kolmapäev, veebruar 15, 2012

nationalismo

But how do you feel about Russians?

Tea and pastries the other day with an older Estonian couple, well, a homegrown Estonian and a väliseestlane from Sweden. He was a social democrat so we engaged in dull conversations where each of us agreed with everything the other was saying. "There should be more money spent on education." "Precisely!" I also quizzed him on his loyalty to the Swedish throne too, stuff like:

"Olaf Palme - good or bad?" "Good, mostly. I mean his principles were good, but I didn't like how he carried himself, you know." "Carl Bildt - good or bad?" "He's not bad, but he's certainly not honest." "Ah, you mean like the financial investments?" "Yes, I don't trust him. He's always up to something."

We went on. "How often do you eat Swedish meatballs?" "Quite often, I think. At least once a week." "ABBA - good or bad?" "Mostly good. But I listen to classical music."

Okay, fine. At some point when those around us heard our conversation, especially those parts concerning social democracy, one Estonian offered her support for the Estonian social democrats. Another announced her undying support for IRL. "Well, I have nothing against Russians," said the Estonian social democrat. "Not our Russians, the ones who live here." But the IRL supporter wasn't moved. There are still integration problems, she said. And I was holding my face in my hands, because this is Estonian political discourse.

Are Russians really the biggest political issue facing Estonia today? From what I have read, one fifth of the country lives in poverty. Unemployment is higher than 10 percent. But put a social democrat and a conservative together in a room and they talk about Russians.

One such "burning" issue is the pending merger of the Estonian social democrats and the Russian Party. The latter supposedly wants to table discussion on the Soviet Occupation and leave it to courts or historians or whomever, which prompted an outcry, because Occupation denial is the same as Holocaust denial ... or so the line goes.

That the Holocaust should rear its ugly head in this matter is rather interesting, and, I believe, telling. All of the issues that factor in the domestic debate about loyalty, citizenship, language, and nationality, are intertwined with postwar ideas of nationalism, among them collective guilt. There are righteous nations and guilty nations, all of whom are defined by what role their citizens played in the crime of the century. The Holocaust here is a metric of humanity: the Americans are naturally good, Hiroshima and Nagasaki aside, because they defeated the Third Reich. The Germans and their collaborators, including some Estonian nationals, are inherently bad, given the blood on their hands and in their veins. The only way out is to atone for the sins of your forebears. Atone and you will be set free.

I think collective guilt is at least partially based on totalitarian ideas, be they of the Nationalist Socialist persuasion or the Soviet one. How else could one explain the extermination of Jewish children or the deportation of relatives of "class enemies" to Siberia? Surely, Jewish children could have been raised Christian, or the children of class enemies turned into loyal party members ... but the central idea here is that being an enemy of the state is genetic: the Jewish children will grow into adult Jews, the children of class enemies will grow into class enemies themselves, so they had to be liquidated, one way or the other.

It's a ridiculous and racist idea if you think about it, but here in the present we've been gratuitously using collective guilt since 1945. It's been passed down, from generation to generation. Little do the little German babes born at this very moment in Osnabrück and Heidelberg and Potsdam know, but they are all guilty of something.

And that is what the Estonian Russians most fear: the stigma of being "occupiers" because their family was removed from Donetsk to Tallinn six decades ago. This is what troubles them about the 'O' word. It's not the legal question of what happened in Estonia in the summer of 1940, it's the shame of accepting the yoke of collective guilt in perpetuity.

I think the whole context for these ideas is flawed. There are no righteous nations and no evil ones. There are evil men who give orders to do evil things, but this is a matter of following orders rather than genetics. There is no Nazi or Commie gene. I don't think that Germans, as a people, are responsible for the crimes of their grandparents. I don't think that Estonians, as a people, are responsible for war crimes some of their forefathers committed, either in the service of the Führer or the Comrade or just for the hell of it.

