reede, november 06, 2009

eestlased

"My people were entirely Nordic, which is to say idiots. Every wrong idea that has been expounded was theirs ... They were painfully clean ... After dinner the dishes were promptly washed and put back in the closet; after the paper was read, it was neatly folded and laid away on the shelf ... Everything was for tomorrow, but tomorrow never came."

I am digging through Tropic of Capricorn and I am reminded of my neighbors. They are all Estonians, eestlased, every single one of them. I don't know most of their names. Maybe they know mine, but they never use it. We only see one another when we are working outdoors, because that's all Estonians do outdoors. If they see me working, they look genuinely pleased and grunt out jõudu, which means "strength." Then I grunt back tarvis, which means "needed," and continue moving. There must be constant movement.

An Estonians' idea of a good time is digging up root vegetables or examining fallen apples for worm holes or bruises. When an Estonian wants to relax, he grabs two poles and goes for a walk. It's called "Nordic walking." All across the country you can see them, poling down some highway, their neatly hung reflectors glimmering in the flash of headlights, a catatonic expression on their Finno-Ugric faces.

The odd thing is that I want to join them because they look so satisfied with themselves. It's the Estonian smug. It hangs in the air, caressing the islands' coasts and blanketing the drumlins and potato fields and berry patches and apple orchards and country lakes. You can't escape the smug. You breathe it in through each nostril, and after awhile you are patting yourself because the state in which you dwell is not dead last, ie. Latvia. As long as Estonia continues to measure its success by comparing itself to Latvia, then the air is likely to be choked with smug. It's in all the weather reports. It'll be 10 below tomorrow with a 99 percent chance of smug.

I've tried to fit in as best I can. I spent last weekend raking frosted leaves and examining frozen apples for worm holes. And yet, at some point, I got tired and I made for our hammock and just couldn't help but to collapse into it, to lay there with the November sun on my face, to feel my heavy body suspended in air, to relax and breath and feel human, to savor the pleasures of existence. I was almost smiling when I suddenly realized that one of my neighbors might spy me slacking off, so I leaped out of the hammock and was back scavenging for apples in no time.

You may think I've become neurotic, northern Estonian. But then I caught my neighbor patrolling the front yard at dusk to make sure that every stray leaf had been raked and removed to the backyard to be burned. His yard is tip top. Ours? Well, let's just say that ours is getting there. I saw the Estonian neighbor crane his neck around, too, while he was on leaf patrol. He gave our yard a quick inspection, like I could work with all that smug in the air, stinging my lungs. And I knew what he was thinking. Italians. Lazy, sloppy, careless Italians. It doesn't matter if I've got an American passport or an Estonian wife. Our work is tainted by our Mediterranean work ethic. It's in the amount of olive oil we consume. We're not real northerners. We're something else.

***

What is the defining attribute of a northern country? Social capital? Gender equality? Personal happiness? No. The defining characteristic of northern countries is the cold. Supposedly it is 10 below outside. All I know is that Kuperjanovi Street in Tartu might as well cross the face of the moon.

The cold wrestles with you. Your fingers and toes burn with blue, every digit succumbing to the pain. Your teeth chatter and your eyes glaze over, but that's nothing compared to your chest, which shakes and rattles like a busted carburetor. It's brutal what the cold does to you. People wonder why Estonians seem so immune to it all. There's a reason for it; every winter they fight a personal war with winter, beset by a hostile climate that seems bent on eradicating all signs of life from the face of the earth.

The Estonians have a saying: there is no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong clothes. Well, gloves, hat, scarf, thermal wear -- it's really nothing up here at night. Your fingers atrophy and your eyes hollow out and your chest shakes in anger as it tries to adjust to the temperature. And then to make it worse, you notice an Estonian guy parading down the street without a hat on, or the sight of an Estonian gal in a short skirt taking money from an ATM, oblivious to her environment. Estonians are fashionable people, you see. They don't let little things like Arctic temperatures stand between them and looking good.

There are only a handful of remedies for this kind of weather. One's alcohol. Another's chocolate. I've been leaning on chocolate. Supposedly, it fires up the neurons. All I can say is, fire away! Chocolate. It keeps you moving. It quickens your pace while you do yard work. But I ate 200 grams of it the other day in one helping and it went right through me. I even ate more. No effect. I've eaten so much chocolate recently I have had to compensate by joining a gym. And in the gym I found a third remedy for the cold: a sauna.

Saunas are magical places. They can cure any ache or pain. Broken arm? Go sit in the sauna awhile. It'll heal more quickly. I always thought that saunas were just for fun, a sort of outdoor pub for woodsy drunks. I've come to learn that, during the winter at least, a long stew in the sauna is exactly what you need to defrost those frigid digits. You can cancel out the damage done by the northern climate in a sauna. By exposing yourself to extreme cold outside, and extreme heat in the sauna, you may finally arrive at a normal body temperature. Or so the logic goes.

But what of summer saunas? Now that's interesting. If winter saunas are therapeutic, then summer saunas are like Woodstock. There's nothing but nudity, lake swimming, and cool vibes, man. You sit there covered in sweat and silt, and feel as if you are truly one with nature, as if you should have moss for eyebrows and snails hanging from every appendage. In fact, after a co-ed sauna in the summer, it's kind of hard to justify wearing clothes anymore. I mean, if you've already seen everybody in their birthday suit, and it's hot out, then, what exactly is the point of wearing trousers?

One July day, I asked our friend Mart why people sauna in the summer. I told him I understood the rationale behind winter saunas, but wasn't quite sure what purpose summer saunas served. It was hot already. Why get purposefully hotter? Could it be just for fun? No. There had to be some really good Estonian reason like, "It helps us work harder."

Mart's eyes bulged at the question as if to say Does not compute. In reality, he just repeated my words back to me. "Why do people sauna in summer?" I remember the puzzled expression on his face as he said it. He was stunned. I could have asked him why he breathes air or why he sleeps at night. But he might have actually had reasonable explanations for those activities. But why sauna in the summer, when it's hot? What a silly question. Mart shot an odd look at me again, then took another sip of his beer. He never answered.

***

Onu Leo gave up the ghost on Halloween. 80 years old. For years he'd been in and out of hospitals. And yet when I met him last year, the only time I actually met him, he was in good spirits. He was born in the year of a great global financial crisis and he died in the year of a great global financial crisis. But it probably didn't faze him. These old Estonians don't worry themselves with the world. They are simply content. They are content to eat and drink and read and sleep and wake and live. I envy them.

The funeral took place at a wooded grove in the outskirts of Tartumaa. Tall pines reach up into the heavens there. Small, modest stones mark the graves of the departed. Even in this weather, Leo had an outdoor funeral. He was laid out in a small, half-open stone house. Relatives and friends gathered around and sang songs about candles and angels and heaven. There was a long speech about Leo's life. He was a good worker. An industrious man. I didn't know how to feel there. Another person I know is dead. Leo's granddaughter cried though. She sobbed. She really loved the guy.

