The other day I sat with a reclusive Estonian writer named Vello at the Cafe Plus 7, formerly the Nurgakohvik, in what could be described as 'midtown' Tartu.
Just back from a job moonlighting as an international man of mystery in Moscow, I thought Vello could enlighten me about the gigantic land to our east which stretches across seven timezones.
The Plus 7 was the perfect spot to talk about Russian relations because it appears to be Estonian-Russian owned. The menu featured the "Sochi 2014 Special," and Vello ordered the "Druzhba snitzel" from his Russian-language menu. I had the "Sõpruse šnitsel" from my Estonian-language menu instead.
"Why do the Russians dislike the Estonians so much?" I began.
"Well, for starters, they think the Estonians are arrogant," he said. "I hear this in St. Petersburg all the time. 'Those Estonians think they're better than us.'"
On the wall, a large flat-screen television played a series of music videos, that could have been American, save for the fact that they were in the Russian language, and all the extras in the videos were white.
Vello and I continued our discussion.
"Another thing about the Estonians," he said, "is that they fight like peasants."
"How so?" I asked.
"The Estonians' idea of getting even is, 'Let's wait until the master is asleep, and then we'll kill him,' or 'Let's get the master really drunk and stab him when he's not looking.'"
The music videos continued to play on the Plus 7 's TV. There was a pop diva, then some kind of hip hop group riding around on the metro. At some point, a woman who looked a bit like Anne Veski came on and began singing a disco-infused tune, the chorus to which was "pussy, pussy, pussy."
"You know," I said to Vello. "Estonians are sort of like that kid at the front of the class who sticks his foot out when the class bully goes to do an exercise on the blackboard."
An image of Juhan Parts taking the Estonian-Russian border treaty, blowing his nose in it, and handing it back to his Russian colleague saying "sign this," flashed in my head.
"Exactly," he said. We were then joined by our female counterparts, Liina and Epp.
"So what have you been talking about?" asked Epp.
"We've been talking about how Estonians are arrogant and think they are better than everyone else," I said.
"That's true," she laughed.
"And what about you, Liina," I said. "Do you think that Estonians are like the kid at the front of the class that always makes sure to trip up the Russians?"
"Of course," she said. "And they deserve it."