According to Barbi Pilvre, the chronically dysfunctional state of the Estonian Victory Monument -- which has been in various states of illumination and repair since its grand opening in June -- is the failure of the year 2009. I agree.
But there have been other failures. Having more than 100,000 unemployed people in a country of 1,340,000 people is a failure, for one. Then there was the horror of watching both Sweden and Finland succumb to the overtures of the German-Russian Nord Stream project, a geopolitical energy deal that sends shivers up the backs of all on the east coast of the Baltic Sea. And Obama didn't even visit Tallinn. Failures, failures, failures all. Line them up. Watch them fall into the sea.
Ouch, Nord Stream. That one really cut. It hurt to see two larger adjacent countries fold in the face Saxon-Slavic pressure, to admit that even with 9 million people and a coastline to rival India's, Sweden is still, in the context of northern European geopolitics, about as intimidating as a lobster. Their security environment and Estonia's are not so different. If Russia really is to buy that Mistral warship from the French -- capable of transporting and deploying up to 16 helicopters, 13 battle tanks and 450 troops -- then surely, they could anchor that sucker off of Gamla Stan or Suomenlinna and bring down hell and fury there, too. But the Swedes and the Finns do not object. Such scenarios are regarded as outlandish. Why?
It appears there is not so much a difference in actual threat, but a difference in threat perception. One central difference between the foreign policies of the Swedes and the Finns and the Estonians, is that the Russian state lacks overt political objectives in the prior two countries. The Russians do not provide the Swedish ambassador with a list of demands to improve relations, as they did in 2002 to the then Estonian ambassador to Moscow. Russia has demands for Estonia, any tango over the laying of pipe in its waters would lead to more avenues for the Slavic octopus to slide its tentacles up the trousers of Estonia's decision makers and play this country like a puppet show. "Hi, I am your prime minister," the Russian Octopus would throw its voice holding up the doll-like Estonian PM. "We've now decided to give the Russians a more privileged interest in our land, because if there's one thing the Russians love, it's having a privileged interest."
No, no, no. Nasty, slimy, grotesque, icky. No. Keep your clothes on. Keep the Russians out and the boys from NATO in, at all costs, even if it means a stronger commitment to the war no one can ever win, Afghanistan. Anglo-led divisions have been in and out of there since the 1830s and yet, the tribal rivalries, the cumbersome terrain, it still feels brand new. And now there are Estonians there, again. To borrow a line from the esteemed Scottish-born poet Byrne: "And you might find yourself living in a shotgun shack/ And you might find yourself in another part of the world/ And you might find yourself being a 20 year-old from a small northern European country patrolling the steppes of Helmand province." And he always finds himself marching in the same direction.
But enough about failures. Who needs failures? Why dwell on failures when everyone knows that failure is just another word for success? Barbi Pilvre may say the monument is a failure for being mired in a state of perpetual renovation. Others might say it's a success for even having been built at all. Even if it was lit up for only a few minutes, what wondrous, successful minutes those were. Sure the economy is still down, but we might get the euro next year, even though we were supposed to get it years ago. The country might have taken a few punches thanks to the financial crisis, but it hasn't burned up in the same decadent, spectacular burst of mismanagement that characterized the Icelandic or Latvian crises. That's success, not failure. The ship of state is in good hands. Estonia is a success story.
Who to salute? Prime Minister Andrus Ansip. According to Ansip, the Reform Party [his party -- Ed.] has welded today's sleek, slick 2009 model Estonia from the corroded junk metal of Soviet socialism. You don't have to wait in line for hours anymore to obtain matches to start the wood furnaces in your homes: there are boxes and boxes of matches at the local Selver or Säästumarket or Comarket or Rimi. That's progress. That's why the Reform Party was and continues to be the most popular party in Estonia according to all polls. Even when they went down in municipal elections, the polls still showed them on top. They've got the upper hand. Great success.
But what do I know, anyway? I could just be making all of this stuff up. But if I am capable of making up the past, and capable of distorting the present, then I might as well predict the future as well. Estonia, I think you are in for a long, boring year. Political life will ossify. The glögi at the local Selver will taste the same as it did in the first decade of the 21st century. Cultural life will ferment with a hint of artsy superficiality and a pinch of dastardly behind-the-scenes badmouthing. And as for getting by, existential politics, well, mu kallis Eesti, we have been getting by, little by little, by and by, for decades. Like the Estonian foot soldier in the central Asian mountains, we know we can march in but one direction.
Piparkoogi mees ja naine courtesy of Nami-Nami, a food blog.