I envied her expression of emotion. When my grandfather dropped dead almost 14 years ago, I didn't shed a tear. Not one drop. I was numb during the whole thing and felt like a real shithead because of it. I wish I could have been like Leo's granddaughter, open about my feelings. But for some reason, I feel uncomfortable at funerals. Maybe it's the lousy music.

Still, as I watched Onu Leo's relatives cry, my eyes moistened, and my mood turned somber. I thought about how Leo was someone's son, brother, father, and grandfather. I thought about how, 80 years from now, towards the end of this century, people will be gathering around to say goodbye to the babies of today. I decided that there was still a bit of humanity left in me after all.

The pallbearers bore Leo's coffin to his final place of rest, below a giant pine. After he was lowered in, and a few more songs were sung, the vicar invited able-bodied men to grab a shovel and finish the job. I was surprised, but accepted the offer. Six or so shovels lay beside mounds of dirt. I grabbed one, and we began to fill in the hole. When dirt hits a coffin, it makes an uncomfortable "thwumpf" sound. After the coffin was covered though, we began to fill the gaping hole in the earth at a rapid pace. I was thinking of Siberia while I was doing it, how men like Leo's father, Aleksander, who spent 10 years in that rotten Russian hellhole, must have felt as they worked with others to move soil. And I liked the feeling. It felt right. I felt as if, even though I had only known Leo for one day, I was doing him a favor. It was up to us to tuck him into eternal rest.

The reception was held at a nearby hotel. We sat at a long table, and shot glasses were filled with vodka. Then Leo's oldest son stood and thanked everyone and lifted his glass in memory of his father, for whom a seat was left empty at the table. The funny thing about Leo is that his father was Russian and his wife was an Ingrian Finn. So these people are actually only one-quarter Estonian, and yet their language, their customs, everything about them follows the description of classical Estonian literature. Whenever I hear the term "ethnic Estonian," I chuckle and think of families like these.

Estonian parties are dreadfully predictable. At first, nobody talks. No one. After some alcohol is consumed, there will be some light chatter. That's it. And then comes the dreadfully predictable food. What will it be this time? I asked myself. Pork and potatoes or potatoes and pork? But those schnitzels were delicious. And the sauerkraut? It hit the spot. Of course, afterward, when my belt was about to burst, they brought out the kringel, covered with chocolate and laden with raisins. I ate some of that, too. By this time, conversations approached what I considered to be a normal volume. Yeah, you can really get fat in Estonia. All the more reason to have a gym membership.

After dessert, Leo's son approached me and gripped my hand.

"Do they do it different in America?" he asked.

"How did you know I'm from America?"

"I know," Leo's son grinned but didn't let go of my hand.

"I've never done any digging before," I mustered. "And, of course, the songs are different."

"We should get together some other time, in happier circumstances," Leo's son tightened his grip. "We can have a drink and go to sauna."

85 kommentaari:

karLos ütles ...

my family here in Australia have always had saunas in their houses, and regardless of the weather, when family are there - it's sauna time.

to be honest i don't know why people sauna in summer either, but it's still good :)

thanks for the great post.

Colm ütles ...

I thought about how, 80 years from now, towards the end of this century, people will be gathering around to say goodbye to the babies of today.

True. But very morbid. It means that the likes of you and me will be long gone, never mind our parents...

I still remember my isaema's funeral over 8 years ago. It choaks me up when I think about it. I guess I felt like I never really got to say goodbye.

Like you I at one feel stranging at home and also away from home here. It's a weird mix of being got between two places. I've gone too far to go back but I can't or won't let myself go further either.

Estonians. One has to admire them.

Andres ütles ...

Why do people sauna in the summer? You really do deserve a blunt look for that. Let's rephrase the question. Why do people want to be in the same room with sweaty, probably naked people of the opposite sex? And even if there aren't any women, there's nothing like a cold beer after a hot sauna.

peedu ütles ...

And it's not like we go to sauna to rest from hard work either, because on summer the whole nation is on a collective vacation anyway.

Mark Oskar ütles ...

"It'll be 10 below tomorrow with a 99 percent chance of smug."

Best line you've written in some time boy!

-markoskar

ants ütles ...

Actually, what You write about Estonia and the Estonians prove they have some queer specific features like the Americans have. Though they are different, after all it’s pleasent this realize . Go ahead! Your stories are excellent.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

I see you have yet to be recruited into the grave maintenance workforce so there is still a lot for you to experience - your writing is hitting such an excellent pitch that I am looking forward to that.

It may have been unintentional, but in one story you have hit on the two areas of the ancient native religion still practiced today - the gravesite and the sauna.

And why should people suspend their spiritual rituals because of the weather?

Brüno ütles ...

Great article. Enjoyed it immensely. As for funerals, I constantly have to fight back laughter. Maybe it is stress or sorrow, but I feel like fighting not to burst into laughter. I never cry at funerals. Yet, watching dolphins makes me cry. And I enjoy it.

As for sauna and nakedness, I recall how in the early nineties just fresh of the proverbial banana boat and into the fold of Estonian emigree society, at one sauna event in NOVA, me and my brother entered sauna stark naked. All the other american born estos were shocked and did a poor job disguising it. One of them, the most sharp tongued one joked that we must be gays. To that I countered that if he looks at my dick that does not exactly make me gay, or does it? That gave him pause. Or so it seemed.

Anyway, the point is, we, the real northern europeans take sex and nakedness completely differently. (I wonder if this translates into less sexual deviation or more?)

And of course it was a whacked out of your mind question to ask, why do you go sauna in summer?

:-)

Nice writing. Thank you G.

You've done it again.

Jäälillemüüja ütles ...

There is one very simple reason to go to the sauna: getting REALLY clean :) I mean, showers and baths are nice and all, but in sauna one sweats and washes all the dirt off - even in summer :P

erle ütles ...

Next time you go to Setumaa go visit as many neighbours as you can and ask them to show you their neatly tiled, shining white, chrome tap-equipped bathrooms.

Ok, I did not want to be ironic since you don't deserve it. Simply wanted to answer your sauna question. A nation that has sauna'd for centuries isn't going to give it up in a couple of short generations. It's a practical thing as much as a ritual, regardless of the season.

Lingüista ütles ...

You breathe it in through each nostril, and after awhile you are patting yourself because the state in which you dwell is not dead last, ie. Latvia. As long as Estonia continues to measure its success by comparing itself to Latvia, then the air is likely to be choked with smug. It's in all the weather reports. It'll be 10 below tomorrow with a 99 percent chance of smug.

Wow, Giustino, you make me feel really bad for the Latvians. At least they can say they have better pop music / pop rock -- I mean, I like Urmas Alender just like the next guy, but I don't see many people like, say, Aivars Virga or the group Gain Fast, or (my personal favorite, unfortunately no longer on You Tube) Imants Kalniņš' version of Dūdieviņš.

