teisipäev, oktoober 19, 2010

the next prime minister (after the next one)

The Estonian Social Democratic Party (Sotsiaaldemokraatlik Erakond) selected a new leader last week. Sven Mikser, 36, a former defense minister, has now pledged to lead his party to victory and take his rightful place as prime minister in Stenbock House. In 2015.

Mikser's political pedigree is a bit like SDE's itself. For the first half of his public life, he belonged to Edgar Savisaar's Centre Party (Eesti Keskerakond). Then, in 2005, he left the "green monster" for SDE, where he quickly became one of the party's top candidates.

Several SDE leaders have a similar background. Both Centre and SDE emerged from the Estonian Popular Front in the early nineties, but SDE has been more able to form a coalition with right-wing parties, most recently one in 2007 which lasted until the party was expelled from the government in 2009. The main obstacle to reconciliation between the more politically similar Centre and SDE has been the leadership style of Centre's Savisaar. Following the municipal elections last year, former SDE leader Jüri Pihl led the party into a coalition with Centre in Tallinn.

Pihl stood again for the party leadership last week but was ousted by those supporting Mikser. It is now his unenviable duty to return the party to its ideological roots, steering it away from its negative image as a "poodle" for the conservative and liberal parties, while dealing with the 800-pound gorilla of Savisaar's Centre Party.

The Estonian electorate tends to favor the conservative and liberal parties in parliamentary elections. One reason for this is that they have mostly been in power since 1991. That gives them the advantage of experience and the ability to take credit for everything Estonia has achieved. But with high unemployment, Estonians are also edgier than they were during the boom years. And with most of Europe still climbing out of recession, the ability to just head to the UK for work isn't there anymore.

The appearance of a candidate like Mikser who has the experience of conservative or liberal politician but who speaks to their economic interests might convince voters who have traditionally voted Reform or Isamaa to choose SDE, and it might sway some younger Centre voters to ditch their candidate for someone fresher.

But it is an uphill battle. Most Estonian voters I have encountered are pretty uninformed when it comes to left-wing politics. They refer to social democrats as "socialists," which, in their mind, might as well be communists or anarcho-syndicalists. This is why SDE's website has for months, if not years, been playing a clip that lists Tony Blair, Tarja Halonen, and Olof Palme (not Daniel Ortega, Fidel Castro, and Lê Duẩn) as social democrats.

Will Mikser realize his goal of becoming prime minister in 2015? It could happen. On one hand, he lacks the experience of the Ansips and Laars and Savisaars and Pihls of Estonian politics, but, on the other hand, he doesn't have their baggage either. He also happens to have an impressive command of the English language.

89 kommentaari:

plasma-jack ütles ...

He would definitely make a great foreign minister. As PM, I dunno... But then again, he couldn't be much worse than Ansip.

moevenort ütles ...

"This is why SDE's website has for months, if not years, been playing a clip that lists Tony Blair, Tarja Halonen, and Olof Palme"

who seriously calls Tony Blair a Social Democrat is no Social Democrat anymore. Tony Blair was one of the gravedigger of the Social Democrats in Europe, responsible for the crisis of legitimation Social Democrats are faced on the continent. He stands for lobbyism, corruption and the arrogance of power. ergo: if the Estonian Social Democrats have friends like Tony Blair, they don´t need enemies anymore.

Temesta ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Temesta ütles ...

"Most Estonian voters I have encountered are pretty uninformed when it comes to left-wing politics. They refer to social democrats as "socialists," which, in their mind, might as well be communists or anarcho-syndicalists."

This aversion for social democracy has puzzled me since I got to know Estonia and its people. All the more because Estonia has strong ties with Sweden and many Estonians also seem to admire the Swedish standard of living (my experience), while Sweden is/was the poster boy of European Social Democracy (I know that recently the centre-right is stronger but the core of the organisation of Swedish society stays social democratic, as pointed out in a recent article in The Economist). I would expect social democracy also to have a bit more positive image.
It is obvious that Estonia's Soviet past has got something to do with it, but social democratic parties managed to be very succesfull in other post-communist countries: SLD in Poland, MSZP in Hungary, ČSSD in the Czech republic,... .

Miacek ütles ...

@Temesta: I suspect the economic right's very succesful PR is responsible for this. Their media outlets repeat what an awful creature the Centre Party is (i.e. the main leftist force), by skillfully playing on the average Estonians' aversion towards everything connected with Russia/Russianness/Communism etc.

The Social Democrats - until recently timidly named 'People's Party Moderates' on the other hand have somewhat discredited themselves and the social democratic idea by allying themselves with the right, not managing to put any social democratic ideas into practice.

All in all, the right have portrayed themselves as having no real alternative, which obviously isn't correct but then again, the voters aren't always rational creatures either.

jalkameister ütles ...

Horrible examples, Tony Blair? Tarja Halonen? what next, Gerhard Schröder? The People's Front? They are not very inspiring names. People would rightly run a mile from being associated to them. They should better present themselves as something different, not an appeasing, sleaze and corruption friendly party. If anything, the poodle image has come from them getting into a laughable coalition with the Centre Party in Tallinn, where they have played second fiddle to Savisaar.
I agree that choosing the young Mikser for the job of leader hopes to reinvent them. Hopefully he will also be able to influence the older and heavy names in the party who talk really nice (Lauristin, Nestor), but don't put their words into action. The devil is in the details of policy and how it is carried out, not in a party's name, nor its faces. I wouldn't support Reform, but there needs to be a credible alternative from the Sotsid. Pandering to Savisaar is not the way forward for them, nor for Estonia.
Indeed, throughout Europe the left is struggling to outvote conservative and right wing governments. However, the deplorable state of the economy and lack of (good paying) jobs and decreasing wages and increasing prices will certainly present some opportunities to vote the incumbents out. Either that, or witness Hungary, where right wing parties have become very populist and are even slapping taxes onto the rich transnational corporations. Coming to thing of it, it's probably not a bad idea. Since mostly the large corporations of West Europe benefit from the state of the EU market, and they do not want to share the riches, then they should be taxed more.

jalkameister ütles ...

But yeah, Estonian politics needs new people and a generational change. I hope the best for him and hope they bring good things into the discussion and into the riigikogu, where the actual powers lie. Too many back room dealings among MPs, I say.

Joshua ütles ...

"if the Estonian Social Democrats have friends like Tony Blair, they don´t need enemies anymore."

Estonian Social Democrats have no friends. It's PR tactic to actually make the average estonian voter think: "Hey, they really might not be evil communists!"

You know, Giustino explained the situation quite nicely. The average estonian voter hears social democrats and immediately thinks of Stalin, Mao and Castro.

Their mental image is obviously wrong on so many levels.../begin side-rant/

One of my problems has for a long time been that the modern Estonia does not really have any connection with Estonian history pre-dating WWII. The modern historical model is the mythical kingdom of King Arthur, which is the first Estonian Republic; The Dark Ages, where superstition and irrationality reigned and people died from plague and hunger, which is the Soviet Union years; and Rennaisance, in where we try to restore the great artistic glory of the antique the way we imagine it to be.

This example would have made more sense if I had used the Roman Empire instead of mythical kingdom of King Arthur, but.. oh well. Anyway.

What existed before the mythical pre-fall of man state is pretty much ignored. And that's a real shame.

Because social democrats were really fucking IN in the early 20th century Estonia. And they also fucking rocked. 1919 Land Reform, most beautiful political action done in Estonia ever. Initated by a few brave social democrats with guns.* Taking the land from the rich elitist snobs and giving it back to the people. Truly beautiful. My personal favorite moment in estonian history.

