reede, juuli 06, 2012

up from the skies

It didn't happen here.
One of the most perplexing things for a so-called "Western" person resident in Estonia is the absence of "The Sixties," these arguments that have been raging for forty-odd years about things that younger people have to study up on to understand, but still make older people reach for their daggers, as if the Hippies were the beginning of the downfall of Western civilization or the heralds of a new age, an "Age of Aquarius," where blacks could be president, popular newsmen could be openly gay, and management entirely female.

It didn't happen here. There was no Estonian Watts, no Estonian Woodstock, no Estonian Stonewall Rebellion, no Estonian women burning bras. Or were there? It's hard to tell, given the population's desire to glance beyond The Sixties to The Forties, a truly contentious time in Estonian history that few have truly digested (nor it seems ever will). From what I have been able to piece together, The Sixties in Estonia arrived in The Seventies, with prog rock groups like Ruja, the "Estonian Beatles." Maybe it was the heady year of 1968 that started to shake things lose, so by 1980 you had The Letter of 40, this vast national reawakening climaxing in the summer of 1988 with the Singing Revolution.

But then, to make Estonia's "Sixties" understandable to those of us familiar with the American counterpart, then we should look beyond our own details -- civil rights, Vietnam, feminism -- and see Estonia's period of reassessing its values and ideals as one of national survival. I find it interesting that in the 1970s, the heart of the Soviet era, my wife's mother gave her children the oldest Estonian names she could find. That wouldn't happen today. The film Nukitsamees (1981) to me embodies the values of this era - a spooky film about witches with a fluid plot that if looked at through Western lenses, seems quite psychedelic. To think it was made only 12 years after the highly structured "classics" Kevade and Viimne Reliikvia.

To me, this shows that Estonia indeed was going through its own era of redefinition, its own "Sixties," just in its own, Estonian way.

36 kommentaari:

plasma-jack ütles ...

I'm too young to know anything but it would seem that Estonian 60-s took place in 70-s and early 80-s. The hippies totally existed used to work on livestock trains and rode all over the Soviet territory, look Tarmo Teder's and Vladimir Wiedemann's books for more details.

Keeping in line with this 10-year delay, punk was very big in 80-s while the 90-s were the era of sugary disco hits.

And now for the linkstorm:

This song is from 1983;

this is from 1976, from the band that was immediately outlawed

and this is actually from the 60-s, Jaak Joala does the singing. Would you say that the Western hippies wouldn't connect with these vibes?

plasma-jack ütles ...

http://vabameelne.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/lillelapsed-ensvs/

This article argues that the golden era of Estonian hippies was 1968-71. The pictures are Western, though.

Rainer ütles ...

Giustino, nearly all the elements were there by the end of the 60's, but on a very, very miniature scale. They came into bloom in the 70's, that's why for example in the art history, which is more familiar to me, a term "long sixties" is used.

Marko ütles ...

Funny you mentioned "Nukitsameest". I was flicking randomly through it the other day, while my partner say next to me. And there's this scene when one of the sons of the old witch licks the young boy on his cheek. "That's discussing. It's paedofilic, turn it off." Lol. I explained that I first saw this film when I was five, and it's one of my favourites of all time. But he was not having it. I suppose this is extremely creepy film for some cultures, but in Estonia it's been broadcast 10 o'clock in the morning, every boxing day, followed by "Home Alone". :)

Rainer ütles ...

And if you are into psychedelics, watch "Ahvatluste tund" (Hour of Temptations). NB, you may recognize the Devil as Peeter Jakobi, known as Ivo Schenkenberg from "Viimne reliikvia", and the tempted maiden as Maarika Lenk-Tuus, member of Riigikogu. Wasn't she a dish back in the day?
http://etv2.err.ee/videod/mangufilm/428a377d-85d8-409e-9338-71f293f283bd

plasma-jack ütles ...

It's paedofilic, turn it off.

well, now this comment was extremely insensitive towards the cannibal community.

Rainer ütles ...