I suppose it's just human to expect Estonians to feel smug when comparing themselves to Latvia; there may even be a wee bit of Schadenfreude in it. If Estonia gets into the Euro-zone before Latvia, as seems likely, I'm sure that will increase.

That makes me think of that South Park episode in which South Park was threatened by ecological catastrophe because of the high levels of atmospheric smug that came from users of hybrid cars.

I wonder if the Latvian's wayward ways make them look more 'Southern' to Estonians, despite their similarly Arctic winters.

Myst ütles ...

I suppose it's just human to expect Estonians to feel smug when comparing themselves to Latvia; there may even be a wee bit of Schadenfreude in it. If Estonia gets into the Euro-zone before Latvia, as seems likely, I'm sure that will increase.


I've been an aboriginal tribesman of Maa for many years now, and my view is that in these recessionary times, Schadenfreude has become so valuable a commodity that we simply cannot spare any for Latvian misfortunes. We have to use it only when absolutely necessary and that means for Russia, when one of their missiles or fighter planes falls out of the sky again. ;-)

Besides, folk wisdom has it that ei saa me läbi Lätita, which is thought to mean that their misfortunes are our misfortunes in an indirect way. Of course, their fortunes (when Jumal on lätlane) are also our misfortunes, so go figure...

The answer to your question of whether they seem Southern really depends on your definition of the word. If by Southern you mean Baltic, then yes. :-) Otherwise, no.

I hope that was smug enough for what seem to now have become very high expectations of smuggery. ;-) (I blame Edward Lucas.) And to please our other readers, I'll bid you "Heil Hitler!!" and go talk to trees. :-P

Lingüista ütles ...

We have to use it [=Schadenfreude] only when absolutely necessary and that means for Russia, when one of their missiles or fighter planes falls out of the sky again.

;-)

Well, where I come from they've always said that Jumal on brasiillane, but there also is a (semi-popular) proverb to the effect that ei saa me läbi Argentinata, so I think these feelings can sometimes be contradictory. (I wonder what the Argentinians think about us Brazilians, though... We're now supposed to be the smug ones in South America.)

So being Baltic is not like being Mediterranean? You don't expect Latvians to go on screaming for any little thing as Italian mothers are supposed to? (A joke I've heard a while ago: "Italian mother to her child: 'eat your cereals or I'll kill you!'; Jewish mother to her child: 'eat your cereals or I'll kill myself!'") You don't expect Latvians to be somewhat lazy and uninclined to work?

Oh my. I wonder what Latvian stereotypes about Estonians are. Are they like the Russian ones -- i.e. Estonians are emotionless people who can't dance and do everything slowly, as in that little song by a Russian Estonian, Kui raske Eestis olla?

Myst ütles ...

So being Baltic is not like being Mediterranean? You don't expect Latvians to go on screaming for any little thing as Italian mothers are supposed to? (A joke I've heard a while ago: "Italian mother to her child: 'eat your cereals or I'll kill you!'; Jewish mother to her child: 'eat your cereals or I'll kill myself!'") You don't expect Latvians to be somewhat lazy and uninclined to work?

No, I don't. I've actually worked quite a lot with Latvians, for different construction projects. I'd say they're not very different from Estonians. Similar attitudes, similar body language.. I certainly don't look down on them in any way.


Oh my. I wonder what Latvian stereotypes about Estonians are. Are they like the Russian ones -- i.e. Estonians are emotionless people who can't dance and do everything slowly, as in that little song by a Russian Estonian, Kui raske Eestis olla?

Why not have a look at a clip of Anatoli Tafitšuk's travels. ;-)
http://etv.err.ee/arhiiv.php?id=99381
starting from 01:25.

Myst ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Roland ütles ...

Nice. Specially liked the bit about smugness.

Giustino ütles ...

That makes me think of that South Park episode in which South Park was threatened by ecological catastrophe because of the high levels of atmospheric smug that came from users of hybrid cars.

The San Franciscan smug and the Estonian smug differ in several ways. The Bay Area smug emanates from a sense of moral superiority, while the Estonian smug is based on a sense of just plain old superiority. For the San Franciscans, it was the hybrid cars that made them better. For the Estonians, it is the mere fact of being Estonian that makes them better. And this sense of elitism is what both draws Estonia close to the Nordic countries and keeps them away. For one can not think of more elitist countries than the Nordic countries, where every citizen is brainwashed to believe that they are happy and that social democracy is the ultimate achievement of mankind.

tartuense ütles ...

As a foreigner here, I also feel Latvians are a bit charming, just like Lithuanians (not as cool as Estonians though :) ).
I think Latvians see Estonians as Estonians see Finns, i.e, not speaking much, efficient, and 'slow' like moose (meaning 'measured' I guess - it's not that they think slower, just that they are digesting all sorts of thoughts before speaking). And Estonians probably see Latvians much as Finns see Estonians: hot-headed and emotional people!
And there is some truth to it, Estonians are indeed a (little) bit more extrovert than Finns, and perhaps a bit more 'Nordic' than Latvians.
It reminded me of the joke I heard once: "How do you spot the extrovert Finn (insert here Estonian instead, if wished) among normal Finns? He's the one who while talking to you, looks at your feet instead of at his own".

But that is what made me love this country when I came here first in 2003. It was northern and Scandi, but at the same time not polished and more 'real', more charming and human. I still love Estonia and admire the buildings being redecorated and spruced up. Tartu city center looks completely different now than it was say 4 or 5 years ago. I guess Tallinn also underwent a nice bit of fresh paint.

I love the ei saa me läbi Lätita which I interpreted as meaning that we can't get by without Latvia, i.e., that for better or worse Latvia is a friendly and matey country.

About the sulking and hard-working personality, meaning always having to be doing/making/cleaning something, I think it's to do with the Protestant culture. Somehow Lutherans seem to think that if they work really hard, God will be good to them and they will be rich and the doors of heaven will be open. I adhere more to the Catholic point of view (since I am a Catholic), that love and morals are more important. But hey, whatever suits anyone is fine.

Lingüista ütles ...

I suppose the interesting thing about Latvia is how it is intertwined with both Estonia, because of the similarity of its past history (Teutonic Knights, Rootsi Aeg / Zviedru Laiks, Peter I, Lenin and the USSR, Independence, two Soviet and one German occupation, Balti Kett / Baltijas ceļš, NATO and European Union), and with Lithuania, because of the common language which implies a shared common origin and prehistory (plus the Old Prussians from Kaliningrad to Poland). Like the Guianas in South America if you want, three countries I also find fascinating--similar again despite very important differences in their 'national characters' and the peoples that compose them.

