to the world, I think Estonia WILL be a "Nordic" country in the sense I mean (in a way the Lavia or Lithuania will never be) in 10 or 15 years... I just don't think it is yet.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

What is preamture.Yes, I got your point, but what picture of Scandinavia are you drawing? Look at this video, did you see somthing like that happened in Estonia yet? Nope. Or is thatwhat happend in Gothenburg your mature Scandinavia.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Here is the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPnQUcRqepQ&mode=related&search=

Estonia Visitor ütles ...

Fine some bad things happen in Scandinavia/the Nordic countries. I am not saying they are Utopia, but in general, they usually do well in the "quality of life" and "human development index" surveys. And with a total population what, 10 or 15 times the size of Estonia, you can beat me on the "here's a link to a bad event" game as I'm sure you will find many unsavoury events to link to in your quest to prove that because some bad things happen in the other countries, Estonia is by default a Nordic country.

But the most important thing is, you haven't convinced me, and that's the point of the "rebranding exercise"! Fine, they can call themselves Nordic, but it takes more than just calling yourself a member of a club to be a member, the other members have to see you as a member and the general public (ie non nordic countries) have to see you as a member. Until then its just an empty title. But of course as a sovereign country, Estonia can call themselves what they want - point is, will other countries perceive them as such? Good luck but I don't see it happening for a long time!

Anyway, mul on töö. Head aega!

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Aha, once I believed it too, Scandinavia as model. But there is too much that makes me sceptical. Estonia faced occupation for 50 years. Norway ans Sweden could not handle the tyskerunger. Innocent children left in Norway, due their fathers were back in Germany. It took decades until the society was open for it, to understand what they did to them. But how did they treat them?
Tusentals 60-åringar i Norge och ett par hundra i Sverige är "tyskerunger", med norsk mor och en far från tyska ockupationsarmén. Efter kriget sattes många på hem för "sinnesslöa". De misshandlades, bespottades och blev sexslavar.
This is from DN.
All this did not happen in Estonia.
What I mean. The Scandinavians have problems dealing with some 10 000 Sami, with war children, with new conflicts in society. And the numbers of socalled minorities or immigrants are much lower than the immigration Estonia has to deal with, the social change Estonia has to deal with.

Anonüümne ütles ...

to estonian visitor - skinheads are nationalists, they don't need black people to fight with, just "others"(You are a target b.t.w - since you are an englishman with an estonian girlfriend, as Giustino himself is). Still, I see no point in promoting ourselves as nordic in the way that we think of Scandinavia today. Scandinavia is not an example of perfectionism, anymore. Social democracy combined with multiculturalism does not work.

cbr ütles ...

We're definitely not Nordic yet. The Nordic countries and people are filthy rich - that's the first thing about being Nordic. We aren't. Ofcourse "Nordic" is better than "the former Soviet Baltic republic", but I don't see any reason to be on a crusade to become Nordic. We're a Baltic state both geographically and historically. Let us build up a nice country first, let's deal with the philosophical questions later ;)

Estonia Visitor ütles ...

OK I get your point anonymous about the skinheads. And its not like I saw these guys all over town every day or that Estonia is a country festering with neo-nazism. And I know there is a strong left-wing punk element that despises these guys, a couple of weeks after the gay parade a friend of mine witnessed a couple of skinheads at a music festival get the living daylights beaten out of them with cries of "Fascist!" Now THAT's a very Scandinavian reaction :-)

I think the thing that annoys me is that Estonia has to be so insecure that it HAS to brand itself as nordic. This is a government view, by the way, most ordinary Estonians I know couldn't care less one way or the other - the 2 comments above from anonymous and cbr reflect very closely the views of most Estonians that I know.

But as far as this drive to become "nordic" - I mean, come on, most of the other Accession 8 countries are developing identities as modern EU countries without having to "latch" on to some nearby countries and claiming to be part of their set. The Czech Republic is a Slavic country but I don't regard it in any way the same as I regard Russia or Belarus, its just a Central European country that has come far and will go far. From what I gather it gets inward investment without selling some packaged brandname. So why can't Estonia, which has a lot to be proud of, without having to jump on the "nordic" bandwagon, do the same? I see it more as a unique "crossroads between the Nordic, Slavic and Baltic sphere" - ok that's quite a lame description but I am not a marketing guru. The point is, Estonians are quietly proud about themselves, why can't the government take a cue from this?