I concur.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Estonia's dark history and countless setbacks have created a unique sens of the world that not everybody shares.

Cultural context is important. Time and place is important. I just realized that by being surprized by my niece and nephew, both American-Estonians, who find "Kevade" to be a depressing and humorless film. Two thumbs down from them.

How can you argue? The film is full of bleak wintry scenes with the wind howling, drunken Lible rambling on after being fired, Toots and Tonisson being punished for nothing, Arno being sick and dumped by his imagined girlfriend, underage drinking at the baby shower party you name it... And then there is this overhwelming ominous foreboding and sadness that carries throughout the film. The soundtrack enhances it.




If that passed for a lighthearted comedy, then what kind of a dark and gloomy place did I grow up then, I ask myself now.

Rainer ütles ...

"Kevade's" appeal lies in the glimmer of hope in it. Youth, everything is possible. The proverbial spring of life.

Rainer ütles ...

What saddens me the most is the total disappearance of teacher Laur, the benevolent and kindly fatherfigure of "Kevade" from later stories. He suddenly vanishes like he had never existed at all.

_nagilum_ ütles ...

I find it difficult to compare East and West anyway when it comes to the 60s and 70s and the redefinition of values. A lot of what was debated in the West back then is still considered leftist - civil rights, feminism, alternative ideas of life and society; while the western establishment had refused to include these in their government and society, the East treated them (on paper, at least) as technical matters that (again, on paper) had already been implemented. Many of the political ideas of the Hippies and 60s activists in general came from the communist/socialist corner, or were somehow merged with them.

I'm not saying the Hippies were communists. But part of their social and political points were very similar to those of socialism. And although the reality of life in the USSR hadn't much to do with original socialism anymore, it kinda had the same ideologic roots.

So it could be that what the western Hippies were looking for already existed in some form in the East; or the people in the East simply saw what a mess similar ideals had created in their part of the world and weren't interested in the same things.

Marko ütles ...

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think LPR is spot on. Estonian films, like most European films, tend to be very current, dated. I've shown a lot of Estonian films to my foreign friends. A Pakistani girl I was working with was well impressed with "Klass", as were a number of my elder British colleagues and my partners parents. After seeingit I think they reevaluated whole Estonian concept in their heads, they could connect to it, and it made it relevant. It made Estonia more relevant to them.

Where as younger Brits, to my surprise, really liked "Vanad ja Kobedad". And mainly for it's lighthearted storyline and beautiful scenery. And I was surprised to hear many of them would actually love to live neighbourhoods and countryhouses featured in the film. The rustic, archaic and timeless feel, that's what intercity kids in Britain are yearning for. Good selling point for estate agents, mind you.

But a lot of the films made in recent years, well, they ain't interested. Too pretentious, is mentioned often.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

As for the 60s effects in the Estonia ... I don't know much, just that my parents don't know anyting about what was going on in the world then. Yes, small town people, what do you expect. But still ... Oeh, what can I say? Why would I expect my dad to know who Mick Jagger is for example. It is very irrelevant to him, just as it was then as it is now.

One older guy told me once the Beatlemania at its hight had an effect in Estonia. According to his story, in Parnu there was some "kooli sparakiaad" ... um ... a sports event on the stadium and somebody had brought in a battery operated recorded and was playing Hard Days Night on it and everybody congregated around this guy and the athletics competitions were paused until the "order" was restored by the organizers.

I imagine he was telling me the truth, but who knows?

My parents were blissfully oblivious to it and even afraid to listen to the Voice of America back then.

When I think of it and I cannot believe it ... did this happen in this life or was it some previous life ... or in a dream?

I mean the Soviet times.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Spartakiaad is the correct wording.

Is this word still being used?

Did it have some connection to the ancient Sparta?

Rainer ütles ...

I'm not entirely sure. Maybe Spartacus, the rebel slave?

"...sest Spartacus-võitlejad me"?

Troels-Peter ütles ...

"When I think of it and I cannot believe it ... did this happen in this life or was it some previous life ... or in a dream?"

