pühapäev, oktoober 28, 2012

letter from helsinki

Perfection comes at a price.
I'm getting fleeced, maybe by my own idiocy, maybe by the metric system, maybe by the Finns, and, just maybe, by all of these things. Macadamia nuts and dried strawberries at 2.99 for 100 grams at the Kamppi shopping center in downtown Helsinki. It sounds reasonable, though I have a hard time conceptualizing 100 grams of anything. And yet when it's time to pay up, the cheeky Vietnamese Finn at the booth charges me 24.99 ($32) like it's no big deal. And, after a brief "you must be joking" look, I pay it anyway, handing her a €50 bill, only to be handed back half of the amount in currency, and the other half in two, half-filled bags of nuts and strawberries.

The higher price tag must have been linked to the products' innate superiority. It was one of the few reasonable explanations. But how were they superior? I am not going to speculate that each nut was fashioned with laser-like precision by some local titan of design, named Timo perhaps, to exude the correct art nouveau properties, though in Finland, I might believe it. Or could it be that these nuts and strawberries were superior because they were in Finland, and in Finland, things are superior and cost more, by nature?

It's no wonder that so many Estonian workers flock to this northern land of perfection. The salaries are many times higher. A babysitter in Viljandi will work for €2 an hour. In Helsinki, our Estonian friend pays her babysitter €14 an hour, to do pretty much the same job. The Finn earns seven times more than the Estonian! Little did I know, but all of my neighbors and acquaintances who do the weekly trek to Helsinki are rolling in it. Maybe that's why they all drive such nice cars.

And I would wager that it is easier for an Estonian to integrate into Finnish society than most other nationalities. Even I felt disarmingly at home there, despite the parallel universe prices. The faces were familiar, the names were familiar, as was the language. After getting lost, I was able to get directions from some grocery store sellers and understand what they were telling me. I realize that just hearing all of this Estonian all the time has opened my mind to Finnish, Karelian, Vepsian, a whole new linguistic world.

And yet the Finnish-Estonian relationship is complex. Consider the English text on the Viking Line ferry screens. These are large monitors found in the corridors of the ship that provide information about various destinations. Tallinn's includes the lines, "Since gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991" and "hotels are up to Western European standards." Either they haven't changed those informative blurbs since 1996, or somebody is living in a timewarp. My experience is actually that hotels in old Western Europe are not up to Estonian standards. At my hotel in Hamburg, I was given a large, old-fashioned key, to be left at the reception desk. In Rome, wifi was free, but only in the lobby, and it didn't work half the time. And in Helsinki, I had to actually pay for parking across the street from our hotel with coins from the "lippuautomaatti." Can you imagine? Estonian radio stations may be stuck in the 1980s, but when it comes to "Western European standards," the world's only post-communist nordic country has left them all behind.,

A bit more on the dreaded "N" word is warranted. I sometimes get the feeling that "Nordic" is a code word for Finnish, as if one means the other and vice versa. Few nationalities are so keen on the term, other than the marketing savvy Estonians, who see it as a self-promoting "in." But what exactly is "Finnish" and what exactly is "Nordic?" Where is the line between the two? It seems as if "Finnish" is some kind of premodern concept, of saunas and national folk costumes and accordions, 19th century prints of flaxen maidens working in the fields.

But "Nordic?" "Nordic" is ocularly appealing coffee mugs and aerodynamic chairs, Marimekko prints, a pair of smart, dark-framed glasses on every face. "Nordic" is some kind of 1968-minted version of "the future" that has been tweaked by time and technology. Because of this, a person in Finland can feel as if he is both simultaneously stuck in the past and living in a science fiction film.

The Estonians, for all of their tech agility, still seem to have a complex in regards to the Finns. I won't call it an inferiority complex, but as a friend informed me, anytime she confesses that she is Estonian, she is looked upon with disapproving glances, as if a plumber had barged into a meeting of bankers, his ass crack hanging loose for all to see. When my wife had trouble returning a sweater at Kamppi, thanks to a particularly difficult seller, she was heard to ponder aloud, "I wonder if she treated me like that because I am Estonian." And when I asked her why she didn't try to speak Finnish with the locals, she answered, "Why should every Estonian speak Finnish to the Finns? They should try speaking Estonian to me." I was pleased to see how Finland got under her skin, after being mocked during our visit to Russia for my "illogical" fear of being trailed by the FSB, "as if I was so important."

In the midst of this, I started to better understand the Estonians' desire to take the Finns down a notch. Sure they may be wealthier, and more "Nordic," but the Finns and Estonians spring from the same rough country roots, as do most Europeans. Let's go back a few generations before the Finns got their Marimekko sweaters and Urho Kekkonen glasses and progressive politics and take a look at all the peasants sawing timber and sullying their hands in the fields. So when Estonians begroan Finnish haughtiness in the media, they are actually just trying to keep their old friend's ego in check. And that is a mark of true friendship.