I think cbr's point about developing the country first, then dealing with "philosophical questions later" reflects the view I had in my original post about developing the product first, then worrying about the packaging.

Anonüümne ütles ...

yes, I agree. Mostly it's thanks to T.H Ilves - his word were taken out of context (that he feels scandinavian rather than baltic). As I've posted here before, that I as an estonian, wouldn't feel good in a party where I'm not invited to, and definately scandinavians don't consider us as equals and I really don't care about it, but I wouldn't want to be in the same party with them as well (with finns I would, but the rest... f-them)

Giustino ütles ...

So why can't Estonia, which has a lot to be proud of, without having to jump on the "nordic" bandwagon, do the same?

Why is it a "bandwagon"? It's just an adjective that describes little countries in the north where people are blonde, love cross coutry skiing, don't say much, and drink mulled wines at the Yule time.

You guys are thinking way too much about it.

Estonia Visitor ütles ...

THAT's what Nordic means to you??? THAT's the brand name that is so important that Estonia should aim to market itself under it??? :-)

OK, alternatively I say Baltics, an effective adjective to describe little northern countries that were once part of the Hanseatic order, then subsequently the Russian empire and the Soviet Union, and now part of the European Union.

Sounds as valid as "nordic"!

(although personally, I rather like the term, "Baltic Tiger", which I think captures Estonia's liberal free market thinking and technological innovation, as per skype...)

mina ütles ...

The problem with the word "Baltic countries" or pribaltika (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)is the absence of real meaning. And lets us not forget the connotations of poverty and Soviet Union.

Without any arrogance there just isn't almost anything common between Estonia and Lithuania for example: the language, history, mentality, religion...
Latvia is somewhere in between.

That is why the nordic label is important - not to mention how many times I have met people who mix up Balkans and Baltic.

Although the level of the political correctness and/or income is still inferior to the Scandinavia (nordic does NOT mean scandinavian), the culturally Estonia is closer to Finland or Sweden than Lithuania, Poland or Romania.

That is why the re-branding is needed - to remove historically unfair connotations of Baltic or "former soviet union".

Estonia Visitor ütles ...

The only reason I gave the Baltics description was as an alternative example to the previous post, to show how arbitrary the whole "rebranding exercise" is. Giustino gave some examples of why Nordic would be a good adjective to describe estonia and I gave some other reasons why Baltics would be just as good a description. Neither one is necessarily right or wrong.

Its perception that matters, not what a country chooses to describe itself as. Say I apply to an advertisement for a job in a "booming North American city" and go there and find myself in ... Mexico City! Technically, it is North America, part of NAFTA... but that isn't the first place that most people would have thought of!

Similary, if I saw "opportunities for business in a Nordic country", I would assume certain characteristics, standards, mentality and then on discovering it was Estonia they were talking about, I would feel cheated and look elsewhere - never mind that its a Lutheran country and the language is related to Finnish, as an international investor is this really important to me? That is not to say Estonia doesn't have an attractive business environment - but its not what I would think of when I decide to set up a business in a "Nordic market".

Most Estonians seem to be comfortable and happy to be plain old Estonians, there are a couple of Eestonian posters here who seem to be fine with it, so why does the government waste so much money on useless conferences like this when policemen, nurses, ambulance drivers, firemen, etc are leaving their jobs or even the country, because they get paid less monthly than the average tourist spends in a weekend?

mina ütles ...

"Similary, if I saw "opportunities for business in a Nordic country", I would assume certain characteristics, standards, mentality and then on discovering it was Estonia they were talking about, I would feel cheated and look elsewhere"

This would be possibly the for changing the "label". Making bussines in Estonia is easy for foreing investor - finnish and swedish markets can feel the competition.

When investor comes here he/she expects the "eastern europe" or "former soviet country" (again with all the double meaning).

And often, very often, they feel cheated by the "eastern label".

Estonia Visitor ütles ...

First he feels Scandinavian, now he feels Georgian! Make your mind up!:-)

http://www.postimees.ee/231106/esileht/siseuudised/230462.php?r=

Ok before anyone starts yelling, see oli nali! See on kõik minult, ma lahen koju!

Giustino ütles ...

so why does the government waste so much money on useless conferences like this when policemen, nurses, ambulance drivers, firemen, etc are leaving their jobs or even the country, because they get paid less monthly than the average tourist spends in a weekend?

