neljapäev, märts 15, 2012

soome

"And the best part is that my wife actually thinks I'm working!"
Soome. It is the Estonian word for Finland and it is one of my favorite Estonian words. Actually, most of the Estonian words for neighboring countries are fun, because by stressing the second half of the word, you can put the word into the illative case. Usually this is not the case. For most places, you add '-sse' to the ending of the word to indicate going in or into it. Mina lähen Tallinnasse, "I am going to Tallinn."

Then there are those very fun places where you just add emphasis to the second sound in the word, like Soome, Taani (Denmark), Rootsi (Sweden). Or maybe I've got this all wrong. I'm not a linguist. But I usually know what I am doing when I am speaking, and if you just say Soome, it means Finland, but if you stress that second 'o' in Soome, it means "to/into Finland." Minu tütre lasteaia kasvataja kolib Soome, "My daughter's kindergarten teacher is moving to Finland."

This was the main message of the most recent parent-teacher meeting at her preschool, her lasteaed. Her husband has been working in Finland for a while it seems. Now they are ready to rent an apartment and the teacher, the kasvataja (literally, "grower," because it is a garden and she is tending to the children) and her two children will move there next month.

Finland is a long way from Viljandi. It's a two hour drive to Tallinn. Then you have to take the ferry to Helsinki which, depending on the season, is another hour to two hours. And a lot of Estonians who make the journey don't stay there at the docks in Helsinki. They leave for work in other parts of the country. Two hours to Tampere. Two hours to Turku. Three hours to Jyvaskylä. This is the distance the Estonians must travel for decent paying jobs.

A lot of people "commute," meaning that they work in Finland during the week and return home for holidays and weekends with their local families. But others just stay. Our babysitter's daughter lives in Finland with her husband and children. When I asked if her daughter had married a Finn, not an uncommon occurrence, I was told, "No, she simply lives there."

Recently a young African immigrant who somehow found himself married to a hairdresser from Mustla, a tiny picturesque village close to Võrtsjärv, the big lake in the middle of south Estonia, complained to local authorities that he had no job. He was shamed in the local newspaper. "People go from the village to the town for work," the local authorities said, "the town doesn't come to the village." And, he followed, "half the village works in Finland anyway!"

It's normal, you see. Working in Finland is normal. Half of the village does it. The young African should follow the crowd, get a job at a saw mill. Head north, young African, head north. That's how everybody else copes. Bring your wife and offspring later. There are plenty of heads in Porvoo that need dressing.

I've seen quite a few charts comparing Finnish prices and salaries and Estonian prices and salaries. The idea is that the Finns are earning quite a bit more than their Estonian counterparts, but the Estonians are often paying more for the same goods (many of which are produced in Finland or owned by a Finnish parent company). I am not sure of the veracity of these charts or the reason for this phenomenon. All I know is that my brother-in-law has been working in the UK for the past nine years because his local salary would be jama, "bullshit."

This puts all kinds of pressure on the Estonian families that stay together. I say, "stay together" because a plurality if not majority of the kids I know around here do not live with their fathers, though I think that most of them know the identity of their sirer and spend weekends with him, wherever he may be. I rarely see these fathers, but I am told that they exist.

Often the mothers remarry, but then that new guy's gone too, off to Oulu or Espoo to do something that pays more than whatever he can find to do in Viljandi. The backbone of this country is strong, independent women. They are raising the children of its absentee fathers, minding its stores. This is not a critique of those fathers like my neighbor who must work abroad. They do what they must do to support their families. It just is how it is. It is normal, and few now manage to see it as abnormal, nor think it will change.

Since I am naive, I still wonder about things. I question the Soome status quo. Why can't those same Estonians do those same jobs in Viljandi? Sure, Viljandi is rather out of the way, but Tampere isn't exactly the center of the universe either. Sure there are only 1.3 million Estonians, but there are only 5.2 million Finns. They all need jobs too. So why do they need to vacuum up good Estonian workers to do jobs in Finland that could be done a few kilometers where those good Estonian workers actually live, at least some of the time?

What is it that the Finns are doing right that the Estonians are doing wrong? Is it a question of management, capital, knowhow? Is it a question of infrastructure? For 20 years Estonians have been sold on the idea that the invisible hand of a free market economy will make all right in this land, and that a Nordic welfare state would only cripple the development of the country. And yet this invisible hand has been picking up Estonian guys and chucking them at other countries with big Nordic welfare states, starting with Finland.

This is not to go off on some ideology-poisoned tangent. I have already admitted my ignorance. The purpose of this post is to learn more, not to lecture. And not everybody's father works in Finland, by the way. My daughter's classmate's father is different. He works in Sweden.

47 kommentaari:

KK ütles ...

Part of the answer is that the town does indeed not come to the village, and that most of Estonia is village. As is most of Finland, by the way.

Meelis ütles ...

"The idea is that the Finns are earning quite a bit more"
Average salary in Finland is 3000 euros.

Temesta ütles ...

"What is it that the Finns are doing right that the Estonians are doing wrong? Is it a question of management, capital, knowhow? Is it a question of infrastructure? For 20 years Estonians have been sold on the idea that the invisible hand of a free market economy will make all right in this land, and that a Nordic welfare state would only cripple the development of the country. And yet this invisible hand has been picking up Estonian guys and chucking them at other countries with big Nordic welfare states, starting with Finland."