I have to end here by saying that in spite of its high prices and obsession with perfection, and occassional haughtiness, I really do love Helsinki. It is the place where I fell in love. And there was a moment when I was looking out the apartment window before the snow fell, and the golden and brown leaves were swirling around an adjacent playground, that I felt that the place actually might be perfect, in its own rugged, rocky, Finnish way. So I recommend a visit to all. But first practice by standing in front of a toilet and flushing €50 bills down, one after the other. And when at last it doesn't hurt anymore, then you are ready to experience Finland.

72 kommentaari:

Ricardo ütles ...

Most Europeans DO live in a timewarp. European stereotypes about other Europeans take ages to update. For most people in the "Western Europe", there is no difference between Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians: they are "all Russians" from "those funny countries". And this is not taxi-driver talk: these are lines from elite PhD students.

"My experience is actually that hotels in old Western Europe are not up to Estonian standards." I totally agree with you and add to that coffee-shops, facilities as, for instance, airports, tax system, all the other things you for sure know and have benefited from, and specially important, the public administration.

The "truth" is that, if you take GDP per capita or average wages out of the picture, the "ranking" of European countries would be quite different. Some richer countries are way less modern than some poorer countries. But the stereotypes tend to favor the richer.

My favorite example is Portugal: Portugal is always seen by others as "a very catholic and conservative" country. No matter how many revolutions we had, no matter how advanced our politically correct laws are compared with other countries (no irony here, rather respect), from same-sex marriage, to the ban of very-long prison sentences, Portugal is seen from the same stereotype that might have been right 50 years ago.

Maybe we have still to let time pass 50 years since Estonia regained independence so that stereotypes will improve a bit.

Troels-Peter ütles ...

I like your analysis of "Nordic" versus some national designation. I think you're right that it has a more futuristic and high-tech, maybe even politically correct sound to it compared with the national label. The latter can be a bit compromised by history, while "Nordic" carries much more positive overtones. That's certainly the case with the "new Nordic cuisine" here in Denmark.

About the "1991 independence": I sometimes wonder why the terms "independence" or "re-independence" seem to be the preferred ones in Estonia for the 1991 event. Since the opposite of an occupation is a liberation, why not simply call August 20st, 1991 "liberation day"? Just a thought.

Marko ütles ...

Troels, one cant liberate oneself. Reindependence was restored through referendum, to assert the will of the people and give it proper legal status. Liberation is somewhat confusing term to use in that sense. Actually, hang on, we liberated ourselves in the War of Independence from Russian Empire. Sealed with Tartu Peace treaty, outcome of the Great Norther War was canceled. Wich actually also leads to the question of what the legal relatioship with Sweden would be, come to think of it... Anyhow, reindependence for 1991 is correct.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Considering how tense the general public mood is right now, it is safer to talk about the price differences of pistachios and tantsud jääl or something, instead of bombshell news like these ...

http://www.ekspress.ee/news/arvamus/arvamus/asutajaliikme-avalik-lahkumiskiri-reformierakonnast.d?id=65189170

Or maybe it is just me ... walking on eggshells.

Alone.

But, then again, looking at the number of comments there ... maybe not so much.

Marko ütles ...

LPR, but dont you think that Silvergate was long meant to end the way it did? Didnt you see it coming? I mean this is serious. But I think there is even more pressing matter in the air at the moment. Namely, the anti hate speech legislation. I mean, if administration sucks, well, then it sucks. But if administration starts to ban things, things which border fundamental rights then I think we are facing a major crisis here. Being a gay man, I know how hurtful some of that stuff can be but I would never legislate against it. Its a slippery slope. It kind of works in other Nordic states and parts of Western Europe. But I think thats not what we are about. In Estonia, every man woman an child should have their equal say. Without reservations. I think its a must. A fundamental. Hate speech can be regulated by other means. Be it self censorship, media pressure, whatever. Bringing criminal prosecution in to it, is a no go for me. What do you think?

Marko ütles ...

Giuostino, you make an interesting point about Finland. And I fully agree. From Estonian perspective Finland is just like another Estonian county. Like Saaremaa or Võrumaa. They speak slightly different way, they do things in a little different way to us, but all in all, they are like us.

Its just since after the war, both Finns and the Esths, have experienced and witnessed a kind of different way of developement. A different way of being. And thats the strangest thing. No matter which side of the channel you are looking at it, theres always something better on the other side. A brighter way of doing things. I think it really encapsulates Lennart Meris idea of Finnic cultural dualism. The dualism in a sense that same people can do things in a fundamentally different ways, yet remain the same people. Its difficult to pinpoint but I think youll know what I mean.

Letter from Helsinki, your best post yet!

Giustino ütles ...