This conference was initiated by the Nordic Council. They asked Jaak Aaviksoo to talk about Estonia's regional identity. They are also discussing ways to market specific regions, like Helsinki-Tallinn.

THAT's what Nordic means to you??? THAT's the brand name that is so important that Estonia should aim to market itself under it??? :-)

This is a separate issue. This is about whether or not I can use a word that makes sense to ME to describe I country I know well to outsiders.

For example, Estonia to most Americans means "former Soviet" which also means Russian or slavic. But every description of the land or the people reminds them of what they know about Finns and Swedes(they like solitude, technology, and their summer cottage).

So I use that word because it means something they understand. It's not so serious. It's just a word that Indian-Americans, Irish-Americans, and African-Americans are more likely to identify and understand.

And those that meet Estonians say things like "they are so cold" or "they don't say much" or "they are so abrupt." It's a good explanation for their behavior.


OK, alternatively I say Baltics, an effective adjective to describe little northern countries that were once part of the Hanseatic order, then subsequently the Russian empire and the Soviet Union, and now part of the European Union.

Absolutely. Geopolitically, Estonia belongs to both regions. Economically, it is much more of a Nordic country in terms of its market orientation. Strategically, it is part of CEE (central & eastern europe) mainly because it still feels threatened by Russia, and it can count on Poland *most of the time* as a strategic partner within NATO and the EU.

But I should say that Finland also was part of the Hanseatic League and Viipuri was a major Hansa trading city. And when someone tells me they are going to "Scandinavia" and then says that they are headed for Oulu, I also a feel a bit of disorientation. That is because I know that historically, in the United States in places like Minnesota and North Dakota where many Nordic peoples settled, the Finns were looked down upon by their snobby western neighbors. Sort of like what we have going on here.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

O.k. I told my frustration about Scandinavia, now the diplomats. I hope some people understand Norwegian here. This is what the ambassador of Norway in Estonia said in 2005
Stemmer det som mange seier at for nordmenn å koma hit, det er som å koma heim?
Per Kristian Petersen:
Ja, noe av det første vi fikk høre var at Estland er et nordisk land. Til tross for at mye var litt fremmedartet i begynnelsen, ikke minst språket(!), tok det ikke lang tid før vi følte en hjemlig nærhet til både land og folk som vi satte stor pris på. Tenk bare på våre mattradisjoner, for ikke å snakke om de fantastiske kulturopplevelser vi har hatt. Her er det musikk og opera og billedkunst av en kvalitet og et omfang som er helt utrolig i et lite land. Første julen opplevet jeg f.eks. med glede min barndoms deilige blodpølse!

He says he knows that people call Estonia nordic but after his first strange encounters he feels like at home etc.. including the blodpolse

notsu ütles ...

While I can agree that we have almost as little in common with Lithuania (which have not been hanseatic, estonia visitor) than with Poland and will welcome most "nordic" values that filter in, I still have the question: when Estonia goes nordic, where do we leave Latvia? there have already been a few offended reactions from their part to Ilves' nordic discourse. And I think it is worth while to keep good relations with Latvia.

Or shall we extend the concept as far as the concept of Europe has been extended for Eurovision?

As for myself, I feel sometimes nordic, sometimes post-socialist. Depends on company. Meeting Georgians and Polish, I feel mu temperament is a rather nordic one. But when I once had a party with several Swedes, one English and one Japanese and there was a lack of drinking cups, we (Estonians) impressed them by turning empty plastic bottles into cups (1 knife applied to 1 bottle = 2 cups). This was definitely an example of post-socialist inventiveness ;).

Btw, why not adopt a hanseatic identity? That would include both Latvians and Finns we have most in common with.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

One of my latest posts on our blog was about Vents Krauklis, the mayor of Valka, a border town to Estonia. He loves cold food. It must be cold. And everything on him makes look him like stubborn, his voice etc.. Kaurismäki would have found a new character for a new movie.
Very nordic. Once I had conversation with an old Norwegian without words. Just understanding. It is all the same. And the same with the Latvians. Don't talk too much, just say what you want to say, if necessary. And so far I could not make a different between Latvians and Estonians.

Giustino ütles ...

And so far I could not make a different between Latvians and Estonians.