It's intersting to hear your thoughts on the Soviet times. I can imagine it must feel quite strange.

I think Spartakiads must be named after the Roman slave rebel Spartacus who was interpreted as "the first communist".

But maybe he had a connection to Sparta? And the similarity in names is also an advantage for a sporting event, of course.

Rainer ütles ...

Well, the slaves back in antiquity were usually called after the place the came from, and had to relinquish their proper names. I can well imagine Spartacus was from the city of Sparta.

Rainer ütles ...

I know, Giustino, I know. A smart mouth is a lonely mouth.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

It must be the "first communist" theme as Spartacus himself was reportedly from Trachia.

One wonders why the communists were so down with Jesus then? He was definately a community organizer extraordinaire. Liberating the working class, power to the people type of thing. Add immaculate conception as there was officially no sex in the CCCP and you get a poster child for communism ... but no, we have this dude Lenin who did all that and then some. Still waiting for him to resurrect from his sarcophagus and walk out of the mausoleum ...

Marko ütles ...

One of my older relatives once told me that they were all taken to the police station, after him and some other lads from his class grew long hair over summer school holidays. The hair was shaven off, they received detention and had to work longer hours on fields. That happened in Viljandi, by the way.

Unfortunately I never asked how did they know that long hair was the fashion of day in the States, and now it's too late...

But what I gather, some people were more than aware what was happening in the west. I know for a fact that my grandmother was familiar with the Beatles in her youth, although it was banned and never officially aired on TV or radio. Somehow they knew. Would be interesting to know how did it happen, as in the South Finland had a very mild influence, they must have had different sources to the north.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Darn ... I was just reading Eesti Ekspress and came accross this:

"Eestisse jäävad vaid need, kes usuvad, et ülekohus on ajutine ning et õiglus võidab. Samuti need, kel pole õrna aimugi, mis tegelikult toimub. Aga ka need, kel pole kuhugi minna."

Apparently this was said in 2008 by Viktor Siilats, a prominent businessman. (Found it in the commentaries to the article about the death of Andres Sarr.)

So many people who've made it to the top have left indeed. A good friend from the past, I read, recently purchased a house in Silicon Valley.


Look at myself, my own relatives ...

I have property to get rid of in Estonia myself.

Sorry, I am in a meandering mood today ... browsing the net.

Of course I am VERY interested in what keeps a non-Estonian in Estonia. Hence reading this blog as if it is going to revel me some never known truth one day. That it will make me see something that I missed.

Oh, St. Giustino, speak to me!

:-)

Rainer ütles ...

Yes, the Beatles. But that's about it. And the vast majority had no idea as to what they were singing about.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Although the Beatles had long disbanded by the time I became interested in them, they are the reason why I started studying English.

I can honestly say, in a hindsight - John Lennon changed my life.

His love for New York and America intriqued me ... as well as why was he so pissed off and vitriolic all the time ...

And his music, of course.

Marko ütles ...

But LPR, has it ever dawned to you that Giustino might be just as happy in Estonia as you are in the States? I might argue in a same way, how on earth can anybody be happy in America? Sometimes people just fit in to places they never thought they would. My sister often tells me, Marko, this country has been made for you. It just feels right for me here in Britain, and it might feel right for Giustino in Estonia. Nothing wrong with that. Besides, Viljandi is special. Problems in Tallinn do not often apply here.

vabameelne ütles ...

Kosmos 68

http://etv.err.ee/arhiiv.php?id=126222

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Of course this dawns on me all the time, that is why I find it so interesting ... what did he see I did not ...

It never bores me.

Marko ütles ...

But what's not to like? Ever ride your bicycle from Viljandi Parnu maantee to Soomaa? Ever gathered your thoughts in Põrguorus? Ever had a picnic with your closest friends in early morning Lossimägedes? Ever skinnydipped at midsummer night in Võrtsjärves? Ever bought a funny hat from farmers market, where people are so polite and sweet and nice, it brings a tear to your eye?

Oh God, I miss it so much that it hurts. For sure, one day I'll be back, just have to go through this Nipernaadi phase ....