Finally, I don't think that Russians, as a people, are responsible for what the leaders of their predecessor state decided. They may say it was wrong, as a moral judgment, but their guilt is no greater than yours or mine, because we are all related, no matter how distantly. This applies to national greatness too. I may be an American, but I didn't free the slaves and I didn't put a man on the moon. I didn't invent baseball or the personal computer any more than I dropped the bombs on Japan. Why should any of us should bear collective guilt or collective pride for anything we ourselves did not accomplish? I shouldn't blame a Japanese national for Pearl Harbor any more than I should congratulate him for writing Norwegian Wood or creating Nintendo. Just because he shares some ancestors with the men who did write Norwegian Wood or create Nintendo, does not mean he gets to take credit for their greatness. I didn't write The Sound and the Fury did I?

Here I am reminded of football games where the fans of the winning team sit around and congratulate each other: "Hey man, we won." I appreciate your loyalty to your teams. It is good to be loyal to something. But, unless you were on that team, you didn't really win anything. Likewise, the Russian Federation, founded in 1991, did not defeat fascism in Europe. This is a crap idea anyway. Franco was a facist. He was in power in Spain until 1975. Salazar ruled Portugal until 1974. So, Europe was not rid of fascism in 1945. The idea is bogus, propaganda, a myth. The Russians did not defeat fascism. Some of the dwindling numbers of veterans who fought for the Red Army did defeat nationalist socialist Germany, but Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lavrov, and the rest of the gang weren't alive and therefore defeated nothing. Someone should send a diplomatic cable to that effect.

Nationalism is a nice idea. In the collapse of the old multinational empires it became the only viable option, a Poland for the Poles, an Iceland for the Icelanders, a Montenegro for the Montenegrins. Imagine it: your own flag, your own official language, your own seat at the UN, your own bikini team! It's wonderful. But it has its limits. And in a country where one-tenth of the population has no job and one-fifth lives below the poverty line, it should definitely not be the dominant question in the public discourse.

36 kommentaari:

Asehpe ütles ...

Indeed.

Could it be that, all in all, Estonians see 1/10 of their conationals without jobs and 1/5 in poverty as "normal" -- not worse than things were in Soviet times or in the period immediately thereafter?

Or could it be that they associate poverty/joblessness with the Russian minority, in a way not unlike the association between poverty/joblessness and African Americans in the US? (I hear Russians are disproportionately present in the poverty/jobless group.)

Or maybe it's just because they recovered independence not so long ago. Maybe a little bit of the old Soviet 'we're surrounded by enemies' mindset remains active.

Marko ütles ...

I think it's all those things and even more. The 'surrounded by enemies' is spot on - in the eyes of many, when the Old Enemy of the East marched in our Western allies did nothing. For some time many felt as if we were let down, later the West simply lost it's moral highground, while the East remained an ever greater enemy. Even if I speak about it with my friends in Britain, there's a lot of bitterness attached to it - my great-grandfather had to die in Siberia so that my friends ones could continue their peaceful existance on this 'green and pleasent island'. It was just so unfortunate, sad and unfair war.It, of course, had to come to an end but the price was so great, that it greatly undermines the victory achieved. We all understand the circumstances and the outcome and later developments and all we can do now is to make sure that such a thing in Europe can never-ever happen again. And we have to do it collectively. Giuostino makes a valid point that we shouldn't overstretch the subject. It's 2012 and we have to move on as a society. I know for a fact that all these monuments and parades and all the resource gone into the (don't know how even call it) war-thingy(?) won't make my Siberian born grandmother even blink once. It's the past, the past of her generation and all she wants now is that we could get on with our lives, to make the most of it and that's where all these nationalist nutters (inc. IRL) make it so much more harder to the younger generations. They have to back off at one point or else, well, everyone else is just going to leave..

Marko ütles ...