LPR,

A certain Inno Tähismaa predicted this will be the end of Reformierakond. The "government" has certainly taken on this teflon, invincible quality, that no scandal can bring them down. And since there is no functional opposition right now, with SDE, Keskerakond, and the KESK refugees unable and unwilling to form a new government, the ruling coalition can do as it pleases. But the clock is ticking. I wonder if Meikar and likeminded politicos are plotting one of those Res Publica kinds of things, maybe for the 2013 elections. Instead of "Vali kord" it will be "vali ausus"

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

So far nobody seems to have come out to declare a political crisis in Estonia or so it seems. Could it be that the new "silent era" being ushered in?

A new "kliki aeg"?

In order to survive and to preserve friends and relationships, people resort to praising the flavors of different potato chips. Hence the success of Eesti otsib talenti etc.

Giustino ütles ...

I would bet on Mikser making good on his pledge to become prime minister in 2015.

Giustino ütles ...

Troels-Peter,

When I lived in Copenhagen, I heard the word "Scandinavian" a lot, but not "Nordic." There were classes on Scandinavian Healthcare and Criminal Justice in Scandinavia. The Danes seemed to think of Norway-Denmark-Sweden as a unit, but Iceland and Finland were outliers. Iceland is appreciated because they still speak the language of the sagas, although they seem to be of half Celtic origin, and Finland, well, from the perspective of Copenhagen, it seemed like a distant wilderness.

Marko ütles ...

Yep, Mikser better man up and be ready for it. Even if they would form a new party tomorrow, theres no chance they would win at the next general election. Sotsid is the only feasable option, really.

As for Silent Era, I think yes, we have all the conditions there for it to happen right now. All we need is a new Konstantin, or maybe he even already excists by the name of Mart or Edgar.

They need to bring general election forward, there is no other way of dealing with it as it is urgent now. Otherwise this whole fiasco will become a serious threat to national security.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Form yet another party, play democracy ... like this has not been tried before.

What if time has come to finally admit that there is no such thing as democracy in a small society?


Just like there is no democracy in my family. I decide. I am the "decider". The junior gets what he is given. All he can do about is gripe. Which he does. A lot. Now mind you, I have not flatly outlawed griping like Estonia is about to, but I too, I am drafting it.

So instead of democracy we have something more akin to benevolence. I am the Savisaar around here. Scratch my back and wait for my orders.

With this system well oiled as it is, why would I look down on what is going on in Estonia?

I should adjust my attitude and expectations. And I probably will.

The message to the Estonians from the government is basically this: "Love it or leave it". Which is exactly what I keep telling the junior when he pulls a long face at the dinner table ...

There is no democracy. It is what it is. Lap it buddy boy.

Troels-Peter ütles ...

"Troels, one cant liberate oneself".

Well, as you say yourself, one actually can. But as far as I'm concerned, the word "liberation" doesn't imply that you did it yourself. Only that someone or something did - in this case the fall of Soviet power.

Denmark did not liberate itself from Nazi Germany in 1945, the British did. But we call it the liberation anyway.

But I agree with you that the 1991 referendum in Estonia does give the situation a different twist. Voting about liberation sounds funny. But then, on the other hand, most agree that Estonia is the same entity as interwar Estonia.

Maybe it is possible to vote on liberation. Does anyone know similar cases? Was there a vote in Latvia?

Troels-Peter ütles ...

"When I lived in Copenhagen, I heard the word "Scandinavian" a lot, but not "Nordic.""

No, the situation has changed, I think. The Nordic brand has definitely grown stronger in recent years.

But then, the two terms have always been used more or less interchangeably here - because of the tendency to forget Finland, as you say.

Marko ütles ...

As far as I know, all three "former" Baltic States had a vote on it. I use the term former here as the Baltic State as a political, socio-economical concept had originally only to do with Russian Empire, lets not forget that Finland was also considered Baltic State for the same reason - Lutheran nordic culture in Baltic Sea region, which was foreign to the Russians at the time.

Temesta ütles ...

I think Reformierakond will win the next elections. Although there are scandals and ordinary people don't notice much from the renewed economic growth, they keep scoring high in opinion surveys. A severe economic crisis, a scandal, nothing seems to touch them. There seems to be a very large part of the Estonian population that recognizes itself in people like Ansip and Ligi. Strangely enough, I haven't met anyone here who votes for Reformierakond.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

"..scoring high in opinion surveys" ...

It is probably rated as "normaalne" then. That is the highest opinion rating anything or anybody can expect from Estonian audience.

Ask random people what people think of Arvo Part's music ... I am sure you get a lot of "normaalne".

:-)

Temesta ütles ...

I think they ask people something like 'if there would be elections now, for which party would you vote?'. So more people would vote for them than for any of the other parties.

Marko ütles ...

