kolmapäev, august 20, 2008

on jälle aeg

For someone who spends a lot of time in Estonia writing about Estonians, you may find it hard to believe that until last night I had never attended a song festival. For many outside Estonia, and within it as well, it is these mass singing events that define the country's nationalism.

Last evening's öölaulupidu -- night song festival -- served various functions. Ostensibly, it was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the major events of the Singing Revolution. But it was also a celebration of independence on the eve of the 17th anniversary of the restoration of independence, as well as a show of solidarity in light of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Georgia.

Let's face it, for the past few weeks the news has been pretty bad. Yet things suddenly looked up yesterday when Gerd Kanter won the gold medal in discus. You see, as an American, I sort of take it for granted that we will produce swimmers who win eight gold medals. We're 300 million people of endless ethnic origins -- we're bound to produce some magnificent athletes. But for a country of 1.3 million to produce an Olympic gold medalist is a feat of which to be immensely proud.

And so, as we headed to hail a cab, passing people of all different backgrounds holding Estonian flags, the sour mood in the air dissipated, and a positive one took hold. We shared a cab with an Estonian family who was also on the way to the lauluväljak -- the song festival grounds. Along the way, parades of people marched towards the grounds, as cars stuck in traffic blared Estonian pop music.

For the first time in a really long time, I felt the culture shock of being submerged in Estonianness, where everyone around me spoke that one language, dressed in a different way than I did, shared a common national discourse. It felt as if I was in the capital city of a foreign country. I wanted to bring nearly everyone I knew and show them what I was seeing with my own eyes. If they were only here at this one moment, sitting next to those guys blasting some Jaagup Kreem song, they could easily figure out what this whole "Estonia" thing is all about.

Inside the grounds, the feeling of being engulfed by Estonians was realized. From one side of the song festival grounds to the other were thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people, most of them waving blue, black, and white flags. We bought a larger one too, for 90 Estonian kroons (about $9 US).

Being surrounded by festive Estonians was a bit of a shocker too. You see, I have been cautioned in this country that strangers don't start conversations; relatives don't usually hug; money is deposited in the plastic dish at the store, not exchanged hand to hand. And so, to have some random stranger forcibly grab my hand and lift it up to the sky to coincide with the lyric of a song that refers to the moon, was a bit disarming.

The woman next to me was quite literally going nuts. I wondered if she had consumed some kind of chemical prior to the event, but her eyes were lucid. During some of the "harder" songs -- which were softened up by a cheerful glockenspiel -- I saw blond, orderly Estonian teenage girls twisting their bodies into strange, impossible positions, overcome by the music they know so well.

The songs are mostly good. Konstantin Päts spoke of Estonia as being a "peasant democracy." And there is something quite accessible about a song festival. The grandeur and pomposity of a national event is not there. People sing songs from films. And they know all the words. I was one of the few losers who had to consult his Märkamisaeg song book for the lyrics to "Põgene, vaba laps!" But as little as I understood, I found it easy to sing along, and everyone was singing.

Somewhere along the line, Ilves showed up. He was taken to the hospital in morning, so people applauded his arrival. I think they really like their president. A lot of American political rallies are staged, so it takes guts to go out in front of hundreds of thousands of people who just might hate your guts and give a speech.

I was also afraid that politics would sidetrack the event. People came to sing, not to be lectured. But he managed to get in a few words about defending ones freedom and appreciate it, and got in some choice references to Prague in 1968 and Georgia today. And his message was positive, which reinforced the feeling of the event. Trust me, the people were quite aware of the luxury of freedom last night!

The peak of the festival was undoubtedly Tõnis Mägi singing "Koit."He sang it once, and then was called out by the audience to sing it again. Each time Mägi sang, there was so much emotion in his face, that I was afraid his chest might explode if he reached too far for an elusive note.

There were other good songs as well. Villu Tamme, who bears such an uncanny resemblance to media mogul Hans Hansapoeg Luik that they may indeed be the same person, sang "Tere Perestroika." Tõnu Trubtesky sang "Insener Garini hüperboloid."

My favorite of the bunch is "Ei ole üksi, ükski maa." This is an Alo Mattiisen song, with a touch of "We are the world" about it. Mattiisen wrote a sizable chunk of the ärkamisaeg song book. I have no idea how he came out with so many good songs, but it reminds me of a story I heard about Peter Frampton, who woke up one morning in the mid-70s, wrote "Show Me the Way," and "Baby, I Love Your Way" on his guitar and went back to sleep.

I imagine that Mattiisen ate some sort of magic verivorst one night and stayed up late sculpting songs like "Ei ole üksi, ukski maa" and "Isamaa ilu hoieldes" which sounds more like it should be the soundtrack to the St. George's Night Uprising, than the Singing Revolution.

At the end, a Georgian male choir came out to close the conference. Again, I was afraid the event would diverge into angry words, but their eastern-inflected performance was peaceful and you couldn't help but feel the anguish they must feel about the future of their country. The ants then marched back out of the festival grounds and into the Kadriorg night. By the time we got home, it was past 3 am.

78 kommentaari:

Rainer ütles ...

That is how we did it/do it.

I'm so glad for you, Jus. I wasn't there myself this time, though

But I have to disagree with you on one account. To me Villu Tamme looks more like Captain Davey Jones. If you compare their respective "tenticles"


stockholm slender ütles ...

It was a magnificent sight even on TV - so very Estonian... It is a great nation and such a grand way of showing it through songs and music. A great sight indeed, must have been quite an atmosphere there.

Tom ütles ...

Fantastic!!! All I know is that I will be there on July 5th next year so I can sing "Ilus maa" :) It's still too expensive to fly from Dublin regularly (we go 3 times per year to my GFs family). Hopefully some other airlines will fly from Dublin soon! Ma armasind Eestimaa :)

Unknown ütles ...

Aww, did you miss Lenna and Liisi Koikson at the end? They were brilliant :*

Pretty much ditched when Koit Toome and Mari-Leen came on though :D

But yeah, holding your hand around a random middle-aged woman and your friend and singing "eestlane olen ja eestlaseks jään" brings a smile to your face.

Unknown ütles ...

By the way, I was kind of reluctant to take a cab yesterday. So I walked home to Mustamäe. According to the Regio web map a distance of 10.6 kilometers. Arrived home like 5am. That was interesting ;)

Lilyta ütles ...

Brilliant Giustino! I've read your blog earlier & i have always a good laugh, love it. Reading things from your point of view is double funny. Thanks!

Colm ütles ...

Fantastic!!! All I know is that I will be there on July 5th next year

Me too!

It's still too expensive to fly from Dublin regularly (we go 3 times per year to my GFs family). Hopefully some other airlines will fly from Dublin soon!

Another Irish guy with an Estonian g/f?...

Ma armasind Eestimaa :)

Ma armastan Eestimaad. :-)

Lilyta ütles ...

I would like to leave here words to a song which was also sang at Night Song Festivale. It's called ISAMAA ILU HOIELDES. Words in English are:
f you believe in yourself,
in thinkings of wisemans,
in scruff of strongmans,
in strenght of parents,
in nimble of youngmans,
in sisters and brothers,
but still firstplace in yourself,
then you get better (next-)generation.

When holding fatherlands beauty,
fighting against enemy,
pay attention.

If you believe in wolf story,
are afraid of barking dogs,
listening big nobs,
squire complainings,
lowers who admonishes,
unenlightened chidings,
then you get nothing!