In 1993 (the first year for which the IMF provides data for Estonia) Estonian GDP per capita was 35% of Finnish GDP per capita (in purchasing power standards, so nominal wage differences are bigger). In 2011 the gap has narrowed to 55%. So that's not bad. I think it would have been a miracle if Estonia could have closed this gap in only twenty years, given that the Finnisch economy also continued to grow in those years. To close this gap in 20 years would have required growth rates of on average 35% a year, which is very very unrealistic. Just give it some more time.

Temesta ütles ...

Here are the data:

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2011/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?pr.x=103&pr.y=13&sy=1993&ey=2011&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=939%2C172&s=PPPPC&grp=0&a=

onryoo ütles ...

It wouldn't be so bad if oil and food prices had not risen so rapidly. With 10$-50$ for a barrel of oil, people could have some disposable income after paying for life's necessities, even with the "bullshit" wages of Estonia.

But now, in Estonia, if you get the median wage, which is considerably lower than the average and for some "mysterious" reason is not even being published by the state anymore, you can only afford the necessities and sometimes in winter time you can't even afford that, if you happen to live in a Soviet block of flats with a non-renovated and wasteful heating system.

Perhaps this situation is tolerable for people who grew up during the Soviet times and can find self worth in being part of a movement that toppled that beast and also having had some part in building a new state, while appreciating the fact that the KGB is not at their door for saying the wrong thing.

But for young people, who have their life ahead of them, who want to have children and want to get some real estate of their own right now, the situation is unacceptable.

Thus I think Estonia will soon be a very poor and dying village ( if its not that already ) if the meaning of "Estonian wage" doesn't start standing for something other than 200-500 EUR per month after taxes, keeping in mind that there is little chance of food or fuel prices going down in the foreseeable future.

Adding to the low wage problem, there is also general loss of morale, there is a feeling of loss of control over one's own state. I don't feel like I have much say in what our "dear" prime minister does, I often doubt if he even has much say in it himself, because sometimes it seems that he has resigned himself to the role of being a puppet of various EU institutions and powerful international interests ( be they corporate, political or military - but there isn't much difference between those three anymore anyway )

Also, all the institutions of the state seem to be set in stone and most of the companies are controlled by foreign investors.

So, most of the younger generation here have little freedom to influence how that state that governs their life operates and they also have, in general, insufficient income for starting their own family. The older generation, with a few exceptions, has no energy or even the will to change the status quo.

And I do think that much of the wages are "bullshit", especially in companies that are local contractors to well off foreign ones. Somebody somewhere is pocketing the difference and they are probably very interested that the situation remain the same.

So the only two options left for Estonians are 1) some kind of a revolution or mass civil disobedience which could quickly escalate into not so civil disobedience or 2) You go to work in places where people have already manged to secure a bigger slice of a pie from the global economy.

Actually the second option is also a bit better for the working people in the richer countries, as their jobs and income level are not being undercut by outsourcing to some "Eastern-European backwater state", well, at least not as much, as the employers at least can't get away with paying 200 EUR of minimum wage in the more well off EU countries.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Lookint at what is going on in Estoniam, I am haunted by something that was said to me by one Russian student in 1990 in Moscow - "Bez nas vy pagibnete!" Meaning, all your seccessionist apsirations are great, but you'll be dying without us [Russia].

I think I might have responded to her with a haughty and dismissive laughter.

I am not laughing like that anymore.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Sorry, I am all thumbs with this keyboard ...

onryoo ütles ...

And if we had not separated, I am pretty sure we would be in the process of dying with them :P

Oh year, there is also the third option of becoming a successful entrepreneur, but that is a kin to suggesting to people to play the lottery to solve their income problems. Although I will admit that the chances of bettering ones monetary situation by starting a business are a bit better than doing so by playing the lottery, but it is far from a sure thing. It makes good sense for people who already have a significant amount of capital and can afford to lose some by taking the risk, while hoping that the business takes off.

Martin-Éric ütles ...

I've long said that Eesti is the entrepreneur's paradise, while Soome is the employee's paradise. Pick your poison.

Skeptigirl ütles ...

Last week I met a nice Estonian (or virolainen as we say it, not eestiläinen for some reason)cleaning lady at the Prisma mega store. We chatted for a bit while I waited for the pharmacy to open. Her kids were back in Estonia and she missed them but goes and visits when she can. I found out she studies at the same school as my husband did but her Finnish was great, true, Estonians have a bit of an advantage in that regard.

Hear about the Estonian dude who made it almost to the finals in the Finnish Idol's show? He got to be fourth at the Estonian show some years ago. He was working here too, just like half of Estonia.

The lady who owns my husbands Finnish language school is Estonian as well.

I think most Estonians tend to keep their heads down a bit here because I don't meet too many except by chance, but once I start to think about it I know quite a few...

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

"Eesti is the entrepreneur's paradise ..."

That it may be, but not for long.

This paradise has been losing it's angels lately.

No problem, right? Right?

Yeah, right.

Marko ütles ...