Troels, I was wondering if you do know what Baltic means from Russian perspective, as theire the ones most to use it? Let me expand on that a bit. For many Russians Baltic means the same thing as for many Brits Nordic does. Our main exports to Soviet Union were pickled herring, flat packed furniture and minimalistic lamp shades, Abba like music and Christmas decorations made of straw. For the Russians, the term Nordic does not make much sense as their North is Siberia, and they themselves claim descent from the original Norsemen. Yet, the Estonians were different to them. Not just the religion and strong Germanic influence but also the little things. Like the accent. Whenever I speak to a Russian lady in my pigeon Russian, they tend to blush, they find it cute when we speak with our "priBaltiyski" accent. And the same thing is true for the English. I have met Australians saying that we, the Notdics, put them in shame with our level of English and they find the soft tones very flattering. Some Polish people have told me that I am so lucky to have an accent I have, which I find amusing, lol. In a nutshell, Baltic for the Russians represents exactly the same thing as the term Nordic to the British. They are interchangeable.

Rainer ütles ...

"...we, the Notdics"

Please say it's a typo.

Marko ütles ...

It is, Rainer. Lol. As I commute to work, I use my phone on the train to write these little comments here. Trust me, grammar is the last thing on my mind but this typo is brilliant. ;)

Its funny how your mind works, also. I would have never seen it like that, mind you. :)

Rainer ütles ...

Well, Marko, it's one of those delicious Freudian slips offered to me as if on a silver platter. How could I refuse?

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Stereotypes are there for a reason and ready for exploitation.

Funny here ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY1MVQeeStY

You cannot say that there is absolutely no basis for it, can you?

Rainer ütles ...

For once I agree with you, LPR. True, no stereotype is built on air. But they are built mostly of air. And then of course there are false stereotypes, which may have applied for someone else in a different time and/or place.

Marko ütles ...

LPR, again what has this to to with anything with this blog and the subject matter? Its just some Russian/Polish/Whoever boys having a laugh in a way as they find it funny. What that's to do with us? Or can you relate to it? There are sad old idiots like that in every country. In Britain and Estonia as well. Or have you not seen any music videos of Scooter, a German techno group? They ridicule the German trackies, their mullets and drinking habbits. I find it sad, truth to be told, but if some find it funny then good for them.

Sometimes I wonder - you must have had a very secluded upbringing if you find any of this strange, weird or wonderful. This is representative of a subculture, anxiety of a troubled generation from divided societies. I thought that as people, we went through this in the 90s. But not apparently all of us.

Anyhow, Gangnam Style was a parody itself. How silly people from that shopping district in South Korea seemed to their fellow countryman. Why make a parody out of parody is even beyondme. Lack of creativity to come up with something original?

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Talking about secluded upbringing ... the hardest thing for me to realize when growing up was that we Estonians were not the uber race. It took a long time to set in, but I finally accepted it. Maybe embraced it even too much. That might be it.

This syndrome is similar to that of the born again christians who once reborn, begin preaching like crazy and feeling overly holy or something. Making up for the lost time.

I think I strayed to the other extreme of it somehow. Preaching what effin idiots we really are. I know, I know ...

See, the problem with self help psycho analysis is that it is so damn hard ... but I am trying.

Thanks for your help.

:-)

Marko ütles ...

Aww, don't be so hard on yourself. Don't bother yourself with things you can not change, but change the things you can. We've all had it hard, at some point of our lives but that's not the point. The point is - what about tomorrow? You know what I mean?

I'd like you to share more about your life in America. How do you cope? Are they being nice to you? Ever considered coming back?

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

These last two questions .. surely you were jesting. I am Ok with it. Irony is the most interesting ingredient of humor.

Marko ütles ...

Nope, I never liked the spiteful humor you are thinking of. Come to think of it, some of my Latvian friends do that alot. But no, I was being genuine. But that's okay, you don't have to answer.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

OK.

As far as coping goes, it is the same as it always been. We all cope everybody everywhere. From Papua New Guinea to New York and everywhere in between. It is what it is. You just adapt. But the number sunny versus cloudy days in a year helps a lot.

Nice to you? Sounds like you have never been to America.

Considered coming back? Well, very often I dream of going back ... to my younger years. Don't we all? As I get older, I'ļl probably start doing that full time like everyone else. That does not mean that I'll put down that umbrella drink, fold up my beach chair and start trekking back to the place where I will be feeding mosquitoes.

But if I have to, will do it. You never know. Will I like it? Sure. I am fine in my own good company, making funny observations about the world rushing by.

Troels-Peter ütles ...

"Troels, I was wondering if you do know what Baltic means from Russian perspective".

Thanks for the info. I might be missing your point, though...

However, the etymology of the whole Baltic business is indeed interesting, and definitely Russian for the land area.

I once suggested (here) that the "Baltic" name for the sea might itself not be local. But I'm not so sure any more, as it's used in both Latvian and Lithuanian.

Christine ütles ...

Hey Justin we used to say this about going sking for a week..
plagerism.. Ha , ha

"Finnish way. So I recommend a visit to all. But first practice by standing in front of a toilet and flushing €50 bills down, one after the other. And when at last it doesn't hurt anymore, then you are ready to experience Finland.

Christine ütles ...