The Bay Area smug emanates from a sense of moral superiority, while the Estonian smug is based on a sense of just plain old superiority. For the San Franciscans, it was the hybrid cars that made them better. For the Estonians, it is the mere fact of being Estonian that makes them better.
So they think it's in their blood rather than in their culture? I had the impresson -- though I don't have much personal experience with the Nordic countries and their inhabitants -- that the Nordic superiority complex came from them believing they know more or think better than others, specifically they know what the best system is (because they're oh so rational and have taken all the necessary facts into account), as opposed, say, to Americans who seem to think they have the best system because they had the best Founding Fathers in history.

Martasmimi ütles ...

erle ütles...
Next time you go to Setumaa go visit as many neighbours as you can and ask them to show you their neatly tiled, shining white, chrome tap-equipped bathrooms.
*******
They have indoor plumbing in Setumaa?
I thought your were building some kind of Earth Friendly outhouse ..
They have tiled bath rooms???...wow!

Brüno ütles ...

Setumaa is the highest grossing market in sales for Kohler's high-end chrome faucets and retro-chic sinks and bathtubs.

Architecture Digest has really missed out on a great story there ...

- ütles ...

What an awesome blog.

I've never looked us from that angle... or well, I've never thought about it being so interesting.

Saunas in the summer is just cool if you've got a lake to jump in. It is a "reason" for people/friends to come together (and drink alcohol, eat).

Also, Estonian summernights might not be very warm, so after grilling some stuff on (dead or live) fire, it's good to get in warm again.

Oh, and if it's your first year in here, I should warn you that it's still autumn and winter isn't here yet (I hope it'll be a cold one, there hasn't been one quite a while).

By the way, while reading first two paragraphs I was 100% percent sure, that Estonian is writing it - seems you've integrated (sisse sulandunud) just well.

Myst ütles ...

- For the Estonians, it is the mere fact of being Estonian that makes them better.
- So they think it's in their blood rather than in their culture?


Is this discussion actually happening or am I dreaming it?!

Giustino, you talk of this perceived smugness as if it should have an encyclopedia article about it. "The Estonian Smug". Would you mind telling me what you actually mean by that? What is it that we do or say that is different from what, say, an Austrian, a Czech, a Lithuanian or a Russian would do or say? Or an American!

My view is that:
a) Estonians DON'T have a common belief that they are better than others.
b) What excessive confidence there is is very clearly based on perceived achievements and not some delusion of the inherent and indestructible supremacy of the Estonian..
c) Or, what might seem like smug is really just a defensive reaction to what seems like unfair/unhelpful criticism. Or just a way of showing that the conversation is getting tiresome. (You barbarian mongrel motherfuckers DO talk too much! ;-)) Or something like that.

When you think about it -- how could we possibly feel as good about ourselves as you seem to think, after the history we've had?

Giustino ütles ...

Giustino, you talk of this perceived smugness as if it should have an encyclopedia article about it. "The Estonian Smug". Would you mind telling me what you actually mean by that?

It's a reference to this article in The Economist. It is also a reference to this post on Baltic Features. I thought I would indulge the concept.

What is it that we do or say that is different from what, say, an Austrian, a Czech, a Lithuanian or a Russian would do or say? Or an American!

Hmm. Is Vaclav Klaus smug? Discuss amongst yourselves.

My view is that:
a) Estonians DON'T have a common belief that they are better than others.


You are entitled to your view.

b) What excessive confidence there is is very clearly based on perceived achievements and not some delusion of the inherent and indestructible supremacy of the Estonian.

Which came first, the superiority complex or the achievements?

c) Or, what might seem like smug is really just a defensive reaction to what seems like unfair/unhelpful criticism.

I think the attribute I am attempting to describe is exemplified by the confidence in the way things are done. It's the dead certainty with which Ansip gets up and tells us that the Bronze Soldier affair had absolutely no impact on the election!

There is a sense that Estonia's Top Guns have pulled the country out of crisis. But, hmm, how did the country get into a crisis anyway? I am afraid people are beginning to mistake the sense of relief ("At least we're not Latvia!") with a sense of real achievement.

When you think about it -- how could we possibly feel as good about ourselves as you seem to think, after the history we've had?

I think, internally, Estonians are competing against each other. They feel good when a competitor fails. But externally? It's better to be Estonian. It would be nice if Estonians showed more domestic solidarity.

Myst ütles ...

You see, the bit that got me ranting was that statement of yours that I quoted in my last comment. We were/are talking about peoples, aren't we, and not this or that figure in the political establishment. The blog post itself is titled "eestlased" and not "Eesti poliitikud"..

About Ansip. Yes, he's smug and it's annoying. The infamous "If this is a crisis, then give me more of this crisis!" ("Kui see on kriis, siis ainult sellises kriisis ma tahakski elada!") will probably be made to haunt him for the rest of his political career by his opponents. But! Surely even this is an example of poor judgement and over-confidence, rather than belief in his inherent superiority over fellow men?? Or am I the only one who sees a huge difference between these two attitudes?

The current popular view on him and the state of things. I think it is mostly something like this: "Yes, the government messed up badly during the boom years. (No serious attempt was made to curb the "excessive fire" by curbing private lending. And it was further ventilated by excessive government spending and reductions in private income tax.) But it appears now that mõistus on tulnud koju. And if they pull the Euro out of the bag for Christmas 2010, then maybe we'll get through this particular plague as well. Without too many casualties. And Ansip will not, after all, be required to commit ritual suicide. :-)"

This is by no means a universal view! There are plenty of people around who are already suffering badly and are calling for his head on a stick, figuratively speaking. Or calling for it, because it suits their political ambitions..

I'm afraid people are beginning to mistake the sense of relief ("At least we're not Latvia!") with a sense of real achievement.

I am not afraid of that, as it doesn't make any sense!

--

This is all quite unpleasant actually. I'm being unpleasant myself, I know. It's just bewildering don't you know and what not. For some reason, we Estos keep getting a lot stick for, apparently, being incredible pieces of shite. I mean, the exchange that prompted my wrath this morning could just as well have been:
- They eat through their arse and excrete through their mouth.
- Is that because they're crosses between squirrels and cabbage leaves?

Except that it was truly offensive and the question followed the statement more logically.

Oh well. Being not a masochist, I ain't gonna cry about it no mo. Indulge away.

Evil Purc ütles ...

Sheesh...people don't go to the sauna because of the temperature outside. People go to the sauna because it's the sauna. =P

Doris ütles ...

obsessive compulsive work-ethic: defo a Protestant thing. The Netherlands (mainly Protestant) for example is much more... shall we say... maintained than Belgium (mainly Catholic). You can literally feel it in the car suspension when you cross the border. And no, it's not that much a money issue since they're pretty much equally rich.

in that sense perhaps the Reformation WAS the best thing that ever happened to Estonia. Literacy rate: check. Hard work will be rewarded-mentality: check. Think (=read the Bible) for yourself instead of listening to authorities (=stoopid euro-bureaucrats) and you'll be able to out-maneuver them (a la Kaval Ants): check.