Just a quick question @Asehpe. Whats a conational? Isn't it some sort of psychological term? Did you mean compatriots? If yes, it gets a bit tricky as many of the settled Russian speaking migrants are just migrants of mainly first or second generation. Some are Estonian nationals de jure but many are not. As with many migrant communities it is difficult to settle in anywhere, really. Just ask Mexicans in US, or Poles in Britain, or Estonians in Australia - they all have it hard. Which of course doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to make them feel more comfertable. And great steps are being taken - they started to teach more Estonian in Estonias Russian schools, there are many community initiatives (for example summer camps, where Russian youths can mingle with Estonian ones, make friends etc), agreements have been signed with Russian Federation to help old age pensioners to receive their pension in Estonia even if they don't really qualify etc. And more could, should and most likely will be done as Estonians pride themselves in being openminded, tolerant and highly accepting (after initial stage of 'curious' caution, of course). And when they accept you, well, you're in for good (in a positive sense). Just ask Guistino, he's a first generation migrant who married in to Estonia.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Loved this post. Wow. Just like you, I find loyalty to sports teams endearing, childish and immature at best. I tolerate it and give goals or touchdowns or best scores couple of claps of applause and even a reluctant high-five out of politeness, but that's where it ends for me. At its worst I find it utterly disturbing that fans and loyalists of all stripes often take all of it way way overboard. Think of the recent massacre in Egypt at the soccer game for example. I find ALL overzealous fanaticism, loyalty, nationalism, irrational exuberance and ubridled enthusiasm about anything to be evil. So when I look at the cheering fans, I see the shadows of people goose stepping and piling bodies into mass graves. But I do pretend I like it too. Why? Maybe it is pure cowardice that I am trying to cover with the thin sheet of reason. I know that if I lived in the Hitler's Germany, I too would have been zeig heiling with my beer drinking buddies albeit with barely hidden contempt and disgust. I know because I do high-five with my colleagues now when the Caps or Redskins win. It's all about when in Rome ... Live long enough and you see it all.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, I guess in an ideal world people's attitudes would not lack behind history and we would all be nearly identical, postmodern citizen-consumers all over the Western world. But it doesn't work like that: Estonia lost a quarter of her population in WW2 and almost her language and national culture during the post-war decades.

There is no country in the world that could shed such a recent past immediately once the storm passes (and Russia has retained a clearly very unhealthy relationship with her own imperial and aggressive past which is very naturally apt to make Estonians nervous).

Of course, even now, there is nothing in sight that would signal a Russian return to the southern shore of the Baltic, but I can well understand that for example that the recent tremors in Europe and world economy can feel quite unsettling in Estonia.

So, however much I dislike the neoliberal jungle that seems to be regarded quite uncritically by the Estonian elites, I really don't blame them for still being concerned with nationalism and geopolitics...

Asehpe ütles ...

Well, a lot of all kinds of feelings were thrown into the referendum in Latvia yesterday. The impression I had was that the result was obvious (no to Russian), but hard feelings between Russians and Latvians have increased, which in the end was probably the goal of those who proposed the referendum.

Ethnic questions can last very long, as the Balcans remind us. I hope things will go better in the Baltic states. But frankly speaking, the only way I could see this happening is if Russia changed its attitude. Not a very likely event in the near future, but I can't think of anything else that isn't even less likely to happen.

Temesta ütles ...

"So, however much I dislike the neoliberal jungle that seems to be regarded quite uncritically by the Estonian elites, I really don't blame them for still being concerned with nationalism and geopolitics..."

True. Imagine how different Estonia would be today if all Russians would have received citizenship and the right to vote after re-independence. This would have given Russia much more leverage over Estonian politics. Not a pretty picture.

Spawnie ütles ...

As far as I know, the reason why not all Russians living in Estonia have Estonian citizenship is because they don't want it, and they haven't applied for it. I don't think there's anything preventing them from acquiring it, together with the right to vote. Sure, there are criteria to be met, but it's like that everywhere.

Giustino ütles ...

Imagine how different Estonia would be today if all Russians would have received citizenship and the right to vote after re-independence.

But the way you frame this is incorrect. The other option would have been to give all permanent residents citizenship in 1991-92. It was not directly about Russian ethnicity, like they gave citizenship to the Ukrainians and not the Russians because they were Russians.

Now, I understand that the effect was to "disenfranchise" (I understand this word is subject to interpretation) a large part of the population, most of whom were ethnic Russians, and there is the idea that a) Estonian is just such a hard language and b) You can't honestly expect Russians -- of all people -- to learn a foreign language, especially one as insignificant and archaic as Estonian -- that made the path to acquiring citizenship so controversial and intolerable.