Hey Justin we used to say this about going sking for a week..
plagerism.. Ha , ha

"Finnish way. So I recommend a visit to all. But first practice by standing in front of a toilet and flushing €50 bills down, one after the other. And when at last it doesn't hurt anymore, then you are ready to experience Finland.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Wow, and have been in awe with his deft verbiage for so long, never really bothering to think where does he get it from ...

Marko ütles ...

No, Troels. Just one of those thinking out loud posts. Didn't mean to make a point in the first place. With regards to Baltic versus Nordic, as I said, it doesn't really matter as they both describe near enough the same thing. We have a Baltic Street here in Edinburgh, where I live and I looked up some of its history. Apparently when Edinburgh used to be part of the Hansaetic trade union, sailors and their families from Estonia, Latvia, Sweden and North Germany used to be housed there, near the docks in Leigh. So all these people were once known as the Baltics, and also Nordics, as one local historian told me.

I don't want to argue with you or anything like that. It might as well be that these two terms mean completely different things in Denmark. I'm speaking about what it means here, in the United Kingdom, from historical perspective.

Marko ütles ...

Sorry, Leith, not Leigh. This bloody phone's gonna get me in big trouble one of these days. ;)

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Uh, I need to crowdsource this one .... How do you translate the word "vibe" into Estonian? I drew a blank in a conversation last night, nothing came mind that would express that.

Hea vibra?

Rainer ütles ...

Vaib.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

I see. Thanks.

More and more of Estonglish coming out of the old country.

Interesting.

Marko ütles ...

Ei, Rainer, mitte vaib vaid atmosfäär. Same goes for English. Clubs or people in Britain or Estonia do not have 'vibe', they have, or have not, got atmosphere.

LPR, translate the Americanisms in to British English first, and you'll find Estonian equivalents an awful lot easier.

And I also think that we shouldn't immerse ourselves too much in street talk or whatever localised jibe. Leave that to Polish builders and Swedish lagerlouts. Plain English, with received pronounciation is just about right.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

I do not know if vibe is an americanism. Don't people in UK say "I got a bad vibe about this" or "She's got the vibe" or "this place got a positive vibe or ... got no vibe"?

People don't have atmosphere. You can say it, but it would sound ... clumsy.

Vibe is a vibe is a vibe. Without any deep research into it, I'd guess that it comes from "vibration"?

Like the song ... "Good Vibrations" what is it in Estonian? Head vibratsioonid? Head atmosfäärid?

Hmmm.



Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Btw ... Marko, your last comment got a snobish vibe about it ... Polish workers, street jive, lagerlouts ...

And what is jive? Something BeeGees used to sing about? Does this word even exist today. Jive talking ...

Say that in falsetto. :-)

Marko ütles ...

;). People don't say bad vibe, they say bad feeling. I just think, and a lot of my British friends would agree, that it is extremely unflattering and unattractive when a, lets say, grown man of foreign origin speaks like a twelve year old. Some natives can get away with it, but most foreigners would not. Unless you're some sort of socialite and being taken seriously is the last think you worry about..

And your last comment - oh dear! Well at least we do not speak at the backs of our throats. I mean please, Jude Law vs Arnie, and you would seriously prefer the way latter speaks?

Besides, Estonian gentlemen do speak with slightly elevated pitch too. And what's wrong with that?

Marko ütles ...

Lol, just messing with you. Just be yourself, and all will be alright.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Groovy.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Half of ton of nuts? You live by leaves, corridors of cloudy thoughts, nuts?

Anyway, I think Finland and Estonia are somewhat separated by history - not as radically as Estonia and Sweden, but still. And of course, Estonia is more European. In its deep historical structures, I would argue that Finland is actually closer to Sweden than Denmark, especially northern Sweden (upwards from Stockholm). This is quite important.

Of course after the war Finland busily marketed itself as "Scandinavian" or, more sense makingly, as Nordic - which is something different and more recent than our shared history with Sweden: we didn't much like that Baltic state reference in Molotov-Ribbentrop, quite naturally, but before that the Finnish right wingers and nationalists were not that keen on the Scandinavian club - and model. In a storm, any ship will do...

But now that's ancient history now, and we certainly are a special, different Nordic country, with significant Baltic and Russian connections. I kind of like that, Denmark and Norway are quite boring, bit narrow...

stockholm slender ütles ...

Oh, and the media silliness can just be largely forgotten in Estonian-Finnish relations - both sides have anyway been quite a bit growing up from the dismal idiocies of the late 90's. Yes, Finns do have a stupid big brother complex, largely unjustified - and, yes, the Estonians, do have an equally annoying little brother complex.

This mirrors quite exactly Finno-Swedish relations (except that much is known and cared about Estonia in Finland), with the difference that Esto-Finnish relationship has matured much quicker and is more equal (the Swedes couldn't pretty much care less about Finland whereas Estonia is genuinely seen as an important and interesting country in Finland).

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

"It might as well be that these two terms mean completely different things in Denmark"

It's quite interesting. Could the name have been given at the time when Finland, Estonia etc. were part of Sweden and Norway part of Denmark? In that case it's easy to see how Nordic and Baltic is one and the same.