The funerals - almost 2 years ago we buried my bf's father here in the Netherlands. He wanted to be cremated so the service and the little reception (with coffee and fingerfood, no one stayed for more than an hour tops) was held at the crematorium. But afterwards the family and closest friends went to his favourite restaurant (a slightly dingy Chinese place) for dinner - on him. I had mentioned that at home, in Estonia, we leave a seat empty for the departed and everyone really liked the sentiment. so we did :) It was very touching, everyone had stories to tell and it really felt like he was with us for one last time.

Giustino ütles ...

Myst,

Äre muretse. Mina ei ole väga loogiline mees.

Giustino

Lingüista ütles ...

OK, Myst, perhaps it is unfair to define a whole people as being anything at all -- smug, happy, sad, deep, introspective, light-minded, expansive, you name it. Maybe any attempt at putting a linguistic label on whatever it is that makes you feel like these guys here are different from the guys back home cannot be done without exaggerating a little bit.

Still, this can be taken in the same spirit with which similar national, let us call them stereotypes, are offered as part of international culture. That the French are supposed to be angry about anything, that the Germans are supposed to be dilligent, that the Scandinavians are supposed to be haughty and self-assured, that the British are supposed to be traditionalists, that the Italians are supposed to be loud gesticulators -- all of this is overgeneralization, since you can always find many individuals from said nationalities who are not like that. But is it really true that these statements contain no truth? Is there no cause other than envy among peoples to explain their existence?

Doris above mentioned how the Dutch seem to be smug when compared to their more lively (the Dutch would say uitbundig) southern neighbors the Belgians. You could point to the Dutch spartan architecture, when compared to the somewhat more baroque Belgian style, for support. Or to the sense, as reported by many Belgians, that the Dutch who go south of the border are so often trying to tell the Belgians what's wrong with their country.

Inasmuch as you see Giustino's (and apparently also mine) remarks on eestlaste smugness as implying something terribly deep about the people here, something that they are guilty of as Adam and Eve of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, I apologize.

But if you take a lighter view, and a different approach... Why is this post on Estonians any more really offensive than thousands of similar posts about, say, Americans, or the British?

luuletaja ütles ...

one way to explain "ei saa me läbi lätita" is also that the road to Europe goes though Latvian borders ie, läbi läti

Brüno ütles ...

G, kas teil Mardisandid käisid külas?

Brüno ütles ...

G, kas teil Mardisandid käisid külas?

stockholm slender ütles ...

Smug, the Nordic countries, I'm shocked, Giustino! We don't think that social democracy is the ultimate achievement of the mankind. Only that the Nordic model is greatest level of civilization yet achieved in the history of humankind... There surely is a difference, somewhere.

Giustino ütles ...

Smug, the Nordic countries, I'm shocked, Giustino! We don't think that social democracy is the ultimate achievement of the mankind. Only that the Nordic model is greatest level of civilization yet achieved in the history of humankind... There surely is a difference, somewhere.

Hilarious. You made me laugh on a gray, wet, dark Estonian day.

John ütles ...

I would never accuse Edward Lucas of relying on cliches -- obviously he's a terrific journalist - but we all do have our favorite themes. http://www.google.com/search?q=smug+site%3Aedwardlucas.blogspot.com

And that's one goshdarn lot of smug.

Puhvis Kukk ütles ...

I'm homesick now..... It's near impossible to find a sauna here in Connecticut, spas have these crappy electric ones.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Glad to oblige, Giustino! I have certainly noticed how shocked many Westerners (especially from the bigger countries) are about the reflexive, automatic Nordic superiority complex. Though who are the French, the Brits, and especially the Americans to complain? I guess it just seems out proportion when smaller nations exhibit the same kind of arrogance... This is not to deny that much of this is really ignorant and parochial smugness (though pretty much any kind of empiricical international survey will have the Nordic countries at or very near the top). It is mostly a historical accident only that these societies are admittedly quite developed in many ways, and probably this state of affairs is already gradually passing, but it can be a healthy experience for people coming from present or ex-superpowers to encounter this self-satisfied Nordic smugness!

Giustino ütles ...

Though who are the French, the Brits, and especially the Americans to complain? I guess it just seems out proportion when smaller nations exhibit the same kind of arrogance...

You should try the New Yorkers, residents of the "greatest city in the world."

I remember a heated office discussion ensued when I accidentally praised Boston's cleanliness.

Them: "Boston? You like that place? Hmph. You would."

Me: "I'm just saying that it's cleaner."

Them: "Boston? New York is the greatest city in the world. Where else can you get a good slice of pizza at 3 am?"

It all comes down to good pizza in the end, doesn't it?

Lingüista ütles ...

It all comes down to good pizza in the end, doesn't it?
Said like a good Brazilian would. After all, we in Brazil do have the best system for racial integration, don't we? The best melting pot in the world, that makes all second-generation immigrants already devout Brasileiros who like MPB, Samba, Carnaval and the World Cup.

The Dutch have a similar complex to the Swedes, though in the case of the Dutch there's some complex from being a geographically small country.

The one Swede I once met, a woman from Uppsala who was working on second-language aquisition, looked in all respects so normal that I could barely see she was a Swede (oh, of course she could speak Swedish, that also helped, especially because I was trying to learn Swedish at the time.). Her Norwegian colleague, though, had all the signs of believing she was from the Best Country in the World (though it may have been her personality, not her Norwegianness -- she seemed to think she was the best at everything, and looked annoyed if someone seemed to do anything better than she.)

Oh well. Maybe I'm sorry for the Latvians. It seems these days nobody wants to be their brothers-in-arms. Everybody, even Lithuania, seems to be saying "don't confuse us with Latvia, please". And since I'm always attracted to the underdog...

Doris ütles ...

hehehe - one of my coworkers is Lithuanian and we often rant and curse about our respective domestic policies (and Russia)... but when it all gets too depressive, one of us will eventually go "well, at least it's not as bad as Latvia"

He also seems very fond of telling Estonian jokes. And I in turn modify our Latvian jokes... the problem is, I only know one latvian joke (the one about the karu, rebane and peni wanting to emigrate to Latvia and having to change their names... and the peni deciding to stay home.)

Yeah, the Dutch surperiority complex is a bit scitzophrenic in the sense that they sometimes refer to themselves as if they still live in their Golden Age (7th century for those who don't know) - the time when they ruled the seas and the spice trade. Although in a sense they do that now as well, Holland is probably the most concentrated logistics centre in Europe (if not the World). All of Europe's food goes through Rotterdam - the Polish apples come here before they're shipped on to Estonia for example. Which is weird if you ask me :P

But yes, anyways, they are a small country now and in a strange way as proud of that as they are of their gilded past. There's still a lot of the peasant culture alive here - they were very surprised indeed when I told them that their version of the pea soup is almost the same as ours :D

Doris ütles ...