I remeber those Russian comments aswell. 'You are doomed'; 'No one else will treat you as equals'; 'You will never make it on your own'. These were very sobering and harsh words. We have to remember that the Russians pretty much closed the door for our imports and exports alike. People just went to work one day and it wasn't just the matter of picking up the phone and ordering in raw materials for your factory and arranging transport for your warehose to be emptied of already manufactured goods. It wasn't even the case just going on internet or opening up yellow pages to look for alternatives, as there was no internet back then, nor were there any international yellow pages. Situation was critically stark indeed, to put it mildly.

That's where the Finns come in to the equation. They were the first ones to venture in, to make the investment, to build up lists of contacts, to help us navigate in this new frontier. And that's why Finland is important. While West and East alike were looking down on us, Finns were there, closely followed by the Swedes has to be mentioned. And that gave us a huge advantage in the region. And it will never be forgotten.

As for many people migrating to north and west, well, that's a tricky one. On one hand - sure, why not. But on the other - a lot of these people are the 'neglegted poor'. And thats something we should be ashamed of. We are not like Romania or Poland, there is a lot more wealth around in Estonia. I think reasons are more sinister in nature. It's the ultra-liberal cowboy-capitalism combined with orthodox right-wing politics. There are huge differences in wages, living standards, access to top quality education etc. It's as if we have forgotten the fundamentals of fair play. What people leave often out in the fair play argument is the starting position of a young adult. It has become clear that for example if you are from a single parent working class family in Viljandi, your chances are that you will remain a working class small townie for the rest of your life. We have established a poverty trap in recent decades and the only way out of it seems to be emigration. And many are taking this opportunity up. Surely it has to be challanged by providing alternatives but government seems to be uninterested.

Temesta ütles ...

"We are not like Romania or Poland, there is a lot more wealth around in Estonia."

I know Poland very well, having lived there for one year, and the standard of living is certainly as high as in Estonia, except for some regions in the east. Since 2008, because their economy didn't go into recession, Poland catched up. This is reflected in statistics for GDP per capita, wages and consumption.
It is a country that is underestimated by a lot of people.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

I am trying to take a 9000 foot look at the political landscape and get the feel for the general climate.


"Apre moi - le deluge!" Would it be fair to say that this IS how the Estonian elite has figured it out, by and large. Meaning, as long as Estonia is part of the EU, OUR income is quaranteed. That is why we joined it in the first place. To us, it is irrelevant how many people will be left in the country. Somebody will still be needed to administer this piece of territory. That somebody is us. If the ablest and the brightest of the population takes a hike, even better. More job security for us.
Pensioners and invalids can not be able to challenge us, our incompetence and contempt.



Please tell me that I am COMPLETELY off with this.

Temesta ütles ...

See for example these numbers for 2010 from eurostat:

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_OFFPUB/KS-SF-11-064/EN/KS-SF-11-064-EN.PDF

Estonia's per capita GDP was 64% of the european mean and Poland's 63%. Eurostat also included a statistic that, according to them, is a better indicator for households'
actual standard of living: the Actual Individual Consumption per capita. Here Poland scores better than Estonia, with 66% compared with 'only' 57% for Estonia. The Polish economy also did well last year, so I don't expect big differences for 2011.

onryoo ütles ...

I personally think that a wider dynamic is at work in Estonia. On the one hand you have the people of Estonia excreting pressure on our leaders and then you have the EU, various international organization etc that have an interest in Estonia acting a certain way and are excreting their own pressure on our leaders.

For a time, when all was right with the global economy and the future seemed bright, food and fuel were abundant and cheap ( at least in the west and they still actually are, but not to the same extent ) and people preached on about the end of history and the coming of a day when lambs and wolves would coexists peacefully... well you get the point

During that time there was little conflict between the outside pressure and the pressure exerted by the Estonian people ( if you discount Keskerakond ). Sure, some of the laws passed during that time weren't as beneficial to the local population as they could have been, but all in all, life was progressing and freedom was in the air and real estate prices never fell and were never going to fall.

Then the progress halted, credit tried up and I am pretty sure that also cocaine consumption decreased and 1000 dollar wine bottle consumption increased in the financial capitals of the world... or maybe it was the other way around, I am not sure.

Now as a parliament member Igor Gräžin said on ETV, EU is exerting pressure from above and the people are exerting pressure from below and the poor politicians are caught in the middle. But at the end of the day, which one has more clout ? Of-course - it is the one who is exerting pressure from above.

But why aren't the ones below able to exert stronger pressure ? Personally, I think it is because in Estonia, when you look at the concentration of assets (that includes monetary capital, knowledge, morale, being able to meaningfully coordinate with your equals in order to reach a common goal and not just following orders from above etc) among the population in general is pretty low at the moment.

That is also why I really don't care anymore who will end up leading the Estonian state. If the asset concentration doesn't improve among the Estonian population the dynamic will remain the same and as we know, humans are corruptible and when you have a bunch of poor people who are not competitive enough to make it in the global economic context exerting pressure on one side and wealthy global economic player exerting pressure from the other side, guess who is going to win?

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, I would certainly be worried about extreme differences in wealth. They are not a good sign and are often followed by rapidly closing educational and health care systems.

