teisipäev, november 27, 2007

vaikiv enamus

For me and many others yesterday's 'devaluation scare' in Tallinn reached me the usual way -- through the websites of Postimees and Eesti Päevaleht.

There were no silent whispers in downtown Tartu yesterday. No one pulled me aside and said, "get out your savings and exchange it for euros at the currency exchange, ASAP" in Estonian. Like so many occurrences in this country, the latest international news simply ... did ... not ... occur ... here.

Watching the images of the lines of people standing outside currency exchanges in Tallinn at the Postimees website, you were struck by the immediate thought of: What are those people smoking? But the truth is that I wonder if Estonians in Viljandi or Võru really bothered to think about it all.

This was Tallinn, after all, the place where crazy things happen. To your average Estonian, who is female, speaks Estonian as a first language, doesn't live in Tallinn, and is between the ages of 45 and 49, the capital must increasingly look like some revolving circus of riots, stag parties, ugly post-modern buildings, and devaluation fears. It is the capital of Estonia, sure. The only problem is that it doesn't look too much like the Estonia most Estonians see from their kitchen windows.

It wasn't always like this. Most Estonians went through a similar carnival of dysfunction in the early 1990s. Maybe they lost their savings when the kroon was introduced. Maybe they lost their property when its pre-1940 owners arrived from Canada to reassert their claims.

Younger people, of the "winning generation", flocked to Tallinn or Tartu to find work in banks or IT firms, creating a property-owning class of 30 year-olds with children, perhaps a divorce under their belts, nice wheels, a smart mobile phone, and the notion that this country belongs to them. Older people settled in for the luckless life of the pensioner. And the guys somewhere in between got lost in the shuffle. A few lucky fellows became CEOs and government ministers. The rest became incorrigible drunks.

This is the story of most Estonians. In recent years though a measure of pride returned to the men and women of Tõstamaa, Anstla, and, my personal favorite, Rannapungerja. They were proud when their country joined the club of democratic European countries -- the EU. They feel more secure that their country is in a military alliance with countries that include the US, the UK, Germany, and France.

So one could say that for those average, 47-year-old women working as school teachers somewhere in Läänemaa, a blanket of normalcy has returned after a jarring period of absence. Maybe they have extra money, enough to renovate their apartment. Maybe the dirt roads of their villages have been repaved with EU funding. And as far as Tallinn is concerned, they are interested, but not that interested.

Finance Minister Ivari Padar is from this Estonia. A Võru native, he has a nice farmhouse in the countryside where he probably does Estonian things like chop wood and whip himself with birch branches on occasion. Watching him once more explain that devaluation fears were unfounded, I could sense his impatience with the carnival of Tallinn. The more outrageous things get, the more, to most Estonians, they almost seem boring.

5 kommentaari:

Kristopher ütles ...

I'm sure some savvy maamehed who ordinarily don't read Äripäev are watching the number in the extreme upper lefthand corner of that daily, which appears to have stabilized at 10.5. That's what I'm buying.

Alex ütles ...

"It is the capital of Estonia, sure. The only problem is that it doesn't look too much like the Estonia most Estonians see from their kitchen windows."

Ya know, it's so true. I have an apartment in downtown Tallinn and a talumaja in the forest of Põlvamaa. I spend about an equal amount of time in both places. And while they're only 2.5 hours apart by car, they're a world apart in almost every other way. I never feel like I'm in Estonia while I'm in Tallinn. It's not until I'm deep in the forest sitting in my sauna or chopping wood for the kaminahi that I get that feeling.

Giustino ütles ...

Nobody ever sends reporters to Pärnumaa to find out what the people there are thinking. And yet it is this constituency that is most represented in government. You have Reform (Tartu), Isamaa (Viljandi), and SDE (Võru). Those are the party strongholds at least.

Alex ütles ...

I ironically just saw an article today (talking about wealth distribution) which stated: "Väikesed maakohad elaksid nagu hoopis teises maailmas kui näiteks Tallinna elanikud."

It just continues the point of what a different reality Estonia is for people not living in Tallinn.

LPR ütles ...

When you say "Like so many occurrences in this country, the latest international news simply ... did ... not ... occur ... here." it reminds me that every time I visit my tiny hometown in central Estonia it feels like a trip to Center of the Universe. Nothing else is important there but the place itself and the people who make it. The world revolves around them and they are most konwledgeable and opinionated people you'll ever meet. Unlike you, they have a firm handle on all the flows of information, that's for sure. They are surefooted and anchored. Me, coming off that American information superhighway I always find the life at the end of the ramp kind of bewildering in its clarity and in it's charming simplicity. Why worry about the consumer confidence index, your portfolio performance in the light of recent merger between xyz and zyx when naabri Leida's son was reportedly carted off to kainestusmaja last week and this winter has been bad for the bees as Velts has lost 4 taru's already.

These people are 'keeping it real' while I am just a lost surfer on the world's high waves of uncertainty, doubt and worry.