17th century, I mean

Tymen Ferron ütles ...

I wonder how the Estonian government parties would be perceived by the people if Latvia would not be doing so bad. Maybe more people would be asking Ansip to resign.
Sometimes I have the impression that the Estonians are satisfied as long as they are doing better than Latvia. Recession? Whatever, Latvia is in deeper shit. :)

andresjarv ütles ...

Well, in a way it makes perfect sense. Because the only countries in the world that are in a comparable situation to ours are the Baltics. We all got free from the Soviets at the same time, we all started from equally bad shit. You can't compare Estonia to Finland. You can't even compare it to East Germany because the money pumped in there is quite impressive (a couple of trillion Euros or smth). Poland is somewhat comparable but they weren't in the USSR exactly so it's still a bit different. So there you have it. Latvia and Lithuania effectively ARE the only countries we need to be better of :D

Andres ütles ...

Hmm, pretty sure, that's supposed to be "better than".
Note to self: always read comments before hitting the button.

Tymen Ferron ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Tymen Ferron ütles ...

That seems reasonable. But 'Estonians' also like to compare themselves with Nordic countries. 'They' try to convince outsiders that they are much more a Nordic or Scandinavian country than a Baltic country. And that's a bit strange in my opinion. I (and many other people I think) associate Nordic countries with a well developed welfare state, government interference in the economy, in short: social-democracy. I understand that Estonia is not economically developed enough to support such a welfare state, but it also doesn't seem to be what they want. Ultra-liberal parties and policies are the most popular. Why would they like associate themselves with countries that have a style of governing that stands so far from their own? Socio-economically Estonia fits much better with the other european ex-communist countries. They even inspired most of those countries to introduce a flat tax.

Lingüista ütles ...

I think the Estonian feeling of attraction towards the Nordic countries is more cultural (Finland, the richer cousin, is there; their temperament is more similar to the Estonian temperament). They admire these countries more than they admire their neighbors, or even countries like Germany, France or England, I think. The feeling of stability that seems inseparable from the Nordic social democracy. I think they want a similar feeling of stability, even if they are following a different, more liberal economical policy.

Tymen Ferron ütles ...

By profiling themselves as scandinavian they hope offcourse to enjoy also a bit of the prestige of the scandinavian countries.
A prestige that isn't the consequence from being introvert or sitting in a sauna, but from the high development of the scandinavian countries.
Maybe if Latvia was a bit more succesfull and stabile, Estonia wouldn't do such efforts to distantiate themselves from it.
It's an interesting discussion that I also have often with my Estonian girlfriend. :)

Giustino ütles ...

So there you have it. Latvia and Lithuania effectively ARE the only countries we need to be better of

On the economic front, sure. But not on many other fronts. The Nordic countries are pretty regularly used in the news media as an example of normalcy, against which Estonian abnormalcy is measured. In things like gender equality or cancer rates, then Nordic statistics are factored in.

I (and many other people I think) associate Nordic countries with a well developed welfare state, government interference in the economy, in short: social-democracy.

The Nordic Council was founded in the 1950s, and it reached its apogee in the early 1970s in terms of being an innovative regional organization. Most of what people know about the "Nordic countries" is basically 1970s PR.

One can say the same thing about Estonia now. Estonia, that Baltic tiger with the ubiquitous IT connection and rapid economic growth ... uh huh. That Estonia bit the dust at least a year ago. But the PR is still out there because ... it's PR.

Take another look at the Nordic countries, especially focusing your eye on the burned out basket case called Iceland. Like Estonia, also small, also in economic peril, and also (until recently in Iceland's case) run by a liberal government.

People who still cherish the "Nordic ideal" might not want to count Iceland as a Nordic state anymore, or just ignore it all together.

I understand that Estonia is not economically developed enough to support such a welfare state, but it also doesn't seem to be what they want.

The modern Nordic welfare state was built on the success of Social Democratic governments in the 1930s through 1970s. Estonia's social democratic movement was stopped dead in 1940. Some leaders were exiled, other were killed, and others found positions in the ESSR government, though most were purged in 1950.

But all of these countries have responded to the until recently in favor policies of liberalism. They just had different starting points. But Iceland had a liberal government, Denmark still has one, Sweden has one. Even in Finland the social democrats are not running the show. We can talk about social democracy, but we should also remember the question in the Nordic countries has been, at least not until recently, not "How do we create more benefits?" but "How can we become more competitive?"

Socio-economically Estonia fits much better with the other european ex-communist countries. They even inspired most of those countries to introduce a flat tax.

Estonia is a country. The physical, historical, national entity of Estonia did not introduce a flat tax. Some Estonian politicians introduced a flat tax. Other Estonian politicians at some point might repeal it. Remember what I said about PR. Just as most of us have come to understand the Nordic countries from their 1970s-era PR, we have come to know Estonia from its circa 2001 PR. But the world has changed around us, even while the old PR is recirculated.

chang ütles ...

Thanks for the helpful information. Hope to hear more from you.
add your website in

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, it's certainly true that social democracy is not marching forward in any of the Nordic countries, and hasn't been for quite a time. But neither has there been any really significant movement away from the (still madly popular) welfare state either. We'll see what will happen with the current conservative government in Sweden, they might herald a sort of a breakthrough towards a more liberal direction. I would say the question has been for almost two decades now "How can we keep the essential welfare structures in an increasingly globalized and liberalized world economy?"

Tymen Ferron ütles ...

Mentioning social-democracy I wasn't referring to the fact that social democratic parties necessarily are in charge. I mean that it's some kind of blue print for how society is organised.
I do not have the impression that in western european and scandinavian countries where liberal and/or conservative parties are in charge really revolutionary changes are made. They stick to the welfare state, but add their own more liberal measures. I am from Belgium and here the liberal party does not have the intention of abolishing the core of our well developed social security system.

Giustino ütles ...

According to one of my brilliant professors, Estonia's relationship to the Nordic countries is similar to Iceland's, in that it is connected by culture and history, but is not representative of the Scandinavian model (to which you refer). In other words, it's an outlier. What is interesting to me, is the responsibility the Scandinavian countries have taken not only for Iceland in the financial crisis, but also for Estonia and the Baltic countries. The Scandinavian countries were also the strongest supporters of Baltic EU accession, and I bet they are pro accession for Iceland. They seem to have some kind of regional strategy.

Tymen Ferron ütles ...

What is interesting to me, is the responsibility the Scandinavian countries have taken not only for Iceland in the financial crisis, but also for Estonia and the Baltic countries. The Scandinavian countries were also the strongest supporters of Baltic EU accession, and I bet they are pro accession for Iceland.