I'm not sure if the danger of forming an ossified class system in Estonia is as bad as in many other countries - surely the common national feeling will see to maintaining at least a somewhat level playing field especially in education. Estonia simply cannot afford to waste its human talent. With the open EU borders the immigration abroad will surely remain a worry - I would hope that this tide would finally turn, but I guess not yet at least.

Marko ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Simo ütles ...

Maybe it's just a case of Estonian men waking up and smelling the awful Finnish coffee: that if they are going to make it in Estonia, they are going to have to make it in Finland (or elsewhere) first.
As you made mention of, there are numerous examples all over Estonia. I have a friend Andres from Pôltsamaa who has lived in the US now for 10 years and has bought up most of his fathers neighboring farms to increase the family's land holdings. Would NEVER have been possible had he stayed in Estonia.
The best example of a countries citizens making it elsewhere is India which attributes a large percentage of its economy to remittance payments - money earnt abroad and send back home.
Sure it doesn't directly help an economy if labour is shipped off shore, but it does aid other areas such as capital raising and general consumption. And let's face it: Estonias only real export is brains, and that is already butter spread too thinly over toast.
"But the EU will save us!", if you believe that, well, I'm guessing people that believe that don't read this blog. Estonia should cut and run the EU ASAP. The invisible hand doesn't stand a chance when Merkels low-heel is firmly planted on it.
So what are the alternatives? Start doing more business with Russia?? WHY NOT???
Estonia has to swallow a large chunk of its resentment and get into bed with Russia while keeping a foot on the floor ready to get out. Call it 'financial revenge'
There is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Estonia to ride the coat tails of Russia's energy boom and bring itself out of the bottom of the wealth cycle. But Estonians have to seize it. They won't be invited in. Giving Russia the inches it thinks it deserves can gain Estonia bloody miles.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Simo, wise men with wise words have been known to be exectuted to the delight of the cheering crowds. (Thank God for the anonymity of the internet!)

You are so right, except your wisdom will be understood much later.

For now, you are a commie, a socialist, a spy, a traitor, heretics ... a very, very "bad" man.

But one day the tide will turn.

stockholm slender ütles ...

One does wonder about this wisdom of a Russian turn advocated by some. Sure a rapprochement wouldn't hurt, but that has to be mutual, and at the moment Russia has not moved an inch as regards its interferance in Estonian internal affairs. Russia's long term prospects don't look that rosy either, the oil boom has not been utilized for reforming the infrastructure and fighting corruption, and demographics still look quite dismal for decades to come.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

To deal with the "russian problem" we need to have to be able to trust each other. Right now and for the longest time, if ever, we don't have that trust amongst ourselves. The end result is, our brothers and sons prefer or are forced to serve distant business ventures and flock to D terminal for the trip to earn their daily bread, instead of circling our wagons and work out a good policy toward Russia. Amongst ourselves .. with our leaders ... whom we elected and trusted to lead us ...

It is the curse of our nation that we do not and cannot trust each other. That is why we are being constantly ruled upon by others. Because they can. A divided nation is a weak nation. That is why we get teary eyed at song festivals. Thinking how different it all could be. At least I do.

We, Estonians like to pride ourselves for having exceptionally sceptical and distrustful minds. As if this is some divinely ordained virtue and rare to find quality. That is all nice and true until this so called virtue turns against us. I see herein lies our greatest weakness. Just like the Kalevipoeg in our lore, we are doomed to bleed ourselves with our mightiest weapon. Weaken ourselves to the grief of those who wish us well, and to the delight of those who wish us gone.

I hope I am wrong and that I only speak for myself, but based on my experiences and other evidence which is of plenty, I am inclined to think that there are other Estonians who do not trust a fellow Estonian.

I wish I was the only sceptic who abandoned ship, ran away and tries to be proud of it. I am that biblical son who turned down the inheritnace of the bowl of soup. I look around, all my brothers are doing the same. But we don't talk. We are too sceptical. Too jaded.

I am.

Shoot me.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

... FOR the bowl of soup ...

Like a typical Estonian, my knowledge of the scripture is flimsy. Why?

May I offer ... because we are ... ahem ... sceptical?


Anyway. Enough blabbering and wasting my time. Pull the cord ... now.

Marko ütles ...

As I grew up in the 90's I once asked my father, but why don't you do any business with Russians? Answer to that was somewhat surprising - I don't deal with thugs and bullies. That's the problem. It takes a certain kind of person to 'go to bed with Russian business'. It's near enough impossible if you're a bit of a pacifist or been generally brought up in Western environment. It's not to say that all Russian business people are thugs, but my dad refused solely on that ground. I suppose there are plenty of others to whom money doesn't stink.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Marko,

Dancing with the Devil is scary, no doubt. But if we don't, then we'll just end up just polishing the floors for the Finns who DO dance with the Devil.

I am referring to the news I read lately, that Estonian subcontracting firms are entering into the Russian marked through Finnish companies.

Do you find WWII memorabilia on sale in Finnish supermarkets? Why not? Did they not fight the Russians?

You get my drift.

My point is, we pay heavy price for what I call, plain stupidity.

Why can't we be smart and smarmy like jews? Why we have to "speak the truth"?

What IS the truth?

Who cares?