When holding fatherlands beauty,
fighting against enemy,
pay attention.

When you sink in lies,
forget yourself in a dreams,
knee down under the rouble(-russian money),
then you get fleas to your groin,
scabious to your heart,
abscess to head and bones to stomach.
Then you go to hell!

When holding fatherlands beauty,
fighting against enemy,
pay attention.

If you believe in yourself,
then you believe in people,
in homesteads and in cleverness,
in teaching, in justice,
in birch grove at home,
in swallow at sky,
then you get a might mind.
Then you get better generation.

When holding fatherlands beauty,
fighting against enemy,
pay attention.

evidevik ütles ...

well, it has absolutely no importance, but i wanted to point out a detail in this translation: in the sentence "knee down under the rouble(-russian money)" rouble being russian does not have any significance. First, it's there for the reasons of alliteration ("Röötsakile Rubla alla"), then, it's there because the text was written in an ancient folk song style (and rouble was synonymous to "money" at these times), third - (soviet) rouble was also around in the time when the song was written (1988).
So its just money in general, not russian money as opposed to estonian or any other.
Just my five cents :)

Toivo Ellakvere ütles ...

Hmm, 70 000 -eestlast- lauluväjakul? I guess we could make acquiring the citizenship more easy. Just sing with us ... :)

Anonüümne ütles ...

It was fantastic. I thought it was even better than the original.

Kaisa ütles ...

I was there, too and generally liked it. Unfortunately it seems the patriotic crowd gathered only in front of the stage because up where I was standing it resembled Õllesummer. There was a party of very drunk women next me and although one of them managed to defy gravity in an awe-inspiring way, she kept holding on to a huge rubbish bin for support, threatening to tip it over at least 20 times. And when our dear president held a speech, I felt like I had accidentally walked into Life of Brian and was reliving the scene where there is a scuffle among the people gathered to listen to Jesus - mainly because the women kept stupidly repeating Ilves' words and I felt like "spreading their nose all across their faces", as it were.
I understood the concept was a journey through history but the scenes with Anti Reinthal screeching "I AM AN ESTONIAN!!!!" were excruciating both physically and intellectually. I am proud of being Estonian but I feel that concept and those songs don't work anymore. You cannot sing about stopping Lasnamäe the same way anymore. Maybe it was good to hear those songs just to realise more clearly how much the world has changed. I really enjoyed "Kungla rahvas" and songs like these - the emphasis should be more on "rejoicing", I think.
I was also very pleasantly surprised that there were so many people who looked like they were in their late teens and they were actually singing along earnestly. I guess "Malev" has been right all along :)

Kristopher ütles ...

Seventy thousand is a huge number and more than will fit in any stadium in North America, I think...even though I was secretly hoping attendance would hit six figures. I had child-sitting duties or I would have gone.

As much as I enjoyed the "Mighty "Soviet Atom", there was a song that would not have been played in 1988.

The way the documentary Singing Revolution presented it, 1988 seemed impromptu, spur of the moment, kind of like the Dead "keeping" the PA from a rock festival and deciding to give a free concert in Golden Gate Park.

This seemed a little bit more scripted and high-concept.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Wait a minute. Am I missing something? I am as much for Estonians sticking together as the next person. I still want to see if I have got everything straight. Prez Ilves says some days prior to the songfest-lovefest that Estonia has nothing to fear, at the same time that most of Central and Eastern Europe is in palpitations in their heart of hearts. Is it the task of the president to tell comforting lies? The Georgians have just been subjected to a replay of Budapest 1956 - in other words, gangs armed with tanks and other really heavy weaponry along with bands of Ossetian and Cossack marauders are roaming the periphery of Russia at will again, and the response of the Estonian public is to hold hands? Estonians are of course big on astrology and clairvoyants and such. Prayer is supposed to unite people. While unity is good, I would like to ask how exactly and to what purpose the 17 years of the return to independence have been used? How exactly is Estonia now better positioned to counter aggression, compared to being bare-handed 17 years ago? What exactly does Estonia intend to repel Russian aggression with, should such aggression come to pass here again? There have beens tens of armed Russian incursions into Estonia over the centuries. For the few thousand people in the active military, venturing forth onto the street with a rifle is in fact marginally better than going empty handed. What other arms, better suited for busting tanks and bringing down hostile aircraft than rifles are there in the armories? There are of course photos of Czechs who dared to clamber atop Russian tanks in 1968 with their bare hands. In the Russian FSB, tickets have already been printed (OK, lists of deportees to Siberia made) of people living in the Baltic States who have been politically active in the independence movement. Toomas Ilves stands somewhat of a better chance than us guys in the street of being evacuated to his Swedish birthplace. Instead of having effectively built up a coherent national defense and a coherent collective regional defense system during the past two decades, Estonians go to the song festival grounds and sing songs? And why exactly does Kaisa think that the folks living in Lasnamae next to the song festival grounds are going to come to her aid, should - hypothetically speaking - Russian troops mistreat her and deport her and many others? Must I spell out the part where people are dissapearing in Georgian villages, women accosted, old people who canot move from home being pillaged and robbed? There is a serious reality disconnect here. Estonia is almost totally militarily exposed (will the two NATO fighters scramble at all when push comes to shove, should French or German pilots be in the cockpit when Russia aggresses? Or will Angela Merkel or Gerhard Schroder intervene and say, no, let's not prod Vlad?). Estonian unity is good, but to what end? What practical things are being done at this very late stage in the game? Are these songbirds well-defended for the tax money that they have paid? The politicians who have collectively delivered us into a situation in which we are militarily almost defenseless and living in the midst of a large number of unapologetic Russian colonists of whom many have a chip on their shoulders ought to 1) be dismissed and 2) be punished. It is not enough that they merely talk on an abstract level about taking political responsibility. Anyway - Bob Geldorf can sing for a variety of causes and I am sure they are all good, but to imitate him does not significantly increase an Estonian or Central and Eastern European or NATO defense capability that is in very significant disarray. To me, the singing was an exercise in wishful thinking - head in the sand stuff- at a time where people ought to be focusing a lot on getting their stuff together instead. Either the Estonians have short memories, or they have yet to develop the ability to keep their eye on the ball.

Anonüümne ütles ...

PS the translation of the song is not just inadequate but really inadquate

Anonüümne ütles ...


"Peatagem Lasnamäel" - "Stop Lasnamäe". What does this allude to? 20 years ago, the illegal colonization of Estonia by the Soviet regime was really starting to put a huge strain on the ability of the small Estonian people to continue to survive. Today as well, it is not guaranteed that the Estonian culture is capable of surviving, largely because of the demographic and other damage done to it by Hitler and Stalin and the later Soviet-Russian regime. "Stop Lasnamäe" refers to many things. It means that the very living conditions created by Moscow - the tenements - were inhumane. Stop Lasnamäe is a battle cry similar to that of the people trying to stop the Amazon rain forests from being destroyed and trying to keep loggers and settlers from eradicatng the last uncontacted tribes of the Amazon. "Stop Lasnamäe" is derived from the same sentiment expressed by Dolores Ibárruri Gómez in her "No Pasarán" speech during the Spanish Civil War. "¡No pasarán!" became an international anti-fascist slogan. "Stop Lasnamäe" (and stop the Cossack marauders) remain valid sentiments today as well.

Kaisa ütles ...