Well, Latvian culture is very much connected to Central European culture. For example, when I visited the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan recently, I noticed that pre-war Latvia had a very significant Jewish population - in this way closer to Poland or Lithuania. Estonia, on the other hand, had about 6,000 Jews living there before the war. In this way it was more similar to Norway, which similarly had a small Jewish population.

Their capital, Riga, has for centuries been large, multiethnic, and cosmopolitan. Latvians today account for about 60 percent of the Latvian population, but in the 1890s, they were still about 68 percent.

Also, the intellectual arguments of Europe seemed to resonate stronger in Riga. In Riga you had a large multiethnic working class that could respond to Bolshevism in the first decades of the 20th century in a way that provincial Estonia could only emulate.

So when I think of Latvia, I think of them as being more cosmopolitan and more connected to central Europe. With Latvia, I feel the two greatest countries in its history have been Germany and Russia and the role it plays between them. In fact, having read some Latvian foreign policy papers, I believe that this is how they see themselves - as a country that serve as a conduit or common ground between these two large political and economic powerhouses.

But with Estonia it is obvious that Finland and Sweden have played more significant roles than even Germany and Russia.

I know that seems like quite a statement, but would Estonia be independent if it wasn't for Finland? Would Estonia be in the economic position it is if it weren't for Sweden and Finland? The country as it exists now would not have been built without its Nordic brethren. It would have either been eventually colonized by Germans or Russians and wiped out if it weren't for Scandinavian ideals of liberal democracy.

And the differences between Estonia and its eastern neighbor are staggering. In Estonia they write freely about Sacha Baron Cohen's film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. They willingly laugh at themselves. They love democracy. They love watching Laar versus Ansip versus Savikas versus Reiljan. They may think all politicians are corrupt, but they love watching them fight. They may think Ilves is buffoonish or arrogant, but they love having a president JUST so they can make fun of him.

In Russia they ban films (including Borat), murder journalists, and Putin has a 70 percent approval rating. I rest my case.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

You know the book 'Meie Lennart', I am sure.

notsu ütles ...

Finland and Sweden have played more significant roles than Russia and Germany? hmmm... quite a statement indeed. It seems that you see it from a very contemporary perspective - maybe the one of about last 15 years.

From further past and for further discussion:
would Estonian language be *the* Estonian language without Germans?
(for instance, about 25% of our vocabulary comes from German or from Plattduitsch)
would Estonia be in the economic position it is if it weren't for 20th century Russia? (in quite another sense than in your question about Finland and Sweden)

And while differences between Estonia and its Eastern neighbour are undeniably staggering, could you say the same about Estonia vs Germany?

Just for the pleasure of arguing ;)

Giustino ütles ...

From further past and for further discussion:
would Estonian language be *the* Estonian language without Germans?
***
And while differences between Estonia and its Eastern neighbour are undeniably staggering, could you say the same about Estonia vs Germany?


No. The German influence is strong, indeed. Linguistically, culturally, and - especially - architecturally.

But Estonian culture - as I have experienced it - is quite a bit less "heavy" than true German culture - the society that produced Nietzche, Wittgenstein, Beethoven, Marx, and Luther.

Estonian culture seems to have more in common with Scandinavian culture in this way. You could call all of the northern countries "German lite."

And remember - the Danes founded Tallinn, the Swedes founded Tartu University.

In one way you can lump all of these actors together and call them "Germanic."

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

And the German culture in Estonia was/is different from the original German culture in Central Europe. For example there were no farmers in Estonia when farmers made up more then 80% of population, Germans lived in cities or were landlords. The Baltic German heritage was Northern Germany and Platt their language, close to Dutch. One part of the Baltics was for a time beeing a state of an order what we did not had in Central Europe. I could add some more. I want to emphazise that use of the word German needs more explanation, a lot of Germans traders settled and came also from Visby in Sweden. Was Visby German?

notsu ütles ...

By the way, when we talk about Tartu (and South Estonia in general), we should consider that Swedish influence was shorter there than in North. Academia Gustaviana was founded on the remnants of a jesuit college, founded on Polish initiative :). And this college had more influence on local ("Estonian") population than the Swedish university.
The other Scandinavians weren't much present in South-Estonia neither: if Danes founded Tallinn, then Tartu was founded by a Russian duke (and if we say that that was not the proper beginning, we either have to credit local people - which would apply to Tallinn too, then - or Germans).

