laupäev, juuni 07, 2008

most like

There's a funny little poll to your right. In the context of defining who Estonians are, I have heard them compared to all of the categories.

Finns and Finland comes most readily to some minds. Despite the historical differences, the cultural ones are quite deep, suffice to say that when people ask me what some of the first words I learned in Estonian were, I must confess that they were actually in Finnish, like minä olen mies. You would think that the Internet sauna was an Estonian invention, but, sigh, it's not.

The German connection is also real. As Kalev Kesküla pointed out in a recent Eesti Ekspress article, in Finland, politicians condemn alcohol as a wicked vice; in Estonia, they put on their korporatsioon hats and drink beer with the students. Could Estonians be more sakslased than soomlased?

Some, though, like to stick the Estonians together with their Baltic neighbors, the Latvians. In their view, the Latvians and Estonians are pagan peoples who only like to sing and roast sausages yet frequently get screwed over by larger neighbors. As one Estonian confided in me, "whatever happens to them, will happen to us."

Estonian identity appears on its face to be built in response to Russian identity. "Whatever they are, we are not,“ think nationalistic Estonians. But if that were the case, then why did/do Russians love Georg Ots and Anne Veski so much? And how come so many Estonians just magically manage to switch to Russian when need be? Questions, questions.

Finally, Swedes. Estonians themselves have only produced a few films, including Noor Pensionär, Nukitsamees, Viimne Reliikvia, Jan Uuspõld Läheb Tartusse, and ...Did I mention Nukitsamees? But, if you really want to understand the Estonian psyche, I suggest you simply borrow the works of Ingmar Bergman. Try The Virgin Spring or The Seventh Seal for starters. Rape, murder, death, doom, and … some humor. It’s all in there.

23 kommentaari:

Kristopher ütles ...

Minä olen mies -- sounds like a combination of old-fashioned Estonian and Southern Estonian language. OK, OK, kidding, I like what the Finns have done with their language, really.

Russia -- there was an article recently about how a community there wants to adopt the song festival as a tradition, as it is done in Estonia.

Which is originally a German tradition. The Singing Revolution would probably not have occurred if not for the 700 years of "German" rule. It would have been a Räimerevolutsioon (Herring Revolution) or something.

stockholm slender ütles ...

The Estonian cultural atmosphere has always seemed more European to me than what we have in Finland. We have been more isolated and have that very deep and dominating connection with Sweden (not just culture but legislation and the deep structures of society came from there during that 700 hundred years of being an integral part of the Swedish state, not empire). In comparison the Estonian culture seems somehow more sophisticated and cosmopolitan. Not that I wouldn't be quite proud of our insular bloodymindedness... Estonians are equally stubborn, equally rooted but their route has been different with more Central European connections.

space_maze ütles ...

Russia -- there was an article recently about how a community there wants to adopt the song festival as a tradition, as it is done in Estonia.

What kind of community?

The Mari community already has adopted the song festival, and holds their own song festival from time to time.

Short clip

Full documentary

The Maris, however, are a Finno-Ugric people, speaking a Finno-Ugric language, and have a massive crush on the Estonians.

Kristopher ütles ...

http://www.arileht.ee/?uudised=430162

A district of Moscow, and a fait accompli as it turns out.

Gavin ütles ...

The people who voted "Finns" obviously include those who are completing the sentence "Estonians most want to be like..." and "the Estonian language is most like that of".

But perhaps not "Estonia's land and the national character are most like"

Hirnu-Hrnx! ütles ...

A large swath of Estonian tümpsumuusika sounds very slavic to my ears and tastes. I am thinking of the überpopular Meie Mees and that kind of jaburdus which is popular with the Estonian masses.

Wait, did I just say Estonian masses? This is an oxymoron, is it not?

Hansken ütles ...

To my ear Meie Mees and such phenomena in general in Estonian popular music have strong connections to German schlager-culture.

Gavin, what was your vote, then?

In my case it was difficult to choose - clearly there is the finno-ugric basis that Estonians share with Finns. And then there are the influences from the rest. German influence is in my view the strongest as that took place before the culture was codified and when the national identity was articulated in late 19th century it was already taken as natural, as ours. The same holds out with Swedish, but with the difference that currently there is something like second wave of Swedish influence - through business links and in general Estonians looking up to them and their way of life. And thirdly, of course, there has definitely been the Russian influence. One apparent domain that has had an effect on, is cuisine - all these salads with sour cream and majo, and borsh and pelmeenid, etc. And there is this certain flexibility and relaxation, ability to enjoy ambiguity that I think is learnt in Soviet times and makes Estonians different from Finns and Swedes, etc.

So, altogether, Estonians, as most cultures in Europe, are patchy in this regard.

nipi ütles ...

