esmaspäev, november 12, 2007

Baltic BS

Do you ever get tired of the "Baltic States"? I do. I find it a counterintuitive construction for several reasons, beyond the obvious linguistic factors.

One constant source of irritation is "Baltic history" books that try to somehow address only Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania yet always manage to drag Poland and Finland into the mix.

You see, you can't really discuss Lithuanian history without discussing Polish history. That is because for a large period of time both countries were part of a unified state -- Rzeczpospolita, the commonwealth of Polish-Lithuania.

Likewise with Estonia, it is difficult to discuss the Estonian national movement or the Estonian War of Independence without addressing the involvement of Finland. You can't really discuss the background of Kalevipoeg without bringing up the Kalevala. The histories are mixed.

The greatest myths, though, are to be found in the "Latvian" history books, which spend about as much time discussing Germans, Russians, Poles, and other nationalities as they do discussing Latvians proper. Try to write a history of Latvia without discussing Baltic Germans. You can't.

Current Baltic unity is part convenience, part institutional. Nobody wants to have an "Estonian" policy. They want to have a "Baltic" policy. While Condoleezza Rice might be content to meet with her Icelandic counterpart one on one -- she would not feel a pressing need to invite Denmark, Norway, and representatives from Greenland and the Faroe Islands. But when it comes to Estonians, it's preferential to lump them in with the boys down south.

And people wonder why it is so hard for these countries to agree on anything. Instead of asking why don't they get along, perhaps we should ask, why should they get along? Poland and Finland are also both formerly tsarist, both have felt the Russian threat in past decades, both are situated on the Baltic Sea -- yet no one expects them to formulate a common policy. Catholic Poland and Lutheran Finland are allegedly too different, yet Catholic Lithuania and Lutheran Estonia supposedly have more in common. They are "former Soviet republics" ... like Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan.

Coming back to the counterintuitive -- the orientations of these countries are different. Estonia, a country of islands and bays, is oriented to the north and west. Estonians have local names for Helsinki and Turku and the Aaland Islands. I know where Kotka is, and not only that, I know what Kotka, Lahti, and Joensuu mean.

When it comes to Lithuania though, I am a bit more sketchy. And not only does your average eestlane probably not know where Kalvarija is, the characters there are more foreign. Belarusians? Poles? Latgallians? Kaliningraders? How are Estonians really supposed to take part in constructing meaningful policy over a neighborhood that is unknown to them? And furthermore, how exactly did Estonia get to be perceived as belonging to that neighborhood?

The antidote to this odd political entity known as "the Baltic States" has been supranational organizations and activities -- regional programs that are based on a defined regional self interest, ideas as familiar as the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or the Northern Dimension.

Estonians no longer are expected to have identical policies to Latvians. Instead sometimes they can work with Latvia and other times they can work with Sweden. This reconceptualization of Northern Europe is based around economic interest and common history, rather than linguistic borders .

This is the vision of the future put forward by Danish diplomat Uffe Elleman-Jensen, chairman of the Baltic Development Forum. This modern day Danish strategist sees a Baltic sea region stitched together by Scandinavian banks and transport companies enriching not only the Nordics, Baltics, and everything in between, but also the St. Petersburg region. A modern day Swed, er, Hansa League, if you will.

Perhaps Elleman-Jensen has the correct conceptualization of the region, one that is more true to its historical, linguistic, and economic realities than the ones that seem so convenient on paper, but often turn to stumbling blocks.

78 kommentaari:

Indrek ütles ...

There are few uses still for the Baltic unity. BBL, the Baltic Basketball League for instance. Estonians love basketball, but we have to admit that at the moment we suck at this game. Hence, it's good that we can participate in the league where we can have in general stronger adversaries. As hopefully our teams will gain from such competition in the long term. Playing with the teams from Finland or Sweden (in general still lousy at basketball) wouldn't help us any further.

But there's an interesting 'but' to it. Do I know where all these teams from Latvia and Lithuania are actually coming from - Valmiera, Siauliai, etc. No clue, to be honest. Often I don't even know are they from Latvia or Lithuania. At the same time I know where most of the Finnish towns are located on the map. So, there.

Juan Manuel ütles ...

What is the meaning of Joensuu? The _____ of the river?

Giustino ütles ...

mouth

margus ütles ...

Omg, what is Paet doing on the picture?

The discourse changes in a long-long time. Why? People far away have their own stuff to take care of. For US the Soviet Union was a big deal. Nordic values or some odd Finno-Ugrian nations - hmm, no. Same for Western Europe - we will be 'accession' states for a long while now. It's common in the world. Look at Spain for example - solid nation-state, huh? Catalans would disagree a lot. Or can you name ten African countries? Kinda difficult cause they're 'all the same'.

what I'm saying is, established norms don't change by themselves and we have to account for that. A norm persists because it makes sense to certain people. Not that you didn't know that.

Giustino ütles ...

Omg, what is Paet doing on the picture?

kaerajaan! kaerajaan!

Juan Manuel ütles ...

Ok, I thought that but I feared it would sound funny in English ;)

By the way, i was listening to some random music in my computer and then came "Raw animal passion". I was appalled! It was great. I was wondering - what is this?

Margus: The Catalans fought for independence many times, but unlike the Portuguese, who got sick of us after sharing three kings, they always lost. Once they even tried to join France. Luckily for them, they also lost that war.

Giustino ütles ...

Look, the idea is that "resurgent Russia (TM)" doesn't only threaten "Baltic" security -- as I have read -- but REGIONAL security -- that is Finnish security, Polish security, et cetera.

I remember an interview with Ilves when he was asked after the cyber attacks if Estonia received any help from "it's fellow Baltic states" to which the big "no duh" followed -- "Yes, the Finns sent some IT specialists".

Of course they did. Helsinki is a quick boat ride/helicopter ride away. So why wouldn't they ask if Eesti received any help from Suomi? Would make sense, no?

If we thought regionally, we'd have to deal with less stupid questions. "Baltic" security would be an obvious component of "Northern European" security.

Guys like Elleman-Jensen are important. The conceptualizers of today will make the common perceptions of tomorrow. It doesn't seem so obvious now, but it will be in 10, 20 years time, perhaps after Uffe is gone.

Jim Hass ütles ...

sounds a lot like the area of gustavis adolphus' empire, if we include some north german ports. Does that make the holsteiner half of my family balto-german?

Heli ütles ...

I have always found it funny that only estonia, latvia and lithuania are considered nowadays as "Baltic countries-states-nations" but at the same time there is every year event "Miss Baltic Sea" where take part ALL countries which border the Baltic Sea- starting with Germany and ending with Russia. Why aren´t they also Baltic countries? They are as close to Baltic sea as are we. Where´s the logic :D?!

Heli ütles ...

can´t Joensuu- jõesuu(e) be translated into english like creek?

Heli ütles ...

"as creek" of course..

Flasher T ütles ...

1) Russia sees the Baltics as the same because of the Ostsee code, the German autonomy in the Estland and Liefland (sp?) counties. Because the Ostsee lands were always different from the rest of Russia, more Western, they continued to be viewed as a sort of Soviet Switzerland.

2) Lithuania comes in at the same time as the West's idea of the unified Baltic states - in WWII, when the Soviet Union occupied the neutral countries in the course of its war with Poland, and later when the Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact was revealed for what it was. Suddenly, the West has a good propaganda slogan, the three plucky little Baltic states, a poster child for the evil of communism.

3) The idea was reinforced by this, and it's an event that has imprinted itself on the people's consciousness and national mythology strongly enough that the idea will stay alive for a long time. Remember that in each country, the Independence Days of the other two are flag days! A very strong sensation of unity comes from the realization that even if the West abandons us in the next war, there are at least the two neighbours who are always there to help.