Sober driver, first of all, if you allude that the invasion of Georgia is an indication of NATO's defense capabilities then I think you are a bit off the mark. As has been stated many times, receiving a MAP does not mean you are covered by Article 5. Call me a wishful thinker, but I tend to think that NATO's reluctance to give Ukraine and Georgia the MAP this year simply indicates their actual readiness to protect ALL of its members, including the Baltic States. Ida-Virumaa is not South Ossetia.
As to Stop Lasnamäe, I stand by my argument. Twenty years ago, it was exactly what you said it was but it is not valid anymore. There is no wide range repopulating project and no redesigning of ethnic lines in Estonia. Yes, most of the Russians here came here as part of an effort to breed Estonians out. But there is by now also a large number of people who are born here and it is simply idiotic to tell them to go back to Russia. Most of them have Estonian citizenship which means the whole EU is open to them. Yet they have chosen to stay here. Of course it is possible they only did it because they were counting on the fact that Estonia will soon again become the most developed oblast of the Russian Federation and it would be better to have a good foothold then but somehow I doubt it.

Kristopher ütles ...

Ida-Virumaa is not South Ossetia.

No, inland Petserimaa is South Ossetia. More strategic Ida-Virumaa is Abkhazia. Cf Toomas Kümmel in last week's Eesti Ekspress.

Call me a wishful thinker...

Indeed. What it actually shows is that NATO will observe the LETTER of the law, not the spirit of the law, above all else. Also, read the full text of Article 5.

"...will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area."

You don't have to be US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to rule that "deems necessary" and "including" alone has the effect of transforming the meaning of this article into absolute diddly-squat.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Sorry Kaisa, I am talking not of Georgia, nor her plight. Only about Estonia and her near-total inability to defend herself, which our Eastern neighbor is fully aware of, but most Estonians seem to try to put out of their minds, other than Leo Kunnas and a few others. The only thing that would more or less protect us is is a NATO contingent from somewhere else pre-positioned on our territory. Poland is getting such a force. Where, pray tell, are the NATO alert ground forces (rescuers, reinforcements) that will come to our aid? The fussing and fighting will likely be over here in 24 hours under current circumstances. There is an American parachute unit in Italy that might be able to send perhaps a thousand lightly armed guys (if that many) in 48 hours, and the Brits could probably perform a similar act - if Estonia is the only crisis spot. If, however, the "party" here is over by then, (Russians in control)it is unlikely in my estimate that anyone from the West will be sent at all. Ever. It is time for Central and Eastern Europe to finally stop the wishful thinking thing and ASAP do what shoud have been done when we had an easy chance to do it.

Kristopher ütles ...

We should embrace Ida-Virumaa without even changing demographics. One way of doing this would be to hold song festivals there, as well.

Kaisa ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Kaisa ütles ...

Kristopher, that's exactly what I'm talking about. The fact remains that they are here and are not leaving so we have to deal with it the best way possible. Some people seem to be under the impression that deportations Sudeten-style is still an option.
Sober driver, I can see your reasoning but the forces that invaded Georgia did not go there overnight. Being an unapologetic optimist, I should think the increase in forces at the Estonian border would not go unnoticed. But seeing that we don't have any oil I guess you are right in thinking we could be overrun within a day and that's that... Well, time will tell.

Anonüümne ütles ...

One more to Kaisa re appropriateness of "Lasnamae". Lasnamae represents among other things a mean mentality - a conquering one, one of anger and not being nice. One that was present in the Interfront and which rolls easily off the lips of the Russian generals and which never disappeared in the interim. It was there the whole 17 years of restored independence. The majority of the hundreds of thousands of Russians residing in Estonia - (the older generation of whom settled here in contravention of international law during occupation) are connected informationally only to an "umbilical cord" that has the other end plugged into the vast disinformation machine of the FSB in Moscow. One which spews falsehoods, hate, and incitement, while Estonia is an even-tempered, non-aggressive, and accomodating democratic society. It appears to me you might have insufficient imagination as concerns the things that will start to transpire the moment after Soviet tank treads hit the streets of Narva, Johvi, Sillamae, Kohtla Jarve, Tallinn, Paldiski etc. Although there are decent folks among the Russian settlers in Estonia and there are some Russians so integrated through family ties etc., that they will either remain neutral or partial to the Estonians (e.g. to wives or husbands), I am reasonably sure they are not in the majority. Or at the very least that there is a large minority of Russian settlers who would either support Russian aggression or even do Estonians harm. I think you have the future behavior of many of the folks here who right now root for the invaders of Georgia pegged wrong. If you personally are not inclined to do anything to protect yourself in a future crisis situation, if you haven't a boat ticket, I wish you well and add that you might consider acquiring a big bottle of sleeping pills. This unless one belongs to the bunch who will be greeting the tanks, but the Russians have a track record of eventually mistreating even many Estonian collaborators. 17 years was too little time. Estonia has not been able to assimilate all of the people who came during the Soviet occupation, has not been able to integrate them to any substantial degree. It was a huge proposal to being with, even an unrealistic one. One cannot convince, persuade or force colonists to begin to love the people they previously conquered, not within one generation or even many. Take just one glance in the direction of the British loyalists in Northern Ireland. Any normal country would try at this point to figure out ways to minimalize security risks to continued Estonian independence and to our peaceful way of life. To think that Estonians are not endangered by resurgent Russia once again, and by her "stay-behind"fifth column within Estonia proper, is to be self-delusional. There are unfortunately proofs enough of people living among us who will in great likelihood participate in hurting Estonians, should a new invasion begin. They have done it before repeatedly. I hasten to remind the readers that Estonia has never occupied another country in all of its history, but we, on the other hand, have been occupied many times. It is time to start looking at self-defense much more earnestly than before. He or she who does not, may have to live with the consequences of inaction. To the extent friendly Russians can be protected, should something bad transpire, great effort ought to be made to enusre such protection. With all of the warning signals we have gotten of a potential fire, it makes no sense to fiddle while the city burns. It would be irresponsible to continue to behave as though there were no danger.

Unknown ütles ...

To Kaisa and others. I understand kaisa and I totally agree, that times have changed. But talking about these songs and singing them is also about thinking, what these songs MEAN. They have a lot more wider meaning then just declaring to be an Estonian.

Antti Reinthal - did you not listen what he said, and in what context? Actors were playing us a scene from the year 1869, when the first Estonian song festival took place. Who were Estonians then - they were the "common people", no, the "lower class". Many of the local German population did not recognize Estonians as people with equal rights and talants. For many German inhabitants Estonians were like cattle - useful, but dumm. And even though Estonians in the end of the 19th century were far from beeing illiterate, and every peasant and craftsman who had a sufficient income tried to send at least one of his children to study in a university or some seminar or other "higher" school - there were not many successful and educated people of Estonian origin, who were brave enough to "confess" it. It was fashionable to be a German, or Swedish or French or even Latvian, but never-ever you say you're an Estonian! It was something to be ashamed of, in "higher" circles.

I was truly worried if people could understand what the play was about, and I was right, they couldn't. Another thing I was worried about was the scenes of the Liberation War and the WWII. The scenes of WWII contained pictures from battle field with men in German and in Red Army uniforms. Did you understand, why songs of Raimond Valgre (he faught in the Red Army), and Georg Ots (also faught in Red Army) were sang? No? Well, let's put it simple - war is a terrible thing, no matter what side you are on!

