esmaspäev, august 21, 2006

Eestlaseks jään ...

Some people think that history is irrelevant. But nerds like me like to filter through history and find interesting facts to digest for hours on end. Recently we went to Strand Bookstore in New York, and they had a world atlas from 1665. First I turned to the Italian pages to see if the villages my ancestors called home were on the map and what kind of interesting drawings - pirates, sea serpents, volcanoes - were drawn next to them.

Then I tried to find my wife's country, Estonia, and I turned to the Russian Empire. But there was no Estonia there. After long consternation, I turned to the front of the atlas to the first country represented - "Suecia". "That's right", I thought. "Estonia was once part of Sweden." As natural as it once was for people to think of Estonia as belonging to Russia, it was at one time just as easy for cartographers to think of Estonia as 100 percent Swedish.

Now, it is my hope, that after 15 years of freedom, people will continue to think of Estonia as just Estonia. Tomorrow, according to the Estonian Foreign Ministry, the prime ministers of Estonia and Iceland will mark the 15th anniversary of Iceland's re-recognition of Estonian independence with events and ceremonies in Tallinn.

The PMs will on that day inaugurate a memorial plaque to be placed on the facade of the Foreign Ministry which is also designed to explain the background of the name of the square. The granite plaque bears an inscription in Estonian, Icelandic and English: “The Republic of Iceland was the first state to recognize, on 22 August 1991, the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Estonia.” An exhibit on the history of Estonian-Icelandic relations will be opened in the Foreign Ministry lobby.

Though they are many miles apart, Estonia shares much with Iceland, which only became independent in 1944. It also shares much with other "new" republican governments in Europe, from Ireland to its neighbor Finland. At one time these countries did not exist on the map. But today nobody thinks twice about their independence. That's a good thing.

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