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, you don't find German memorabilia in Finland, naturally, but there's a huge body of Finnish literature and memoirs available. Not really that much actual memorabilia as such, I guess because those things still are well remembered, though there must be collectors. And there is absolutely no sense of any war guilt - Stalin is seen as totally the most responsible person for the war.

What in my view separates Finland mentally is, once again, a different, and much luckier history: we have gotten also quite good bargains from Moscow and St Petersburg, the first 60yrs of autonomy were amazingly positive time. And even Stalin made a sensible bargain in the end, having grown a healthy respect for the bloodymindedness of the Finns, and by and large that bargain was respected till the end of the Soviet Union.

So, there is not this sense of zero sum when it comes to Russia, but once again, this is mutual, and it's hard to see that Estonia has much room for manouver until Russia shows that it willing to compromize. At the moment Estonia is doing quite fine to my mind, and does have quite a bit of commercial dealings eastwards even now. They can be even more profitable and wide ranging, but that would require a changed mentality in Kremlin. And not only in Tallinn.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

When you dance with a 800 pound crazy gorilla, you don't expect it to behave rationally. You are NOT going to wait to change its mind.

We'd still be waiting since I don't know, since the times of Ivan the Terrible. Maybe we are.

We like to pride ourselves of being patient.

Well then. Go and mop the floors in Finland. And patiently explain the ways of the world to your children over Skype.

We are such "proud" people, you know. Or smarts are in our ability to stall. To huff and puff.

Something I am doing right now. I am Estonian, you know. Lot's of self-hatred, quilt and complexes.

Anger.

Marko ütles ...

Ivo (Liivimaa parim ratsutaja), I do respect your point of view but I also respect the one of my dads. I mean his values are good values and we should not compromize on these. It's not called stupidity, it's called standing your ground. Western world starts with town of Narva, and people living in todays Estonia reflect that - there has never been any greater contrast to the East and West as it stands today. Finns can do all they want (I'm actually half Finnish myself) but in Estonia I believe, the route chosen is the right one. We have to nurture our business in 'Western embrace' for a bit longer and soon enough you will see there will be plenty of venture capitalists to whom 'blood diamonds' and 'Russian oil money' are just another investment projects. Our dignity is important to us, I believe, and we shouldn't give in just for a quick-quid here and there while we all know whats going on in Russia and at what human cost this money travels to the pockets of the todays Russias ultra-rich. 50 years down the line we can look straigth to the eyes of the Russian people of that time and we can proudly say - we had nothing to do with it, we did not capitalize on your despair. That's got to be worth something in the long run, won't it?

PTI ütles ...

Marko,

People hate USA too! But it doesn't prevent them from doing business with America. If you gonna take 'high moral' ground with Russia and hurt yourself, WHO THE HELL CARES!
50 years from now nobody will care what world was like in 2012.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Marko seeks truth like Vargamae Andres. He is an idealist. It is charming.

Remember what happened to Andres? He became sad and angry in his quest for truth toward the end.

We need to be more like Pearu with Russia. They mess with you, you mess with them, you dance. You lie, you smile, you praise them while you hate them ... you know - politics. Pearu's "talupoja tarkus" beats Andres' any day.

WHO CARES 50 YEARS FROM NOW?

Was it REALLY a good idea to not to play ball with Rooskies regarding the North Stream? OH, we are so proud, we are Estonians. We are victims, occupation, deportation, gulag, suffering, bla, bla, bla ....

Don't you want to live? I mean, now?

So why buy the SS calendar? How is this going to help you? Materially. It is an effin joke.

onryoo ütles ...

Perhaps we should synthesize the viewpoints of LPR and Marko in a way where we do business with people who do not share our world view while still keeping in mind that we have the truth - it's the other guys problem if he doesn't believe it and him not believing it doesn't make it any less true. We just won't be able to call them friend.

But you don't necessarily have to be on friendly terms when doing business. You don't have to be nice with these "heathen goyim" ( to borrow some Hebrew words here ) only diplomatic and smart to get the best possible deal out of them.

Marko ütles ...

Well, I was just saying the truth. Everybody thinks that way but noone likes to put it out there. Remember the early 90's? We were doing business with Russians then. And how did that look like? Assasinations, car bombs, people taking their kids to school in armored vehicles, gangs and mafia... Do you really want that back on our streets? Don't think so..

In my ideal world, I suppose, I would like to see St Petersburgh declared as a special economic area in state interest. I would like to see Enterprise Estonia taking some of their capital there and helping to set up small and medium size businesses and showing them how to do business our way. Theres nothing idealistic there, the Finns did it in the early 90's in Estonia and pulled us effectivly out of the 'gutter'. If we could do something similar in St Petersburgh (I would leave the rest of the Russian Federation out, for obvious reasons), well, that would be something to be proud of.

I'm not saying no to Russian cash alltogether. I'm saying no to dodgy dealings with criminals and current state companies of Russian Federation as their legitimacy will for sure be questioned in maybe not so distant future by the wider Russian public. We are seeing singns of that already.

Besides, in the end of the day it's up to the individuals what they want to do. Nothing wrong in being idealistic nor oportunistic. But it could be a good idea to excersise so caution. Take a step back and think it through.

Marko ütles ...

I'd make one more point on the subject.