But the funny thing is that there are thousands of Russians in Russia with Estonian passports because one of their ancestors was a citizen, and thousand of Russians in Estonia who are stateless because they have not applied for citizenship and descend from people who entered Estonia after 1940. This proves that this policy was less about ethnicity, and more about some history buffs restoring the state.

Anyway, people who consider themselves Estonians (and not some minority ethnic group) are a pretty big majority now. We'll see what the 2011 census shows, but it's at least 70 percent of the population. The Russian minority understands that it has to work with the majority to get what it wants accomplished. Maybe that means abandoning the idea of a bilingual state, as existed in 1940 and 1941 and from 1944 to 1989. But if they pass this damn European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, then it doesn't really make much difference, and you won't have the 'us versus them' animosity that you can read about in the Latvian debate. So the Russian Party in Estonia (VEE) merged with the Social Democrats this week. Because I am sure that Stanislav Tšerepanov would rather have some ministerial appointment in the future, where he would have real power, than wallow away in the fringe on the Russian dole trying to launch some hopeless campaign ...

notsu ütles ...

I wonder whether we live in different universes, informationwise: where I live, all the political discourse has been 1) ACTA, ACTA, ACTA (and SOPA and PIPA before that, to a lesser extent); 2) unemployment benefits and Unemployment Insurance Fund; and oncoming strike wave.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Notsu - talking about parallel universes, or rathere universes inside bigger universes that really matter. It will all be ACTA-schmacta and benefits-schemnefits come summer and Israel and Iran will have it all hang out.

The question is, should we be running around in panic and looking for life-vests or simpy sit at the bar and order another round while the music still plays and the lights are on.

Skeptigirl ütles ...

I have no idea how Estinia could fix its problems. Poor little Estonia I hope it gets its act together. Here is a show related to poverty, it is in Finnish except for the interviews.

http://areena.yle.fi/video/1329508229950?ns_campaign=social-media&ns_mchannel=facebook&ns_source=like&ns_fee=0&cmpid=yes

Rainer ütles ...

Oh goody, another one of those "concerned", self-righteous Finnish accounts of how everything is wrong in Estonia. And how everything is, by default, stellar in Finland. I'm not trying to deny or belittle those social issues, but documentaries like that are fundamentally designed to make Finns feel better about themselves. I wonder, if Estonia manages to defeat certain problems and truely become a boring normal country, who will the Finns piss down on then? The Russians? I think not. They wouldn't dare.

Spawnie ütles ...

I believe documentaries like this can be made in pretty much every country in the world. Are you telling me Finland doesn't have any poor people? Seriously?
It's a heartbreaking reality. I couldn't tell if the comments in Finnish were biased, since I can't understand it. But Rainer, the reporters were Estonian. It's not like one of those documentaries made by Americans about Romania, where all you see is kids living in atrocious conditions in orphanages, thatch roof houses, donkey pulled carts and lots of gypsies at every step. That's what I call an inaccurate account of reality. What I saw in this documentary is, sadly, objective truth.
And on a side note: did you see those old Russians speaking Estonian? Sure, those in Narva didn't bother to. But this is just further proof of my theory that most Russians in Estonia DO speak the language, they just prefer to find excuses not to.
And also, call me heartless, but I found it funny how that old lady living in that horribly run down house mentioned she hasn't been to a sauna for 3 years. I have never been to one in my life. Does that mean my living standards are lower than hers?

Rainer ütles ...

"But Rainer, the reporters were Estonian."

So? That doesn't make it an Estonian documentary. Did you actually read the credits in the end? Only one Estonian, a cameraman, is credited. So basicly they do Finn's dirty work for them.

Let me emphesize: I'm not saying the documentary is inaccurate per se, I resent it's patronizing and oh-so-concerned tone.

Rainer ütles ...

"And also, call me heartless, but I found it funny how that old lady living in that horribly run down house mentioned she hasn't been to a sauna for 3 years. I have never been to one in my life. Does that mean my living standards are lower than hers?"