*wipes the lonely manly tear descending from his eye*

But no one remembers that. It's all Marx and Stalin for the average estonian voter now.
/End side- rant/

...but it's what local social democrats have to deal with nonetheless. I'm not sure the average estonian voter would know the complex relationship of British social classes, the intricate history of Labour Movement and Tony Blair in-between it all. They'll just think "Tony Blair... I've heard that name in a positive context somewhere. Hey, I guess they might not eat babies after all!"

*I'm romanticizing of course. It was a really interesting debate within the Asutav Kogu with social democrats and socialist-leaning parties on one side and landowners** and the church on the other side, and guns were involved only so much that what they had to do what passed for estonian government those days (considering it was a war, probably a lot).

**It was the new social class of estonians that was born in the late 19th century. Estonians were divided between two classes - sulased-popsikud and landowners. The ratio was about 60% of popsik's and 40% of landowners amongst estonians. Can see the relationship fof these two classes in Tammsaare. And whenever Kivikas's Murrang isn't a crappy romance novel, it does even better job at portraying this chasm (because Tammsaare focuses on other things). And those 60% of estonians thought that communism is a pretty damn good idea. Probably the reason why Asutav Kogu got to do it's Land Reform, so to win them all over to the idea Estonian Republic.

But you know, it's all Marx and Stalin these days for the estonian voter. There was once a mythical kingdom governed by the wise King Arthur and everyone was happy, but then Marx wrote his maniphesto and the world was ruined forever.

Giustino ütles ...

Can anyone think of some *good* social democrats people might have heard of? Olof Palme is an intriguing choice. I would like to see an Estonian Olof Palme with my own eyes.

Indeed, throughout Europe the left is struggling to outvote conservative and right wing governments.

They are mired in selling new programs and the leadership is typically divorced from the traditional working class roots of the party. When I look at the social democrats in other countries, I probably wouldn't vote for most of them either.

These parties also have to defend immigration policies that no one believes in anymore. I would like to see SDE wade into the minority debate here in Estonia and construct some kind of "New Deal."That would suck all the wind out of Savisaar's sails.

moevenort ütles ...

@ Giustino:

How many immigrants are living in Estonia? during the time I have been there, Estonia looked more like a "clean" ethnic country. and to be honest, it scared me.I saw skinhead with SS T-shits. But apart from some tourists I saw no foreigners. it looked rather boring, when you see it from the eyes of someone coming from a town like Berlin with all its cultural diversity. Because it is the diversity which makes a town like Berlin so interesting. But in Estonia as I heart the police even closed the small number of turkish fast food points, because the might good be "terrorists". unbelievable. neo-nazis in Germany call areas without foreigners " national liberated zones" ( it´s not a nice word). In that sense one could call Estonia a huge "national liberated zone"? Estonians will never learn to live with foreigners if there are none. and so they will stay a country cut of from cultural enrichment. I would call it "xenofobia without foreigners". it´s nothing nice to see.

moevenort ütles ...

@ Giustino:

well, it´s a least intersting to see how the french social democrats try to move back to their roots and gain ground among their voters again. I mean, at least they try.

you could also take Oskar Lafontaine in Germany. I did not give my vote for hime, butg I acknowledge that he is a truly social democrat who never betrayed social democratic values. He warned from the financial crisis and what deregulation policy can cost 10 years ago already. As a result, british tabloid the Sun, called hhim the most dangerous man in Europe for neo-classic ideology.

And he has done one good job for the quality of democracy at least: he was very succesful in bringing a lot of poor and unemployed people back to the votes who had given up participation in the democracy before.

How is it in Estonia? how high is the voters turn out there? How many people from low income groups are passive and frustrated and don´t go to elections anymore? And how high is the real support for people like Ansip when strong social segments of the population don´t participate in elections at all? because they got the feeling that no one cares for them at all. as long it is like this, Estonia is an elite- democracy with strong social exclusion mechanism. nothing more.

Giustino ütles ...

How many immigrants are living in Estonia?

A very good question. According to the 2000 census, some 252,266 people were present in Estonia who were born outside of the Estonian Republic (or the Estonian SSR - the data goes back to 1939). Between 1950 and 1988, close to 180,000 people moved to Estonia. Between 1989 and 2000, about 10,000 people moved to Estonia.

during the time I have been there, Estonia looked more like a "clean" ethnic country. and to be honest, it scared me.I saw skinhead with SS T-shits.

I saw the same things in Berlin, with the same reaction.

But apart from some tourists I saw no foreigners.

You weren't here long enough to meet the local Pakistanis and Indians and Chinese. It isn't as diverse as Berlin or Stockholm, but there are foreigners in every town.

moevenort ütles ...

@ Guistino: with foreigners I meant people apart from those who came out of the former soviet Union. Most of the Russian people in Estonia are no foreigners, they are born there like Estonian people, they have the same rights to live there now. regardless whatever happened in History. you can not blame a Russian child who is born in Estonia for whatever happened in the past. I don`t see them as foreigners, among them I also have spoken with some of the most intelligent people I have met in Estonia.

moevenort ütles ...

@ Guistino: it´s not only the xenophobia, it´s also the prejudices against minorities. I`ll give you an example:

In the internet, German gay people openly discuss to which countries it is dangerous to travel. Estonia is one of the countries mentioned there. In an online community on the VZ network (Germanies biggest so called social network, comparable with orkut in Estonia) e.g., recently someone asked if it would be dangerous for her to take her partner to Estonia while she has to work there for some weeks. She was asking other users for experience and if Estonia is a hompophobic country. the answers she got was "yes, it is not only a homophobic but also a racist atmosphere there. One other user mentioned the case of the former ambassador of the Netherlands, Hans Glaubitz, who was so pissed of this atmosphere that he resigned from his job. His partner was from Cuba and was constantly faced with homophobic and racist remarks.

On German websites also circle videos from right winged -anti gay protests in Tallinn. for example this video here:


moevenort ütles ...

ps: on this video, it´s especially interesting to see how these groups abuse children for their goals.

Meelis ütles ...

"On German websites also circle videos from right winged -anti gay protests in Tallinn"
These protesters are Russians

moevenort ütles ...

do you seperate between Estonians and Russians in Estonia? they are both cittizens in Estonia. btw: you probably know that there is exactly the same amount of prejudices among Estonians as well. In that sense both, Estonians and Russians behave very similar.

Meelis ütles ...

"Most of the Russian people in Estonia are no foreigners, they are born there like Estonian people"
Many of them are not born in Estonia. Even according population census of year 2000 there were 252266 persons in Estonia, who were born in foreign countries (190599 in Russia, 25185 in Ukraine, 14883 in Belarus etc.)

moevenort ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
moevenort ütles ...

as I mentioned, Oskar Lafontaine as an example of a social democrat who remained a social democrat here some information:


and an interview just to make clear the difference to SDE positions:


Giustino ütles ...

@ Guistino: with foreigners I meant people apart from those who came out of the former soviet Union.

But they are foreigners, or at least immigrants, if they were born abroad or in one of the other 15 republics of the USSR. If they were not, then a person who arrived to Estonia from Moscow on August 19, 1991, would be "indigenous" and a person who arrived on August 20, 1991 from Moscow would be a "foreigner." And if a new state would be declared tomorrow, then I - a person born in New York - would become "indigenous." Would you really believe that?

Most of the Russian people in Estonia are no foreigners, they are born there like Estonian people, they have the same rights to live there now.