It was a musical journey through our history and it culminated with the songs from the "times of awakening" in 1986-1988. The message (to my mind, as an eyewittness of those events and years) was - you should protect and cherice freedom; you should not tolerate violence and aggression; you should be proud of who you are.

About those people who were trunk - yes, I saw them too. It was not a pleasant sight, but the overall atmosphere made me forget about them. And today I'm thinking - are they proud now about what they did? It is said in the Bible - "õndsad on need, kes on vaimust vaesed" (in English I don't know the sentence - blessed are those who are short of wisdom? or just - blessed are those who are idiots?). Just let them be. They don't read your statements here anyway.

Kaisa ütles ...

Sober driver, I never said I am unaware of the threat of the resurgent Russia and some local Russians. This was blatantly clear from the Bronze night and the refusal of Russian high-ranking officials to make official visits to Estonia which basically implies "You are a temporary upstart little wannabe country, we will have the final say". What else is new? However, since it is unlikely that Russia will invade tomorrow (knock on wood :D), the question still remains - how are we going to deal with it? Preventive incarceration for the colonist babushkas? Training and maybe arming the whole ethnic Estonian population and raising the defense budget is surely not the whole answer. I don't think your point about Northern Ireland is entirely valid because over there, religion also enters into it and that's a whole different ballgame. Although looking at some extremist views on both sides here, the fanaticism may actually be the same... May I remind you that neither the local Russian Orthodox Church or the local Soviet Veterans' Association wanted to have anything to do with these Nochnoi Dozor guys. You cannot paint the entire local Russian population with the same brush. I don't think this will be irrelevant should things go the way you envisioned.
Katrin, of course I understood it. I should have said from the beginning what I really objected to - that they included a total "haltuura" by Kivastik. It just wasn't up the the general artistic quality of the event itself. And I personally loved the fact that they put in Valgre and Ots.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Is there a Google utility that formats text with paragraph breaks for reading ease?

Anonüümne ütles ...

Re Northern Ireland & Kaisa: "Catholic" and "Protestant" are code. Euphemisms. Loyalties are primary, religion secondary, though intertwined. Catholic means - writ large - ethnic Irish - the native population, and Protestant means British, who once came with fire and sword and subjugated the people of a foreign land. Even the geographical similarities are interesting, not to mention the justifications of the occupying part in staying. UK is to the East, Northern Ireland is in the Northeast of the once-subjugated territory. Like Virumaa, like the Northern Coast of most of Estonia. The Loyalists and Orangemen deny that they have ever done harm to the Irish. After the conquest, the Irish had to till the soil in their own homeland for the "master class", as was the case for the Estonians. The Estonians are the Sioux, the Palestinians, the Chechens, the Tibetans, the American black slaves. The Russians (referring to their nation) are the Chinese, the conquistadors, etc. etc.
You can talk about Russian babushkas if you like, but is that perhaps not a frivolous statement? Should you claim you feel secure? You have little in the way of real grounds for it. The next victim and the next ambush have probably already been set up. The most vulnerable places are obvious even to anyone who does just a little bit or research and reading. The whole point of my posts is to encourage people to be less frivolous. To live an examined life. Perhaps to do a SWOT analysis in respect to security risks.
Religion? Estonians do not place great emphasis on it, but in Russia, the once-persecuted Church has newly been made a very important ally of the FSB government. Religion unites modern-day Russians in a very significant manner.

Doris ütles ...

I feel your pain Sven... Unfortunately the little gedget is called "enter" and every person has to push it themselves or be aware that people might have trouble reading and understanding their point.

anyway... I wish I had been there :) To me, the "Lasnamae" (or, in Tartu, "Annelinn") symbolizes more how russians were brought in to do the work and then to live in those buildings. I mean, at the time estonians had very sparce living spaces due to bombings and fires and whatnot and then came the Russians and built these brand new buildings with central heating and electricity and running water and... move in themselves! Whereas private building was not permitted (communism, hello?!) up until the 70s - I think, please correct me if I'm wrong about the date.

So then you had native estonians living in shells of houses with no indoor plumbing, questionable electricity, wood heating (which nowadays is hip but back then where did you get the wood?) often several families per apartment... and the Russians... well, no wonder there was animosity.

Anyways. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of my summers in J6hvi and as kids we would always play with the russian kids, they would speak Russian and we would speak Estonian and everyone would get along just fine. I sometimes wish I was still a kid.

when I was in Estonia for vacation a few weeks ago and happened to go into the Olde Hansa shop, I was amazed at the sales girls, speaking fluent Russian to one customer, accentless Estonian to another, and english to a third one. now THAT is where younger generation Russians actually have an advantage over Estonians of the same age and I don't grudge that one little bit!! Because, let's face it, Russian (as well as Estonian for that matter) is a hard language to learn unless you actually live in the environment of that language. And the Russians who make the effort should be rewarded for it. but not like in a doggy-treat way... ick.

Kaisa ütles ...

Sober driver, I am not being frivolous. I just do not see what are the actual real everyday life implications of your arguments and you are very reluctant to clarify them.

Unknown ütles ...

sober driver sows the seeds of panic like there's no tomorrow :D

Yeah, of course we need tanks and rocket boats and heavy artillery and better machine guns and attack helicopters and air defence systems (did I get them all?).

But you cannot build your country's survival on military strength alone. ESPECIALLY when you're country is so tiny as Estonia. Also, during the time of peace you cannot (and really should not) try to pick enemies. It's just stupid. Sure, we should support Georgia and all, but why demonise Russia over it? Damn, they're not the civilized and cool Central Europeans we wish them to be. They just aren't.

I and also a friend of mine felt kind of uncomfortable about so much focus being put on the Georgians. Yeah, it's awful that the Russians went in and did What They're Good At (tm). But let's face it. Georgia pretty much screwed itself by PICKING ENEMIES AT TIMES OF PEACE. Georgia is responsible too for acting like a jackass. That's not the way to go. Neither is it the way to go for Estonia. At least that's my opinion. The 40+ people here are still too freaked out by Russia though to make more senseful decisions about it.

Kristopher ütles ...

Whoa, Andres, if memory serves, Giustino predicted the invasion right here on this blog, back in times of peace on August 4. He did the digital equivalent of write "Russia will invade Georgia on Aug. 8" on a slip of paper, put it in a sealed envelope and notarized it. Close enough for me, anyway.

Now you can slice it and dice it about who fired the first shot, but this was going to happen one way or another, and only one thing can be concluded: Giustino is responsible. Not the Russians or Georgians.

martintg ütles ...

I suspect "sober driver" is a has taken his own fear to heart, and has attempted to sow it here in this otherwise happy topic of the Song festival. The only thing to fear is fear itself.

Let's not forget that NATO and EU membership also has a great deterrent effect. While some may have doubts NATO will come to the aid of Estonia, there are also doubts on the Russian side that attacking Estonia would not entail a full military retaliation by NATO. Recall that NATO has a nuclear first strike policy in place as a central component of its defense strategy. Russia cannot be 100% sure that NATO would not attack for example Kaliningrad with tactical nuclear weapons to wipe out their Baltic fleet based there in retaliation.

But that is never going to happen, because Russia is even more dependent upon the West than before, it wants markets to sell oil and gas, if nothing else, and Moscow is ruled essentially by business men.