4) It's simply convenient. Microsoft gets to put a hub office in Riga and service the six-million-person market.

5) While at this point the idea of Baltic unity might have no real basis, it's pervasive enough for us to return to it when it comes in handy, such as the Ignalina project.

Heli: there are lots of different ways to dissect the region, depending on what you're trying to do. The concept of "Scandinavia" is tenuous because neither Finland, Denmark nor Iceland are strictly speaking on the Scandinavian peninsula. The concept of "Northern Europe" was created to explain why Norway was involved, without being a Baltic rim nation. There is an official circuit of conferences for the foreign ministers of Baltic rim countries. Take your pick.

Giustino ütles ...

5) While at this point the idea of Baltic unity might have no real basis, it's pervasive enough for us to return to it when it comes in handy, such as the Ignalina project.

Yeah, and if you read about that project you'll see that it's mired in the love-hate Polish Lithuanian relationship.

I don't see why the Poles and Lithuanians just don't get their act together. Historically, that was their best bet for averting "grand bargains" over their respective futures.

Remember that in the 1930s, the USSR supported Lithuanian claims to Vilnius. That's why Lithuania signed the pact with the USSR -- so that it could get its hands on Vilnius.

This is sort of my point. You can't discuss Lithuanian politics without talking about Polish politics. Writers have to try very hard to somehow sever the two for the sake of "Baltic unity". It always fails.

"Baltic" history books should at least include Poland and Finland. Foreign policies should also take those two nations into account.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

The Norwegians are the Baltics of the Swedes ;-)

I cannot not resist to quote this here now, an interview about a film, a swedish norwegian story:

'iW: In the opening sequences much of the humor is based on the Norwegians making digs at the Swedes. What are some major or subtle differences -- how do Norwegians and Swedes see each other?

Hamer: This [film] is set in the '50s -- a time that was far more serious about the war. For my grandparents' generation [the distinction between the two countries] was a big thing during World War II.

iW: And the Norwegians were...

Hamer: Fighting against the Germans... So the war's one difference. I had to take that seriously because it was the '50s. So there is quite a serious undertone to the story. [The Swedes were neutral observers, as they have been for 200 years].

iW: Culturally the Swedes are more commercial, more industrialized, and the Norwegians more rural and tough-guy, is that it?

Hamer: In a way. If you go far back in history Sweden was a huge country. But I grew up in the '60s [when] most people watched Swedish television and listened to Swedish radio. We always looked to the Swedes.

iW: As being more "advanced," or what?

Hamer: Yes, Sweden was always ahead of us in industry. At one time when they took land in the Baltic and down to Poland, they were quite a powerful country. We were under the Swedes for a period of 100 years. Both countries go as far North but Sweden goes [south] to Germany and is more in touch with Europe. In the mid-17th century [French philosopher Rene] Descartes lived in Stockholm. I don't know what was going on in Norway then, but at least there were no philosophy discussions.

iW: So jokes between Swedes and Norwegians are common.

Hamer: These days it's different. They still have [famous natural scientist] Linnaeus. But we have oil and oysters. And many writers other than Ibsen.'

indiewire

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

The greatest myths, though, are to be found in the "Latvian" history books, which spend about as much time discussing Germans, Russians, Poles, and other nationalities as they do discussing Latvians proper. Try to write a history of Latvia without discussing Baltic Germans. You can't.

Excuse me -- so you could write a history of Estonia without discussing Baltic Germans?

And where are there "myths" in Latvian history -- I mean, all historiography is partly mythological, but discussing the facts (as in the fact that Latvians were not the movers and shakers of history until rather recently) is pretty reasonable, no? Estonians were? Look, Guistino -- history in Latvia and Estonia shows that we have very much in common, whether you like it in Yuleland or not. Our geopolitical positions have a lot in common, too, and you can't escape that no matter how "Nordic" you get, not with this big neighbor and not with those non-citizens.

By the way, if you watch the video of the demo at my blog, you'll see Estonian flags flying.

Giustino ütles ...

Excuse me -- so you could write a history of Estonia without discussing Baltic Germans?

Exactly.

And where are there "myths" in Latvian history -- I mean, all historiography is partly mythological

I'd say 'Baltic' history that only covers Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania is pretty mythical. Whose brilliant idea was it to assemble them as such?

Why not do "British, French, and Spanish only" history. I mean all three were part of the Roman empire, had possessions in the Americas and elsewhere, et cetera.

It would make about as much sense.

Look, Guistino -- history in Latvia and Estonia shows that we have very much in common, whether you like it in Yuleland or not.

You are missing the point. The point is that Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania are as different as Estonia and Finland or Lithuania and Poland.

So this idea that all three countries should, for example, do everything in tandem is misguided.

During the 1920s and 1930s, "Baltic" cooperation was similarly attempted -- and failed -- because Finland had no use in resolving the Vilnius dispute and the Estonians and Latvians couldn't agree on which language to use in common military exercises.

So again you have this concept of "the Baltic States" not working in reality. This is why a broader regional conceptualization makes more sense, because it allows you to see the Finnish factor and the Polish factor and the German factor.

Our geopolitical positions have a lot in common, too, and you can't escape that no matter how "Nordic" you get, not with this big neighbor and not with those non-citizens.

Another perfect example. Lithuania has no non-citizens if you recall. So is the non-citizens issue a "Baltic" problem or a "Estonian and Latvian" problem?

I think most people would correctly say that it's a Estonian and Latvian issue, not a Lithuanian issue. And even between Estonia and Latvia there are differences on minority rights.

Why should the Lithuanians be taken to task over "Baltic" citizenship policies that they don't even have? And why should Estonians share the "Baltic" guilt for the work of the Lithuanian einsatzgruppen?

It makes more sense to talk about each country and its policies on an individual basis.

Also, I think you'd find the Poles and Finns to be just as paranoid of the eastern neighbor. Russia is the sole reason Finland is not in NATO and the sole reason why Poland is.

Doris ütles ...

"Ei saa l2bi ilma L2tita" you might have heard that one or not, it's a rather (in)famous saying in Estonia. Sure, we make fun of each other and sometimes quarrel over meaningless little details and don't know each other's languages... But almost every child in Estonia knows at least one Latvian word: "saldejums"

Yeah, Estonia doesn't perhaps have all that much in common with Lithuania but we definitely share things with Latvia. After all, half of Latvia and half of Estonia (=Livonia, which was slightly different from Estonia and Kurland) used to be under the same jurisdiction for centuries and the linguistic-cultural border of today is only a matter of the past century or so. So if you want to talk about either one of them, sooner or later you'll have to talk about the other. We're a bit like siamese twins that have been separated and are now living their own lives.

Giustino ütles ...

For a final comment, Giustino isn't saying that Estonia and Latvia have nothing in common.

Giustino is saying that lots of countries on the Baltic Sea have a lot in common, and that policies, histories, interpretations that only deal with Est, Lat, and Lith, are misguided because they superficially dissect the region from its long-standing, historical partners.

Strategists, historians, journalists, et cetera, should be advised to look beyond the superficial borders of "Pribaltika" if they want to better understand why things happen the way they do here.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

I asked:

Excuse me -- so you could write a history of Estonia without discussing Baltic Germans?

Giustino answered:

Exactly.

Normally I would drop a discussion were this kind of bull to be spouted, but I like you and your blog too much. What in the hell are you trying to say by that? Sorry, but there is no history in Estonia or Latvia sans Baltic Germans. Here is the Estonian Institute's take.