I am not sure what the split is anymore. That data is from 2000, the last time they asked people about their place of birth. I would assume that more than half of EstoRussians are native born, which would make them not foreigners, but would make them, in most cases, the children or grandchildren of immigrants. There is of course an indigenous Russian community that's been here for hundreds of years. They are not foreigners.

regardless whatever happened in History.

It's not really history if people can remember it. We have family friends who are Ukrainians. They arrived here in the seventies, but they have completely Estonianized. I mean, they speak Estonian to their kids. But they were born in the Ukrainian SSR, and they identify as Ukrainians. When you see that 2 percent of the Estonian population is Ukrainian, think of them.

you can not blame a Russian child who is born in Estonia for whatever happened in the past.

Who is blaming anybody for anything? A child that is born and raised here is not a foreigner. A person who was born and raised in Kiev and then moved to Estonia when he was 40 years old is. He may have integrated into society by now, but such people exist in every society. There is nothing wrong with being an immigrant. It just means that your relationship with society is a little different from the majority's. You, as a left-leaning German citizen, should appreciate tht.

I don`t see them as foreigners, among them I also have spoken with some of the most intelligent people I have met in Estonia.

I don't see what's so controversial about the terms "foreigner" or "immigrant." Where I live there are Swedes and Germans and Ukrainians and Indians. Many speak Estonian and could fool you into thinking they are Estonians (ok, maybe not the Indian guy). Are we worth any less because we are foreigners? Are we any less intelligent? Do Russians who arrived here in 1990 really have more of "right" to be here than Americans who arrived in 1991? I would call anyone who believes so arrogant.

Mart ütles ...

I would like to add that most of those 180 000 people moving to Estonia between 1939 and 1989 could be classified as illegal immigrants, as defined by Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49 (a treaty that was actually ratified by Soviet Union). So there's that.

moevenort, for one that claims to know Estonia, you sure are missing a lot of facts.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Yeah, like what was that about the closing of Turkish fast-food joints? Never heard such news. There's relatively plenty of Turks selling their food in Tallinn's center nowadays, although decent kebab is still hard to find.

jalkameister ütles ...

I think the Russian issue is not such a great one as made to be. As Justin says, people who were born here while Estonia was independent or had Estonian parents in either period can claim citizenship, so what's the big deal? Immigrants, old or new like us who learn the language and pass a civics and language test can get citizenship too if we wanted to. People in Estonia who have a Russian background and speak Estonian don't complain. Check out Antyx's latest post in his blog.
People who have a "grey passport", or so-called "without citizenship" people are in that category just because they do not claim their Russian/Ukrainian/Belorussian citizenship and passport which is offered to them, and also don't want to claim Estonian citizenship. As if they were expecting the past to come back and they would recover their USSR citizenship. As if an East German decided not to apply for German citizenship but preferred to be without a citizenship until the DDR returns. Anyone would call that a bit ridiculous. As to the argument of: "Oh, I was living here in a country called USSR all my life and suddenly it's a different country and I didn't see that coming", that is very lame. They knew very well they were newcomers to the land, and that theirs' was an occupying regime in the sense that it wasn't "Russian lands reclaimed". I'm not talking about the old Believers, the traditional Russian people of the Peipsi lake shores who are indeed Estonians by their own right, speak Estonian and have a history going back to 17 hundred something and even receive support from the Estonian state for the preservation of their culture and hertitage:

The real problem in Estonian society, as I see it, is the problem of the pensioners. They are one of the largest demographic groups, and all of the political parties and politicians dance to their tune. Salaries have fallen for nearly everyone, except for pensioners and politicians (included the president). Theirs' have risen. No one can do anything against them. They are the true untouchables. There are maybe less than 2 people working for each of those retired and on state pensions. Add to that the exodus of able people of working age, low child-birth rates (even considering the latest child birthing boom, it is at 1.65 still below the 2.1 required for population maintenance), low immigration, low life expectancy for men, median age over 40. But pensioners rule.
At least in Tartu you do get to see foreigners, some students and faculty.

jalkameister ütles ...
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jalkameister ütles ...

OK, East Germans probably didn't need to apply for German citizenship (since they were Germans before and after the war), but you get my point.

Us newcomers post 2000 are a varied bunch. I saw that there were only around 130 registered Americans, a few Finns, other finno-ugric people, Jewish (which I think is a religion, not a nationality), some Poles and Lithuanians and Balts, a few Germans and Swedes, a pinch of French, Spanish, and Italian, some British and Irish peppered around, some Far-East people, probably only a handful from Canada and Latin America (myself included), and even fewer from Africa. When I registered in town I had to come back another day because my nationality was not one of the options in the menu, they had to create it.

Evil Purc ütles ...

I can't help lose the feeling that there is something way off in moevenort's posts. I mean I've heard of tunnel vision syndrome before, but this just takes the cake. The sheer amount of extremely dogmatic, one-sided, selective and completely unfounded claims is baffling. Psychologically interesting.

Evil Purc ütles ...

And I don't think there is anything wrong with the f-word either. There, I am going to say it now. moevenort, you are such a foreigner.

Lingüista ütles ...

No, what is even more interesting in Moevenort is how he keeps insisting on Estonia (I mean, why isn't he doing the same in, say, Ukrainian, Kazakh, Moldavian, or Georgian blogs?). I don't know what his beef with Estonia is, and how he misses the same problems (guys with Nazi t-shirts, close-minded locals, anti-foreigners, etc.) in his own country, where there are many more, and are historically more dangerous. It's as if he had had plans for Estonia -- it should have developed like this, or like that -- and somehow Estonia disappointed him by choosing some other path (but other countries don't, for some reason).

And I also don't get why Moevenort thinks of foreigners as bad people.
I mean, I am a foreigner in the Netherlands (an "allochtoon" as they call me, now that I have Dutch citizenship). I never thought that was "bad" in any sense, or implied that whenever I vote in Dutch elections my vote is any less legitimate. That Moevenort thinks this is the case for EstoRussian "allochtonen" is really strange, especially in view of his (alleged) left-leaning tendencies.

There's also a good dose of old Prussian Holier-Than-Thou, I-know-the-truth-and-you-all-shut-up feelings in his post. Kaiser Wilhelm would be proud.

jalkameister ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
jalkameister ütles ...

If moevenort was looking for racists and xenophobes, this really spooks anyone:


In Sweden, by the way, not in Estonia.

moevenort has called himself conservative, left-wing in the past, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I have nothing against the good parts of different religions, and use Linux every day myself (alongside Mac). What is funny is that he wishes to target Estonia specifically, while exaggerating some things that are quite worse in other places (He is not a Kremlinophile either). Hey, we all know things are not perfect here, but we're trying to deal with them and discuss them, and by some measures, the bad press do not reflect true conditions on the ground. I personally dislike discrimination based on anything, be that color, race, language, religion, sexuality, shampoo, music, etc., and cannot burst with laughter at racist jokes. I don't know, I just wasn't brought up that way.
I actually thought moevenort started out positively and was contributing nicely and politely in his first comment on the last blog about Germany. Then he responded angrily to other people's comments and went on the attack of Estonia again.
But we have to be excused for taking the point of view of the local country when you see Sarkozy (seems to have ADHD), Merkel and Medvedev deciding the future of everything and everyone in Europe for years. (The Russians want visa-free travel to the EU, Sarkozy bends over backwards to oblige, while screwing everyone else in the EU with the agricultural subsidies that cripple the EU budget) Even moevenort was against the German political establishment overextending itself from its own citizens' wishes. How do you think all the other countries in Europe feel when they see these 3 decide for the world?

plasma-jack ütles ...

in view of his (alleged) left-leaning tendencies.

*her, if I'm not very much wrong. Just a hunch.