Unlike Georgia, there are no "frozen conflict" zones within Estonia, there is absolutely no possible pretext Russia could use against Estonia. The tensions in Estonia are in many ways typical of many immigrant societies around the world. Let's not dramatize the issues.

Australia, long seeing itself as an exclusively white anglo-saxon society, became more accepting of immigrants after the government promoted these immigrants as "New Australians". Wouldn't Moscow have a fit if Estonia started characterizing these post-war Russian immigrants who have naturalized as "New Estonians"?

LPR ütles ...

Sober Driver - great post. Thank you.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

kristopher, I've read the post you've pointed at again. It was August 4, yes. Makes even a greater post afterwards. Who of the great experts and columnists has seen it coming?
A dejavu of feeling I once had. Listening to the radio news throughout days and nights before the Bloody Sunday in Lithuania, in the shadow of the First Gulf War. Now I lost it.

Anonüümne ütles ...

To Kaisa: not reluctant at all to clarify the ramifications of my arguments.

Now that the song event is over, it is time to sober up. It was a nice festival, lots of happy young faces. I'm happy they have grow up in a free country.
Now it is time, instead of simply buying cars and shopping, to get serious. To implement a proper defense plan along with NATO to make its weak Baltic and particularly weak Estonian flank much less militarily exposed (Estonian Radio and TV stated something is in the works)!?

Regarding Russian seditionists within Estonia - the truly dangerous ones should be expelled and the truly disloyal fringe needs to be tracked. All amiable Russians are welcome to cast in their lot with the aborigines, to hang out in the Estonian trenches.

To Andres: Georgia did not "screw itself". Georgia got set up in a classical KGB active measures provocation. The Russians brought a thousand armored vehicles to the Georgian periphery with a heap of professional soldiers. They then set up artillery batteries in residential districts of Tskhinvali, in violation of the rules of land warfare, in their proto-puppet state of South Ossetia. They then began to shell ethnically Georgian villages in Georgian-controlled territory.

What would you as President - as the leader of Georgia - have personally done at this point? The other viable option other than responding to the attack would have been to allow the attackers to kill your citizens with impunity. Which choice would you have made in a situation where a choice was being forced on you? The Russians are good chess players and aggressive ones. But what if it had never been your intention to engage in their particular game of chess at all?

It saddens me that an Estonian guy seems to not know the history of the region. Finland 1939, Estonia 1940, 1956, 1968, 1979, the Vilnius television tower, the blood bath of Tbilisi two decades ago.
None of these countries aggressed against Russia. We're only talking about one way traffic. There is a serial killer on the loose in these parts. Just one, not several.

As long as the FSB is at the helm in the Kremlin (much like street gangs terrorize parts of many American cities), Central and Eastern Europe is like a bunch of marmoset monkeys cowering in the canopy of the jungle, waiting for the hawk to sweep down and pick off the next meal. People of backbone would now endeavor mightily to get their stuff together, like grown people, instead of agonizing about why poor Russia behaves like Hannibal Lecter. Democracy will never arrive in Russia and the region will never be at peace until a wooden stake has been driven through the heart of the FSB, headed by one Vlad Putin.

I didn't think I was being particularly coy previously, but if it was explicitness you wanted, I hope the above suffices.

Kristopher ütles ...

Yes, there's no cause for alarm, provided that appeasement ends. I do feel some of Martin's views are fallacious.

But that is never going to happen, because Russia is even more dependent upon the West than before, it wants markets to sell oil and gas, if nothing else, and Moscow is ruled essentially by business men.

I am automatically suspicious of anything that begins "never going to happen". In any case, the fact that Moscow is ruled by businessmen should only add fuel to the argument. It's not some cute literary conceit that expressions in business and warfare are similar (hostile takeover etc). War itself is big business and will certainly fuel demand for natural resources. Destroyed economies are a great "market". Russia's doctrine right now is to try to own as much of its supply chain as possible. I'm sure it would love to sell direct to end consumers.

Unlike Georgia, there are no "frozen conflict" zones within Estonia, there is absolutely no possible pretext Russia could use against Estonia.

Russia does not need a pretext to use against Estonia, just as Putin does not need to grow a toothbrush moustache for his actions in Georgia to be comparable to those we have seen in other eras. Besides, Russia can always raze Ivangorod and then say Estonian nationalists shelled it from across the river. The world will be too busy to investigate. No doubt fellow-traveller journalists will do five minutes of research and find out that yes, once Estonia indeed had a claim to that part of Russia. And there was still no border treaty in place when the "shelling" started.

Giustino ütles ...

I believe Estonia came under attack last year. The Kremlin decided that rather than send its own army into harms way and trigger NATO retaliation, it would build an army right in Tallinn with day after day of virulent, anti-Estonian propaganda.

And ask yourself, how much property was destroyed? How much money has been lost because of the gray sanctions? Because of the cyber attacks? Damage was most definitely done.

Plus, if NATO retaliated in the vicinity of Estonia, it wouldn't be some rinky dink "capital" in the Caucuses. We're talking about bombs falling on the suburbs of St. Petersburg. It would be a total nightmare for trade in northwestern Russia, which, other than Moscow, is a showcase for the "new" Russia where Western money is welcome.

If Russia is to remain globally competitive and regain some of its power, it must have at least part of the Western business community on its side.

The Georgian case is not isolated, but it's not universal either. As I pointed out, if the re-annexation of former Soviet lands was the aim, then why do Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan still have seats at the UN?

The Georgian invasion had to do with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Russia thinks it has the right to export Turkmeni gas without competition. Others disagree.

Any special operation in Estonia would have to do with access to oil shale or ice-free ports -- Sillamäe, especially.

The reason why there is no dispute is because these resources are controlled by Estonian business interests that have warm relations with their Russian partners.

The Russians would prefer to do business with Mr. Vähi, for example, then risk a war in Europe for something they can get access without armed confrontation.

I am pretty much talking out of my ass here, but for whatever reason, I don't see South Ossetia, Part II taking place here just yet.

That being said, putting all your defense needs in the hands of NATO is stupid. I think the Finns probably figured that out a long time ago. The government should think about splitting the collective defense concept with a total defense one.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

One of the headlines at Spiegel-Online is that investment is moving out of Russia. Source is the Financial Times Germany:

Russia has no power for a cold war

Unknown ütles ...

Georgia DID screw itself. It started to launch rockets into civilian territory. Damn, if you want to take out a bunch of bad guys, send small and fast tactical forces. Don't bomb a town of civilians. I do not in any way justify Russia, but what Georgia did, was in essence dumb and they deserve at least some of the blame.

Karla ütles ...

I imagine that Mattiisen ate some sort of magic verivorst one night...

Besides talent and patriotism, it was alochol, not sausage, that fired Alo's creativity. Which is why his ticker quit at age 35. It was a great loss to the nation. Alo's light burned bright, and still does.

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light!

Edna St. Vincent Millay ("First Fig", A Few Figs From Thistles, 1920)

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

andres, this is important to understand how the people judge the conflict (in germany). The ARD, one of the main tv channels in Germany, has two teams covering both sides. And the one of the Georgian side who shows a lot of the arrogant Russian military has filmed also the road to the tunnel. There were civilian cars, and as witnesses claimed they were under fire and families died in them, many. If true, there should be consequencess on the Georgian side. This should be treated as war atrocities.

Anonüümne ütles ...