About the Platt vs Hoch theme: after Platt-Deutsch wave, there was a Hoch-Deutsch wave too. When Tartu University was founded, the main town-language was High-German already and the students were mostly German. And when they started to use vernacular as the academic language instead of Latin, the vernacular was High-German (though it happened during "Russian time" already).

Sometimes I am tempted to view us as an epigone-culture of the German culture - like French in relation to Romans. (Somebody to lynch me, now?) Of course, we are not Germans, but neither are French Romans - or Italians, for that matter.

To throw in a historical curiosity, the first German opera was staged in Tallinn (Reval this time) and first G. oratory in Riga. Not that it says much about our inherent german-ness, but it shows at least that the Baltics weren't so unimportant from the point of view of the German culture.

This leads me again to the Hanseatic identity. At the time of this opera, Germany was somewhat stagnated and hardly recovered from war, except the harbor cities like Hamburg or Lübeck. Definitely at this time one could have said that mental atmosphere in Hamburg was less heavy than, say, in Cologne. One could call it "hanseatic mentality" :)

About Visby - was German the main communication language there and was it ruled by Germans like Estonian towns have been for most of their history? just for curiosity.

notsu ütles ...

Just got to my mind: if the Baltic Germans had stayed here as a minority, they would certainly be different of "German Germans". We could say they are more Nordic, but nevertheless, they would be some kind of Germans, just a different one.

Giustino ütles ...

By the way, when we talk about Tartu (and South Estonia in general), we should consider that Swedish influence was shorter there than in North.

I agree. The south seems very "Hansa" indeed, with its old castles. It's the north and the island which have the Nordic touch, especially the islands. Actually, northern Estonia was one of the first areas added to expansionist Sweden in 1561. South Estonia wasn't added until 1629.

But I wonder how much of an effect this had on the core identity of Estonians. Did the difference in power between Paide and Viljandi, really make its people that different?

Today, they mostly seem the same to me.

notsu ütles ...

Yes, the unite Estonia we live in now has made us more similar. But even today the presence of Finns and Scandinavia is more to be felt in North, specially in Tallinn than in South. In Tallinn, the default tourist is a Finn. In Tartu... might well be a Baltic-German interested in his/her roots. And consider the influence of Finnish TV on North Estonia during the Soviet time... in South, only channels to see were the ETV, Leningrad and the so-called "Central TV". I think that's why in Tallinn most people speak some kind of Finnish while in South-Estonia only Finnish philologists and Tallinners do. So some differences still exist even today...

Difference in power between Paide and Viljandi during the Swedish/Polish era meant that one was officially Protestant, the other officially Catholic. At that period, such a difference wasn't the trifle matter it is today.
Also, Polish authorities tried to play Livlandian peasants (still mostly Catholic, even if unofficially) against German landlords (almost entirely Lutheran already). This means that career opportunities for natives were much better there than in North.

Curiously, it seems that for South Estonia, Polish era was the one least influenced by Germans until 1918. In North, the power transfer to Swedes didn't change so much from this point of view. Main change for peasants there was the switch to Protestant belief. So, for them it wasn't so much a turn from German era to Swedish era; it was rather from Germans-and-Catholicism to Germans-and-Protestantism.

About Nordicness of islands I totally agree. Saaremaa people even have a Scandinavian intonation, Hiiumaa had a both Estonian and Swedish inhabitants to say nothing of Vormsi (Ormsö) and Ruhnu (Runö) that had an entirely Swedish population up to WWII.
From the other side, we have villages of Russian Old Believers at Peipsi... and Setu Orthodox Christians, whose traditional costume is not so different from that of Russians. And to confound it all, the other region where there used to be many Orthodox Estonians is Saaremaa...

This is why it really IS about branding rather than history - we have so many different histories here, the trouble of all nations who have lived long enough in one place.

Franz ütles ...

"But with Estonia it is obvious that Finland and Sweden have played more significant roles than even Germany and Russia"
Which was Sweden's role in Estonia after 1710? And Finland was not independent country until 1917

Franz ütles ...

"Their capital, Riga, has for centuries been large, multiethnic, and cosmopolitan"
In the end of 19th century was Tallinn also quite multiethnic: in year 1897 Estonians made up 68,7 %, Germans 17,5 %, 10,2 % Russians, 3,6 % others

Giustino ütles ...