So we spent 7+ centuries in das Baltikum, give or take, mostly silent at that, and with various other peoples or empires impinging, importing, exporting. Baltic Germans were dominant here and in Estonia, but not in Lithuania -- but Lithuanians are Balts, like the Latvians (with the exception of the Livs), as Estonians are not.

The history from the 19th C Awakening in Latvia and Estonia is almost completely parallel (hey, many of our leading intellectuals even had the same alma mater, in Tartu/Dorpat/Tērbata/Yuryev where you are) -- there are, of course, various differences, but in 1905 and again at independence and again during the occupation we were in the same boat.

You could make Lithuania the odd Republic out, sure -- unlike Latvia or Estonia, it has a glorious history.

It makes more sense to talk about each country and its policies on an individual basis.

Sure, but we talk about the Iberian peninsula and the Benelux countries and North America -- granted, Canada and the US are dramatically different. We talk about "former Soviet republics," and when we make a finer distinction we separate the Baltics from those other ones. We talk about Nordic countries and we talk about Scandinavia. We talk about the British Isles whilst searching for another name.

We have orgs, Guistino, like the Baltic Assembly. Now, maybe that's all just formal bull -- but on a people-to-people level, I don't think it is. The most major events in our recent history symbolically culminated in our joining hands. Lithuania was at the forefront of that. Later we separated slightly, guided by narrow interests and influences and the degree of Russification. Finland is not in NATO, y'know. The attempts by some in Lithuania to leap ahead militarily or some in Estonia to leap into the EU in advance didn't come off -- to most of the rest of the world, we're the Baltic states.

I don't see a reason to wreck that. Estonia won't become more Nordic by ditching the troublesome Letts, and the Letts won't make better friends with Putinland by ditching the Estonians, and the Lithuanians' generous citizenship policy has not made the Kremlin look upon Vilnius with any fondness at all. We spend all of this money and energy on branding -- but I think it would be a lot better spent in common. That's reasonable and pragmatic, because that's our brand to most people in the world that can identify us anyhow.

After your current President made his Yuleland comments, when he was Foreign Minister, a survey was taken in Estonia and most people answered that they felt more Baltic than they did Scandinavian. I feel close to both Estonians and Lithuanians, and in an expanding arc to those in Nordic countries and Eastern Europeans. At least a quarter of the population in Estonia and Latvia, which is no small potatoes, speaks Russian and lives in Russian media space at least part of the time.

Blogaddict ütles ...

I don't know. I did not see Finns (as a nation) standing with us in Balti Kett.

Come next time, God forbid, I betya they won't be there either.

So much for some mythical brotherhood.

Giustino ütles ...

What in the hell are you trying to say by that? Sorry, but there is no history in Estonia or Latvia sans Baltic Germans.

I was trying to say that modern day conceptualizations of Northern Europe, like the Nordic Baltic 8 meetings or the Council of Baltic Sea States are a bit closer to representing the region than the entity known as the "Baltic States".

Certain issues facing the region -- energy, security, transportation -- cannot be solved by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania alone. Rather the Rail Baltica is supposed to run from Helsinki to Berlin.

That is more indicative of the true nature of the region. So it makes more sense to think in terms of regional interest and identity than just "Baltic" interest and identity.

Maybe Latvia has different national interests than Estonia. This should not be a surprise to anybody. It should be expected.

We have orgs, Guistino, like the Baltic Assembly. Now, maybe that's all just formal bull -- but on a people-to-people level, I don't think it is. The most major events in our recent history symbolically culminated in our joining hands.

Now that you are free to join hands in Solidarnos with Poland (pop. 38 million) or the Scandinavian countries, wouldn't that also make sense?

Doesn't it make sense to look beyond Tallinn-Riga-Vilnius to articulate regional policy?

I mean how can "the Baltic States" really affect Baltic Sea environmental conditions without support from "the other Baltic States"?

I personally think that Uffe Elleman-Jensen's vision of the region's future is a bit more compelling than reminiscing about serfdom. It ended in 1816/19. That's a long time ago.

to most of the rest of the world, we're the Baltic states.

And most of the rest of the world has no idea about what that even means. It summarizes a) location and b) domination by foreign powers. How informative.

I don't see a reason to wreck that. Estonia won't become more Nordic by ditching the troublesome Letts, and the Letts won't make better friends with Putinland by ditching the Estonians, and the Lithuanians' generous citizenship policy has not made the Kremlin look upon Vilnius with any fondness at all.

Estonians won't solve energy problems without Finns, Lithuanians won't solve energy problems without Poles. There are other nationalities here too. Aren't they all equal? No need to be so myopic about it.

That's reasonable and pragmatic, because that's our brand to most people in the world that can identify us anyhow.

It doesn't really mean anything in a region where the banks are operated from Stockholm.

Elleman-Jensen's point is that the region should be more integrated. I think it already is integrating.

After your current President made his Yuleland comments, when he was Foreign Minister, a survey was taken in Estonia and most people answered that they felt more Baltic than they did Scandinavian.

I feel like you are arguing with his 1999 speech more than with what I wrote. Did I mention Yuleland once? What merited this detour? That I brought up the Estonian-Finnish relationship?

Yeah, it exists. And like I wrote, it's counterintuitive to read about the Bear Slayer and Kalevipoeg and *not mention* the Kalevala -- which appeared around the same time and served a similar role. But most histories of "the Baltic States" carefully omit the Kalevala. Why?

Yes, I know, it's a quite touchy subject. Ilves had to visit Helsinki and Riga in one day so as to not upset anybody.

Ultimately this discourse -- who do you love more, your mother or your father as someone put it -- is a waste of time.

Estonia's northern neighbor is Finland, its southern one is Latvia. It's eastern one is Russia, and it's western one is Sweden.

The end.

At least a quarter of the population in Estonia and Latvia, which is no small potatoes, speaks Russian and lives in Russian media space at least part of the time.

Take a walk around Oslo or Copenhagen. There are a lot of Somalians and Turks there. Does that make Denmark *more* Turkish?
Is Paris, more "North African" because of its large immigrant community? Is Finland more "gypsy" because Roma live there in greater numbers?

Estonia has yet to fully re-conceptualize the Russian minority. In Estonia everyone is aware that Narva is, basically, a Russian city. But the official line, from Tallinn, is that everyone must assimilate into Estonian culture.

It works in cities where their status is evident, like Tartu or Pärnu, or, increasingly, Tallinn. But in Narva it makes no sense.

I don't think the current political generation will be able to "solve" the Narva riddle. It will take a younger generation to figure out just how to conceptualize Narva within the Estonian state.

Giustino ütles ...

I don't know. I did not see Finns (as a nation) standing with us in Balti Kett.

Come next time, God forbid, I betya they won't be there either.

So much for some mythical brotherhood.


My sister-in-law lives in downtown Tartu.

Across the street is Uppsala Maja, built with help from Estonia's sister city across the Läänemeri.

Down the street a bit is Tampere Maja, renovated from the deep pockets of the Finnish industrial town.

And across the street is Jaani Kirik, which we rebuilt with help from Polish and German companies.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Take a walk around Oslo or Copenhagen. There are a lot of Somalians and Turks there. Does that make Denmark *more* Turkish?

Justin, sorry, but if you wouldn't waste your time with this sort of bullshit -- there'd be less reason to bullshit. Do speakers of Somali or Turkish make up 40% or so of the population of Copenhagen? When did they get there, and how?

Giustino ütles ...

Justin, sorry, but if you wouldn't waste your time with this sort of bullshit -- there'd be less reason to bullshit.

If you didn't waste so much time arguing for superficial Baltic solidarity (without even explaining its purpose in a regional context!) and went back and read what I wrote, you would see that I didn't say anything nasty or mean about Latvia.