I don't actually think Russia's actions was primarily about the gas pipeline. I think that is an analysis many have jumped on to provide an easy explanation for Russia's action. I can understand why, given Russia's current actions in driving out foreign ownership in the energy sector inside Russia (eg BP) and previous actions of using pipelines for political purposes.

The telling sign that this is not the overriding motive is that Russia hasn't destroyed the pipeline in Georgia. In other words, as soon as Georgia's harbours are reopened, it should not take long to get back into action. Sure, they did a bit of minor shelling of the pipeline (that was naturally over exaggerated by the somewhat OTT Georgians, not exactly significantly more reliable than the Russia media in some respects) but had they wanted to, Russia could have bombed the pipeline to bits.

The real reasons, I suspect, are more down to Russian nationalism and pride. Russia can't accept western influence in what it considers its absolute sphere of influence. Putin certainly can't countenance it, as it makes his nationalism-driven popularity less credible. I think he's used this conflict very successfully to show the home market that it's him that is the boss (if anyone still doubted it). Medvedev's a big loser here - any potential minor liberalisations that he may have had up his sleeve will now never see the light of day. Russia is now back firmly in the grip of ultra-nationalism. A wave that Putin will no doubt be able to ride for another decade or so. So, his position is secured.

Russia is using the opportunity to strike back at the US and the west. It's difficult for us to understand just how such ultra-nationalist states comprehend things such as Kosovo and Nato expansion. They see it as a direct assault on their national pride (not just a mere political defeat). This has been Russia's chance to enact a bit of revenge.

Certainly, Russia has the bulk of dishonourable actions in this crisis. But the west's management of the situation has hardly been exemplary or helpful either. Nato countries, back in spring, stating so clearly that Georgia will become a member in the future was an act that it should have been obvious for them to see would be seen as a blatant provocation in Moscow. Ironically, this level of support probably contributed to making Georgia less secure.

I think, in our analysis of events in the Caucasus - particularly after the hot action events are over, we in the west need to be careful not to see things in the same black-white way as Russian nationalist analysts. Unfortunately, the truth is far more complicated and clear-cut.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Just for the sake of making progress in our reenactment, and in response to Andres.

Russia masses troops at the bottom edge of South Ossetia and puts artillery in the midst of a residential area and opens fire on Ossetian villages in Ossetia. Please note that you criticized Georgia for thereafter engaging in reactive combat in built up urban areas! This after Georgian civilians have been opened up on first by the Ossetian allies or pawns of the Russians.

To provoke a response is to be responsible for the outcome of the response - something that was done with malicious forethought. The media on both sides are pretty much in agreement that Russia planned this for months. Russian allies put artillery pieces in residential neighborhoods without concern for their own civilians with forethought, with the intention of bringing about what did in fact logically follow. Artillery, by the way, is used offensively as a rule in modern times.

While I am fully open to the idea that Saakashvili could possibly have found a better way, and he needn't be protected at any price, he was under pressure. His people were being killed as he decided. Is it likely small tactical forces would have been able to silence the Ossetian/Russian artillery? I don't think it works that way outside of Tom Clancy books. A Special Forces squad or two against built up artillery positions in a city environment? Or a charge by an infantry company armed with rifles and a smattering of machine guns? Artillery does not as a rule get set up without a security perimeter.

The main Georgian objective being, I would think, to stop the shelling. An infantry operation to silence artillery - not too sure about that. In fact, Georgian troops did get sent in, but they didn't stay for long. It was overwhelming force that they were up against. Help me out here. What does Shaakashvili do? You are the commander of the forces in Estonia on the Narva river and premeditated and provocative artillery starts to kill your civilians in the city of Narva. What do you do? Send infantry soldiers against artillery, in the knowledge that they will likely die without having silencing the hostile guns? Artillery has long range - "stand off" distance.

Why did the Russian "peacekeepers" allow this shelling of Georgia?

In any event, you are in command. Will you as the Georgian President take it lying down? Let the enemy field pieces shoot at your people for as long as they have shells to fire? I'm interested in some empathy and role playing here. Tip me off to how Shaakashvili could have elegantly sidestepped the ambush that they set up for him. Tell me how Finland could have avoided being aggressed against in the Winter War, when Russia started by shelling its own positions (ergo in Georgia we have a more sophisticated variation of the same ploy). Tell me how Konstantin Päts could have evaded the fate manipulatively conjured up for Estonia in 1939? Estonia chose then not to respond militarily. Something I am personally not proud of.

Giants opportunistically making war on the little guys - against people not your own size - is not nice. Russia has been picking this fight for years, not tiny Georgia (well, big Georgia compared to Estonia). Honest. Read the background information.

Saakashvili says to his people (complete the sentence): I did not take action against the Ossetian artillery to protect you, because ____________.

Unknown ütles ...

I'm with you on the argumented cool-headed talk dude. Completely. But there has been so much controversy about who actually did fire first. If I'd see some hard evidence that there really was Ossetian fire to Georgian-inhabited territory that Russia "conveniently" ignored, I'd be all for Georgia. But there hasn't been such evidence except for the Georgian press which also said a lot of unreliable things during the conflict. Show me a reliable timeframe with ACTUAL documented events. Until then I just don't know and I have to take guesses. And my guess is that Georgia overreacted.

Also the cease-fire declared by Georgia hours before the all-out artillery attack on Tshinkvali was suspicious. I haven't even heard whether they put an end to it in media before shooting away or did the Ossetians keep shooting or why did they retaliate? You don't need "the element of surprise" to bomb civilian housing.

Again, don't bring in the "people are dying what will you do WHAT WILL YOU DO!!" panic stuff. It's not panic anymore, we can analyze what happened in a sensible manner.

Giustino ütles ...

The real reasons, I suspect, are more down to Russian nationalism and pride.

Could it be there are several reasons?

Saakashvili says to his people (complete the sentence): I did not take action against the Ossetian artillery to protect you, because ____________.

To be fair to Andres, all sorts of sketchy things have gone down on Old Tbilisi.

First there was Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, who died from being exposed to a gas leak in 2005. Then Irakli Okruashvili accused Saakashvili of trying to have opposition financier Badri Patarkatsishvili killed.

Okruashvili was subsequently arrested in Sept. 2007 and fled to France. Then you had the opposition protests and the crack down in November 2007, and then you had Saakashvili's "re-election" where he beat a wine producer in January 2008. Patarkatsishvili promptly croaked the next month.

If all of that happened in Russia, instead of Georgia, what would you think about the political climate in that country?

Kaisa ütles ...

Andres, if you want some clarification about the events, watch Olukorrast Gruusias 2 (in Russian) on ETV's home page. Jushkin and Lahthein tell you what happened. And I agree with Sober driver. This was going to happen, no matter what. There were already "Georgian terrorists" caught in Russia, so my money would have been on two options: 1) a few more apartment buildings, 2) Russians in Georgian uniforms launching an attack. As was said in the last Välimääraja - it is inconvenient and expensive to keep such a force in that area, so basically they had a time frame in which they had to carry out the attack.

Giustino ütles ...

As far as I know, they started busing kids out of South Ossetia before August 4, which is why I made my predictive blog post. You don't bus women and children out unless you know something is going to happen.

Giustino ütles ...

I think one particularly effective way to deal with the Russians diplomatically is to call them on their smoke and mirrors BS.

When they brought up Russia's intention to seek "regime change" in Georgia at the UN, you could tell they were not prepared to deal with in public what they had said in private.