I believe her point was that she hadn't wash herself thoroughy for a long time.
I sense a cultural misunderstanding.

Spawnie ütles ...

Yeah, I know that was what she meant.
I guess MY point was lost on you :P

Rainer ütles ...

I know that you know that I know ;)
Again - it's not about the message, but the way of delivering it.

Asehpe ütles ...

Everybody likes to say they're better than the neighbors. Do the Finns want to congratulate themselves on having a better country than the Eestlased? Well, not so long ago the Finns were the Swede's pour cousins. And the Estonians are also often self-congratulatory when talking about the Latvians...

Human frailties, in the end. I'll bet you could even find that within Estonia itself -- I don't know, people from Tallinn feeling superior to people from Ida-Virumaa, maybe?

I wish this kind of at-least-I'm-better-off-than-the-guys-over-there attitude would disappear everywhere, but I'm not holding my breath.

Rainer ütles ...

Wow, Asehpe, you're on everybody's side, arent you? ;)

-raul- ütles ...

Lpr wrote: "I find loyalty to sports teams endearing, childish and immature at best. "

But how to you pet your national ego then?

Nowadays it's hard for a bunch of läänlased to go and rob some villages in Harjumaa.

So instead you go and hail to your local basketball team.

And it's damn hard to sail overseas to burn down some churches, with all this EU law and political correctness in place.

So instead you put on your war face and go to a stadium to watch the slaugtering of Uruguay.

Or even go and count yourself in an online census to beat those damn Canadians. Yay!

And, not to forget the Russians...

Recently there was following joke made on some Russian TV channel...

The children of Russian tourist start running and brawling at 6 AM in some Spanish hotel... The German from neigboring room comes complaining about early disturbance... The Russian resposes to complaint: Nevermind 6 AM, you invaded us at 4 AM.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Hmm, I didn't see that programme, but I doubt if it was specifically anti-Estonian in any nationalistic way, just a regular arrogantish Nordic attitude towards a society that hasn't got a Nordic style welfare state. Anyway, I don't doubt at all that there are people in Estonia who do live in great poverty, I think that's pretty much an empirical fact.

But I would be bit more hesitant than YLE in thinking that it would have been easy - or even remotely possible - for Estonia to have chosen a Scandinavian style state and economic policies. There is a certain historical amnesia in Finland, that surely leads to justified anger in Estonia.

But I wouldn't exaggerate these spats: the links between the two countries are massively extensive and there is a very deep basic sympathy that the modern media cannot really disturb.

Temesta ütles ...

"But I would be bit more hesitant than YLE in thinking that it would have been easy - or even remotely possible - for Estonia to have chosen a Scandinavian style state and economic policies. There is a certain historical amnesia in Finland, that surely leads to justified anger in Estonia."

Maybe in the nineties it was not possible for Estonia to have a Nordic welfare state but by now it is a deliberate choice. Most Estonians vote for parties that deeply despise welfare states. At the moment Estonia doesn't have a welfare state for ideological reasons. Many Estonians think that higher taxes for people who have high wages are more unjust than letting people live in abject conditions.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Sure, the best social system so far revised, the social democratic compromise, is strangely unpopular in Estonia. But as it wasn't really an option in the 90's, it's not surprising that it hasn't been much thought about as a possibility even later, these kind of choices tend to stick with you. I think this might well be a cause for regret later, but it's always easy to be wise after the event...

Marko ütles ...

Poverty is always relative, subject to circumstances. Altough Estonia shares a great deal with it's Western and Northern neighbour cultrually, in historical-economical sense Estonia is essentially Anglo-Saxon. We always had the poor and always will have, just like they have them in England, USA and Germany. That's an important disdinction between us and the Swedes/Finns and should not be overlooked. Now, that doesen't mean that more shouldn't be done to help people with disadvantaged backrounds but like in any other Anglo-Saxon economy this is not usually done by the electorate but more often by engaging third sector(charities, philanthropists, etc) in to talks with government while they form social policies. An average middle class Estonian does not want to see their tax money going to feed the poor, but at the same time they are more than happy to give money to cahrity who then disdibrutes it to the poor. Thats how it works also in England and thats how it used to work in Estonia prior to occupation and I'm more than confident it will work in future, exactly the same way. No need to reinvent the bycycle - it's there already - we just need to learn to ride it again, and in some parts of Estonia people already do.