Now that I think of it, it's easy from an English-speaking perspective to extend the use of "Baltic" to Scandinavia, because they refer to our East Sea as the Baltic Sea...

Marko ütles ...

That's it, Troels, we are getting there, in the end:). But real point I was making was that in east of Europe (Russia) and in west if Europe (England), they tend to generally see us the same way. Northern Europeans to both of them are distinctively different. Where as if you ask them to point out what those differences are, then they will name you things which apply to all countries in the Nordic-Baltic region equally, with the exclusion of Lithuania, of course.

And this is something that some Scandinavians often ignore. And in case of some Estonians, well, it irritates them to their back teeth: ). Lol.

I personally do not care much but I do think that there is a great potential for further expansion of pan-Finnic integration. And I believe this is where all the resources should go in to. Leave the Scandinavians to their own devices, and lets concentrate on our own fellow Finns to the north and east of the border.

Troels-Peter ütles ...

Well, I have no problem following the line of thought that sort of conflates all North Europeans.

In medieval times Germanic-speaking peoples also referred, sometimes to Italians and sometimes to all Romance-speaking peoples as "Welsche/vælske/välska" (But I'm not sure they knew about that themselves).

But I'm merely thinking that if this outside perspective is not really reflected in how the identity is seen from the inside, it's mostly of academic interest. Which is great too, of course.

On the other hand, groups have historically been known to adopt identities from the outside, so it might happen again, of course.

Marko ütles ...

Yes, as a concept it definitely has to do with how foreigners perceive us. But not just. I think in Estonia when people speak about their nordicness its more about comfort, rather then pride. Its like in Britain people say that they are equipped to deal with certain life inevitabilities with a stiff upper lip. In Estonia, when faced with hardship, people would say, Põhjamaalasena saame hakkama, as northern people, we can handle this.

So, being Nordic is something we do not look over the sea for, but rather draw from within.

I was wondering, when Denmark used to be the poor man of Northern Europe, were the attitudes similar among the working poor in relation to what it means to be a Northern European aside being Danish? Would you care to fill me in about it?

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Identity is what you call yourself. If you don't do it, others will name you. This is what happened to Estonians, I think. Instead of calling ourselves Maarahvas we put out an attentive ear and listened what our neighbors called us. What did we here when they were pointing at us? Est, est, est ... well, we said, OK. Est, Est. We'll be your est then.

Good we did not listen to the guys of east of us. Then we'd be knows as Tshuds.

It is still tremendously important to us to hear what others call us.

Let this thread serve as evidence.

:-)

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

I live by auto-correct and die by not reading my own blabberings ... sorry guys for the typoes. I never change. Bhwaaaah! ....

Marko ütles ...

But in a way this is irrelevant. We named the Rus and the Islanders named us. So what? But I too think that it is a shame that we have lost the Maa Rahvas and Maa Keel. I wish that we, the Southern Estonians, would have fought harder against Northern cultural invasion and standardisation of everything.

I'm thinking that when I'll move back, I will be taking Mulgi lessons and start to use it everywhere in public. Just to irritate the shit out of northerners.

Troels-Peter ütles ...

"Would you care to fill me in about it?"

You mean in the 19th century? I'm not sure if the peasants had that much of a say at the time.

As far as I know, there was animosity agains all the neighbours in that period because Britain had conquered the fleet in the Napoleonic wars, Norway had been ceded to Sweden, and then wars broke out with what was to become Germany, about the duchies inbetween.

So I think a feeling of northernness was in dire straits at the time. Except among students where Scandinavism was on the rise.

Kimmo Linkama ütles ...

Hey Justin, if you base your idea of Finland on the price of macadamia-strawberries mixture, I'd say you have a pretty one-sided way of looking at things. And if you really bought almost 850 grams of the stuff, the seemingly exorbitant price is exactly what you were asking for.

As if macadamia-strawberries in Estonia were staple diet from Valga to Viru Keskus, available võileivahinnaga...

News flash: the median salary in Estonia is €623, in Finland €2,890. In terms of purchasing power, the price you paid for your nuts would correspond to €5.37 here in Estonia. Not that bad, huh?

I'm also sure you do know the meaning of the "Nordic" concept. Scandinavia excluding Finland, it's pretty natural the Finns use the term Nordic to point to their cultural/political connection with the "real" Scandinavian countries. You might have reserved your snide remarks to those Estonians who desperately try to include themselves in that camp, in reality being more Central European, as someone pointed out in the comments.

Maybe you'd like to enlighten your readers on why your views about Finland are so negative one day? Estlandisierung?

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

How come only Estonians got stuck with the name Est? There should be a whole lotta bigger bunch of other Ests out there from the western point of view.

Did we make the biggest impression? If so then how? What stood us apart? What, were our womenfolk always so pretty or did they acquire these qualities later as a result of being ... ahem ... very "welcoming"? Christianity arrived quite late to these shores, so maybe this was one way.

