reede, mai 09, 2008

the top of europe

During last year's "events" I found it somewhat amusing that major news outlets, like The New York Times, sent their Moscow correspondents to cover the situation in Tallinn.

To me, this seemed like an ass-backward approach to reporting on Estonia, let alone even conceptualizing Estonia. Wouldn't it make sense to send someone from Stockholm, considering most of Estonia's financial sector is seamlessly integrated with Scandinavia? Or even to send a journalist from Berlin, seeing that the kroon has been, for 16 years now, pegged to first the mark and then the euro? How about Brussels? EU member. NATO member. Anyone? Anyone?

There's a real conceptual problem out there, mostly born by an older, lazier, less-globalized cadre of thinkers, who still think in terms of Cold War-era school maps covered in expanding seas of nauseous red.

Estonia is "post-Soviet", sure. But the thing is that there are degrees of post-Soviet. And when 'post-Soviet' is defined by countries like Belarus and Uzbekistan, then a country where the parliamentary parties are boringly divided between the liberals, conservatives, populists, social democrats, greens, and agrarians, looks rather unfamiliar to those standing in Moscow, but rather similar to those standing in Berlin or Stockholm.

In the post-Cold War era, northern Europe was divided by those seas of red. But today, the great Nordic community project that peaked in the early 1970s has been replaced by the great European community. I myself felt astonished this past week when, after having my bag scanned at the Tallinna Lennujaam, I walked right into the rest of the airport without having to produce my passport. Schengen has a significant psychological impact on pan-European consciousness. The 1960s post-war 'nation state' suddenly seems about as kitschy as an old 45 record. It's cute, but, what do you do with it?

So the question is, therefore, whither the nordicbalticpostsoviet jabberwocky? A recent concept floated by the Baltic Development Forum has been to 'rebrand' the region. While older concepts, the sleek Scandinavians, the technical-savvy Nordics, the ballsy Baltics, will still float, a new conceptualization should ring that will allow even the blokes at the New York Times to know what's up.

One idea is that Estonia is part of the "top of Europe", or, in the words of Tina Turner, simply the best, better than all the rest. The best universities. The best technology. The best living standards. The best haircuts. Feel like dumping $2.6 billion on an Estonian technology company? Look no further. You've come to the top of Europe. I am not sure if this regional branding thing will work out in the end. Maybe it's just another European money pit. But I do feel that the BDF is onto something.

36 kommentaari:

Andres ütles ...

I think we need to come up with some tech-savvyness before we start to re-brand ourselves. Then the branding will come on its own, I'm sure. Trying to rebrand yourself as cool and innovative before you are it seems kind of fake. Sure, Skype was cool and is probably a success story. But that's it, folks. Know about any other Estonian high-tech companies? I mean like really high-tech, exporting really valuable shit to other countries and known worldwide etc? Didn't think so. We should talk less about "how we're going to get there" and how we should architect it and pay more attention to actually doing it. If we have flashy slogans about being on the "top of Europe" but the local engineer still goes to a mildly-waged job at a foreign company, then we're doomed. On the other hand, if we completely ignore that PR crap and start to actually encourage said talented engineers to start their own companies and not be afraid of global competition, we might be on to something.

Giustino ütles ...

One question, Andres. Where's the IT R&D money? What does the Estonian book on economic liberalism say about that?

Andres ütles ...

I don't know. Possibly in places like Tallinna Tehnikaülikool, IT Kolledž and Tehnopol (all of which I'm less than 200 metres away at the moment). But to be honest I don't know what the government does to spice things up, especially in the private sector which is the driving force of wealth. If you get the private sector interested in doing really complicated and well-paying stuff, you win. That's my opinion anyway. I'm just a first year IT student :P

Madison Avery ütles ...

I think "Europe's top-shelf" is more tenable --" top shelf" being, as we know, a reference to good spirits.

Estonia -- a destination for discerning alcohol drinkers and frequenters of high-quality nightclubs and casinos (maybe escort services, too - why not?).

Geographically we even look like we're on a shelf, a classy limestone-carved shelf mounted on the cinderblock wall behind which is the..furnace room or something.

"Top of Europe" and a lot of people think of Nordkapp and Lappland.

Hirnu-Hrnx! ütles ...