Which was Sweden's role in Estonia after 1710? And Finland was not independent country until 1917

I'm not talking about people, I am talking about the STATE. And without a Finnish state, there would be no Estonian state. Without the sanctuary of Stockholm in the years 1944 to 1991, there would be no legal continuity of the Estonian republic.

For these reasons alone, Estonia is as it is today, in spite of both Russian and German plans for the country.

Giustino ütles ...

In the end of 19th century was Tallinn also quite multiethnic: in year 1897 Estonians made up 68,7 %, Germans 17,5 %, 10,2 % Russians, 3,6 % others

Can you imagine that many Russians and Germans living together? An interesting thought.

Franz ütles ...

"Without the sanctuary of Stockholm in the years 1944 to 1991, there would be no legal continuity of the Estonian republic"
Sadly, but Sweden was only western country, which in 1940 de jure recognised inclusion of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into USSR.
Exile government hold its sessions in Oslo, because this was prohibited in Sweden.
In 1989 was big scandal, when Swedish secretary of state Andresson declared, that Estonia is not occupied

radical sasquatch ütles ...

Much of this discussion seems to have focused on making sure a brand is an accurate (or "true") reflection of its product.

Branding is not about what actually is, but about what is perceived to be. It doesn't really matter that Estonia wasn't, isn't or won't be "nordic," or has more or less Swedish, Finnish, German or Russian influence, as long as the people for whom being nordic is important perceive Estonia to be so.

There's no reason that Estonians can't describe themselves differently to Finns, Swedes, Germans, Americans or whomever. If "nordic" evokes positive images in the minds of say, American (or whomever) policymakers, investors or tourists, why not call Estonia nordic? Estonians are still free to define themselves however they want amongst themselves. I doubt anyone will notice, let alone object.

This is a matter of pragmatism, as others in this thread have indicated. If the "nordic" brand has some value in this world, why not use it if one can? Estonia isn't the first nor will it be the last to present itself as something it's not--and it may become self-fulfilling one day, if that's what Estonians want.

Giustino ütles ...

In 1989 was big scandal, when Swedish secretary of state Andresson declared, that Estonia is not occupied

Yeah, and Olaf Palme had no problem whining about US policy in southeast Asia, but couldn't simply look across the water and see what was really there. Was there a day when the Swedes actually had guts? How far back must we go? To 1721?

I didn't know that they had to meet is Oslo, even though they all lived in Stockholm. Maybe Norway has had a bigger influence than I thought? It was Denmark and Iceland that first re-recognized Estonia. They also played a tremendous role and continue to play that role (NATO, anyone?)

Without the existence of its Nordic partners, would Estonia be in the European Union or NATO?

I really don't think Estonian independence and the Estonian economy is that important for either Russia or Germany. Historically, both of these countries saw the area as a trading post, a buffer zone, or a staging area for an invasion.

They haven't demonstrated much of an interest in the people that live there.

Giustino ütles ...

This is a matter of pragmatism, as others in this thread have indicated. If the "nordic" brand has some value in this world, why not use it if one can? Estonia isn't the first nor will it be the last to present itself as something it's not--and it may become self-fulfilling one day, if that's what Estonians want.

To outsiders the "Nordic" lifestyle - and I mean cultural lifestyle, not taxation policies - and the Estonian lifestyle are not that distinguishable.

Up thread I was laughed at for saying that Nordic to outsiders means countries at the top of the world with a preponderance of blondes, a love of skiing, sauna, and the Internet and, of course, booze.

ARe any other countries oustide of the Nordics like that? Not really. The Swiss and Austrians have their own word - Alpine. The Scots and Irish have their own rain-soaked Celtic identity. The Poles and Russians are flamboyant Slavs. The Latvians and Lithuanians are passionate Balts. I mean I have the utmost respect for Lithuania. They don't take any shit. For that, I commend them.

So, it's not such a hard thing to link Estonia to the Nordic idea. Under that framework things like mother's salaries and Wifi penetration, and Skype, and paying for parking by mobile phone start to MAKE SENSE. It's no longer "whoa, look at this interesting former Soviet country" it's "well, they ARE Estonians, afterall."