What about Letts? Not so hot? Whazzup with it anyway?





Just sayin'.

Marko ütles ...

Kimmo, Scandinavianism has nothing to do with Nordic. You can be Nordic and not Scandinavian - Saamis, Islanders etc. You can also be Nordic yet Baltic - Estonians, Livonians, Ingrian Finns etc, I know, that sounds like blasphemy to some, lol, but I couldn't care less.

Anyhow, I got a feeling that Nordicists are trying to hijack this thread. People exchange ideas here, please don't make it into one of those ugly arguments where everyone ends up looking even more stupid in the end.

Temesta ütles ...

I think in Estonia when people speak about their nordicness its more about comfort, rather then pride. Its like in Britain people say that they are equipped to deal with certain life inevitabilities with a stiff upper lip. In Estonia, when faced with hardship, people would say, Põhjamaalasena saame hakkama, as northern people, we can handle this.

Is this attitude 'we can handle it' also an import part of the self-image of the other Nordic nations? They are so wealthy and have such a developed welfare state that you wouldn't think there is a lot of hardship they have to cope with. The people from Finland, Norway, Sweden,... that I have met didn't give me the impression that they were very capable to deal with hardships, while I totally believe Estonians when they claim this. Probably it is just a remnant from a more distant past.

I think that a lot of nations have this attitude as a part of their self-image. I am from the northern region of Belgium, Flanders, that has throughout the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century been relatively backward compared with the rest of industrialised Europe at the time and the Flemish nationalist movement has created an image of the average Fleming as a silent hardworking person who takes life as it comes and doesn't complain. By now we have reached such a high standard of living that this self-image has become, in my eyes, utterly ridiculous.

But what I admire about Estonians, and this is what they share the most with people from other ex-communist countries is that they cope so easily with hardships (or things that are hardships in my eyes). I can't get enough from the stories my girlfriend tells about the nineties when she lived with her family in a single room without a bathroom and they had to work all summer on the family farm to have enough to eat. And Estonians who now have become more rich remember these times and attitudes and they will not whine easily, unlike so many people from Flanders, Norway or Denmark. I have an Estonian friend who did blue-collar work in England for some time. He told me that before he left he regarded Estonia as a Western European country. But in England he had quite a culture shock and he felt much more related to Poles than to Swedes, and now he wears the 'Eastern Europe' tag as a badge of pride.
Of course, time and economic progress will sooner or later make these attitudes disappear.

Kimmo Linkama ütles ...

Marko, as far as the Nordic issue is concerned, what I was referring to was what Wikipedia tells us under the subhead Political Nordism on this page (about halfway down the page).

I'm not sure what you mean by "Nordicists hijacking the thread". Fact is that the Baltic countries are some kind of hangarounds as you can see here. No matter how much anyone wants that to be different.

All this, however, is beside the point I was making to begin with. Estonia is poor. In comparison, Finland is rich. Ergo, one-on-one price comparisons are unfair and misleading. Unless you have an agenda.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Right on Temsta. Eastern Europeans are like Morlocks and Western Europeans are Eloi. It will become clear as the dissolution of the EU unfolds further.

Morlocks feast on Eloi because they are soft.

It is happening. Read the crime reports from Helsinki and elsewhere.

Now grant the visa freedom with Russia and the Morlocks will take over.

This time machine has been kicked into gear.

Stock up on ammo and canned goods. Don't be an Eloi.

Marko ütles ...

Temetsa, I think you underestimate peoples backgrounds. For example when I moved to England I felt just like at home. In fact, some of my friends visiting me from Estonia were saying that this country was made for me, and now many of my British friends do consider me as one of the own. And I have also brought some working class Brits to Estonia and they were really impressed, as many things common to ordinary Estonians are only associated with the upper classes here in Britain.

So if your friend was for example from working class Antsla and ended up in the middle of Bath, Sommerset (where Nicholas Cage and Johnny Depp have their second homes) and my friend was from working class Bolton, Manchester and ended up in Tallinns Old Town, or the posher end of Viimsi, near Tallinn, then my British friend would consider Britain close to Poland too. Do you know what I mean?

Temesta ütles ...

I know exactly what you mean. But my friend comes from an Estonian middle class background and he worked in London. And it was his experience and somehow it made sense to me as I know similar stories. I didn't want to say that his ideas are or should be representative for all Estonians. It's just to show that there are different possible narratives about what it means to be Estonian in these times. You are not wrong, but he is also not. For me Estonia is both Nordic and post-communist (the 'dirty' word for this is 'Eastern European') (the common history of communist occupation and its consequences that can't just be brushed of like nothing happened) and I know Estonians who agree with me, but I also know Estonians who don't agree. It's also funny that in Poland you had the same debates. Some Poles were offended if you called them Eastern European (They would say they were Central European, in the same way Estonians would say that they are Northern European or Nordic) and others were ok with that, showing some disdain towards 'spoiled Western Europeans'.