Temesta ütles ...

Many countries didn't have welfare states before the Second World War, like my country for example, Belgium, and now we have a very extensive one (too extensive I think :)). In my opinion the preferences of the Estonian people have more to do with specific historical experiences than with some ingrained cultural trait: half a century of communist occupation and the need to rebuild the country afterwards. In this way Estonia is very similar to other European ex-communist states, who all spend relatively less (as % of GDP) on social protection compared with European countries that didn't experience communist dictatorships.
In this data from eurostat the pattern is clear, with some minor exceptions:

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_OFFPUB/KS-SF-11-017/EN/KS-SF-11-017-EN.PDF

Marko ütles ...

Thanks, Temetsa, interesting stats but it also proves my point:

In Estonia there were remarkably high year-onyear
rates, especially between 2006 and 2008,
which led this country to be ranked among those
with the highest average increase in terms of
overall expenditure on benefits (10.2 %). This can
mainly be explained by the broadening of the social
protection system (new benefits and higher
allowances) with respect to disability, family and
unemployment benefits. For this last function
(increasing at a yearly average of 16.9 %) the rates
recorded in 2006-2007 (+43 %) and 2007-2008
(+104 %) are remarkable.

While at the same time a rise in Germany was a flat zero. Estonia is still catching up, but we can't deny any effort being put in as the figures show - giant steps have been taken. And I must stress once more - in economic sense we are not like the Swedes, we are more like Germans, and thats mainly due to our historical economic developement - for nearly 1000 years business was done in Estonia by the Germans with great links to Germany proper and in essense in German way and that also explains our current credit rating in crisis battered Europe. Even if the social democrats will win the next election Estonia will still not adapt the Nordic style of welfare state, they will do it as their counterparts are doing it in Germany, I'm more than convinced in that. In the end we are likely to end up like Sweden or Denmark but I believe our system will be more flexible and most importantly - sustainable. People in Estonia do give and like to give to people in need, but they do not want to be forced to do so by the state and it's important to remember that.

Temesta ütles ...

"And I must stress once more - in economic sense we are not like the Swedes, we are more like Germans, and thats mainly due to our historical economic developement - for nearly 1000 years business was done in Estonia by the Germans with great links to Germany proper and in essense in German way and that also explains our current credit rating in crisis battered Europe. Even if the social democrats will win the next election Estonia will still not adapt the Nordic style of welfare state, they will do it as their counterparts are doing it in Germany, I'm more than convinced in that. In the end we are likely to end up like Sweden or Denmark but I believe our system will be more flexible and most importantly - sustainable."

Did you know that Sweden and Denmark have the same credit rating as Germany and have even lower government debt? Sweden actually has a net debt that is 'negative', meaning that they have more assets than liabilities. (Sweden: -24,8% of GDP, Germany: +55,2% of GDP) In this Sweden is doing even better than Estonia (-1,7%). In recent years Sweden and Denmark also did a lot of reforms to keep their welfare states sustainable. Sweden currently is also the strongest of Europe's advanced economies, with a budget surplus and high growth rates (5,7% for 2010 and an estimated 4% for 2011). I don't think there's a reason to assume that the German system is somehow more sustainable or flexible than the Swedish system. Sweden and Denmark also score higher in the Ease of Doing Business Index and the Index of Economic Freedom.

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2011/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?pr.x=53&pr.y=10&sy=2009&ey=2011&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=128%2C939%2C134%2C144&s=NGDP_RPCH%2CGGXWDN_NGDP%2CGGXWDG_NGDP&grp=0&a=

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ease_of_Doing_Business_Index

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_of_Economic_Freedom#2012_rankings_.28First_30.29

Marko ütles ...