All I said is that all the countries on the Baltic Sea are independent entities. It would make more sense for them to solve problems together, rather than in little artificial blocks of "Baltic" countries and "Nordic" countries.

My big sin seems to be mentioning that Kalevipoeg, the Estonian national epic, was influenced by the Finnish Kalevala, and that Finns fought with Estonians in their war of independence.

Another big sin was bringing up the fact that Poland and Lithuania used to belong to the same state.

Both of these things are nonthreatening and, more importantly, both of them are true.

So what's the problem here exactly?

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

The problem was described exactly in what I wrote. It's insane bull to compare the Russian minorities here to the Turkish or Somali minorities in Denmark, sorry. That's all.

Estonia has yet to fully re-conceptualize the Russian minority

That sounds like Newspeak to me. I would await the immaculate conception in Yuleland -- but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Giustino ütles ...

It's insane bull to compare the Russian minorities here to the Turkish or Somali minorities in Denmark, sorry. That's all.

I don't think it's insane. Danes and Estonians are dealing with similar issues -- a large urban minority of foreign background that gets used regularly in national politics.

Their roots are different, but the 30 percent of Copenhagen residents with a foreign background have to integrate just as much into Danish society as the 43 percent of Tallinn that speaks Russian as a first language have to integrate into Estonian society.

In both cases Danish and Estonian societies are entities that are longstanding and exist. In both cases the minorities are large and relatively new. In both cases different cultural norms can create havoc (think Mohammed cartoons) as a certain segment of society feels it is not being respected.

Again, putting things in the Baltic box is counterproductive. Even if Estonia gave the 114,000 stateless people citizenship tomorrow, they'd still face the same hurdles that most minorities face in access to education, employment, political power, et cetera.

The nature of their arrival to Estonia is different than the arrival of Turkish guest workers to Germany. But the USSR went out of business 16 years ago, and Estonia is an independent state dominated by a 69 percent ethnic majority.

So regardless of past circumstances, minorities in Estonia face similar challenges to minorities elsewhere in Europe.

For example, Roma have long standing ties to Slovakia. Does that make them less likely to be discriminated against?

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Danes and Estonians are dealing with similar issues -- a large urban minority of foreign background that gets used regularly in national politics.

So tell me -- did you meet many a significant minority of any kind in any history you could cook up, subtracting say the dominant one for seven centuries just for effect or the like, that wasn't used in national politics?

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

So regardless of past circumstances, minorities in Estonia face similar challenges to minorities elsewhere in Europe.

Personally, I think that's total bull, and I use the word "bull" because of how shitty it is. Estonia, like Latvia, hasn't existed for even a century, and during most of the last century it wasn't sovereign. When it was, except when authoritarian, it recognized the facts of life, which were and are multilingual. A million speakers of a language almost no one outside of a tribal territory knows just aren't in the same league. Knowing only Estonian, you will get nowhere, and your world will be narrow as hell. Knowing Russian, you have 11 time zones, several countries, a great literature, a large film industry, etc. This is not to say that knowing Estonian in Estonia is not important, that Estonian is inferior as a language, etc. But get real, please. We are asking speakers of a major language to integrate into really small communities. The request has a lot more to do with the local than it does with Somalis in Denmark. The latter have a scant literature, and Somali doesn't threaten Danish. We are asking people from a nation that's much, much bigger and has much, much more to offer to enter societies that are much, much smaller -- and that don't really like the entrants, are rather closed, and have little to offer those not from these societies.

Giustino ütles ...

Estonia, like Latvia, hasn't existed for even a century, and during most of the last century it wasn't sovereign.

"Estonia" or rather "Estland" has existed as a place and place name since at least the 13th century. It's in the sagas. Even in Tsarist times it was 'Estlandskaja Guberniya."

This 'bull' about it being a new concept that Estonia is a place where Estonians live reminds me of a Finnish historian who told me a similar tale of Finland, which didn't exist in the minds of Finns, allegedly, until the 19th century.

When it was, except when authoritarian, it recognized the facts of life, which were and are multilingual.

Isn't that a fact of life in most of Europe?

Knowing only Estonian, you will get nowhere, and your world will be narrow as hell.

Now now, the South American soap operas in Estonia come with subtitles ...

Knowing Russian, you have 11 time zones, several countries

Countries few visit and time zones no one sets their watch to. It's funny I have friends that have been to Santiago, Chile, yet not Irkutsk.

This is not to say that knowing Estonian in Estonia is not important, that Estonian is inferior as a language, etc. But get real, please.

I came to Estonia the first time in 2002. Since then I have only needed to use two languages -- Estonian and English.

Estonian is invaluable. English slows everything down. When I do interviews in English with Estonian businessmen, they reply with one or two words. But if I ask a question in Estonian, I get three or four paragraphs worth.

I simply cannot imagine functioning without knowing Estonian in Tartu. It would be like being a tourist, all the time.

The latter have a scant literature, and Somali doesn't threaten Danish.

Conservative Islamic values threaten liberal Scandinavian values. That's what the issue is over there. It seems that you can't really integrate radical Islamists into happy Scandinavian welfare culture.

We are asking people from a nation that's much, much bigger and has much, much more to offer to enter societies that are much, much smaller -- and that don't really like the entrants, are rather closed, and have little to offer those not from these societies.

In Estonia I feel that many of these people have already entered. Young kids from Russian-speaking families in Tartu can switch languages on a dime. I've seen it at the playground. They know both fluently.

And it doesn't stop there. I know Americans, Brits, Italians, and, of course, Russians in Tartu. They all can speak Estonian. How scary is that!

I had a conversation at the bar in Estonian before the bartender detected my accent and promptly informed me that he was actually from Brooklyn,

Giustino ütles ...

I'll remind you, Pēteris, that from an American perspective, it doesn't make sense to learn most languages, even Russian. I have managed to live without access to their great cinema, for example.

Those that do learn foreign languages usually do it on the basis of their situation, just like me.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

This 'bull' about it being a new concept that Estonia is a place where Estonians live...

That concept is OK. But that means Letts in Lettland, Esths in Estland, etc.? Navajos in Najavoland, Livs in Livonia, Kurds in Kurdistan, Bretons en Bretagne? Esths and Letts were nothings in a German-dominated society. If you take the national romantic view -- we had no history. If you want to get serious -- we were not serious players in any history from the 13th C to the 1850s or so. Modern nationalism is recent. Linguistic nationalism that even approximates its present form as practiced here (and I mean in Latvia and Estonia) is even more recent.

Isn't that a fact of life in most of Europe?

No. It varies greatly. People in England tend not to learn too much of any other language, for instance. If you compare countries, the Baltic states score high -- but that's primarily because most here know Russian.

Conservative Islamic values threaten liberal Scandinavian values.

I hope to opt out of these oversimplifications.

How scary is that!

Sounds great and unscary -- but I think you know that the demographics in Tartu are rather different from those in Tallinn or Narva.

But I hope to try to add a few other dimensions to your thinking, which seems to be a pretty simplistic map in which Estonians are a majority here and there and the areas full of Russians get written off. That's not how language works. If that was how it worked, the Gaeltachts would be flourishing.

For me this is what we call aktuāli because I live in a sort of Narva, though it is quite different.

Not even Russophones see learning the national language as scary -- at least not in theory. I don't know what your stats are, but in Latvia ca. 85% think learning Latvian is important. So a great deal of the approaches to the language issue, the kinds building battlements, make little sense.

Italians in Tartu don't have a significant impact on the linguistic environment -- so why do you keep drawing them or the Somalis in Copenhagen in? When was the last time a shopkeeper in Tartu spoke only Italian? Do you see many Italians demanding service in Italian? I bet not. But do you see people using Russian meeting blank stares? I bet you have.