Interesting that you refer to support for the Baltic countries.
So no division here between Estonia as a Nordic country and Latvia as something else, as the Scandiniavian countries also show a big interest in Latvia and Lithuania?

Giustino ütles ...

Tymen,

I think the main reason for any confusion stems from this. To most people "Nordic" refers to the member states of the Nordic Council. It's like NATO. You're either in it or you are not.

But the word "Nordic" itself is older than the Nordic Council, which was founded in the 1950s. When some Estonians use the term, they refer to the older definition, which, from what I can tell, came into use around 1900. This definition refers to northern European culture attributes and having a certain physical body type. Estonians have every right to use that word to describe their country.

Brüno ütles ...

You were talking about Estonians infatuation with garlic. Here's how Estonians react to H1N1 pandemonium. http://www.jt.ee/?id=187762

Price of garlic has doubled as a result.

Should have bought garlic stock earlier this year.

Tymen Ferron ütles ...

Tymen,

I think the main reason for any confusion stems from this. To most people "Nordic" refers to the member states of the Nordic Council. It's like NATO. You're either in it or you are not.

But the word "Nordic" itself is older than the Nordic Council, which was founded in the 1950s. When some Estonians use the term, they refer to the older definition, which, from what I can tell, came into use around 1900. This definition refers to northern European culture attributes and having a certain physical body type. Estonians have every right to use that word to describe their country.


I do not deny them that right. My question is why certain Estonians are always so annoyed when people keep referring to them als Baltic or post-communist or eastern-european. I think this has got mainly to do with the negative connotations of these last terms. I am also convinced of this because they do not only affirm 'we are Nordic' but they also like to stress their (economical differences) with Latvia and Lithuania. So they hope to enjoy also some of the prestige (caused by their highly developed economies) of what people commonly refer to as the Nordic countries, it's not just about affirming their culture.
Yes, they maybe Nordic but because of their past they also share enough things with Latvia and Lithuania and the other post-communist countries.
Why cannot they just be both?

Brüno ütles ...

to Tymen (Russian industrial city?)

This is known as a "inferiority superiority complex".

karLos ütles ...

yes, post communist and eastern european - you've answered these yourself - negative connotations.

baltic is just a bit of a bullshit term applied mostly by people who want to gloss over estonia, latvia and lithuania. by this i mean, it's a lazy term applied by those who are probably used to referring to larger geographic areas. in practice, the three countries don't really have that much in common culturally or linguistically, and i think don't "like" the term because each would rather be recognized individually for what they have to offer. i think estonia in particular doesn't like it because economically they don't want to be grouped with poorer countries because they're afraid it'll negatively effect estonia's economic credentials.

Giustino ütles ...

Why cannot they just be both?

Estonia is two faced. When it comes to the European Union, it's ardently Nordic. When it comes to NATO, though, it's ardently Baltic. The key regional players in the EU have been Sweden and Finland. Finland, which is a Eurozone country, has been a role model. But the key regional player in terms on NATO is Poland.

There is a tug of war in these two policy directions. Look at Nord Stream. The Estonians took the side of the Poles and Lithuanians, but the Finns, Swedes, and Danes went another way.

Fred-Erik ütles ...

Your blog is really nice and Imma let you finish but your book Minu Eesti is one of the best in the world, IN THE WORLD.

Ok, I might have overreacted a bit but I do love your book and had many great laughs reading it. Can't wait for part II. Keep on writing, Estonia needs you! :)

Tymen Ferron ütles ...

i think estonia in particular doesn't like it because economically they don't want to be grouped with poorer countries because they're afraid it'll negatively effect estonia's economic credentials.

Well, when reasoning like this Finland certainly wouldn't like to be lumped together with Estonia. The economical difference between Finland and Estonia is much bigger than the difference between Estonia and Latvia. :)

Estonia is two faced. When it comes to the European Union, it's ardently Nordic. When it comes to NATO, though, it's ardently Baltic. The key regional players in the EU have been Sweden and Finland. Finland, which is a Eurozone country, has been a role model. But the key regional player in terms on NATO is Poland.

There is a tug of war in these two policy directions. Look at Nord Stream. The Estonians took the side of the Poles and Lithuanians, but the Finns, Swedes, and Danes went another way.


It's about more than geopolitics. In a lot of issues Estonia has more in common with its post communist brethern than with other Nordic countries. There is first of all the economy. Then there are the cultural consequences of living almost 50 years under communist rule, this certainly influences the way people think.
This doesn't mean that they aren't Nordic, it just means that they are not so different from their southern neighbours as some Estonians would like us to believe.

karLos ütles ...

Well, when reasoning like this Finland certainly wouldn't like to be lumped together with Estonia. The economical difference between Finland and Estonia is much bigger than the difference between Estonia and Latvia. :)

i don't think Finland is too bothered by this, after all estonia is still developing. besides, this is a blog about estonia, and perhaps estonia's aspirations-not Finland's.

It's about more than geopolitics. In a lot of issues Estonia has more in common with its post communist brethern than with other Nordic countries. There is first of all the economy. Then there are the cultural consequences of living almost 50 years under communist rule, this certainly influences the way people think.
This doesn't mean that they aren't Nordic, it just means that they are not so different from their southern neighbours as some Estonians would like us to believe.


most "post-communist" countries have done everything or are doing everything in their power to wipe the effects of communism from their cultures and lands. In another 50 years i doubt there'll be much left except the occasional ugly apartment building, and let's face it - western europe has it's fair share of those. most of the cultural hangovers will disappear with generational change.

i think a lot of us look over the fences to our neighbours new car and hope some day to aspire to that. estonia is free these days to choose which fence they look over, and considering the state of affairs in neighbours to the east and south can you blame them for looking north and west?

Tymen Ferron ütles ...

i don't think Finland is too bothered by this, after all estonia is still developing. besides, this is a blog about estonia, and perhaps estonia's aspirations-not Finland's.

I didn't want to say that the Finnish in reality are bothered by this. I was just following the logic of Estonians who don't want Estonia to be associated with Latvia because Latvia is poorer.

Tymen Ferron ütles ...

most "post-communist" countries have done everything or are doing everything in their power to wipe the effects of communism from their cultures and lands.

Wiping out all traces, anti-socialism, ultra liberal economies: a good example of the effect of 50 years of communism.

Lingüista ütles ...

Tyman, I think that the links between Estonia and Latvia are particularly strong because their shared history goes way beyond the USSR, unlike other ex-Soviet republics.

But the connection to Latvia is to Estonians a connection to the past. Inasmuch as the past is still important (the 'Russian Threat' and NATO as a shield), Estonia will behave as a Baltic (or ex-Sovietic) country. Inasmuch as it is not, it still reminds Estonians of a past that they are not really so proud of.

Whereas the Nordic countries and Europe remind them of a future they can have -- a future that was lost in 1940, and which is now felt as again accessible.