Troels-Peter ütles ...

"Can anyone think of some *good* social democrats people might have heard of?"

Willy Brandt pops up in my mind.

moevenort ütles ...

yea, Willy Brandt is indeed in my mind as well. I guess many German people will agree that he was the best chancelor we ever had. Because he was the only idealist we had, not interested in power relations like all the others. and he was really trying to improve living conditions of ordinary people very succesfully. When you have a look at the english wikipedia page about Brandt, you will find a extraordinarylong and very accurate list of all the wonderfull things he has done during his time in office. When I compare this with todays social democrats ( not only in Germany) , light years are seperating them from such spirit of engagement like Brandt developed. For many German people he will always be the point of reference when we think about what is possible to achieve in real politics in this country. I am very proud on such an extraordinary figure like Brandt.

Karla ütles ...

Let's not forget Brandt's able assistant Günter Guillaume, whose involvement in Brandt's triumphs is chronicled in Michael Frayn's play 'Democracy'....

moevenort ütles ...

@ Karla: and? what this has to do with Brandt´s character or his achievements? nothing at all. so when write this, my suspicion is that you just don´t want to write any substantial but just keep alive your own prejudices. btw: the communist government of East Germany in this time had a real problem with him. Because his policy was so popular among East Germans as well.

example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8EoE7hynh4

moevenort ütles ...


something to smile:

a short election campaign movie by the German Social Democrats in 1972:


in this election, Social Democrats under Brandt reached the best results in German history, without spindoctoring, PR campaigns and all that shit people like Blair like so much.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

Good to see that we´re not allowing moevenort to take every topic back to skinheads.
I am confused by his mixing the vector of assimilation and integration of immigrant groups with the vector of tolerance for subcultures.
Estonia is proud of its record of cultural autonomy for not only the Peipsi Russian old-believers, but also the Swedes of Noarootsi and Vormi, inter-war Germans, Jews, as well as its own Setus. You have all probably noticed that there are some very dark-skinned Afro-Estonians who are offspring of Marine Academy students from Africa during the soviet era...
As far as tolerance for subcultures goes, we all know that there are prominent cultural figures who are out of the closet, also that gay clubs welcome a diverse clientele.
I don´t really see what´s the beef. For a society this small this is quite remarkable.

Justin ütles ...

I'm not sure why people are going back and forth about whether Russian-speaking residents are "immigrants" or not.

When I think of whether Estonia does well at assimilating immigrants, I don't think of Russian speakers but rather everyone else. When people refer to "that Indian guy" then you know there aren't many Indians in the country and so on.

This is all assuming immigrants want to come, and that the country will accept them, both within a legal framework (like visas are available), and culturally (is the society accepting of immigrants from other cultures).

There is indeed a lot of racism in Estonia, and Tartu has been home to many of these incidents. I certainly see a lot more skinhead and pro-Nazi types in Estonia than in the US. I think this mostly comes from ignorance -- it's easy to hate a group if you don't come into contact with anyone from that group. It's a lot harder to do so when your neighbor or friend is part of that group.

I've asked Paet (foreign minister) in the past about immigration, and he basically said it's a topic the people have not been ready to face. With the declining population in Estonia, the only solutions are a higher birth rate or immigration. If the people are opposed to immigration, then the country needs to rapidly shift to prepare for a smaller economy and fewer working people supporting a growing number of pensioners.

Troels-Peter ütles ...

By the way, Joshua, I find your analysis of Estonian history writing (the "golden age - dark age - rennaissance" narrative) quite interesting - and entertaining.

Surely, this narrative is supported by facts on the ground (I sometimes can't help feeling that some of the things linking Estonia to Scandinavia, like the Nordic-style political spectrum and the Swedish minority were sadly lost due to the occupation), but would you say it's also being exaggerated? It's difficult to judge from the distance.

Are there examples of (unfounded) glorification of interbellum Estonia? How is eg. a figure like Konstantin Päts generally viewed?

I'm quite interested in these questions.

Troels-Peter ütles ...

I meant "renaissance", of course.

Joshua ütles ...

I personally think that the connection to Scandinavia is greatly over-exaggerated. Not that there isn't any, but not on the level imagined to be.

The Estonia of 1920-40's has more to do with central european petite bourgeoisie than Scandinavia.

And then again, not exactly. Because the late 19th century differences between urban petite bourgeoisie and rural peasant cultures continued on.

When popsikud finally got to own land they pretty much tried to fulfill the ways of life their parents and grandparents desired to have. The people of the town on the other hand, continued the way of life like Jannsen, Rosenthal and whole that Koidula crowd leaded in 1860's (Heinrich Rosenthal's autobiography is a good source of getting into that mindset), which was conservative small-town lutheran.

The war didn't actually change the previous status quo. Well sure, 1919 Land Reform erradicated feodalism completely and made baltic germans a marginal error in history, but the previously formed cultural differences between town and rural estonians wasn't changed. So it was, in a way, two different cultures that existed beside each other.

The thing with Estonian history is that one has to take into consideration that all these events and cultural changes have happened on a pretty short time period. When did Kitzberg write his Werewolf (depicting estonian village beliefs)? 1911.

Estonia, became a country in 1920, so it's only 9 years. And I think in rural Estonia, the old way of life continued. I haven't yet read any research on this, I'm basing it on what I know of my family history.

And I think that a lot of old pagan customs really only started to disappear during the urbanization process in the Soviet Period, where an international urban soviet identity was being constructed. And since, unlike the Independence War, Soviet annexation actually changed the cultural status quo in Estonia amongst estonians, so it was easy to construct something new.

And so, like I said before, towns were the place of the petite bourgeoisie way of life. And a lot of young estonians of that time of rural heritage, obviously went to town to experience that petite bourgeoisie way of life (Tammsaare Elu ja Armastus) because it was obviously cool in those days.

And it's through the memory of those estonians we remember the First Republic with. A country girl in the big city. Where everyone is "european". Probably blew her mind away.

Regardless of which Estonia we look at in those years, I just don't see the Scandinavia there.

To be continued...

Joshua ütles ...


So where does the emphasized scandinavian connection come from? In my opinion it's just a constructed identity myth. But when exactly was it constructed?

For Noor-Eesti it was all about France. However Laidoner already made speeches in late 1930's about how cool Karl XII was.

I'm definitely lacking a piece of a puzzle here, so I can only assume.

Did this emphasized connection just happen because the swedish king visited Estonia in those days?

Or has it to do with looking up towards Finland and realizing that Mannerheim was a finlandsvenskar and assuming that this swedish connection makes Finland more "superior" in comparison with Estonia?

Or, what I think is more likely, is that the exile community in Sweden was the one who constructed this identity myth. From their works you can already see a narrative of the evil Russia that only corrupts and the good Sweden that always has tried to help.

The swedish exile community was also the first one to translate Balthasar Russow into estonian. And Russow is actually 16th century Swedish propaganda on why Tallinn's choice is the future for all Livland and why everyone else is wrong (and morally despicable).

And after the fall of the Soviet Union, we inherited this identity from the exile community. Or perhaps during it, cause I think there was some communication between the exile community and us. Jaan Kross definitely seems to have gotten a certain narrative from the exile community and his works are the foundations of modern estonian identity. At least that's my thesis.

When it comes to Päts however, then he seems to be pretty much a non-entity in estonian national conciousness. Some disappointment surrounding him. It's mostly about how nice everything was then rather than political leaders.

Joshua ütles ...

I wonder how I manage to write these long posts and yet completely miss the deadline for finishing my papers?

Priorities, it's such a strange and alien concept.

moevenort ütles ...