I do IT consulting for the United States Government. It amaes me that America is still a major force on the world arena. What a stupendous amount of waste and incompetence!! There's simply no end to it. Americans are totally out of shape. Both physically and mentally. Read this shit. http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/04/03/census.problems.ap/index.html

It happened on a floor above my office. I personally witnessesed only $700 grand thrown out the window because of utter stupidity and arrogance.

Us, hungry new dudes from the cold forests of the North will run these paksmaod out of the Rome soon! Just watch it.

America is a joke. It's a Potyomkin village. It'll fall.

That's all I have to say.

Hirnu-Hrnx! ütles ...

http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/04/03/census.problems.ap/index.html

the link did not work.

Giustino ütles ...

"Top of Europe" and a lot of people think of Nordkapp and Lappland.

You should look at Europe from the perspective of a Roman or an Athenian. Amsterdam is "north". The Tallinn-Helsinki-Stockholm-Oslo line is difficult to conceptualize.

drEsolve ütles ...

In one of the Estonia episodes of 'Deal or No Deal' that broadcast in the US this week, Howie Mandel asserts that Estonia is the most northeastern country in Europe. Maybe there's something to this new branding idea, geographical accuracy notwithstanding.

And Andres, there is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy, to be considered part of the 'Top of Europe' is something worth striving for.

Which came first anyway, the chicken or the egg?

Puu ütles ...

I think Andres has the right idea. Though a new coat of paint (PR) never hurt in selling a house. The question is whether you want to sell the house ( nation) or keep living in it yourself. Sorry, its late, I've been drinking and it seems to turn me into Yoda. But do you want to have a country you like as a citizen of that country ( because it's where you are from, as were your grandparents blah blah) or a country that the citizens of other countries like ( for cheap beer women programmers whatever). Skype is Swedish owned, the resource was Estonian programmers. Estonian also sell themselves for really cheap, like the sale of rate ee a couple of years ago which was 4 million( maybe more ) Kroner ... adjust to dollars $400,000... a one bedroom apartment in one of the outer boroughs of new york.

Anonüümne ütles ...

- During last year's "events" I found it somewhat amusing that major news outlets, like The New York Times, sent their Moscow correspondents to cover the situation in Tallinn.

Why would this be 'amusing'? Inasmuch as the international reaction to the "events" focused in Moscow, I would think a Moscow-based correspondent would be better versed on the local opinion that someone based in Stockholm. Further, what does 'Estonia's financial sector' have to do with 'the events'?

viimneliivlane ütles ...

For years following the reinstatement of freedom in 1991, The New York Times correspondent in Moscow would write feature stories stating outright that Estonians are treating Russians in Estonia badly - not, mind you, that SOME Russians PERCEIVE Estonians as treating them badly. The slant itself was bothersome enough, but the substance even moreso as the correspondent didn't seem to want to intrepret how 'give us food' and 'give us apartments' were being interpreted as human rights. This made me think that even NYT correspondents can easily fall into the Kremlin mode and forget their standards.

The New York Times I believe has always wanted to stand as the newspaper of record rather than as a scandal sheet that puts such provocative material on the front page to sell papers.

The reason they are still sending their Moscow correspondents to cover Estonia might possibly be
as simple as some editor in New York not being willing to surrender a piece of territory, regardless of how that colors perception. This might be an interesting assignment for one of your more inquisitive students.

Puu ütles ...

Are you with the KGB Anuumonee? You seem awfully good at sussing out aspects of peoples personal lives. And very pro Moscow. I hope I don't end up with some weird poisoning condition for saying this because the new cold war is just so much fun. Why can't you take up a nice hobby like raising potatoes.

Anonüümne ütles ...

- Are you with the KGB Anuumonee? You seem awfully good at sussing out aspects of peoples personal lives.

?

Harvey ütles ...

It was a fiendish Muscovite plot to suss out personal details. Note how subtle the entrapment that preceded the confession was.

Puu ütles ...

I'm famous in a Courtney Love sort of way. Without the addictions or teen age stripping habit or dead husband. What can I say.
I'm paranoid though because I have actually had childhood run ins with the KGB, really. They gassed
my family in a hotel room stole about 2,000 dollars
from us and blamed on drug addicts. True story. And the people who did it are friends with my uncle.
So it was a friendly gassing robbery I guess. The loveliness of estonian politics. Somehow I don't think
the Swedish police would do such a thing.Or shoot
journalists, like in Russia. Which is why maybe more even handed reporting would be nice. And someone like Anuumonee suspect. But I'm really just playing. I hope it's not true. If I end up dead suspicions please take my posts seriously :).