Marko ütles ...

'there are different possible narratives about what it means to be Estonian in these times'

I think that is very well put. Estonian society as such has undergone some great changes in recent time (since joining the EU). From a 20's something perspective I think it has not been as tough as it is since the late Tsarist era. Since the establishment of the Repulic, a level of economic equality was also introduced. Since the Soviets destroyed our system, and replaced it with their own it has never been the same again.

We have not made a full recovery yet. Obviously people in governement are the ones we ourselves have put there, so I wouldnt even start with the blame game. I think they should just get on with it. Start with the little things. Like knocking down those ghost-towns and villages and sub-urbs scattered throughout the country. Just seeing those ruins all around you can be a massive psychological factor in many peoples lives. Yes I know, many of these buildings still have their owners somewhere in Australia and Canada, but come on - thats not the way to live.

Marko ütles ...

Hmm, Estlandisierung has been playing on my mind since Kimmo mentioned it. On the subject I found this:

http://arvamus.postimees.ee/1043306/sven-mikser-valispoliitika-kolm-dilemmat

Where Sven gives us what he thinks could be the three possible directions for foreign policy. He hints at the possibility of abandoning some of the big developing markets and rather concentrating in the Baltic sea region and some core EU states. I'm not going to translate all of this, but he concludes:

'Välispoliitika ei ole ega saagi olla asi iseeneses, Eesti välispoliitika on viis, kuidas Eesti riik kaitseb ja edendab Eesti rahvuslikke huve – majanduslikke, kultuurilisi, poliitilisi – väljaspool oma riiki.'

'Foreign policy is not a thing in itself, Estonian foreign policy is a way in which Estonia defends and develops Estonian national interests - economical, cultrual, political - beyond this country.'

And this is significant in the sense that first time in history, a prime minister would be, has put Estonias interest above all.

Estonia has gone forward big time in recent years - NATO, Eurozone, OECD - you name it. But theres something in the air in Estonia at the moment... I suppose we have reached a milstone with the next big question in Estonian politics being - whats next?

Sven is a bit of a mystery to me. He's nothing like loud old Ilves or bulliysh Andrus. He's one of those quiet types, the kind you look out for. He is one of the new generation liberal conservatives with social conscious. He speaks to the post-singing revolution generation, and if opinion polls are something to go by, he's the Estonias next PM.

So, I think yes, Eslandisation is on it's way. Makes me a bit sad that we have to through this. But then again what other options do we really have?

Temesta ütles ...

What makes you sad? The ongoing political crisis? I am talking a lot about this with my girlfriend, I cannot make sense of it, why people are so dissatisfied. I don't mean the financing scandal but the fact that suddenly the style of governing of the Reformierakond has become a problem. They are just doing what they have been for more than ten years and only now it is perceived as problem. What changed?

Marko ütles ...

I think it's the lack of feedback general public gets from the polititians. Accountability and transparency. Its a crisis of confidence based upon morality and ethics. Besides, Estonians as people can have a problem with authority anyway and Reform has crossed a line. I think in Estonia, one can't act like a thug and expect to remain in the public office. People won't put up with it and sooner or later something's got to give.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

To add to Marko's concern, I'd say that what is probably troubling many Estonians is the recognition of eery similarities of the recent developments to those at the and of the 1930s by when the Estonian goverment had turned into a clique and took a singular decision to capitulate to Russians.

With the EU rapidly falling apart and Putin flexing his muscles more and more, it is not hard to conjure a possible chain of events that will lead to the repeat of the 1940s. If we allow Ansip-like dictatorship, we are sowing the seeds of our own destruction.

I bet most of the Estonian elites have prepared "soft landing" for themselves and their families outside the country. If they haven't, then they are just idiots, sawing the branch they are sitting on.

Giustino ütles ...

They are just doing what they have been for more than ten years and only now it is perceived as problem. What changed?

It got old.

Marko ütles ...

True. You can forgive some restless and obnoxious behaviour to young polititians but the likes of Ansip should know better by now. Thats the thing. When I was a teenager and Laar was PM I tought he was brilliant. He pulled us out of the post-Soviet gutter by the hair - kicking and screaming, as it was, and it was a success. But in 2012 I would not like to see him anywhere near leading positions.

And this is something we need to address. We need to find soft exits to these old school heavyweights. I have always been for two tier parliament. We should have something like House of Lords in Britain where those sort of guys can still have their stay, enjoy their fame and statue yet be out of the picture, sort of speak. Laar, Savisaar, Tarand, Ansip, kallas and the rest of the gang should have their own little round table somewhere away from the politics of the day and deal with matters more suitable to their experiences and still serve the national interest. And until we can put this one right, problems of this nature are not just going to go away. You will get more public unrest, as we have seen a lot of this week, and things can get dangerously similar to the 1905 revoultion.

As a democracy we have caught up with our Western European neighbours and the rest of this decade we have to deal with anomalities as such we have witnessed with Reform.