Now, I have nothing against the pursuit of the survival of Estonian and as I said -- I doubt most Russians do, at least in theory. But please don't compare this to tourism. That's ridiculous.

I'll remind you, Pēteris, that from an American perspective...

From an American perspective, whatever doesn't sell dies a quick or slow and painful death. In terms of language -- the United States never had an official language (until last year, and we'll see what comes of that).

From an American perspective, Estonian is a totally unnecessary and very expensive luxury.

The basis of the situation is not so simple, sorry -- the perspective here was always very different, and Estonia treated minorities, their languages included, as national units.

Any perspective has its limitations -- but in a normal state operating on those principles for any decent length of time, everybody would learn Estonian.

Still, it would take you an awfully long time to get 40% or so of Tallinn to drop Russian as its public language. But is that what you want, and is it even necessary? If that is the intention -- is it any wonder that this linguistic community fights back?

I don't see any valid comparisons to America at all. Except for the slaves, most people went there to get out of Europe and other places, to lead free lives and make a buck. Getting rid of one's language, culture, and other baggage was seen as a blessing, except in isolated communities or where another language had some weight -- i.e., where America took Spanish-speaking areas by force, say. But even in those cases, language was not a central issue.

My impression of linguistic nationalism here is that it's quite different. Letts and Esths until the mid-19th C looked to dominant languages just like most people, Americans included, do. Then we decided that there was no reason to give up our languages or cultures in order to better ourselves -- we could do that without losing our identities. We then learned the hard way that we don't ask others to give up theirs.

Giustino ütles ...

Pēteris,

All I can really say in response is that I like Estonia, I like learning the Estonian language, and I definitely feel a strong need to know it to do basic things in my community, like go to the Apteek or tell the person at Kaubamaja how many grams of chopped meat I'd like.

I also need to know it in order to know what's going on -- to read current news articles, for example.

Most people I encounter, regardless of background, are familiar with this language. Like I said, the British and Italians with kids in the community can speak it.

There are, as you said, quite many Russian speakers in Estonia. They have the right, along with other historical minorities like Swedes, Germans, Finns, and Jews, to form a cultural autonomy to preserve their culture. Finns and Swedes have already done this.

They have their own version of Postimees. They have their own news programs, newspapers, and, of course, a very active LiveJournal community. 20 percent of Estonian students today are in Russian-language schools.

So most of the requirements of the EU Charter on Regional and Minority Languages have already been met!

Some estimate that a third of these 340,000 people are 'integrated'. Maybe they are right. There's even some crazy ones, like Flasher T and Kristafovits, that are more nationalistic than I could ever be in a million years.

But all of this does not distract me from the nature of everyday life in Eesti. These issues do not trouble me so much anymore. Instead, I like to drink my A. Le Coq, read my Fred Jüssi book about ice patterns on glass, and watch the kids get dragged to school on their sleighs.

Terviseks.

Frank ütles ...

Head ööd, Giustino - as someone who has probably turned as much "Eestlane" as possible with his special "välis" (?) background, you might also be proud of the Estonian Institute and embrace what it has to tell the world ... (including history and historiography and the role of the respective minorities :-))

As someone who cares for languages and is not above dicussions of Danish concepts you might like this one:
http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=s-mOy8VUEBk

Wouldn´t you agree that a situation where both banks and the media around the Baltic do not have to rely heavily on Danish / Scandinavian money the way they do would be preferable?

If you had to opt for life on an hence uninhabited island and you were to pick your fellow-islanders either from Kopenhagen or from St. Petersburg, which community would you prefer?

Gute Nacht!

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Interesting I never felt big diffenrences between Peteris and Giustinos thoughts on their blogs.

When I was reading Georg von Rauch around 1990: 'Geschichte der baltischen Staaten'first published 1977, somwhere he wrote that the history of the Baltic States can not be viewed from a national perspective only.

I read this before 1991, I and felt strongly the wish that the Estonians once could do that. Because even German history is quite new, a single German state first with one emperor from 1871 the Weimar Republic and so on. And they managed to cut off even the old center, Austria. Vienna. Habsburg. Deutschland nowadays is always thought without Austria. This does not fit with 1000 years of history in the same place. But they do.

During the years 1988-1991 in the Baltics, the historical timeline was full of very important acts, uprisings, threats etc. in the Baltic States where the tension always changed from Latvia to Lithuania to Estonia.
For the West Landsbergis was the most outstanding politician of the Singing Revolution. And Lithuania took a lot of the pressure. Military attacks, death toll,they first proclaimed and re-established independence followed but economical sanctions by the SU.
Juris Podnieks did the film Homeland 1991 a travel through all three Baltic States at the peak of the independence movement.

Now there is another film "Singing Revolution" and singles out Estonia. I haven't seen it in full lengnth yet, but I got the feeling without Latvia and Lithuania it is somehow bitter.

During these years before August 1991 I always was thankful that sometimes Latvia or Lithuania were ahead and took the burden to be theatened by Soviet power.

plasma-jack ütles ...

There are few uses still for the Baltic unity. BBL, the Baltic Basketball League for instance.

There's also the new Baltic League (for football clubs). Narva Trans made it to quarter-final, other Estonian clubs failed miserably this year. FHK Liepājas Metalurgs won the title couple of days ago. Stupid Liepajan metal-workers. Too bad there were none at the pub.

Remember that in each country, the Independence Days of the other two are flag days!

And it's not uncommon to see all Baltic flags at politically or culturally important events: there was one at Riga last time, I'm sure there were some at Laulupidu and Ilvesepidu, too.

Wahur ütles ...

Peteris!

I do not want to be offensive, but you Latvians, being stuck here in the midst of Western Slavs, Eastern Slavs and us Finno-Ogres (btw, thanks for a word, it sounds really great!) are like an identity crisis on two feet. Which is probably why you are so surprisingly sensitive about that topic.

After all, if we talk about identities, especially identities of groupings on a national level, then final truths simply do not exist. It's all about perception.

It is absolutely true, that Estonians and Latvians share a lot of history, and Latvians share similar language with Lithuanians. But lumping us all together as "Baltic states" can be based on on one factor - recent history. Recent history, that we cannot forget or deny.

But I also do not see any point in emphasizing that history. I do hate those "professional estonians" for whom the only way of being estonian is constant mourning, grieving and fist-waving over our terrible past. I do declare, that I do not like the way some other nations and states have made their past sufferings a profitable business and a political tool. And I would be really horrified, if my country would also go for milking that tired and blood-stained cash-cow.

So lets be done with past and get over it. Lets get done with "small, funny and useless Baltic States" and try to get a life at last. Of course, there will be Baltic cooperation in future, if this is the best way to do something. And Latvia will always be closer to us than Poland, for example, but you can never prove that Lithuania is somehow closer to us than Finland, or that we are closer to them than Poland.

Wahur ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Heli ütles ...

Jens-Olaf- to talk about "The Singing revolution", we, estonians know that only we, estonians had it. The name has come from our historical song festival traditions and if latvians and lithuanians also "sang itself free" then it´s a news for me and I bet to most of the estonians. It seems to me that west has just suitable adapted it´s meaning also to Latvia and Lithuania.
But the real question to me is, was it the reason why we, nor to mention latvia and lithuania managed to "bust out" of USSR? I very much doubt that, it just has symbolical meaning and we like to think this way. We do not think that Landsbergis freed us, nor that our singing freed Latvia and Lithuania.