Puu ütles ...

Anyway though catharsis aside the reason I was so open with my history was to illustrate the way rape fucks things up. A major, well documented issue with the Russian occupation was rape.It justifies the moving of the bronx (hah hah) umm pronks soldier. My grandma was raped, my mom who was four years old at the time saw it. Which in addition to seeing piles of corpses by the roadside red cross ships torpedoed your grandma ( my mom's that is) sent to siberia livestock run into your house, could be pretty traumatizing to a kid. My mom has done her best god knows but she has done lots of stuff to fuck me up. Who do I blame the most in all of this though. The anuunomne russian soldier who couldn't keep it in his pants.So my personal stuff was to prove a larger point.

Puu ütles ...

And the prevalance of rape during the russian occupation and also during the earlier serf era, has probably contributed a lot to the ease with which lots of girls adopt to being escorts and prostitutes, a way in which capitalism is an improvement over communism is that at least the British Johns are paying them. Sorry to come off so bitchy I'm actually ok with legalised sex work... to a point.

Giustino ütles ...

Why would this be 'amusing'? Inasmuch as the international reaction to the "events" focused in Moscow, I would think a Moscow-based correspondent would be better versed on the local opinion that someone based in Stockholm.

Because I think you need to interpret the actions of the Estonian state without taking into account the security Estonia felt in taking its decision. And part of that security derives from the fact that Sweden is, next to no one, the largest investor in Estonia.

As Ansip said himself at the Washington National Press Club:

Speaking about the economic consequences of the recent row around the dismantlement of the monument to Soviet Soldier Liberator in Tallinn, Ansip said that following the row Russian-Estonian trade “has declined by over 40 percent,” but this cost Estonia only 0.5 to one percent of GDP growth.

The prime minister also noted that the lion share of direct foreign investments in Estonia, about 80 percent, comes from Sweden and Finland, while Russia’s share is only 2.5 percent. He said Estonia welcomes all investments in its economy, but it does not like such investments, which make it possible to manipulate political decisions.


Furthermore, because of those financial connections, the Swedes, Finns, and other northern Europeans are likely to know their Estonian colleagues better than anyone in Moscow.

A well-connected journalist in Stockholm might be able to use one of his main political contacts or financial contacts to arrange high-level interview with someone in Estonia because the contacts between these countries are frequent. What networks does a journalist in Moscow have access to? Is Konstantin Kossachev going to open any doors for them?

Further, what does 'Estonia's financial sector' have to do with 'the events'?

Why don't you ask Swedbank how much money they lost while trying to get their online banking system back online?

Russia is always sexier to write about because it's soooo mysterious and lacks transparency. But send your correspondent from a Kremlin-mediated news environment to Tallinn and they will produce articles with such titles as "Debate Renewed: Did Moscow Free Estonia or Occupy It?", even when the same newspaper reported on September 20, 1939, "BALTIC GRAB SEEN; Soviet Wish for Port Is Thought to Be Behind Action of Fleet OCCUPATION HINTED Estonia Aided in Polish Submarine's Escape, Moscow Charges."

Anonüümne ütles ...

- Because I think you need to interpret the actions of the Estonian state without taking into account the security Estonia felt in taking its decision. And part of that security derives from the fact that Sweden is, next to no one, the largest investor in Estonia.

Come again? I need to interpret? I think you want the New York Times to "interpret the actions of the Estonian state".

New York Times editor (thinking aloud): "Trouble brewing in Estonia - another spat with Russia. Moscow unhappy, too. Hmm. What gives those Estonian the security to do this? Why it must be the security that derives from the fact that Sweden is, next to no one, the largest investor in Estonia. Only one thing to do - send Whats-his-name from Stockholm to Tallinn".

- Why don't you ask Swedbank how much money they lost while trying to get their online banking system back online?

That might make an interesting story in the Swedish press. The New York Times? Not so much. I imagine Liviko and Saku also lost money during those "dry days", but I wouldn't trust even the Swedish press to be interested.

-As Ansip said himself at the Washington National Press Club:

-Speaking about the economic consequences of the recent row around the dismantlement of the monument to Soviet Soldier Liberator in Tallinn, Ansip said that following the row Russian-Estonian trade “has declined by over 40 percent,” but this cost Estonia only 0.5 to one percent of GDP growth.