There is, of course, also the economy. It is probable that Latvia would feel the same way if it had been economically more successful than Estonia. The Latvians would then behave with respect to the Estonians just as the Estonians behave with respect to the Latvians. But since in Latvia now the present looks very grim, the pattern is different.

Meelis ütles ...

"older definition, which, from what I can tell, came into use around 1900"
Terms "Norden" and "nordisk" were used much-much earlier than 1900.

tartuense ütles ...

Thanks Doris for the post. Loved that joke! (Many words and names in Latvian end in s)

I very much like the Protestant work ethic and good roads (would like to see some more of those - especially the manholes being moved away from their curent locations exactly under the track of cars :) ), and the strive of Estonians for improving themselves and their (our) country. That's why I live here and like to live here, in addition to being married to an Estonian.

I haven't eaten in Belgium, but I hear that the food is very good there and if you compare the (Catholic) food of Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Hungary to that of the Netherlands, England, Denmark, then I think you will agree we have a winner for the former in some other fields than roads.

I say enjoy the most of any world or culture and people you encounter.

In that sense Estonia is wise to present itself as Nordic when need be, or as liberal and fast transforming when it is required. It only shows that they are better at using what they have at their disposition. I have faith in Estonia because it has a strong cultural sense of being, not nationalism, but yes cultural sense. Genetically speaking they are similar to Finns, a little bit to Latvians and Poles and Russians. But what makes Estonians Estonians is their core set of beliefs and customs. And their sense of community. Sometimes that means enfatically showing off their achievements (Kanter, Smigun and Veerpalu are fantastic, and even acceding to the eurozone in a time of global recession aggravated by a local post-boom crash), even if they should probably not be proud of others (sorry but winning over Equatorial Guinea in a football friendly is a non-achievement, less inflation than Zimbabwe during the boom years also a non-achievement).

So I do agree with Justin, Estonia is the only post-communist Nordic country.

Evil Purc ütles ...

I overheard a conversation of two judges at the courthouse today. One of them said that your book was written in such fine style that she doesn't want to read too much at once so she could savor the experience. I guess you can be smug like an Estonian now. :D

Justin ütles ...

Wow Giustino, have you been hanging out on BBN a lot lately? Seems like your views have slightly shifted in favor of the "smug Estonian" theory. Just an observation.

So Ansip & Co. think that the Euro is the savior for all problems. He spoke at a business lunch a few months ago, and his presentation was so pitiful we didn't even bother to ask questions. He pointed out things like how Estonia has low debt (but gee, isn't Estonia required by law to have a balanced budget?), while failing to mention that the cuts to achieve the Euro are resulting in spiraling unemployment (just hit over 100k last week).

The thing they could never really articulate is how joining the Euro will result in a huge flow of FDI. They (here's the smug thing) act as if foreign investors are all waiting in the wings and joining the Euro will result in a huge rush of them into Estonia. While the Euro adds some stability, it doesn't solve the overall issue -- worker productivity in Estonia is low, and no efforts are being made to improve it. Besides, most capital investments are already transacted in Euros anyway (purchase and loans), so the Euro thing makes no difference.

Ansip has even changed his tune in the last few years regarding labor. He used to say Estonia was not a low-cost labor country (I agree on this -- focus on high value-add so you don't end up in a race to the bottom), but more recently talks about how Estonian labor is cheaper than in Sweden and Finland and so on. Well it's one or the other -- make up your mind.

Can they pull it off? Well it's going to be close with the 3% debt-to-GDP, especially since it's a moving target (GDP is not much in the government's control), but it's certainly possible. But even if I do, I doubt this will turn the economy around until they address the greater problems: worker productivity and a declining working-age population.

Tymen Ferron ütles ...

Eurostat predicts that Estonia will have the highest growth rate in the European Union in 2011:

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&plugin=1&language=en&pcode=tsieb020

So the economic policy of the Estonian government doesn't seem to be so bad?

Wv Sky ütles ...

My people were entirely Nordic, which is to say idiots.

I thought you were Italian! :)

Brüno ütles ...

Fine dining de la Russo ...

http://www.russiatoday.com/Top_News/2009-11-13/tramps-sell-body-kebab.html

Giustino ütles ...

"older definition, which, from what I can tell, came into use around 1900"
Terms "Norden" and "nordisk" were used much-much earlier than 1900.


The three dictionaries I consulted cited 1898, 1900, and 1895-1900 as origin dates. I am sure the word itself has an etymology that stretches back centuries.

Wow Giustino, have you been hanging out on BBN a lot lately? Seems like your views have slightly shifted in favor of the "smug Estonian" theory. Just an observation.

I can only stand BBN in small doses. The readers there are even more smug than the Estonians. They expect the Estonians to cater to their every need and in English.

The smug reference is to an article in The Economist.

I thought you were Italian! :)

It's a quote from Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller.

Martasmimi ütles ...

I thought you were Italian! :)

If your surname was your middle name Carroll, would you feel less Italian?
I wonder, I always felt 50/50 most of my life even though my 100% Irish mother always aspired to be Italian. Yet they're somethings about me are just undeniable Italian.
When I was in Italy ..I felt "home". The women acted and spoke much like me. No need to explain anything about myself there.
I want to go to Ireland to see if I feel the same way.
I wonder what your impressions will be this time of Italia.

Justin ütles ...

Eurostat predicts that Estonia will have the highest growth rate in the European Union in 2011

Though the ability to forecast 2 years ahead is questionable anyway (I wonder if they assume Euro accession or not), Estonia had the third largest drop in GDP growth in 2009. So it's easy to have larger growth after a big drop -- it doesn't mean you're better off than countries which had a lower (or no) drop in 2009.

Rainer ütles ...

Well, Giustino, how does it feel to be a best-selling author, and perhaps the best-loved American in Estonia? :)

http://www.apollo.ee/countdown.php/1,2009,46,1

Giustino ütles ...

This is how it feels.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Giustino ütles...
This is how it feels.

So funny Justin!

Lingüista ütles ...

Very funny, Justin!

Do you want to add "Eesti lemmikameeriklane" to your business card? :-)

Rainer ütles ...

Hmmm... Replace Austin with Giustino and Mrs Kensington with a buxom blonde teller girl from Hansapank... now that's hilarious :D

karLos ütles ...

Guistino - on an unrelated note, can you post some online places were I can purchase a copy of your book? i have searched and haven't been able to find anywhere

Lingüista ütles ...

karLos, you can try here (that's how I got it):

http://www.raamatukoi.ee/cgi-bin/index?valik=otsing&paring=Minu+Eesti&otsi.x=0&otsi.y=0

iida ütles ...

Why go to sauna in summer?
Because it's healthy. It gives you the feeling of being really good to yourself, to your skin.

Kristopher ütles ...

What could be better than a smoke sauna on a cool summer night? Sorry if some has made the point already...84 comments is a tall order.