neljapäev, september 06, 2007

The Danish Straights

This week, President Ilves and Proua Evelin will jet off to Copenhagen to spend some luxury time in the Danish capital on an official visit.

When I lived in Denmark six years ago, the tabloids were often ablaze with steamy photos of Danish royalty, along with some extra spicy stories on the personal lives of the royalty in the other Scandinavian kingdoms, ie. “Prince Haakon of Norge and Prince Frederik of Danmark got juiced on a booze cruise between Oslo and København last week.”

It is for this reason that I am delighted that Estonia’s president will get to visit with Hendes Majestæt Dronningen Margarethe II, the queen of Taani, during his visit. Ilves and others in the Estonian foreign ministry have made it a point to push Estonia’s Scandinavian ties, although for Danes, Finland, let alone Estonia, seems labyrinthine and foreign — populated by Finnic tribe people who like to get naked and whip themselves with birch branches.

Let’s make no mistake here though, Danes and Estonians are both part of the pagan, vodka belt of northern Europe. While Estonians perhaps have more in common with the Icelanders and Finns in this regard — a culture built more on subsistence, rather than ordered monarchy as they had/have in Sweden and Denmark — the truth is that Danes are perhaps even more pagan than Estonians.

What do I mean by that? I mean that Estonia, Finland, and yes, also Iceland too, have national cultures built on historic epics and folk cultures – sagas, kalevala, kalevipoeg and ruhno songs — where as Swedish and Danish cultures, indeed, Scandinavian-ness, has more of an imperial face meaning 1) multiculturalism adopted to accommodate rule over various provinces; 2) public space shaped to reinforce legitimacy of monarchy – royal parks, societies, institutions, etc.

Despite this, the pagan edge is still strong in Denmark, and it rears its ugly head every time booze is allowed to flow freely, i.e. every night. I once attended a party in Roskilde where, presumably after a pig roast, the poor animal’s head was left rotting on a path in the center of the university complex. The tender animal lover in me decided that a pig’s head belonged someplace more discrete, like under a bush. It took a great deal of courage to pick that sucker up by its ear and move it. The Danes might have played naked co-ed football with it later for all I know while listening to electronic music.

That’s Denmark at the pagan level, but as far as we know, pig roasts and Tuborg consumption are not in the cards for Härra Ilves. Instead it will be open-faced sandwiches, coffee, sugar cookies, little mermaids, Dannebrog (no doubt the subject of a high-brow Estonian-Danish joke at some opportune moment) and Scandinavian royalty at its finest.

Ilves will be talking about Nordic-Baltic integration, NATO, and the European Union. Ilves is a great example that if you believe in something enough you can become it. Of all the leaders in Europe he is one of the few, and American-educated at that, that seems the most generically “European”. I'd also put Sarkozy in that box, as French as he is. Gordon Brown though looks like a character from Monty Python's Flying Circus, specifically this character.

Like so much discourse in the nordic countries, there is a dull rhythm to talks over institutions that center around defense cooperation (sending Danish experts to teach in the Baltic Defense College) or economic cooperation (creating more Danish-owned, Estonian-powered IT hybrids like Skype).

It is important though. Despite rampaging anarchists or pissed off rioters, Danes and Estonians have created societies that some hope to emulate. Whether it is through their ‘free healthcare’ or ‘wired cities’, both Taani and Eesti use their positions — small, entrepreneurial, educated — to create progressive policies.

These are the kinds of things Ilves will be talking about while munching on smørrebrød.I have no doubt that he will get along fine with the Danish straights.

5 kommentaari:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Ja, dansker. Men, they were a big power in mediaval ages. When they say je nowadays, all the Norwegian are laughing about that.
Estonia was like Norway then, and if Norwegians would understand, they would understand more than the Danish and Swedish.

Giustino ütles ...

It's odd to think that Norway as we know it has only existed since 1905.

I hope Estonia someday has that kind of quality, where its independence is taken for granted.

Giustino ütles ...

Looks like the Danes are going to fund Estonia's largest ever fish farm.

LPR ütles ...

Yeah, we are small, enterpreneurial, educated - and best of all - our beemers have new kummid:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

I would like to read more from the Norwegian side. Their view is a little different from the common Western Ally view of WWII for example.
As you mentioned they broke up a Union not long ago. Interesting to see how that day is celebrated (in Scandinavia). They shared neutrality like the Estonians at the beginning of WWII, but it did not help them either.
Here from Wikipedia about Norway and the Winter War in Finland:

'In addition to those 895 that volunteered to fight for Finland, amongst whom were later war heroes such as Max Manus and Leif "Shetland" Larsen, there were numerous nationwide collections campaigns of supplies and money in Norway to help the Finns. This included a special Finnish day held at the Holmenkollen skiing games in Oslo to collect money for the Finnish cause [5]. In all 50,000 pairs of shoes, 100,000 backpacks filled with supplies and 16,000 blankets were shipped off. Collections of rifles (mostly Krag-Jørgensen models) and home knitted shooting gloves also took place, and the Norwegian government secretly sold the Finns numerous old field guns and allowed the transfer of aircraft to Finland via Sola Air Station. Sigrid Undset, Norwegian author and Nobel laureate, donated her Nobel medal to Finland on January 25, 1940 [6]. The North Norwegian county of Finnmark received over 1,000 Finnish refugees from Petsamo by February 6, 1940 [7], as the Red Army advanced through that lightly defended area Finnish civilians sought shelter on the Norwegian side of the Pasvik/Paatsjoki River.'