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

Great insight. Keep writing

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Heli -- not sure if you are joking, but in case you aren't: the Latvian "Singing Revolution" is also called that... because that's what it was. One of Latvia's current marketing slogans is "the land that sings," and Latvia also has a long tradition of huge national song festivals going back to 1873.

Wahur -- our past, including history we have in common, wasn't all terrible, and neither is it all only recent; Livonia included big parts of both our countries, for example. As I've said before here, the Latvian Association in Rīga, which was the main organizer of the first song festivals and the cradle of Latvian nationalism, was originally an organization to aid Estonians who were victims of famine. One needn't only focus upon misery we shared -- becoming independent in the first place involved cooperation (your Võidupüha is also a holiday here), as did regaining our independence.

While I won't deny that Latvia has plenty of identity problems -- its complexity is also not entirely negative. We've a strong tradition of multiculturalism. The focus on intolerance distracts from the tolerance, of which there's plenty, with plenty of fruits; the attention to inter-communal problems is so overwhelming in part because if the loudpeakers to the east and the distortions of our history.

I know not a few people who take an interest in Estonia. Your literature is translated. Many people turned out to support you after the riots. There's an Estonian school in Rīga. We also have a small Finno-Ugric minority, the Livs.

Finally, there's plenty of business in the present to unite us. Many companies and some embassies are located in Rīga, because it's the largest city and central. Latvia is Estonia's third largest trading partner in exports. Many companies see the Baltics as a single market -- the spices I'm using in cooking at the moment are pentalingually labeled in Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian, and English. Tourism flourishes.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

heli, just to get things right, you are talking about autmn 1988? The gathering of the 300 000?

Wahur ütles ...

Peteris, all this is fine, and in most points I agree wholeheartedly. And neither I, nor Giustino, nor Jensen proposes to build some kind of Chinese identity wall between us or say that we should stop Baltic co-operation.

But construction of an identity is an ongoing process, and I do not see "Baltic States" image as anything desirable or useful, for reasons I described in a previous post (your counterexamples involved only Latvia, relationships and cultural ties between Estonia and Lithuania are a lot weaker).

So from my point of view the attempts to construct a new "Nordic" identity here and possibly "Central European" identity in Lithuania are both desirable and inevitable.

Fear of Latvians to sit between the two chairs, should we succeed, is also obvious and understandable.

martins ütles ...

``It's insane bull to compare the Russian minorities here to the Turkish or Somali minorities in Denmark, sorry. That's all.''


I'll agree with peteris on this comment, its definetly the weakest part of your agrument. I really dont see how you can compare Somali minorities in Denmark to Russians in the Baltics. Can most Danes speak Russian? Can Somalis walk into a restaurnat and order in Somali in Copenhagen? Is there a history where the Somali langauge enjoyed prestige in Denmark? This cannot be taken seriously as an argument.

Heli- its amazing that you'd think the singing revolution occured only in Estonia, that level of ignorance is quite incredible.

-m

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Wahur, I don't disagree as long as you don't see it as an either/or, and you don't seem to. But I'd go back up this lengthening thread to say that though Justin is right to say that "resurgent Russia" is a regional problem that transcend the Baltics -- I sure wouldn't put my eggs in the Nordic basket on that score. Military, you're closer even to Vilnius than you are to Helsinki. Though Sweden and/or Finland may one day join NATO, that's not going to happen anytime soon and I wouldn't look to either country for security.

Edward Lucas, in an interview at my blog, said: "For the first time since 1993, I no longer feel confident that the Baltic states will survive: the potentially lethal combination is Russian money and western weakness."

If relations with our lovely eastern neighbor worsen, Baltic unity would again be vital. The outcry here when Parliament dallied over approving a resolution of support was considerable, and that's why one sees so many Estonian flags at demonstrations of late.

As I tried to suggest before, I think the "Baltic states image" makes sense because it's already there -- you can work on constructing a Nordic image, and you do, and more power to you... but you'd have to work very, very hard and spend an awful lot of money to get rid of the "Baltic states image"... and is there really a reason to? Why not simply supplement it?

Personally, I think if we learned to cooperate more, we'd find the image very useful. Competition between us often doesn't make sense -- all three of us spend money on promoting tourism, for instance, though many tourists visit all three countries.

And to return to the security issue -- I don't really agree with Ilves about not responding to inane Kremlin pronouncements. As Justin pointed out, Lithuania handed out passports and so shouldn't be included in the "nasty little Nazi countries" image... but it often is anyway! Even though it refused to form Legions! And I think that's an illustration of how hard it would be to get rid of the "Baltic states image."

I'm also not a believer in the type of "getting over history" that involves forgetting it and moving on. One doesn't need to dwell upon the horrors of our past -- but one does need to set the record straight and face it, which is what we ask of that gigantic land that refuses to do so. I won't repeat that tired old Santayana quote.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

And by the way -- Lithuania is your fourth largest trading partner in imports.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Peteris, to help a little with: Do not forget history! It does not change Baltic identity. The German history of the Baltics is NOT the history of Germany. The order of the knights for example was something different that did not exist in mainland Germany ( Germany what did not exist during medieval times, Germany is a selfconstruction of 1871). There was no rule of any order inside the old empire.

Wahur ütles ...

Hooray! You finally got the point. Mostly. At least we can be Nordic and still go swimming to Jurmala.

And I would not start disproving your analysis of military/security situation - Giustino would ban me for hijacking his blog :D

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

It's not the history of Germany -- but is the history of Germans (whether Saxons, etc.) and becomes German history in World War One and after. I responded to a similar comment of yours under another of Justin's posts, saying that if there were "Undeutsche" -- there were definitely "Deutsche." Also, many ties were maintained even before Germany was united. Many Baltic Germans studied in Germany, for instance. The Herrnhut movement, who had a profound impact on literacy and the culture here, was centered in Saxony. Publishing and thought were intertwined -- Kant was published in Riga, Herder lived there, professors from the German states taught at Dorpat, etc.

space_maze ütles ...

And by the way -- Lithuania is your fourth largest trading partner in imports.

... while trading partner #1 is, of course, Finland.

The only import statistics I can find - from wikipedia - list the first seven import partners, and neither Latvia or Lithuania made the list there. Given, that data is from 2003, and I do not have the time to find anything more recent right now.

I don't think anyone here is saying that Estonia has no connections to Lithuania whatsoever. Certainly noone is saying anything of the sort in regard to Latvia.

It's just the idea of the Baltic states as a rigid, closed structure that .. really only makes sense in Latvia, though.

For any Estonian, it is obvious when travelling to Helsinki that Finns are basically .. Estonians with money and speech disorders. I would like to note, however, that contrary to what Latvians and Lithuanians might think of Estonians being aware of this .. it does NOT make Estonians feel warm and fuzzy inside to be Finland's cousin. ;-)

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

The current trade stats are here.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Peteris, right, you point at something that divides even my family. Or at least the Germans from the Baltics ( Estoinans/Latvians). The ones who had not the baltic German connection did not leave Estonia and Latvia with any big hopes in 1939. They were escaping the ongoing Soviet occupation but were embarrassed what they have experienced in the "Warthegau". They did not want to live in occupied houses in Poland, then Germany. But the other family friends, the Germans stayed. It's a gap that divided the old ties between families.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Maybe many do not know: approximativly 3000 Estonians left the country together with the Baltic Germans in 1939 already.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Jens-Olaf,

My mother's mother had Baltic German relatives -- one supposedly babysat the young Alfred Rosenberg, who was born in Reval and later studied at the Riga Polytechnic (should've strangled him), and another was in the Wehrmacht rather than the Legion. My grandmother and mother, not being German, did not leave in the "repatriation" so-called -- but did end up in the "Warthegau" for a while, staying with an aunt who detested them, after the Soviets re-invaded.