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

I envy you. I have to live vicariously through you then, Marko. Sadly, I do not have such overwhelming romantic memories. My memories of Estonia are tainted by my first hand observation of confrontation, anger, blame, jealosy, cruelty, indifference, outright stupidity, lack of imagination, poverty, simple mindedness ... you name it.

I ma just watching the documentary that somebody posted here. Amazing. I feel no connection to it.

I have re-invented myself in America and life is good. At some level it pleases me to read that I make as much money as Sandor Liive. But I am poor. So now I am re-inventing my past.

I've done impossible things in my life before. So the question now is, can I do that?

My wife told me recently that ma olen heast elust lolliks l2inud.

Marko ütles ...

I suppose it also depends what is important to you as a person, what matters to you and what makes you happy. For some it might as well be about keeping up with the Joneses, for others it might be a little flat in overpopulated innercity just as long as they can spend their life with a person they love - the rest is secondary.

When it comes to living abroad, I like to take the longer view. My family actually once already left Estonia, about 120 years ago. There was a gold rush in Siberia and conditions for working class people were so tight in Estonia at the time. So they sold everything and left. Obvivously, it did not work out for them and when Estonia became independent some 20-30 years later, they sold everything again and what little money they had they managed to get, they came back. Worked very hard and by the time the Soviets arrived were fairly succesful - and that had it's price aswell, now they were taken to Siberia by force, where many of them died. But then my grandmothers generation managed to return in the 60's. So in my family we do not see emigration as something final. There's no - thats it! Things change in life, so do values and what makes us happy. Thats the only message my grandparents ever had for me - you have to be happy. And if times are hard and the only way you can be happy is by moving away for awhile, then so be it.

Talking about happiness, have a listen to this. PS I'm no fan of the man, I think he had a bit of a Gaddafi complex. But I think he is being honest here, and what he says also resonates with many Estonians of modern times:

http://arhiiv.err.ee/vaata/konstantin-patsi-kone-algkooli-lopetajatele

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

That was a speech. Thank you.

Rainer ütles ...

Kosmos 68

http://etv.err.ee/arhiiv.php?id=126222

My goodness, is that really Mülleri-Sass?!

Bloggi ütles ...

Who is the average commentator on here? Based on this thread there seems to be quite a plentitude of Estonian ex-pats or people of Estonian origin living abroad.

Timbu ütles ...

I'm wife of an ex-expat (now back to Estonia and happy about it) so yes I guess Giustino's blog appeals to those with an experience of "displacement "
The 60s-early 70s... my parents were the "hip" crew, big sunglasses, wide flowery pants and all, illegal records, Finnish TV... but the mentality was not Hippie, rather it was about fashion and a taste of forbidden fruit. An age of innocence.
There's another side of 60s - the space race, new tech, "triumph of science" - check the cartoon "Operaator Kõps seeneriigis" for a local echo (and does Kõps drive a Cadillac in that movie?)

Meelis ütles ...

"in Estonia is the absence of "The Sixties,"
Sixties are not absent. They are not so well known. For example:
http://microlips.blogspot.com/2006/08/biit-piraadid.html

Marko ütles ...

http://etv.err.ee/arhiiv.php?id=129361

That was filmed 1970, in Viljandi. And thats how I pretty much imagine the late 60's looked liked in Estonia. Weird to think that that's Soviet Union, mind you.

Mardus ütles ...

Awesome observation, never thought of this before.

• The (U.S.) sixties were the Estonian (late)eighties: Singing Revolution viz Woodstock, etc;
• The seventies were 1990's: Flower Power free-for-all, when ppl suddently felt free again, had lots of sex but no children;
• The U.S eighties are our 2000-2010: Everything's business again, first the AIDS epidemic and the methanol tragedy (compare with chemical spills in the U.S.), then a boom tipped with recession near the end of the decade, think 1991/1992 in the U.S.); and
š• the U.S. nineties are now (new tech, à la Skype).

Very interesting.