"I wonder how I manage to write these long posts and yet completely miss the deadline for finishing my papers?

Priorities, it's such a strange and alien concept."

I´m sorry. But your post was indeed very interesting.

Meelis ütles ...

"The swedish exile community was also the first one to translate Balthasar Russow into estonian"
No, it's not true. B. Russow's "Chronicle of Livonia" was first issued in Estonian 1920-1921 in Tartu by Eesti Kirjanduse Selts

Troels-Peter ütles ...

This is interesting. Many years ago my first interest in Estonia came from books by Andres Küng who obviously stresses the Nordic connection a lot because he writes for a Swedish audience. I soon found out, however, that historically, German culture played a much larger role in shaping urban Estonia.

And I agree that the Scandinavian connection is actually limited, although whatever there is keeps interesting me.

Could it be that the Nordic narrative is something that is being emphasized as a sort of "third way" whenever leaning too strongly towards the German or the Russian influence is not attractive?

It's my impression, though, that the politicians of interbellum Estonia were at least inspired by a Scandinavian model of society. Or have I been reading too many exile Estonian sources on this?

I know Ilves likes this angle - but of course he is also an exile Estonian.

How do you view the future of this Nordic narrative?

Joshua ütles ...

Meelis: "No, it's not true. B. Russow's "Chronicle of Livonia" was first issued in Estonian 1920-1921 in Tartu by Eesti Kirjanduse Selts"

Yeah, you're right. My mistake. There seems to be actually only two translations. The 1921 one and the later exile community one.

Troels-Peter: "Or have I been reading too many exile Estonian sources on this? How do you view the future of this Nordic narrative?"

Got any links? I would like to know exactly what those "Estonia is Scandinavia" people say.

I only got this speech by mr.Ilves - http://www.vm.ee/?q=node/3489

And if we read it then we'll see that it's really all just about image. He doesn't want Estonia to be considered the land of cheap whores and booze, rampant corruption and crime like he perceives the western minds to imagine Eastern Europe to be. So he says it's Scandinavia.

He's also social democrat, so I think he would definitely like Estonia to be like Scandinavia in that area too.

But I don't see a future for Nordic narrative. When you say nordic model, I immediately think of social democratic welfare society and I don't see it anywhere in Estonia in it's history.

Everyone, feel free to correct me though if you guys see it where I can't.

Honestly, the whole Scandinavian things just seems to be born from some sort of inferiority complex. Quite a lot of people are ashamed to be eastern european.

Surprisngly, from what I know of Mart Laar, he's not ashamed to be eastern european, he pretty much embraces Eastern Europe and keeps on fighting the good fight for all former Soviet countries.

I may not agree with him on his ideology (accept Friedman as your personal saviour and lord), but that's one thing I like about him. Not ashamed to be eastern european.

He really is a true believer, come to think of it. Travelling around eastern europe, spreading the good gospel of Friedman, preaching freedom and economic success. The image is quite endearing.

Anyway, one thing that certainly causes this whole "Hey, we're Scandinavia too" thing is that some people just don't want to be eastern european. But we are. And I think we should embrace that and work that into something beautiful. You know, like "Black is Beautiful." I personally hate this whole trying to pass as someone else business.

We might have the same Yule, but going from Tallinn to Stockholm really is like going to a different civilization.

This is definitely a place for others to jump in and share their views too.

Joshua ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Joshua ütles ...

"I immediately think of social democratic welfare society and I don't see it anywhere in Estonia in it's history.

Everyone, feel free to correct me though if you guys see it where I can't."

Okay, early 1920's were definitely social democratic/socialist leaning, but I guess the December Revolution kinda took care of that.

These guys like Jaan Tõnisson and Otto Strandmann hanged out with people like Kingissepp and even took part of 1905 revolution. And Tõnnisson while more centristic, constantly was in alliance with Strandmann who was all Tööerakond, which was a socialist leaning party. So they definitely together represent a centrist-left worldview. And they're quite dominant in 1920's.

The founder of Tööerakond, Jüri Vilms was executed in Hauho by swedish volunteers as a communist.

I think from prime ministers in 1920's, only Päts represented what we call right-wing. Most of the others were all former 1905 guys.

But definitely December Revolution and later the financial crisis, made sure that by 1930's right wing was in. And that's the Estonia we base ourselves on.

Joshua ütles ...

"These guys like Jaan Tõnisson and Otto Strandmann hanged out with people like Kingissepp and even took part of 1905 revolution."

God, what a silly mistake. When I said like Tõnisson and Strandman, I wanted to describe the whole bunch of those 1920's prime ministers.

Tõnisson himself didn't took part of 1905, but a lot of those guys did. Including Päts, but he obviously seems to have changed his worldview by then.

I should probably go to sleep before I make more mistakes.

I'll add, that modern Estonia was built by Kaarel Eenpalu under Päts. He brought us the whole right-wing nationalism and military romanticism Estonia we so remember with fondness these days.

You know what's a real shame. These things are not taught in school. School history books just fly past the whole 1920's and go pretty much immediately into Päts, Laidoner and Eenpalu Estonia.

For a surprisingly short history, there are a whole lot of different Estonias out there. It's all about what you focus on and what you choose to ignore.

I think the world would be a much better place if 1920's Estonia was taught with much more detail in school history.

Say out loud that they fu***** mastu******* to Marx when they were young. Don't be ashamed of it.

Joshua ütles ...

"For a surprisingly short history, there are a whole lot of different Estonias out there."

It should read: "For such a short history, there are surprisingly a whole lot of different Estonias out there."

Giustino ütles ...

Surprisngly, from what I know of Mart Laar, he's not ashamed to be eastern european, he pretty much embraces Eastern Europe and keeps on fighting the good fight for all former Soviet countries.

Laar was prime minister during Ilves' effort to rebrand Estonia as "Nordic." He was very much involved in that effort.

I'll add, that modern Estonia was built by Kaarel Eenpalu under Päts. He brought us the whole right-wing nationalism and military romanticism Estonia we so remember with fondness these days.

Absolutely. That is the period that is recycled most by the current leaders (who are by and large center-right). Some of them also have family links to Päts-era Estonia. The Freedom Monument is something that might have been erected in 1936.

Giustino ütles ...


One should add here that Lennart Meri had family connections to Sweden (his mother was an Estonian Swede) and Toomas Hendrik Ilves has links there (he was born there). Of all post-'91 leaders, they have probably had the most influence in shaping Estonia's image in a regional/cvilizational context.

Here I will add that Marju Lauristin was influential. She was the first head of the post-'91 social democratic party, and embraced, to the extent that she could, the Scandinavian model for Estonia. In her book "Return to the West," the "West" is clearly Finland and Sweden.

If you listen to Savisaar, he too will tell you he wants to run Estonia like Finland. Those countries represent normalcy and stability to the former Popular Fronts, a third way out of post-Soviet.

So it is constructed, but, like Joshua has sort of pointed out, everything in Estonia is constructed. Even the Baltic Germans, those overseers of 700 years of slavery, are now recalled fondly for bringing Lutheranism and literacy to Estonia.

But that is where you get to the core of Scandinavian influence: it's old. Estonian peasant schools were established under Swedish rule, in the local language, AGAINST the wishes of the Baltic German upper class. And Estonia owed its high literacy rate (something like 91 percent in the mid 19th century) directly to the establishment of Estonian-language instruction, set in motion by the absolutist, Karl XI.

One could make a powerful argument that, minus enlightenment-era Swedish administration, Estonia might not exist as a country today. Literacy in the other Russian provinces was extremely low (I have read it was as low as 10 percent in Setomaa at the corresponding time).