German nowaday's schlagers sound alike. Most of Meie Mees' songs are covers. Similarly, germans are also often using covers - translated songs.

space_maze ütles ...

But perhaps not "Estonia's land and the national character are most like"

Actually, I voted for Finns based on this.

Why did I do this?

Because you can interchange Estonians and Finns in jokes.

Take any joke About Estonians, exchange "Estonian" with "Finn", and it still works just as well. Works the other way around too. The cliches are all there.

Slow? Check.
Taciturnity that is borderline annoying? Check.
Obession with the nation's international esteem? Check.
Serious problems with handling alcohol? Check.
Unwillingness, lack of interest in formign communities? Check.
Very dynamic attitude towards new technologies? Check.
Aversion to spicy food? Check.

et cetera. et cetera.

Differences between Finns and Estonians, on a cultural basis, remind me a lot of differences between West Germans and East Germans. There're the differences brought about by East Germany having gone through 50 years of communism and thus being a lot less rich, and there are the differences brought about by the different cultures that have influenced people in various parts of Germany - French and Dutch in the west, Poles and Czechs in the east. But the similarities prevail, and they'll all be bloody Prussians together in the eyes of the Bavarians.

Andres ütles ...

We're probably a bit like all of them. We are tidy like the Germans, messy like the Russians, corrupt like the Latvians, down-to-earth like the Finns and greedy like the Swedes.


And:
Serious problems with handling alcohol? Check.

Estonian handle alcohol extremely well. That's the problem, else we wouldn't have to drink so much of it.

Giustino ütles ...

I remember Pullerits once told me that he was lost in a city in Alsace Lorraine. And the local French people spoke to him in German because they could just "tell" he was German.

Of all people, they should be able to tell a German from a non-German. And in their eyes, Priit was definitely one of them.

Gavin ütles ...

Can you interchange Estonians and Finns in real life, though? Put a Finn from Mikkeli in Tõrva. Like that show that was on the telly a while back, where men changed wives? No, I think the Latvian would fit in better.

I voted five times for "Russians" as a protest against the way the results are leaning.

Hansken ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Hansken ütles ...

I would bet that there is actually already some Finns in Tõrva. As they are anyway all over. Is there, then, any difference between them and locals? Of course, but it's a matter of style. In the end, the question was - "most like" and not "100% interchangeable".

Latvians is a good choice. In the end we share similar influences from German and Russian cultures. And by absorbing Livonians their culture has probably also acquired some finno-ugric features. But at the same time one interesting indicator is that Latvians themselves like to point out their difference from Estonians when mocking us for being too Nordic, slow, etc. That is: all these jokes that also apply for Finns.

I voted once (...and not for F).

Hansken ütles ...

Of course Pullerits was taken for a German! That moustache...

space_maze ütles ...

Can you interchange Estonians and Finns in real life, though? Put a Finn from Mikkeli in Tõrva. Like that show that was on the telly a while back, where men changed wives? No, I think the Latvian would fit in better.

I've actually seen Estonians and Finns fitting in with one another on a spontaneous basis like this. It works quite well. The Finnish and Estonian emigre communities here in Vienna mix quite freely.

The Finn from Mikkeli might not be happy about how his salary will change if he moves to Mikkeli. The same applies for a German from Düsseldorf moving to Leipzig. This doesn't mean East Germans are more like Poles than like West Germans.

Latvians might also be a candidate, though.

Germans, Russians and Swedes most certainly are not. Influencial as these countries might have been on Estonia, their positions were always so vastly different from those of Estonians that it's hard to find any parallelity.

I've yet to hear of one attribute Estonians share with Russians that they do not share with Finns. Aside from not having too much money.

Latvians is a good choice. In the end we share similar influences from German and Russian cultures. And by absorbing Livonians their culture has probably also acquired some finno-ugric features. But at the same time one interesting indicator is that Latvians themselves like to point out their difference from Estonians when mocking us for being too Nordic, slow, etc. That is: all these jokes that also apply for Finns.

I am neither an expert on Latvian culture, but their language, at least, has some massive finno-ugric influences.

As does Russian, really. Russian grammar in many ways resembles Finnish grammar more than it does Czech grammar.

However, influences on Russian are finno-ugric (coming from volga-finnic languages for example, closely related to Mari or Mordvin), while influences on Latvian are baltic finnic.

Giustino ütles ...

Anecdotally, Finland, and to a lesser degree, Sweden, seem to be better known among Estonian kids. I say this as a father who spends time with children: even six year olds know that Finland exists and that they speak a similar language, and that Sweden exists and is nearby.