Latvians and Lithuanians are doing business with Russians. Are they better off than us? Nope. Instead the money ends up in the pockets of their oligarchs who then invest it in prime real estate in London or New York, or just keep it in off shore bank accounts or tax havens. It just shows that if you do business with that kind of people you also import the mentality and the so called set of values. I think these values are not suitable for Estonians. And the proof of that is out there - we have stayed clear of it alltogether.

Don't fix it, if it ain't broken!

PTI ütles ...

Marko are you blaming Latvian and Lithuanian oligarchs shortcomings on Russian mentality?(Finns must be immune, right?) Its kind of like blaming Lithuanian chronic alcohol abuse on Soviet mentality.
Perhaps blaming others for your own problems is Soviet Mentality, we see it often with V. Putin. Who is responsible for anti-Putin protests? USA and Mrs Clinton, who else, I guess :)

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

I hear you. It all may seem very complicated, but I happen to know perfectly normal and reasonable Russian people. It really gives me a lot of hope.

There are nice people everywhere. The thing is, we ourselves have to be nice and my point is that we keep falling short in that regard.

We know that we do (deep inside we do, look past the shield of arrogance) and then we behave weird toward each other.

That weirdness erodes, corrodes and squanders trust. And TRUST is a form of capital which we have precious little to go around in Estonia to begin with. The end result is that you can't deal at the open market with the big players when you lack that kind of capital at home.

True, we do have some pockets of it. For example, I am sure it is the level of accumulated trust inside the Skype team that allows them to play in the big league. But looking around the business and social landscape, and just aroudn you in general ... you don't see much of trust, do you?

What we need more of is trust. It is hard to get and easy to squander.

Scepticism is a poor partner for building trust, building capital, bringing about progress.

Scepticism is an excellent partner for want, poverty, disease, disappointment ... all the other non-virtues there are out there.

And we like to be such proud sceptics. It is such a self-defeating attitude.


I could go on and on, but the message is simple to each and every one of us - try to become a better person, let bygones be bygones. Educate yourself of things that enoble you. Start building trust by starting to trust yourself of being able to become a better person.

jams ütles ...

To: Liivimaa parim ratsutaja

Why do you say Estonia is no longer an entrepreneur's paradise?

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Answer: Lack of qualified workforce.

Temesta ütles ...

A problem that's easy to fix if it would become easier for companies to attract workers from foreign countries (poorer countries outside the European Union). But in this case Estonia's love for the free market clashes with nationalism.

prodigy ütles ...

@ Temesta

As oxymoronic as it sounds, importing foreign workers to a nation is actually not a long term solution to combat labor shortage.

I will use Germany and Sweden as examples. Both of these nations have a long history of attracting immigrants and foreign workers, originally this was meant as a way to combat the very labor shortage Estonia is facing today (the Germans called this gastarbeiter). Sweden and Germany are now going on nearly half a century of being countries of immigration. The irony is that both countries are facing long term population decline, even though they've both had 40+ years of consistent immigration.

The very age structure of Germany, Sweden and Estonia are all remarkably similar to each other despite the different immigration policies and political backgrounds Germany and Sweden have had compared to Estonia in the last 50 or so years. In Sweden as of 2010, only 15.7% of the population is between the ages of 0-14, in Germany it is even lower at 13.9% while in Estonia it is around 15%. A healthy level is at least 20% or higher.

Also worth noting is that while the number of immigrants/people of immigrant background in Sweden and Germany is consistently increasing, the number of native Swedes and Germans is actually decreasing in their respective countries. For example, in Frankfurt, Germany, one of the largest cities in Germany as of around 2010 40% of the population was of non-German origin. However, for people under the age of 20 this figure was around 64%. This means that in 40 or so years, ethnic Germans will actually be a minority in one of their own major cities (surprisingly these figures are similar throughout all the major German cities and is many ways present throughout Western Europe (the Netherlands and France are particularly extreme examples, but I won't dwell on stats here).

My point is not to try and sound xenophobic nor that Estonia shouldn't have any immigrants (that would be silly), but rather learn from the mistakes of Western European nations rather than repeating them (In Germany there are about 4 million people of Turkish background, the majority of which are extremely nationalistic to Turkey and refuse to integrate, even 1.6 million of them still hold Turkish citizenship). My other and more important point is that while attracting workers might be a short term solution, as examples in Western Europe have shown, it is not a viable long term solution.

Really, the only viable long term solution I can see for Estonia is to encourage Estonians to have more babies and additionally to discourage permanent emigration abroad, especially for young people with highly specialized skills and who are highly educated.

I remember reading about the medical university in Tartu, how 80% of medical students there are studying Finnish with the hope of eventually moving to Finland to practice medicine. In many ways I guess Estonia is blessed that the most popular destination of emigration is Finland which is so close to Estonia. Latvia and Lithuania have it worse for example, many young people have immigrant to far-flung places like the UK and Ireland while Estonians only have to go next door.

Temesta ütles ...

"Really, the only viable long term solution I can see for Estonia is to encourage Estonians to have more babies and additionally to discourage permanent emigration abroad, especially for young people with highly specialized skills and who are highly educated."