Temetsa, you're missing the point. It's not about whos doing better or worse. It's not even about to whom Estonia should 'hug up to'. All I said was that in terms of doing business - Estonians are like Germans, for better or worse. From the days of the Livonian Order, the Hanasaetic towns and even within the borders of Swedish and Russian Empires, to where Estonia once belonged - the nobility, merchants and clergy in Estonia have always been cultrually German(ic) and that followed through to the first Republic where a lot of our business elite were mainly the decendants of the old nobility, they just took Estonian names and switched from speaking German in to speaking Estonian. The customs and ways of doing things remained the same, and still do to the large extent to this day. So altough Estonians are Northern people in terms of the culture, cuisine, customs, holidays etc. - but the way we handle money, is still pretty much a German way. Thus you do get bigger class divide than in neighbouring Sweden or not so far-away Poland, yet it's pretty similar to the situation in Germany or England for example. And reasons to that lay in our history. Thats why I always argue that copy/pasting economic or social policies from Sweden might not be a such a good idea - as it is not likely to work, while looking towards Germany on those issues would have more common ground in order to work. I just don't like the fact that Estonians are often brcketed in to certain 'boxes' like - oh, you're just like the Swedes, or, oh, you're just like the Finns, or Germans, or Russians etc. Estonian culture is a fusion of cultures with Nordic-Finnic mainstream, but strong German influence on business side of things and a mild Russian influence in openess, hospitality. It's a bit difficult to pin down all these little things separately but once you live in Estonia long enough it will all start to make sense to you. To put it simply - it is, what it is, lol, hope that makes sense:).

Temesta ütles ...

Oh, but I never implied that Estonia should adapt such or such system. I was just try to argue why Estonia has the system it has, and the reason for this I find in recent history. I also was arguing in favor of the 'Nordic' system because you wrote:

"Even if the social democrats will win the next election Estonia will still not adapt the Nordic style of welfare state, they will do it as their counterparts are doing it in Germany, I'm more than convinced in that. In the end we are likely to end up like Sweden or Denmark but I believe our system will be more flexible and most importantly - sustainable."

I misunderstood you as saying that the German system is more flexible and sustainable.
I also don't understand why you would group Germany together with Anglo-Saxon countries, as Germany is famous for the 'Rhineland model' which is seen as an alternative for the Anglo-Saxon model.

Marko ütles ...

I get your point. But I would still disagree with the 'recent history' remark. Recent history has affected us in terms of wealth - our economic developement was brought to an standstill for nearly a half a century. And to follow that up with Estonian logic - if you have little, you also have little to give. As countrys wealth has increased remarkably over the past decade, well, so has the contribution to the 'social fund' but that has not happened to the same degree in Lithuania or Poland for example, as your stats highlights - and that's what I think has to do with 'cultrual factors'. If we look only the recent history then by logic, all of the ex eastern-block should have had developed to the similar endpoint but it simply has not. We have a saying in Estonia - 'Every parish, should feed it's own poor', while in Lithuania/Poland its more of the 'well, it's their own fault' attitude or something totally different altogether. And I know this as I have spoken to people from those countrys on the subject. So there must be something else and I think it must be the wider historical/cultrual context. I also think this argument will cancel itself out within the next 10 years or so as my gut feeling is telling me that greater progress will be made here in Estonia and we might not see the same thing happening further south-west as the statistics already indicates.

And the Nordic style of welfare state? Well, it's a big one. One of the main arguments against it in the early 90's was our enormous unskilled, non-integrated migrant community. People didn't take well to the population transfers of the Soviet Union and many tought that these people shoud have left with the Red Army, when it pulled out. But it didn't happen. So there we were, on one hand Nordic style welfare state seemed like a dream in terms of making it in to a reality. So they decided to do it the old Estonian way - tough love way, that is. Sync or swim, but it also had a major downside - it also scarred the Estonian people badly. And now, to put it all right, would mean, really, to invest heavily but to do that it would mean to borrow massivly. And that's where the 'culture-thingy' comes back in to it again. Estonians, like Germans, don't borrow. We have a saying in Estonia - 'Debt belongs to the stranger', meaning if you owe to someone, that someone owns you. So the electorate will never mandate the social democrats to borrow, but at the same time people want to see some changes made for the disadvantaged people. So in full circle we are back in the old-style 'tough love'-thingy again. That would mean that members of the public will have to bear the burden of the welfare state not by taxation but by engagement - volunteering more, giving money to charity etc. And thats what social democrats will get their mandate for - to build a permanent bridge between the third sector and the state.