I think that Sweden is seen as more multinational and metropolitan, whereas Finland is seen sort of as a larger, better-built version of Estonia. But the little kids want to go to "Pipimaa" or "Muumimaa." There don't seem to be equivalents in Latvia or Russia.

Russia, too, is part of their consciousness, but in a way that is somewhat similar to maybe Britain or the United States, but closer.
That is to say that they consume some children's programming from Russia and they are aware that Russian is a big language that it might be helpful to know.

Latvia, in the world of the kids I know, means Riga. Riga also has a big old city and a really nice zoo that puts the Tallinn zoo to shame. So, it exists from an entertainment stand point. But I don't think Estonian kids would know Latvian words or consume any cultural products that are immediately identifiable as Latvian.

They can watch Moomin cartoons and know they are Finnish and therefore somehow similar to their own culture. They can read about Pippi Longstocking and imagine that it takes place in Kuressaare or Pärnu. They can watch old Russian cartoons that genuinely tickle their imaginations with interesting color schemes. It's different, but at the same time very interesting for them.

Latvia seems to be more like a place. And German culture? Well, for my daughter, it consists mostly of SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons that are dubbed into deutsch. So, no big influence or awareness there.

maituus ütles ...

Kids today have too much TV available for them;)

It's a kind of generational, and geographical divide, I'd say. For many of 20-30ish crowd _not_ in northern Estonia, german channels were the first 'foreign' TV they ever saw. I have only a few estonian friends who don't understand german due to those saturday morning cartoons. Many moved on from cartoons and are fluent w/o any formal schooling.

To this day my default setting when watching TV is to browse trough german channels first. After 18 years I know the issues, the inside jokes, the stories.

I wouldn't go as far as to claim we're germans with a funny languague, but the in the development of estonian culture (and psyche) germanic-european influences are by far the most dominant. Not only are many words interchangeable or direct translations (ninasarvik?;), but many concepts carry over as well. The protestant work ethic, the notion of 'terve talupojamõistus', etc.

Doris ütles ...

some interesting reading: http://www.paabo.ca/uirala/FinnoUgricbkgd.html

a little bit on this topic, but with moe emphasis on languages and migration pre-Indo-Europeans. Note though that this is not an internationally accepted theory.

Jonas ütles ...

I confess I voted for Finns, but in truth Estonians are most like Estonians.

However, I see no real similarities between Estonian people and Swedish people, they are far more Finno-Ugrian in their ways - e.g. when you do business with them they are nothing at all like the Swedes.

There does seem to be a Russian tinge to Estonian society, and I don't just mean the Russian people left behind. The way things like pharmacies and the health system work remind of Russia (I don't mean in that they don't work, rather the methodologies they espouse). But perhaps that doesn't encroach too much on an Estonian's character.

I can some German influence too. The actual Estonian people look a bit like Germans crossed with Finns crossed with (sorry) Russians. There is a definitely a somewhat Russian look even to ethnic Estonians. That might not endear me, but I can't help seeing it. (I can imagine someone looking like Juhan Parts sitting next to Putin as a bureaucratic head of some security force/energy company/ministry.

But all in all, I still think - out of the choice - Estonians seem most like Finnish people (specifically those from somewhere inland like Häme) in character. Not actually the same, but nearest. The truth is, as I began, that Estonians are Estonians.

Giustino ütles ...

Jonas,

A lot of the Finns I have met have looked suspiciously like villains from James Bond movies. Especially, that tour guide we had in Kotka.

I actually feel a bit embarrassed when I see Estonians speak Russian. Estonians, to me, seem too milquetoast to attempt singing in a Slavic language.

Watching Tõnis Mägi sing in Russian is the equivalent of watching "Marky" Mark Wahlberg rap.

sofie ütles ...

Justin judges by movies. I judge by books. I think about Arti Paasilinna (Maailman paras kylä), and then I think about ...mmm... OK, Ingmar Bergman, any book by him - we are definitely like Swedes. Finns are very familiar, but they still have that FINNISH thing about them. The more alike we are with the finns, the better I can see the difference. There IS a difference;)

Ahto ütles ...

They can watch Moomin cartoons and know they are Finnish and therefore somehow similar to their own culture. They can read about Pippi Longstocking and imagine that it takes place in Kuressaare or Pärnu.

Well, Tove Jansson was a soomerootsi kirjanik (http://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tove_Jansson) - e.g. she wrote and dreamed in Swedish).

As what comes to Astrid Lindgren books, then most of them are picturing Haapsalu, birthplace of Ilon Wikland - Born 1930 in Estonia, as a refuge in Sweden from the age of 14 - http://www.astrid-lindgren.com/ilonwikland.htm

So maybe Estonians have influenced the Nordic ppl through Ilon Wikland even more than we think...