I aspected this answer. Currently there are no signs that Estonians will make significantly more babies and even if they would they will only be able to work in about 20 years while the labor shortage will arise much earlier.
I'm from Belgium and very familiar with the issues you mention. In the 50's and 60's we had huge inflows of emigrants to counter labor shortages in certain industries. A lot of these people and their descendants are now unemployed, but still, without them we would not have achieved the enormous growth rates in production and improvements in the standard of living in the fifties and sixties, as the labor of these people was really needed back then (notice also that at the same time we still had a high birth rate among Belgians and almost no unemployment). Actually, Belgium, being the first industrialized region on the European continent, has had large inflows of immigrants since its independence, most of whom integrated within two generations. It depends on the background of the people you let into your country. Integration of Spanish, Italian, Greec and Polish people went relatively smoothly while with Turkish and Moroccan peope it's more difficult. Estonia can learn from the mistakes Westerns countries have made and design a more productive immigration and integration policy.
I must also say that contrary to Germany our population is not declining nor will it decline in 50 years according to the most recent projections. We even don't have enough schools for all children since earlier it was predicted that the number of children would decline while actually the number increased in recent years. Since 1990 our population increased from 10 million to 11 million, mostly due to immigrants and their offspring. Not everyone is happy with this development but there aren't many countries that managed to reach Western standards of living without immigration and/or a higher birthrate.

prodigy ütles ...

"Not everyone is happy with this development but there aren't many countries that managed to reach Western standards of living without immigration and/or a higher birthrate."

Japan and South Korea have managed to reach high standards of living without any real immigration (I am aware that Japan is facing long term population decline, however).

"Currently there are no signs that Estonians will make significantly more babies and even if they would they will only be able to work in about 20 years while the labor shortage will arise much earlier."

This is true. However, it should be noted that generous child support policies in Ukraine in the last decade or so have dramatically increased the birthrate, so Estonia could perhaps learn something from this. In Estonia, the main problem is emigration, since the natural population growth has actually been stable for several years now (not growing though, just stable). There is also the issue of "brain-drain" were educated people emigrate. Like I said before, fortunately most Estonians opt to emigrate to Finland which is close enough to Estonia that they or their offspring may return.

"Estonia can learn from the mistakes Westerns countries have made and design a more productive immigration and integration policy."

This sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice it becomes more tricky. For example, in Finland they often view Sweden's immigration/integration policy as a good example of what not to do (This is my opinion kicking in, but Sweden's immigration/integration policy is actually a pretty big failure). Yet, Finland does not have a selection system, so in the last few years there have been at least a few thousand immigrants a year immigrating who experience has showed us will have difficult integrating in society. To paraphrase what I'm saying is in Finland the attitude "Oh, we don't want Sweden's immigration/integration policy!" is what is preached, but in reality they are actually faithfully copying it more and more with each passing year.

"It depends on the background of the people you let into your country. Integration of Spanish, Italian, Greece and Polish people went relatively smoothly while with Turkish and Moroccan peope it's more difficult."

If Estonia wishes to avoid many of the problems Western European nations have faced with xenophobia, immigrant unemployment, crime, etc the only way to do it is to either selectively pick their immigrants or to not encourage immigration in the first place (the latter is actually counter-intuitive since there will always be at least some immigrants anywhere you go). Personally I think you provide a good example here. If Estonia will go for immigrants from countries like Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia or even countries further afield like Georgia or Armenia I don't think they'll end up with any integration difficulties/societal tensions versus if they started to attract immigrants from say African countries or non-secular nations in the Middle East which history has shown integrate poorly into European society.

The next 20 years are very critical to see what sort of a nation Estonia will become. My hope is that it'll be more of an Iceland-scenario (that is, wealthy, high birthrates, low number of immigrants/successful integration of immigrants) than a Germany-scenario (wealthy but with low birthrates and a poorly integrated immigrant/immigrant descent population)

prodigy ütles ...

And yes, I'm aware of Iceland's current financial woes, I was speaking more on standard of living than economic condition

Marko ütles ...

Prodigy, there are plenty of people in Estonia with Sub-Saharan backround who have integrated to the point where they are now considered Estonian. Where as there are plenty of Belorussians and Ukrainians who have not managed to do that even over three generations. Therefore your claims are somewhat ignorant or even cynical, to put it mildly.

Our historical experience is that Slavic people in general are hard or near impossible to integrate, while Central Asians (Estonias muslim communities), people of Siberia (people with Finno-Ugric backrounds) and Western Europeans (Germans, Danes, Swedes, Scots etc. who have arrived in these shores in great numbers over the centuries and are present in nearly all family-trees of Estonian people, if you dig deep enough in church records) integrate relatively well.

We mustn't also forget that a country is a natrual habitat for it's people. It is not a company, looking out for profit only.

Immigration rules should be relaxed but in a way that these would benefit people who seek better life here, want to make this country their home and are willing to work for it, or people who are escaping war etc. Skills of individual migrant are irrelavant in the long run, as we would still have to train their family members and offspring therefore that is an 'illusionary' requirement. We need good and able people, willing to learn and work hard. We don't need people just for their certificates and diplomas.

prodigy ütles ...

"Prodigy, there are plenty of people in Estonia with Sub-Saharan backround who have integrated to the point where they are now considered Estonian... ...Therefore your claims are somewhat ignorant or even cynical, to put it mildly."