People wondered why after the EU referendum Estonians weren't out in the streets singing, while the Lithuanians had done so just weeks earlier. If they understood that they were dealing with the Nordic temperament, then they wouldn't have to ask those questions.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Here's an article that might interest you. Unfortunately it's in Estonian, maybe the chief editor would send you a copy in English, if you ask him nicely. Here, the rectors of Tallinn Univesrity and Vilnius Art Academy are discussing Lithuanian and Estonian cultural differences.
Arūnas Gelūnas, the Lithuanian guy, says here: "It's a fact that there is a tendance in Lithuania to distance itself from Slavic nations and to move towards something that might be called a Nordic-Baltic identity[...]"

plasma-jack ütles ...

http://www.sirp.ee/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=4793&Itemid=2

Franz ütles ...

"I didn't know that they had to meet is Oslo, even though they all lived in Stockholm"
I don't know much about exile government. May be they met in Stockholm. But exile goverment was founded in 1952 in Oslo, because founding of exile government was prohibited on the territory of Sweden

Anonüümne ütles ...

This may come as a shock but I'm actually proud to be a Balt.

Giustino ütles ...

This may come as a shock but I'm actually proud to be a Balt.

People try to put it into a "good" versus "less good" thing, but it's not about that.

If you look up "Balt" in Wikipedia, you'll get to read about Lithuanians and Latvians, but not Estonians, because Estonians are a Finnic people.

And the fact that Finns are considered Nordic but Estonians are not creates artificial problems for Estonians.

For example, folk festivals or organizations that are "Nordic" in nature will promote Finnish culture, but not Estonian culture.

The American-Scandinavian Foundation will support scholars that want to study in Turku, but not in Tartu.

Despite its Nordic themes, Estonian poetry will not be included in books of "Nordic poetry" and Estonian folk music, though it is obviously closely related to Karelian, Sami, and Finnish folk music, won't be included on Nordic music compilations.

It's just stupid. Why do we have to keep pretending that Estonian culture is more similar to Lithuanian culture just because the Germans or the Russians call all of these peoples "Baltic"?

Culturally, it is highly advantageous for Estonian writers, artists, film makers, cartoonists, musicians, to work under the Nordic umbrella.

Why SHOULDN'T Estonian films be shown at Nordic film festivals? Do you see what I am getting at.

Karl ütles ...

I would love to have the world see Estonia as a nordic country. It's the closest identity for us. In the words of our beloved president, Estonia has little in common with the Baltics cept for half a century of communism and Soviet occupation.

I am insulted when referred to as an Eastern-European. Estonia is in Northern Europe, at least according to Wikipedia. I love winter, skiing and going to the sauna. I like the Nordic values and personally I respect them.

I see each nordic country being slightly different from one another. In square kilometres, Estonia wouldn't be the smallest nordic country. It would only be the least populated one and the only ex-soviet one. Should it not be regarded as Nordic for that sole reason? Why couldn't Estonia be accepted as the young and "still having much to learn" brother of the Nordics?

Gordon ütles ...

As a US citizen of Celtic/ Cherokee extraction, I have no ax to grind here, but the whole idea of "branding" is distasteful. On the other hand, an Estonian enjoying cold sult after spending time in his saun has a lot in common with a Norwegian hankering for sulta after being in his sauna. Nordic, nicht wahr? As for Finland being Nordic to the exclusion of Baltic, I'd say that having Karelia amputated and swallowed was a high price to pay for the Nordic label. Agree?

I suspect much of the impetus for the branding discussion lies not in disagreements between the participants but in the unspoken consensus that -- even though the US isn't the total market that brands are sold to -- the typical US citizen is almost completely ignorant of geography. For this portion of the market, Nordic starts with the same three letters as Norway and at least provides an unconscious clue as to the latitude. Otherwise, "Baltic" risks confusion with the Balkans. And I'm not joking about the first three letters: I once heard some Estonian folkdancers use the word Baltic in answering the inevitable "Where is Estonia?" question. The response: "Aren't you all too blond to be from down there?"

This might sound more like east Texas than Estonia, but if I were Estonian I think my position would be "We don't need no stinkin' brands.

tommyboy ütles ...

I am an Australian of Estonian heritage. I have blonde hair, blue eyes and people ask me if I'm Swedish or Danish. That is all I have to say. Estonia is not anything like Lithuania or Latvia, it's Estonian.
And... If I had to descibe Estonia, I would say Nordic. Ps, those "skinheads" were probaby remnants of a Soviet migration program in the mid 1940's