-The prime minister also noted that the lion share of direct foreign investments in Estonia, about 80 percent, comes from Sweden and Finland, while Russia’s share is only 2.5 percent. He said Estonia welcomes all investments in its economy, but it does not like such investments, which make it possible to manipulate political decisions.

What does this have to do with how foreign journalists covered "the events"?

Puu ütles ...

OK I get the fact that you need to pay for sex Anuunomne and as Spitzer has proved prostitutes are expensive.And everyone knows if you want cut rate girls you can go East, but couldn't you find a more honorable way of paying for your hookers.. like I dunno agriculture? or fishing?

Anonüümne ütles ...

- OK I get the fact that you need to pay for sex Anuunomne and as Spitzer has proved prostitutes are expensive.And everyone knows if you want cut rate girls you can go East, but couldn't you find a more honorable way of paying for your hookers.. like I dunno agriculture? or fishing?

Ms Puu,

At first your posts were a mystery, but looking into the archives (and the link supplied by "harvey") all became clear. So let me point something out to you:

"Anonüümne" IS NOT A PERSONA - it is a mode of posting. If you look carefully at "Jätke oma kommentaar", you will find as the last "Valige identiteet" the option of "Anonüümne". This means that if ANYONE (including "puu") chooses this option he/she will be identified as "Anonüümne". Capiche?

Puu ütles ...

I was actually aware of how blogger works. I just think you have a political reason for posting. Probably tied to some sort of kick backs. Kick backs have been known to ruin unbiased journalism. I don't really.

Puu ütles ...

Like for example there are a bunch of former car theives trying to sell the air rights over the estonian house in New York. Which would be the end of the Estonian house but would bring millions inot the pockets of certain people. You friends with them Anuunomne?

Giustino ütles ...

Come again? I need to interpret? I think you want the New York Times to "interpret the actions of the Estonian state".

I meant you as in 'teie'.

New York Times editor (thinking aloud): "Trouble brewing in Estonia - another spat with Russia. Moscow unhappy, too. Hmm. What gives those Estonian the security to do this? Why it must be the security that derives from the fact that Sweden is, next to no one, the largest investor in Estonia. Only one thing to do - send Whats-his-name from Stockholm to Tallinn".

New York Times editor thinking aloud: "Trouble in Estonia. That's a NATO country on the border of the EU. The defense minister is thinking of invoking Article 5 over those cyber attacks.

But I won't send my guy in Stockholm on a 30 minute flight across the Baltic. I won't send my stringer in Helsinki. I won't send my reporter in Brussels. I'll send in my Moscow-based reporter, because his beat deals often with European security and defense issues. He's sure to know which way that cut traffic will be routed. Maybe through a port close to Moscow, like Kotka, Finland, or Ventspils, Latvia. You know, someplace he regularly frequents.

That might make an interesting story in the Swedish press. The New York Times? Not so much. I imagine Liviko and Saku also lost money during those "dry days", but I wouldn't trust even the Swedish press to be interested.

I think the idea that a Moscow correspondent should be responsible for the post-Soviet space is out of date. maybe in 1994, not anymore.
I wouldn't send someone from Moscow to cover terrorist training camps in Kyrgyzstan. Likewise with Estonia, I'd probably rely on an EU-based reporter, considering that he would be more likely to understand the subtleties of European bureaucracy and collective security than a Moscow-based one.

What does this have to do with how foreign journalists covered "the events"?

It has to do with the conceptualization of Europe. The invisible lines we draw in our heads. And, yes, there are some people that think Estonia is part of the CIS. Covering as if it were part of the CIS only enhances that false perception. I don't think that is true to what Estonia is today. For the average Estonian 18-year-old, Finland and Sweden are boring. Russia is exotic. 20 years ago, it was the exact opposite.

Andres ütles ...

Russian news sites still have a section "CIS and The Baltics".

Anonüümne ütles ...

- It has to do with the conceptualization of Europe. The invisible lines we draw in our heads.

Yes.

-And, yes, there are some people that think Estonia is part of the CIS. Covering as if it were part of the CIS only enhances that false perception.

Yes. And pretending that 50 years of Soviet occupation didn't exist also enhances a false perception.

- For the average Estonian 18-year-old, Finland and Sweden are boring. Russia is exotic. 20 years ago, it was the exact opposite.

Yes. And what of the average 80-year old Estonian who would like to return home from the clinic? On today's pension, a taxi is an unaffordable luxury.