My father (who was partly Liv, making me slightly a Finno-Ogre) was fascinated by history, so I grew up with Baltische Briefe, Acta Baltica, and Baltische Hefte, which I still have. I remember being really little and asking why the cover of Hefte didn't include Lithuania in its artistic map, and this discussion made me remember that! Once I learned to read German I therefore read about das Baltikum as a whole (which didn't include Lithuania, of course).

Is there a site in English about the "repatriation" from Estonia? There's a very good one about Latvia, including day-by-day accounts.

This thread jogged another memory -- if you read Simenon's Pietr-le-Letton, you'll discover that Pietr really seems to be an Estonian rather than a Latvian. It's explained to Maigret, however, that all of us run around not knowing what we are, hating the intervening Russians and Germans whilst the Jews run confusedly between, smelling of garlic. But in Ambler's The Care of Time, the supposed Baltic German from Tallinn is named Karlis...

Giustino ütles ...

to Martins
I really dont see how you can compare Somali minorities in Denmark to Russians in the Baltics.

I'm not talking about "the Baltics", I am talking about Estonia, and in Estonia minorities face problems such as 1) higher rate of unemployment, 2) increased crime in their communities, 3) feelings of detachment, lesser worth in society, 4) increased risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS, 5) increased risk of or exposure to drug use/issues.

Estonia has one of the highest HIV rates in Europe. And most of the people living with that disease are ethnic Russian. While linguistic issues exist, other ones do too.

Believe it or not, these are problems facing a lot of minority communities across Europe. My point is that it might help to exchange notes with other countries, trade ideas, borrow solutions because despite the uncommon history, the problems are quite often the same.

Keeping it in the "Baltic box" may be counterproductive. It might signal that one thinks ones problems to be so special that they deserve no resolution whatsoever.

That way they can say "our history is different, we have nothing to learn from drug prevention programs/battling unemployment/raising awareness of AIDS" from other countries.

Not a good route to take in my opinion. Estonia is a small country. It needs to borrow and steal ideas from other countries.

to Peteris
If relations with our lovely eastern neighbor worsen, Baltic unity would again be vital.

Ah, but wouldn't regional unity be stronger? And don't the institutions exist to create that kind of unity?

Jim Hass ütles ...

why is it ok to call tallin and tartu by their old nanes, but it seems taboo to talk about "danzig and koenigsberg? Is German ationalism really a dead threat east of poland?

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Ah, but wouldn't regional unity be stronger? And don't the institutions exist to create that kind of unity?

Of course we should pursue regional unity -- but even within those structures, we could forge a common position on issues that matter to us, and sometimes we do. As I said, the two countries to the north of you aren't in our alliance. Finland and Sweden were not supportive of our accession at times, either. Frankly, I don't trust either, esp. Finland. Of course, you have reason to distrust Latvia -- which is why people were so upset by the resolution's delay in Parliament. But Russia doesn't take nearly as twisted a view of Finland as it does of us. Ideally, we should have stuck together on issues like citizenship, voting rights for non-citizens, and the Border Agreements.

why is it ok to call tallin and tartu by their old nanes, but it seems taboo to talk about "danzig and koenigsberg?

Depends upon the context -- yes, a lot of people all over Eastern Europe screech about different names (Polish in Lithuania, Hungarian in Romania, Russian in Latvia, Ukraine and elsewhere, German in Poland, etc.)... but historical names are historical. Rothko was born in Dvinsk, not Daugavpils. If a National Bolshevik uses Dvinsk in a byline, that's a different matter. As to German nationalism -- it's no longer an imperialistic country despite some fringes, and underwent Vergangenheitsbewältigung as Russia has not.

Wahur ütles ...

Jim, German nationalism is not an issue. Its just that borders here in the east were very much redrawn after the war and in number of cases losers had also their wins.
Or why do you think Poland is not interested in demanding West-Ukraine back? Because it got nice chunks of Prussia and Silesia, Danzig as well, and was given free hand to put all Germans there to Westward train. Or why Lithuania is dubiously silent when Estonia and Latvia quarrel with Russians about lost territories? Because it got Vilno/Vilnius from Poland and Klaipeda/Memel from Germans (IIRC Lithuania did not have access to sea before the war).
Königsberg is, of course, most simple case - if you say "Königsberg" then you obviously "deny Mother Russias leading role in crushing fashist occupants, support revisionist politics and rehabilitation of fascism in Baltic countries".

Giustino ütles ...

Finland and Sweden were not supportive of our accession at times, either.

Finland and Sweden were quite supportive of Estonian EU ambitions. They want Estonia to adopt the euro ASAP, which is why you see the government thinking about introducing it as a second currency.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Klaipeda/Memel from Germans (IIRC Lithuania did not have access to sea before the war).

Memel/Klaipėda was at first a free city but invaded by Lithuania in 1923 and annexed; it was ceded to Hitler in 1939. North of Klaipėda, Lithuania did have a coast; part of it was formerly part of Courland, but arbitration by a Scotsman gave Palanga to Lithuania and a larger area in Selonia that was mostly populated by Lithuanians to Latvia.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Finland and Sweden were quite supportive of Estonian EU ambitions.

EU yes -- NATO, no.

Giustino ütles ...

Ideally, we should have stuck together on issues like citizenship, voting rights for non-citizens, and the Border Agreements.

I don't agree because it didn't happen. That's the bottomline here -- sometimes 'national interest' tends to outweigh 'Baltic interest'. So when that's such a common factor, why not group any random countries together on the Baltic Sea and demand that they have a common foreign policy?

Lithuanian national interests and Estonian national interests are not always the same. Policies reflect this.

Giustino ütles ...

EU yes -- NATO, no.

Of course they weren't too warm to it. It balances their carefully tailored neutrality and outs pressure on them to join!

Put yourself in their skis once in awhile.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

National interests always differ, but to cooperate nations learn to compromise, which is what we do in the EU (which is trying to create a common foreign policy). In the case of the national interests re the issues I mentioned -- all three of us share the issue of continuity, which no other states around the Baltic, random or not random, share. You're left alone without a Border Agreement, and Latvia's left alone with not giving non-citizens the right to vote in local elections, for example. I have no problem seeing others' national interests -- I merely think that solidarity in some issues is sometimes more important.

Heli ütles ...

OK, have to agree then that I´m complitely ignorant and stupid person as I REALLY did not know that Latvia,( and Lithuania too then I guess) have also song festival tradition. Sorry for that, though I admit that such ignorance can not be excused by anything.
I graduated highschool in 1994 and I really do not recall ever learning of that back then. Bu anyway, our first song festival was 1869 so bit earlier than Latvia´s and probably first one in the area and maybe that´s one reason why we consider it more our´s tradition and have paid less attention to our neighbours who share this tradition.
Jens-Olaf, no I did not meant exactly 1988 gathering of 300 000, I did not mean exactly anything by that, my personnal oppinion is that we could´ve sang as long as they would´ve let us but if there weren´t 1991 august events in Russia when we used the opportunity then the future of us would´ve turned out quite different probably. But that´s of course only my oppinion.

Frank ütles ...

Reval, Dorpat, Pernau, Fellin und Wesenberg ... it is funny, how sometimes the Eestlased use these names when addressing Germans, and the German counterparts (especially Baltic Germans, who want to show that they are everything else but overbearing ...) have difficulties to do so, taking refuge to the Estonian names -

Lennart Meri is said to have urged the Baltic German community more than once to use the old German names, since they are part of Estonia´s rich cultural heritage.