Estonians seem to have been on the side of the Swedes in the Great Northern War. And this idea, of Estonia as part of the "civilized" West, versus a "less civilized" Russia (which did roll back many of the reforms of absolutist Sweden in the beginning of the 18th century) is a powerful meme that was recycled in the 1990s by people like Meri who called their state "former Swedish empire."

That was the early period of influence. But now Estonia is again under Nordic influence. Why? This has a lot to do with Sweden and Finland themselves. The Sweden of the 90s and today is not the Sweden of the 1920s and 30s. Nor is Finland. Those countries were not exceptionally wealthy nor stable at that time. Only maybe since maybe the late 1980s did Sweden and Finland become economically powerful enough that they could *nordify* (to steal an idea from Ilves) a place like Estonia.

And the Swedish grip does not abate. They are the largest foreign direct investor, and next to Finland the biggest market for exports. Estonia is now deeply under Scandinavian influence. When Estonian news reports compare domestic statistics, they typically do it with Finland or Sweden. Why? Because it is part of the overall "catching up" idea that has been popular since the days of the Popular Fronts.

Here again, I must ask, would there be an independent Estonia without Finland or Sweden? The whole existence of the state seems to be predicated on the existence of Finland, the whole economic tale of the country since 1991 is intertwined with Stockholm.

Lots to think about, perhaps fodder for a new blogpost!

Matthew ütles ...

As someone who is sort of familiar with Sweden and Estonia, but much more with Finland, I find this discussion endlessly fascinating. There is an obvious difference between Finland and Scandinavia, even if Finland has obviously been shaped by, and long measured itself against (that "catching up" you write about), Sweden. Finland was once considered a Baltic country, and the idea of the "Nordic countries" is a post-war political construct.

It's such a pity (most) Estonians and Finns aren't so interested in each other. Those freaks should rule the school!

Miacek ütles ...

Joshua, all your posts are quite interesting, I'd like to disagree with some of your evaluations though.

When you write ''And Tõnnisson while more centristic, constantly was in alliance with Strandmann who was all Tööerakond, which was a socialist leaning party. So they definitely together represent a centrist-left worldview'' we must keep in mind the political spectrum/system these days was sth rather different from that of our days.

Tõnisson was definitely a right-winger in 1905, as he was in 1917 or 1939. For example, his People's Party and the Christian People's Party were the only Estonian parties to question the radical land reform together with the Baltic German representatives.

In Czarist Russia, Tõnisson represented the more well-to-do, liberal/nationally minded bourgeoisie and peasants, whereas Päts was initially clearly a radical (cf. also French radicalism), hence his participation in 1905 revolution. Päts's base of support was mostly peasantry, I think including many of those who benefitted from the radical land reform.

Once the basic demands of the rural folk had been met, these strata quickly adopted a more conservative position, as did Päts (in Western Europe, too, the peasantry would support conservative parties, cf. CDU/CSU or French counterparts).

Also, Tõnisson could only ally with the Labour Party when this had drifted to the right, abandoning the initially leftist positions (the whole Estonian political spectrum had been pretty leftist until the independence was gained, and then drifted to the right). In 1930s, both Päts and Tõnisson were clearly right-wingers, the differences between those two having just much to do with their interpersonal opposition (for comparison, in Irish politics there has been a comparable division between FF and FG, both actually right-wing parties.)


stockholm slender ütles ...

Interesting discussion. Historically, all Western countries (even the USA though barely) are "social-democratic", if we consider the present situation from the perspective of the pre-war political debate. This is not something unique to Sweden or to the Nordic countries but is a common Western status. As regards the Nordic model there doesn't seem to be much to be ashamed about, is there now? High social mobility, open economies, quite strong economic performance. Finland certainly used to be quite ambivalent about the Nordic connection (largely through the strongly anti-Swedish slant of the early language based Finnish nationalism), but WWII settled our hesitations quite efficiently (and the governing elite had made its choice even before the war). Estonia has more freedom in its choice of orientation, but there surely are worse clubs in the world...

Troels-Peter ütles ...

@ Joshua: No, it's mostly published on paper, so I can't really provide any links, but eg. Andres Küng usually stresses the connection. For example how Swedish authorities limited the power of the Teutonic Order; how the Swedish age is still remembered as "the good old Swedish times" in Estonia and Livonia; how the early Estonian state was successful in building a welfare society (maybe that is a better word than "social democratic" although they are somehow regarded as connected within Scandinavia) in the twenties; how Tallinn was 25% Swedish in medieval times and how close the Estonian language is to Finnish (here he exaggerates, I think) and so on.

There is also a Swedish book, "Estland genom tiderna" (Estonia through the ages) published by Välis-Eesti publishers some time during the Soviet occupation. It is more or less a nostalgic presentation of interbellum Estonia which also emphasizes Scandinavian contacts. It has a very Camelot-like feel to it.

I'm not claiming, though, that they call Estonia Scandinavia, only that it is under (defining?) Scandinavian influence (Denmark beating Russia in the christianization race and so on).

Giustino's information about the school system is interesting in this respect because it could support the idea of 17th century Sweden backing up the Estonian language.

@Giustino: Yes, the funny thing about constructions is that sometimes they actually come true (partly because they may be built from existing material which is being emphasized in a new way). This is also why I'm interested in the future of the "Nordic" discourse. I see that the tourist organisation visitestonia.com has adopted it too. Is it growing stronger?

Which role do you think Finland had in Estonia's independence?

@Matthew: In Denmark, Norway and Sweden the Scandinavian trend is about 100 years older (approx. 1840), and I can surely understand why bilingual Finland is more ambivalent towards it.

It's interesting to think that if Finland had not been bilingual and thereby "Nordic", an Estonian claim to be so (rightly or wrongly) probably could not have existed.

It is indeed an intersting subject.

PS: I use the terms "Scandinavian" and "Nordic" synonymously. I know there are more opinions about this.

Troels-Peter ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Troels-Peter ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Troels-Peter ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Troels-Peter ütles ...

I wonder how tat post popped up four times?

Lingüista ütles ...

Joshua, maybe I'm naive (and I also have papers to write, so I don't really have time to research), but isn't the Swedish/Scandinavian connection more easily explained in terms of shared Finno-Ugric cultural affiliation with Finland -- and via Finland with Sweden?

Or are you claiming that, despite this connection, there wasn't much talk of a "Scandinavian side" in Estonia during the First Republic -- so that emphasis on this connection would be a more recent phenomenon?

And regardless of this... if the connection exists (via Finland), isn't this a fact, even if the people may have ignored it in some moments of Estonian history?

(Consider, for instance, that Estonia also has strong historical and cultural ties to Latvia, yet in times when Latvia is poorer it doesn't seem interesting to insist or take pride on them; if, however, Latvia suddenly became the Germany of the Baltics we might hear more about the "Baltic side" of Estonia.)

Troels-Peter ütles ...

BTW I should not have written "Teutonic Order" since they had turned into German Balts at the time.

Joshua ütles ...

Linguista: "Isn't the Swedish/Scandinavian connection more easily explained in terms of shared Finno-Ugric cultural affiliation with Finland -- and via Finland with Sweden?

Or are you claiming that, despite this connection, there wasn't much talk of a "Scandinavian side" in Estonia during the First Republic -- so that emphasis on this connection would be a more recent phenomenon?"

We were mongolians to swedes in those days. Early 20th century was a racist time with it's weird eugenics and population purification ideas. And finno-ugrians definitely didn't pass for white in that time.