Marko ütles ...

Just wanted to apologise for my spelling. I do not spell-check and treat my comments on blogs and articles as I would a random scribble in a notebook. And I'm not a native English speaker. Sry:)

Temesta ütles ...

"But I would still disagree with the 'recent history' remark. Recent history has affected us in terms of wealth - our economic developement was brought to an standstill for nearly a half a century. And to follow that up with Estonian logic - if you have little, you also have little to give. As countrys wealth has increased remarkably over the past decade, well, so has the contribution to the 'social fund' but that has not happened to the same degree in Lithuania or Poland for example, as your stats highlights - and that's what I think has to do with 'cultrual factors'. If we look only the recent history then by logic, all of the ex eastern-block should have had developed to the similar endpoint but it simply has not."

I did not mean that all ex-communist have developed exactly the same kind of societies. But if you look at statistics about taxation and social spending you see clearly two groups. In Europe only (but not all) ex-communist countries have a flat tax, and spending on welfare is on average lower than in other European countries (I forgot: Iceland also has a flat tax). But, as I said, this doesn't mean there cannot be diverging trends within this group, so other socio-cultural factors certainly also have an influence, and I also expect that this dividing line will become more blurred in the future.

"Estonians, like Germans, don't borrow. We have a saying in Estonia - 'Debt belongs to the stranger', meaning if you owe to someone, that someone owns you."

That's true for the public sector but privately Estonians are (or rather were) more than willing to take on loads of debt. In fact the country was so dependent on private borrowing for supporting growth that the economy shrank with almost 20% after flows of credit dried up in 2008. But Estonians have learned from their mistakes and credit driven consumption is no longer the main force behind growth.

"So the electorate will never mandate the social democrats to borrow, but at the same time people want to see some changes made for the disadvantaged people"

Why do you make such a straightforward connection between Social democracy and high levels of borrowing. The European countries that have known the longest periods of Social democratic rule (Nordic countries) are certainly not the ones with the highest levels of public debt. Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway (ok, Norway has oil :) ), have levels of public debt far below the European mean.

Temesta ütles ...

Also have a look at this map:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flat_personal_income_tax.png

Marko ütles ...

Okay, Temetsa, you do make sense. I suppose I'm just being too Estonian (read: stubborn) about it, lol. But did you know that Estonia was one of the first countries to adopt flat tax? And due to it's success many in the ex eastern-bloc followed, inc. Russia. I suppose Estonia will continue to be grouped on those sort of maps with the rest of the east for many years to come, but it is not because we are in some way aligned with these countries, but many of them are literally copy/pasting our policies. Georgia being a real teachers pet, in that sense and good for them, as it seems to work to tehir advantage. It's like many Commonwealth countries are following UK and on those sort of maps UK often stands together with many African and Asian countries. And that is not to say that life is very similar in the UK and in Nigeria for example, altough both countries follow similar economic policies. So, what is good for Sweden, might not necesseraly be good for Estonia and what is good for Estonia doesn't always bring to the similar outcome in Poland, for example. And thats due to these 'other factors'. But then again we should re-evaluete from time to time, as Temetsa points out. Our main argument aginst Nordic welfare state was the massive Russian speaking low-skilled migrant community. Now, these people have by now largely integrated and maybe we could try it?

I reserve the right to remain sceptical, however. And would still advocate for less state and more third sector. But who knows!?!?

nipi ütles ...

For third sector to actively take part in policies, some changes in tax policies anyways needed - exempt from income tax of donations to third sector. Expanding list of tax-free third sector entities - or different system of selection, based on transparency of funds.