The idea is, that - contrary to other places, where the German names were replaced by "die neuen Herren", in Estonia the German toponyms have been used side by side with the Estonian toponyms for ages ... supposedly also by the Baltic Germans when speaking Estonian.

Frank ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Frank ütles ...

Here is a speech, by the way, where Lennart Meri stresses the attribute "nordic":
http://vp1992-2001.vpk.ee/est/k6ned/K6ned.asp

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, this is hardly a zero-sum game. Estonia has genuine, longstanding historical and cultural ties both to Latvia and to Finland and Sweden. In many senses these latter ones are cleary increasing in importance, as are the Euro-Atlantic ties. As far as security policy is concerned then the key relationships are with the USA and Nato. There is no significant military help coming from Stockholm or Helsinki, but lot's of support and connections in these still peaceful times, that is very crucial indeed even should stormier days arrive where that sort of assistance won't be of help.

Lucas is certainly a respected and knowledgeable commentator but I must say that a lot must change before an EU and NATO member can be succesfully attacked by Russia. History rarely repeats itself exactly, so August 1939 might never happen again, as vividly as those times are still remembered. Of course, if Western power crumbles as a whole, then there will be serious problems even in this corner of the world, but really, are we seeing even tiniest signs of that sort of seismic change happening in the near future? I don't think so.

So, with the West still easily outpowering Russia in every significant measure (including I guess timezones and great novels), maybe we shouldn't yet get very apocalyptic about the future of the Baltic Sea area and the cultural and political identity of Estonia...

Giustino ütles ...

You're left alone without a Border Agreement, and Latvia's left alone with not giving non-citizens the right to vote in local elections, for example.

The border agreement is the least of Estonia's worries. The border is working mostly fine -- despite the Russian bureaucratic red tape that's keeping all those trucks backed up kilometers.

But, ah, here we are again. They are backed up at the Finnish border too, and Finland carries more clout in the EU because it is larger and has been a member longer.

That's why Finland AND Estonia AND Latvia brought up this back-up at the recent EU-Russian summit.

This is what I mean by not limiting one's policies to fit neatly into the "Baltic Box". There are other countries that one can act in concert with to obtain a better result.

I have no problem seeing others' national interests -- I merely think that solidarity in some issues is sometimes more important.

Which varies from country to country. Estonia and Latvia actually had a lot of support from Sweden, Denmark, and others in the region with regards to their citizenship policies. When is the last time you heard one of these states officially criticize this policy?

And why doesn't Latvia allow residents to vote in municipal elections? Just curious.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

And why doesn't Latvia allow residents to vote in municipal elections? Just curious.

When Latvia's independence was restored, nine of the ten largest cities were minority Latvian (this is now down to about two, depending upon how you count, but I haven't checked the stats lately...). If we take citizenship seriously -- and naturalization seriously -- why let people who are not citizens vote? As it is, the differences between being a citizen or a non-citizen are so unimportant to most that there's little incentive to become a citizen. There were two major waves of naturalization -- once the "windows" were lifted and the process streamlined, and once when we joined the EU. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the non-citizens will probably just fester in that status. Municipal governments also decide a lot of things that are important to the nation -- they have a lot of influence over education, libraries, museums, various buildings (like those in which many associations are housed), cultural events, sister cities (e.g., we've Harbin, Haderslev, etc., etc. ...and St. Petersburg, Moscow region, Vitebsk...

Vidas ütles ...

Speaking from the Lithuanian perspective - I have to join Peteris in questioning some of the comments here relating to Baltic unity simply because a number of supporting arguments are severely flawed historically and factually (ie Vilnius' role in the soviet ultimatum, Polish/Lithuanian common history, Landsbergis being a western favorite (!), etc etc. Have I been unknowingly redirected from Giustino's blog to Pravda reborn ?

I dont see Baltic unity as a realistic condition simply because I continue to see and read example after example of positions that lack sensitivity to shared issues.

Estonians see its interests more aligned with Finland and Sweden. Great. Estonians can shed the Baltic nation association if it finds that is also in its best interest. Reality is that you'll continue to hear "Baltic nation" and one can make that into a positive if you want to - but if you dont, then you dont. Its a personal choice.

Wahur ütles ...

Vidas, you could discuss, present arguments and enlighten us incompetents and stupids. But if you dont't, then you don't. Its a personal choice.

Giustino ütles ...

I dont see Baltic unity as a realistic condition simply because I continue to see and read example after example of positions that lack sensitivity to shared issues.

Baltic unity made a lot of sense in the USSR. But nowadays we aren't dealing with three republics in the USSR. We have three states that share borders and histories with other states.

Sometimes their interests coincide. Other times they don't.

A good example of this is the meeting scheduled for the end of this month about airspace violations on the Gulf of Finland. It will be Finland, Estonia, and Russia. There's no need for a Lithuanian position because Lithuania isn't on the Gulf of Finland.

But in other cases, like energy cooperation, working with Lithuania makes perfect sense.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

'We have three states that share borders and histories with other states.'

That is politics, the other aspect is with what kind of history you are growing up. Heli said that they never heard about the Singing Revolution in Latvia.
When I was in Riga last time I ask two 15 years old Latvian students in the central park where the memorials of the camera men are who died here during tho bloody January 1991 [100m away as I found out] They had no clue, never heard about it, and I thought Zvaigzne and Slapins are kind of national icons. But obvisously they are not for the youth. So, I can recall the Singing Revolution but those who are younger for them it is history or forgotten already.
The conclusion for me: this will affect the decision making in the future. But somehow I refuse to go as far as Giustino in the early comments yet. And talking about the Singing Revolution. It was not orchestred but followed a great deal the circumstances in each country. Like the demandings of the Eesti Kongress, a singularity at that time already.

Vidas ütles ...

Wahur, there's no need to lash out. Make some effort to fact check before posting. I'm neither preacher nor ersatz educator.

Giustino wrote:

"A good example of this is the meeting scheduled for the end of this month about airspace violations on the Gulf of Finland. It will be Finland, Estonia, and Russia. There's no need for a Lithuanian position because Lithuania isn't on the Gulf of Finland."

I doubt anyone equates Baltic solidarity with some fused-at-the-hip demi federation. Estonia is a sovereign nation and has every right to hold meetings and enter into agreements and treaties that serve its interests. The "Baltic State" label doesnt violate that. Estonia is a Baltic State. I dont see a problem with that.

What I find amazing with some of the posts here is the soviet quality to the points of argument related to how the Baltic States share little and have an unnatural alliance. I've read them all before in the late 80's.

Curious about the western press that supposedly preferred Landsbergis - when in fact they preferred Prunskiene and her want to backtrack independence in light of Gorbachevs troubles and the stresses associated with the first Gulf War - fully supported by GHW Bush and Gorby.

Even now, I read how the Baltic States arent mature enough to become stable European democracies - riddled with corruption and ethnic/linguistic Nazism and riots - saddled with the question of how to attach themselves to regional powers or spheres of influence/convenience so that their futures can be supposedly assured.

There's no such thing as a bad alliance or partnership. The partnership doesnt create value based on the want of the whole but by the respect assigned to it by the individual member.

Trevor ütles ...

Off the top of my head:
Togo, Benin, Ghana, South Africa, Mauretania, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Rwanda, Somalia.
There are 10, and they're all very different.

Giustino ütles ...

Estonia is a Baltic State. I don't see a problem with that.

I think the Latvians see the region differently from the Lithuanians or the Estonians. To the Estonians, Finland is a neighbor, a very close one. The idea that Estonia's relationship with Lithuania should be stronger because they are "both Baltic States" makes no sense.

It's like saying that Iceland and Finland should have a closer relationship than Finland and Estonia because they are both "Nordic countries".