And that you will actually see when you read those people who emphasized finno-ugricness in early 20th century. They looked towards east. Tengriism, Shamanism, Taoism, Mongolia, Japan and tried to find elements of those in our finno-ugric past.

And Uku Masing completely took the opposite attitude towards rampant aryanism of white europe. He said that the indo-europeans are the unevolved missing link between ape and man. And all the colored people of the world (including finns and estonians) are superior. And Uku Masing is definitely THE finno-ugricist.

Uku Masing is also the only estonian to have received the Righteous among the Nations title for helping to save a jewish life from Holocaust. So God thinks that Uku Masing is right. Just saying.

But all those emphasizers were definitely a minority. I think the finno-ugric identity really peaked in 1970's with Meri's anthropological films. And Meri later also started the whole "we're actually baltic germans" identity in 1990's. He definitely was very deconstructivist when it came to national identity. It was like a game to him, what matters is what people themselves imagine to be and what is useful for them to imagine themselves to be.

Estonians in 1930's I guess mostly tried to be as white as possible and hush-hush all the weird talk about The Uralic Connection. Or they just didn't make a big deal out of it.

When did Heinrich Rosenthal release his autobiography? In 1912. In his book, estonians are an uralic-altaic people who came to Europe in 8th century AD. But he doesn't make a big deal out of it. It's just who we were. He himself is for all intents and purposes a german. That's his mother language, his culture and the way of life his side of estonian nationalism (The Jannsen Camp) fought for.

So... it's complicated. Estonia is like 10 guys, who all have several theories about their collective identity.

I guess, there was some inferiority complex towards baltic germans and quite a lot of estonians definitely wanted to be considered white. Then there were quite a lot of estonians who didn't care, cause they had more humanistic or just plain socialistic ideals. Or because they lived in a remote rural area. Then there were those hardcore finno-ugricists with their "Asia rocks! Down with white people! Their ways are evil and vile!" And then... I don't know, the average petite burgeouise person who enjoyed small things in life and looked out for just himself and his small group. And this average person was also the majority I think.

Joshua ütles ...

What I'm trying to say that finno-ugric connection is definitely not the way to being scandinavian. Not then (because germanic people were suffering from aryan delusion) and not now.

Honestly, what this finno-ugric connection, if we'd emphasize it, would connect us with is the very thing we despise these days - Russia. Apparently finno-ugrics and eastern slavs overlapped quite a lot in the early days.

Orlando Figes discusses some of this in his Natasha's Dance. I'll give the short version: rampant animism and shamanistic symoblism everywhere.

And a lot of finno-ugric invetions are the basis of modern russian culture. Like pelmeni for example.

And Estonia just doesn't roll that way anymore. In 1919 Lembitu won. In 2010, Bishop Albert won and saved the world from these weird primitive suspiciously asian people that lived here and planted some real and honest white people here who are our ancestors.

But back to the swedish connection in interbellum period. I found an interesting piece by some swedish guy in late 1930's, called Swedish relations with Balticum - http://www.kirjandusarhiiv.net/?p=617. Unfortunately in estonian. And I didn't have the time to read it thoroughly, but from what I can tell is that he says that Sweden is primarily interested in maintaing it's status quo and that he knows that Estonia and Sweden don't have a lot of cultural connections, but he also knows that Estonia at the moment is looking for it's identity and from what culture to base it on - he lists examples like russian, german, france, british - and he offers Sweden as the culture to base itself from and does some PR for it.

Written in 1937. I also might have skimmed it wrongly, but busy times demand rushed reading. Perhaps that's where it all began?

Lingüista ütles ...

But, Joshua, if Finno-Ugricness wasn't really important, what's with all the renewed interest in Finno-Ugric peoples in the Russian federation -- the scholarships given to Erzyans, Mokshans, Maris, Udmurts, Komis, etc.; the support for their efforts at creating a literature; the ethnographic interest in sending expeditions to them; attention to political developments in these areas; etc. etc. etc.)? Is this also a recent phenomenon?

Lingüista ütles ...

Re-reading my post, to avoid ambiguity, I should say: what's with this interest in Estonia about Finno-Ugric people in the Russian federation?

Joshua ütles ...

It's the same group of passionate people who have always done it. The few estonians who feel the uralic call in their hearts.

I wouldn't say that there is any renewed interest. It's a group of scholars and artists who maintain these organizations. Like it always has been a group of scholars and artists.

And obviously something from 1970's exists to this day. Veljo Tormis is still alive for example.

But, it's always been a small group of people.

Joshua ütles ...

What is their interest? Grand Finland - stretching from Atlantic Ocean to Uralic Mountains. A Tribal Confederation between sami, baltic finns, komi, mari, khanty's and everyone else I didn't mention. The goal: to keep alive the finno-ugric languages, to look out for each other, to reconstruct our proper being and culture and to colonize space and sing runo songs on the new planets and galaxies of humanity.

But seriously, there are a whole different reasons for this interest.

I think one of those is "getting one with our roots." There's this idea amongst those people that deal with finno-ugrics, that estonians have forgotten who they are. So one of those interests is definitely roots.

The other is connection, family. To feel one with certain different groups of people. There's a difference in having a pan-nationalistic and a nationalistic identity. Pan-nationalistic is much more empowering.

Then there's the romantic nature child thing. "We worship the nature and sing kumbaya, we're special people. Flower power!"

And obviously finno-ugric patriotism like described above. But less crazy.

Joshua ütles ...

Troels-Peter: "...and how close the Estonian language is to Finnish (here he exaggerates, I think) and so on."

While there are a lot of points worthy replying too, but since I already made one ridiculously long post, I picked something that promises a short post.

All Baltic Finnic languages are pretty close to each other. I may not understand finnish when it's spoken. But I can understand when it's written.

Of course it wasn't so the first time I tried to read finnish. So I took the book and stared at it for hours. And eventually my brain went "click" and I was "Oh, now I see! Stupid finns, why they need so many vowels for that word?"

And this applies to other baltic finnic languages too. Recently I had the pleasure to read vepsian language. And it was quite an interesting experience with lots of cool words. But I can't really quite understand spoken vepsian - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq3COsMQkMY

And this is a cool vepsian song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjN64hvjM_4

Because, the topic has apperenty gone in that direction and why not just roll with it.

stockholm slender ütles ...

I really think that national identity is pretty much a cultural construct. Of course it will need some empirically observable connections (would be hard to construct a Native American national identity for Estonia...). So, if there are these connections, then almost anything goes. In that sense Estonia is relatively free to choose its direction. Also, it must be remembered, that many of these identities are overlapping and not mutually exlusive. I know quite a few people who connect their finno-ugric enthusiasm with as real Western or Nordic orientation. Only if we would think that there is somehow a "natural", independently existing "correct" national identity, could we say that, those people are "mistaken", they are "wrong". But there is no such thing as naturally and independently existing national identity against which we could measure the correctness of different identifications.

Troels-Peter ütles ...

"All Baltic Finnic languages are pretty close to each other. I may not understand finnish when it's spoken. But I can understand when it's written."

Yes, well he claims that people can readily understand each other orally.

Anyway, since we are off topic (you're right), I know that experience too - I once taught myself to read Faroese simply by reading newspapers. It sure is a cool thing when your brain goes "click"...

Joshua ütles ...

stockholm slender: "Would be hard to construct a Native American national identity for Estonia..."

It's been done already.

For example.

1) Check the pics - http://www.eestikirjastused.com/sass/

2) Listen to whatever Kirile Loo is doing in this song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhnZysm3nm0

This one also does a similar thing - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry5aZnlYTOY

Could be the reconstructed baltic finnic version of joik, but...