There should be more of that. No more secrets, as far as Moscow is concerned. Blow their cover.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Offtopic: Obama's choice for VP is really good news for Estonia. Now the elections are a win-win situation for us.

The second priority for the West should be to protect the young states of Eastern Europe.

LPR ütles ...

I think all this singing together is good. It is like 'loitsimine' (can't think of the the proper english word here).

The bad moon's rising. Nobody knows how much time is left for tears of joy before the tears of pain return. The clouds are gathering. Sing and shoo the evil spirits away.

Teach the young ones what it means to be Estonian should they too one day find themselves scattered around the world, seeking refuge from slavic terror.

Then they'll know that although they lost everything, nobody can take that away from them.

Karla ütles ...

Very true, Inner Monologue, and beautifully put.

Karla ütles ...

I believe "loitsimine" is, roughly, "casting a spell."

martintg ütles ...

Looks like discussion has begun on how to better defend Estonia within NATO.

Giustino ütles ...

Offtopic: Obama's choice for VP is really good news for Estonia. Now the elections are a win-win situation for us.

I am pleased with it as well. I was worrying it was going to be someone like Tim Kaine, who perhaps thinks Estonia is a hamlet in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Anonüümne ütles ...

I think loitsimine is excellent. To chant incantations brings people together. Without suggesting that Estonia needs to become a clerical society, sociologists have noted that prayer in groups unites people. Regivärss (runic songs, songs in the poetic metre tradition shared by many peoples in the Baltic-Finnic corner) brings to mind the singing of the African slaves in the US in the "call and response" form, where a leader sings a phrase and the fieldhands (congregation members) repeat it. Pure Alo Mattiisen / Veljo Tormis. Having written that, I am not going to put my money on chants as a way to ward off the devil, and think that in addition to finding greater collective inner unity, it is high time for the Estonians - the most exposed NATO flank state - to start taking serious steps to reduce their exposure considerably. That by way of explanation of my original "should we be fiddling (singing) while Rome burns" polemicizing. It was Trotsky who said "You may not want war, but war wants you". He who wants peace prepares for war. God made men and Colt made them equal.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Re Shaakasvili and my "panic sowing". Why is it that Putin and Russia have been plotting this since at least April (but in reality much earlier), and that Georgia got mugged, but it is the behavior of Shaakashvili that we are analyzing? This is the old "she was wearing a miniskirt and brought the rape on herself" argument. We are not keeeping our eye on the ball, which means: how is Putin going to set up the Criema or Estonia next? OK, let's analyze Shaakashvili but NOT with the luxury of dawdling and having lots of time. Cops in critical situations have to react in a split second and then the media and the lawyers and everyone else take their time and take months to reach a verdict. Shaakashvili had no attractive choices and it was engineered that way for him on purpose. More to the point - it is not panic induction to ask what one of us would have done as the Commander in Chief of the Estonian Armed Forces if Estonian settlements were being shelled by Russia separatists from let's say Narva. And they have Russian backup.

Unknown ütles ...

So you think it would have been cool for the leader of the Defence Forces to gather all the FH-70 field howitzers he could get and shell the crap out of downtown Narva? Rather than starting a siege on Narva with ground forces? I don't know dude...

Ain Kendra ütles ...

At first i do not believe in possibility of artillery attack from city as such. But from the territory of larger enterprise - as example, Energy, or Sillamäe harbor. Harbour even is more realistic as this enables the transport of weapons directly to place.
Well, so much about technical stuff. But more realistic is that here Narva russians get together and have a large meeting where they demand russians to help them. Whatever reason, but we just may not have there enough power to control let's say 10,000 hooligans leadered with internazis.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Giustino ütles...
Offtopic: Obama's choice for VP is really good news for Estonia. Now the elections are a win-win situation for us.

I am pleased with it as well. I was worrying it was going to be someone like Tim Kaine, who perhaps thinks Estonia is a hamlet in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Or as some here think ...a town in upstate New York.

Estonia has been getting some good travel press here and many know of it and it's beauty....

Unknown ütles ...

Guys, I'm reading your comments and crying! I think I'm the only russian speaking person who entered this page. It is really funny to read guys like Sõber Driver. I was almost under the table laughing. Thank you for good evening, you improved my mood a lot (especially post about Lasnamäe, it was awesome)!!! 5++++ Please, don't reply to my post, I won't answer anyway as it just makes no sense to talk to guys like you, plus I have no time for that. The only reason why I wrote this comment is to say "Thank you!" I spent good time reading your posts :)))))))

How easy to have an enemy near you, it allows to hide money leakage into proper pockets :)

To all other guys here, I like you all!! Don't think that Sõber Driver's comments changed my mind!!!

LPR ütles ...

There you go. Neo. Another example of russian mind in action.

I just shrug. I know it too well. I know russians too well.

Come on.

I was even married to one.

I tried to prove that it does not matter. That we are all the same.

It did not work out.

Stereotypes won.

Unknown ütles ...

Dear, inner monologue!

I'm not against your point or against point of Sõber Driver, everyone could\should have its own point and changing your mind is not my goal. The only reason why I wrote my comment is to say that his comment was a bit funny for me, especially about Lasnamäe. I fully understand and accept his point and understand it. But you should understand that world is much wider and there are many people who have different opinions. And these opinions might not be equal to your. I accept it, you - not. That's the difference.

About knowing these or that people, I understand that your wife was russian and probably you had problems in relations and maybe you are angry now, but it is a bit silly to start blaming all group of people for that and saying that I have stereotypes and that's it. Please, don't charge others for your own bad choice.

And, please, if you think that I'm wrong in something, just point me there, but please provide good arguments and not your own bad experience.

Thank you!

Anonüümne ütles ...

Particularly in response to Andres.

For argument's sake: Northern Estonia or significant parts thereof claim in the future that they are a special new administrative zone. Fomenting this is the essentially neonazi FSB Putin-led regime in Russia. People with Russian passports in their pockets constitute the puppet government of the ESSR that now gets reconstituted in this Northern Estonian coastal belt.

Tallinn too - an ice-free port, in addition to Paldiski - what a plum!

Tallinn - where the Estonian goverrnment is still in control, despite difficulties, refutes the claims of the seccessionists and says the territory of Estonia is indivisible. Artillery intentionally located in the residential districts of Narva opens up on villages in the territory of "Estonia proper". And it is necessary to react very quickly, if at all. What does Andrus Ansip do?

Would the people - the irregulars in the breakaway enclave - have started shelling, if they didn't have backup, as was the case in South Ossetia, meaning in the form of endless collums of Russian armor pouring into Georgia from North Ossetia?

Where, pray tell, were the Russian "peacekeepers", or "peacekeepers" of other nationalities whose only job - if they were in South Ossetia in good faith at all - is to keep such provocations from taking place? I wonder if the "peacekeepers" pick sides?

That we even "seriously" pursue this line of argumentation seems ridiculous to me.

The point being that Ansip in such a situation is being set up. He is screwed if he does and screwed if he doesn't.

Please note: in war, the bombing or shelling of civilian quarters is not unusual. Think Narva and Tallinn 1944, think Königsberg-Kaliningrad, think Helsinki, think Dresden 1945, think Coventry 1940, think the monastery of Monte Cassino and think Hiroshima. Think Groznoi, think Iraq. That is just a taste test, we can keep going. Rape of Shanghia, mass rape of German women in Berlin 1945. Etc.