I am sorry if I sounded "ignorant" as that was not my intention. Part of the reasoning is due to brevity. I may not have expressed myself fully. Yes, most people of Sub-Saharan ancestry are actually fairly quick at adapting to their host countries, in fact based on my personal experience of living in various countries (Canada, Sweden) I actually think people of Sub-Saharan background are actually better at "integrating" into Western "cultures" than people of ancestry from the Indian Subcontinent or East Asia (specifically China) for example (if you wish for me to expand on this, I can). I'll admit I have no idea how many people of Sub-Saharan descent live in Estonia (do you perhaps?), so I won't dwell on the matter here further. Actually when I was thinking of Sub-Saharans with a poor history of integration I was thinking specifically of Somalis, but then again many Somalis in Western countries are only 1st or 2nd generation so it'll be determined how well they integrate only after 1 or 2 more additional generations.

"Our historical experience is that Slavic people in general are hard or near impossible to integrate"

Well now I can accuse you of being the one that is cynical (no offence). In Germany for example, there are up to 2 million people of Polish ancestry and you'll find many Germans with Polish-sounding surnames. However, these people identify as Germans and have little or no connection with Poland other than their surnames and are fully integrated into German society. Interestingly enough, I'll add that there are many Poles in Poland who have German-sounding surnames but fully identify as Polish, just as an example I'll use the historically important Plater Family. Even in Estonia I'll use the example of musician Tõnu Trubetsky, his father is of Polish descent but he is 100% Estonian.

"We need good and able people, willing to learn and work hard. We don't need people just for their certificates and diplomas."

As true as this is there is also the problem of well, how are you going to determine if people WILL work hard?

There's also the question of demographics. In countries like Germany or Sweden prior to the mass influx of immigrants from the 60's onwards these countries were very homogenous (well over 90%), in Estonia less than 70% of the population is Estonian. For Sweden and Germany who were both homogenous importing some diversity was not a big deal, however in Estonia's case there already is a fair bit of diversity. This is part of the reason I always find it interesting when Estonians discuss the integration of potential future immigrants when they have a large Russian minority, many of which aren't even integrated now

plasma-jack ütles ...

Just goes to show that Poles, Slovaks and Czechs are not considered "Slavs" in everyday language around here. I guess they're just considered "Europeans (from former Eastern Block)". And I guess that most people hardly think about Slovenes or Bulgarians at all when talking about "Slavs".

Marko ütles ...

'As true as this is there is also the problem of well, how are you going to determine if people WILL work hard?'

Well, it's like with everything, really. How do you know that tourists staying at your hotel won't trash the place? How do you know that the new neighbours who just moved down your street won't be pesternig you for petty stuff like salt/sugar, borrowing your phone, asking for lift to places etc. The thing is you'll never know but there's also a way to avoid these things.

You see, some hotels always get smashed up, and some people are always pestered by their neighbours but some never are. And why is that? It's about the setting, the environment, the mannerisms of an individual/organisation, it's about how we conduct ourselves and how we come across. And people do take notice.

It's the same thing with immigration. Do you actually know anything about immigration to Western Europe? Did you know that new non-EU migrants are at first kept in detention centers (essentially a prison, from where you might be getting couple of hours of leave in a day), surrounded by barb-wired fences? Did you know that they keep small children there aswell? Did you know that they are not allowed to work for years and when they eventually do get moved on, they are often housed at the most deprived areas in inner-cities? These people face discrimination and hardship every step of the way and when at one point someone has had enough and takes it out to the streets in peaceful protest, they are often confronted by the English Defence Leagu or BNP (I'm talking about Britain here). And then it makes it to the news in Estonia, and Estonians often snear at the migrant communities, a la, 'aren't they awful'. I'm sick of it and I think it's about time these myths and fairytales about immigration would be crushed.

The bottom line is that if you treat someone badly, that someone at one point will have enough and will raise against you. And that is not because they are rioters in nature, as it is a popular view in Estonia, but they are simply standing up for themselves.

Now, the question often rised in regards to immigration in Estonia is - if we import the people, would we be importing their problems aswell? Answer to that is yes and no. It depends on of how much notice will we be taking from Western Europe. Do we repeat their success and their failure aswell? Or can we be smart about it and get it right from the beginning?

The only thing I would be worried about are the Estonian people themselves. What do we have actually to teach to these newcomers? Where do our values stand? Does hard work still pay in Estonia, like it used to do in Tammsaares days, or is it about something else? Is every household still 'sacred' in Estonia (including households of sexual minorities) as it was drafted for our first constitution? We are a nation of no faith, but can we live side-by-side with people of many faiths?

We need to get these big questions answered first so that the newcomers will know what it is they are actually getting involved in. And then... well, only sky is the limit.

Alo Avi ütles ...

Making babies is an expensive investment and if you want your children to succeed in life, twice as costly. Education begins at home and with the current economy no mother can stay at home. How can a man support hes wife and 3 kids with the average Estonian wage? The answer is he can't, not without working abroad.

Also the feminist movement as opposed to women's advocacy, that is more common in Estonia, is seeping in from the West. The Gender roles will get muddier and muddier as time goes by until we get the same state the rest of the West is in.

Women/Men moaning about where have all the Good Men/Women gone. All the while not seeing that the core of a society isn't the individual but the family.