Due to certain similarities shared between shamanistic cultures, it's actually not hard to do at all.

Obviously, estonians aren't a shamanistic culture anymore, but whenever finno-ugricness gets emphasized the estonian identity immediately gets a certain borealic-shamanistic flavour. And it's not hard to go native america from there.

And been done already. Definitely comparisons have been made by all the great finno-ugricists.

I guess it works the same way like the turkish turanian identity works like. The turanian identity claims that turks, estonians, hungarians, mongolians, native americans are brothers and bases it also on a few superficial similarites - like how we all have tipi's or püstkoda's.

But I believe that the turanian identity is a minority belief in Turkey, just like the finno-ugric identity is a minority belief in Estonia.

Well, the only place you can find turanism these days is youtube or some badly google translated internet sites... it's heydays were certainly in the interbellum period, existing as an empowering counter-identity for the people who's belonging to the Great Aryan Club was somewhat under debate (hungarians).

plasma-jack ütles ...

I've heard a theory that Northern Americans were previously Asians from Urals, ie Finnougrians who immigrated over Alaska so there. Dunno anything about the scientific base, but I remember my mother used to emphasize that Finnougrians with light hair and smallish, a bit Mongoloid eyes (like myself) constitute living proof of the theory.

Piimapukk ütles ...

Northern Americans as in ... "Indians"?

So there could be even more sugri-mugri about our ugri-mugri origins?!

Piimapukk ütles ...

Living here I've been long looking for that edge. To get me some of mines. Everybody gots something, some special status and treatment. I am tired of being just taken for a regular vanilla-face who does not deserve any protection or compensation. Hey, I could be a decendant of the origininal Indians and I need some handout from government. At least a tax break would be nice. A surviving disadvantaged ugri-mugri specimen, the original proto-american.

Please give me more science, jack!

Lingüista ütles ...

Actually, recent linguistic research has found a plausible connection between at least one Siberian people (the Ket) and one language family in North America (the Athapaskan family, including, among others, Navajo).

The Ket aren't Finno-Ugric though. For all I know they are part of a small family (Yeniseyan) without any proven connections to other groups.

But it's a beginning. :-)

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well then, also Native Americans go - the sky (and, maybe, the Mediterranean) is the limit for Estonia!

viimneliivlane ütles ...

I’m curious that ugri-mugri themes have found their way into pop culture while serious scholarship on the subject is underfunded and therefore underdeveloped. When the gnome project gets adeditional funding we will find out more about the possibility that our ancestors came from the basque people, not from behind the Urals as linguists maintain. Previous theory maintained that some finno-ugrians migrated westward to present-day Lapland, Finland, Estonia and Hungary, some east over Alaska and as far south as Chile – compare Lap joike to Chilean mountain chants and you will recognize the connection immediately. I’m a believer that people take their songs and dances with them when they migrate, and always have as they’re easy to carry. Watch the American Indians dance with their feel flat and backs straight – is that not the basic labajalg that Estonians claim as being theirs uniquely?

Reflecting on the differences we have with finns I am stuck on the tragic life of their poet Pentti Saarikoski (1937-1983) who while tapping the very depths of his finno-ugric being could not cope with modern Europe life. Finns were long considered the ‘Indians’ of Europe with no similarities to their Scandinavian neighbors who were readily accepted as ‘europeans’.

As Sven Mikser’s career spirals upward I am reminded that his smoothness with the English language could also hold him back. Of course, he was an English major and is expected to know his way around with the language, but some people find him too glib. Does that always mean ‘lack of depth’?

Lingüista ütles ...

Viimneliivlane (are you really the last Livonian? :-), I'm glad you're curious about Estonian origins, but I have to say it's very unlikely that Finno-Ugric people went to the Americas (the Yenisseians are the best bet now, and they're not related to you). Similarities in dancing style don't imply kin -- there is such a thing as parallel evolution (like the homologies of biology) and cultural diffusion.

I've always been favorable to those who are curious about their roots.

Though I admit it doesn't seem to me that most Estonians are so worried about that, judging by what Joshua wrote. Maybe they prefer the European-Nordic connection à la Ilves.

Temesta ütles ...

Why isn't Estonia a member of the Nordic Council?

Troels-Peter ütles ...

Probably a number of reasons can be given for this. My first thought on it, though, is the fact that the working language of the Nordic Council (the cooperation between the parliaments) and the Nordic Council of Ministers (the cooperation between the governments) is what I would call the main dialects of the Nordic language (Swedish, Norwegian, Danish).

Finnish-speaking Finns learn Swedish in school, Greenlanders, Icelanders and Faroese learn Danish. Estonian politicians could bring along interpreters, of course (I believe some Finns do that), but they would still face a challenge.

But maybe the language thing is symptomatic for the whole question about how Nordic the country actually is. I think there have been many long debates in the Nordic Council about this. I would like to see it as such, but I really don't know what to think.

Surely, much more can be said about this subject. This was just one thought...

Temesta ütles ...

I asked the question because I only recently discovered the existence of the Nordic Council (I feel ashamed, yes) and I was very surprised that Estonia isn't a member given that a lot of Estonians (the president for example) claim that Estonia is 'Nordic' or 'Scandinavian'.

jalkameister ütles ...

Well, it doesn't take more than two grey matter brain cells to figure out that even by close geography and history, there have been strong ties to Scandinavia for several thousand years. Current political and economical situations are what they are, but if you take a longer timeframe, then those links are quite apparent. Estonia is a majoritarily lutheran country, not an orthodox country. Genetically, there are contributions from native finno-ugric as well as neighbouring countries both by land and across the Baltic sea. Culturally, it is more Nordic than other countries. Is there a clear line that defines "nordicness"? Is Schleswig-Holstein nordic? Is Greenland? If we take an even longer timeframe, some may argue finno-ugric people were here even before Sweden, Norway, Denmark were populated. But Finland giving itself an air of superiority compared to Estonia is, historically speaking, a joke.

Lingüista ütles ...

Do the Finns really give themselves an air of superiority with respect to Estonia? I mean, seriously? They used to complain about the Swedes doing that to them...

Troels-Peter ütles ...

Temesta, you're not to be blamed for only learning about them recently, since they never had much power anyway and have been overtaken by the EU in many respects except culture, so...

Jalkameister, relevant questions indeed. I suppose my best answer for now is that regional cultural areas and identities are maybe best described as having a core and a periphery. The areas you mention belong in a Nordic periphery, then, and Estonia might do that too - and the Orkney and Shetland Islands for that matter (seriously!).

The question is, then, if it belongs more in a Nordic than in a "Teutonic" or in a Baltic periphery.

Now I feel sorry for wanting to place Estonia in a periphery all the time. On the other hand belonging to more than one can also be interesting.

As for ancient history I'm somewhat reluctant to jump to conclusions about who was where at what time because cultural diffusion might not need to indicate migration, and we don't know about languages anyway before the written sources. I would like to be enlightened, though...

Meelis ütles ...

"and I was very surprised that Estonia isn't a member"
Yet in October (or September?) 1991 Estonian government applied for membership of Nordic Council. Application was rejected. I do not remember precisely, but there have been also applications after that. These were also rejected.

Temesta ütles ...

"Yet in October (or September?) 1991 Estonian government applied for membership of Nordic Council. Application was rejected. I do not remember precisely, but there have been also applications after that. These were also rejected."

Would be interesting to know why the applications where rejected. When the countries the world sees as 'Nordic' don't want to have Estonia in their club, it seems to be more difficult for Estonia to promote itself as a Nordic country in a credible way.