- I think the idea that a Moscow correspondent should be responsible for the post-Soviet space is out of date. maybe in 1994, not anymore.

Okay. But as you've admitted yourself on your blog, you've never witnessed Eesti NSV yourself. Perhaps you shouldn't presume greater insight than those who have.

Puu ütles ...

I would much rather be an estonian pensioner than a
russian one. It's true that Russia's problems from the nineties till now are largely american failures to aid democracy actually establishing itself... anyway. Social democracy which is what they have in Sweden is better then other things...
And why should the Eesti NSV be relevent as anything more than an artifact unless you are trying to reinstate it. Via Moscow coorespondents no less.

Giustino ütles ...

Russian news sites still have a section "CIS and The Baltics".

It's awful too. If there is a scratch on a war monument, it gets a headline. The Teeme Ära campaign? Not one word about it.

But that's just the thing. They can only write about tombstones and skeletons because they basically sum up the focal point of the relationship. It's almost entirely about the past.

Yes. And pretending that 50 years of Soviet occupation didn't exist also enhances a false perception.

Ascribing some deep meaning to those decades only makes them more hollow and meaningless. It's like the 1960s in the United States. They happened. Then they made TV shows and movies about it and coffee table books and turned it into something it actually wasn't. Now, it has about as much juice left in it as a raisin. After 20 years of carrying on about the occupation in Estonia, it too has become a raisin.

Okay. But as you've admitted yourself on your blog, you've never witnessed Eesti NSV yourself. Perhaps you shouldn't presume greater insight than those who have.

I am almost 30 years old. Even if I had witnessed Eesti NSV, I would have been 9 when the flag was restored in 1988 and 12 when independence was regained in 1991.

That's not to say that the Cold War didn't leave deep marks on my subconscious, but it is to say that all this harping about post-Soviet legacy seems superficial and of limited relevance.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Okay, let's leave it at that.

(Pretty nice blog you've got, BTW.)

Puu ütles ...

There is a tremendous amount of ( understandable) nostalgia for the Soviet Era in Eesti. The hope ( or my personal hope) is that the interest in socialism will result in a society with social stability but no police state... like Denmark. Rather than communism and police state.

Rainer ütles ...

Puu - misguided once again, I see. Only a small number of people in Estonia ACTUALLY miss Soviet era, usually Russian speaking elderly folks, because they feel they were in charge of things then. The other, usually middle-aged to elderly Estonians, just miss the time whene they were younger, healthier, and subseqently happier. When their parents and friends were alive. And that time just HAPPENED to coincide with Soviet era. They don't miss the system as such.

plasma-jack ütles ...

A grandmother once absent-mindedly described the 40's: "Beautiful times..." She meant she was a teenager back then (and oh, those nice German gentlemen...)

Puu ütles ...

i really can't win can I.

i either get beat up by the NSV nostaligists( who I was trying to sympathize with a bit if such a thing were possible) like anuunomne or people like Rainer. This is because I'm trying to be centrist. Rainer actually has a problem with anuunomne, but does he yell at anuunomne no... he yells at me. The only thing people can agree on is that I'm a stupid slut, while I'm the one doing all the dirty work while the men jerk off and drink alcohol , what else is new...

Rainer ütles ...

Hahahahahahaaaaa!!!

Pure genius :)

Puu, I love you.
Pray don't change...

Kristopher ütles ...

A lot more people miss the Estonian SSR than you say. They will never say that, and they may not even be aware of it.

Hell, I have nostalgia for some elements of the Estonian SSR (elements not related to the military occuparion and threat of Gulag) and I was there for all of 17 days. And I'm not middle-aged.

People have showed me pictures from 1979 in an attempt to argue that life was awful. "Look, the street is unpaved, too -- how awful." (It looks totally charming and Old-World.) "The bread is not in a plastic bag, the horror."

Good article about Puu's other ethnicity of origin in NYT (in the top 10 most read articles yesterday). The Irish wouldn't want to go back to the way it was in the 1970s. Yet if you look hard there you can still find the real Ireland.

Puu ütles ...

The " real Ireland" the "real Estonia" the "real Pakistan" the "real Isreal" the " real "Burkina Faso" the real Russia" are all political constructs. People define reality through their choices.The choice to speak a certain langauge and live a certain way should be paired with an interest in supporting other people's right to live freely. ( blah blah). But first you have to
focus on yourself which is why Estonia should develop its technology sector.