We wax indignant here and in the West in general, about what a screwup Shaakashvili supposedly was. Play armchair general here, condemning Shaakashvili, putting the culpability on him. We toss the ball back and forth re tactical moves, all the time, but either miss or ignore the point.

The school bullies kick the crap out of the little kid, and we blame the little kid for resisting at first. Brawlers all.

At the same time, the mastermind in the Kremlin, where the Abkhaz and South Ossetian "abcesses" were engineered with malice and forethough - possibly as far back as two decades ago, with eventual annexation in mind - is laughing. At us, among others in the West.

Like Stalin, like Hitler, Putin apparently loves maps, loves drawing lines on them, loves cooking up heavy duty mischief, and much of the the reaction in the commentaries section of this more or less Estonian blog, to which lots of native Estonians apparently post stuff, almost seems to be: "Shaakasvili brought it on himself". This is, IMHO, to be missing the primary point, to put it mildly.

This is also why I began with the cotention and continue to contend that a large part of the Estonian public is floating around somewhere in never-never land, not really taking in as adults what is going on around them. We fiddle as grasshoppers while the ants gather winter fodder.

From sober driver, more as in the driver who is not inebriated (drunk). I am of course also willing to be a sõber (friend) with all good men and women who come to the aid of their country. And who mean well.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Re Lasnamae: "Estonians" did not bring Russians in during the occupation. A relatively small number of Estonian collaborationists working alongside Russian satraps brought in Russians and folks of other ethnic groups during a period of Moscow rule, in contravention of international law, which forbids population transfer in occupied areas. "Moscow rule" means that a plan existed to use the occupied Baltic States as "lebensraum", and that a parallel plan was also being implemented to plane out the Estonian ethnos. The traditional first nation of the little Estonian homeland.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Final clarification - it was not Doris who wrote "Estonians brought in Russians". This was my own clarification of a throught that sometimes runs through Estonian dialogue nowadays, as though the Estonians were - as Hando Runnel once wrote - somehow themselves responsible for the destruction wrought upon their land.

Giustino ütles ...

To me the concept of Estonian Russians is a bit vague. I mean we gave a ride to an "Estonian Russian" from Tartu the other day, her only difference being a slight accent.

We bought smoked fish from an "Estonian Russian" in Võõpsu, again, her only distinction being a slight accent.

Sure they have different backgrounds. Maybe they are orthodox. But there are Estophone orthodox too.

So I guess we shouldn't try too hard to put Estonians into different categories. This country can't afford to be extra picky when it comes to defining its nationals.

Anonüümne ütles ...

What, in a usefully definable way, is a Russian Estonian? I can understand "Italian-American", in that in the US, everyone except for the blacks, many of whom were brought to America as slaves - and then there are the Cree and the Iriquois and the Navajos etc. - are immigrants to America ("pilgrims").
Some want to denote that they are immigrants or immigrant offspring of Hungarian origin, as compared to the Irish-American girl in the next neighborhood. Still ,you raise your hand at the citizenship ceremony, and you genuinely mean what you say when you state that you are gladly becoming part of the whole deal. This is a pact of good will that many Russians in Estonian have not made with Estonia.

In America, except for the Germans and the Japanese, who get put into prison camps during wars, most everyone who serves in the US Army can be depended on, particularly during national crises (Pearl Harbor), and everyone can quote the Pledge of Allegiance by Heart. At least that was the way it was not long ago. The guys at the American Legion Club would buy you drinks if you came home alive.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Estonia isn't America nor Australia nor Canada - territories wrested by force from the natives for the fostering of immigration. Colonies for colonists. Some American mental approaches and models are just that - American ones. Not universal. Not one size fits all. The little bit of turf that a tribe has in the Amazonian jungle is the habitat of that tribe. Perhaps we should leave little European peoples their ecotopes too.

When hundreds or possibly thousands of cars were driving around in Estonia for months after the April Riots of the local Russians a couple of years ago displaying the orange ribbon with three black stripes - the Order of St. George - the highest military order of Russia - these folks were clearly not making a statement of loyalty to the country they continue to live in for whatever reason. Rather - the ribbons were rebellious pledges of "unallegiance". There are lots of folks in Estonia whose fathers and grandfathers came to Estonia with the Red Army and killed and tortured Estonians and remain aloof from Estonians, if not downright less than friendly. To chant "Russia, Russia" while breaking store windows in Estonia is an abuse of hospitality.

If push comes to shove, these folks have had their minds made up since the Red Army "liberated" Estonia in 1944. Thankless Estonians.

There are other folks among the Russian population of Estonian who could care less. How many are there? Honestly? How do we determine this percentage? Do they live here because Estonian society is less of a mess than the Russian one? Or because the lifestyle is preferable? The "fabric of society"? Or out of old inertia? Perhaps these are the Estonian Russians (a phrase you introduced here)?

How many are there? Russians who would not do harm to the Estonians, who would cast in their lot with the Estonians? Who, of their own volition, would not visit harm of any sort on the Estonians? How does one tell them apart from those who have malice in their hearts?

Why do the Russians in Estonia not regulate these issues in their own community? Are they full and responsible members of Estonian society? Where is the "Club of Russians Declaring their Solidarity towards their Homeland of Estonia"? In the US, I'll bet you can find neighborhoods where practically all of the members of the American Legion are of Italian ancestry.

How will most Russians in Estonia think and act three years after a new Russian occupation, speaking in hypothetical terms?

Why do I as an Estonian in my homeland have to ask these questions at all? Why can't I just be left alone to putter around and live in peace? We have not asked to be intruded into.

Everywhere in the former USSR and in the former occupied Baltic States, Putin's people are sowing the seeds of discontent. That was what the mess was about with the Russian "liberation" statue at Tonismae Park.

The victims of this aggressively assertive Russian policy in the so-called "near abroad" are the local peoples (Georgians, Ukrainians, Latvians, etc.), as well as the local Russians who allow themselves to be used as the pawns of the Russian imperialist game.

How many "Russian Estonians" - your phrase - feel affection for the Estonians as a people, as a culture, as plain folks? As the people who, like the Irish in Ireland, give the land its character, who have been here since eternity, for all intents and purposes? If they do not feel affection, are they really Russian "Estonians"?

When the eruption should come, if it comes, as it has come so many times before for the Estonians in their own homeland, it is probably very useful information to know who is going to stand aside you and who is going to deport you.

There is no problem with most of the nationalities residing here. Giustino will presumably stick with the Estonians when push comes to shove (although there is always the option to head back to the States, should the situation in Estonia ever turn deathly unpleasant). The Armenians have no bone to pick with the Estonians, the Finns are not going to act weird, the ethnic Ukrainians are probably by and large going to stay at home and do their national service in the Estonian military, etc. etc. Ever since the Baltic Germans left, there is only one group left, many members of which are disinclined to act nice. This is an objective description of the situation in Estonia, not a made-up one.

Rather there is a provocative regime in Russia that is the problem, one that stirs up trouble in neighboring territories and that is trying to restore imperial greatness. How many people are susceptible to the jingoism of Putin is the question.

Most Russians living in Estonia are already aligned with either Russia or Estonia in their heart of hearts. Their minds are made up, but they often don't speak their minds. The question is how many of whom? The Estonians have nearly bent over backwards to accomodate the Russian population - one left here in very substantial partby a legacy of occupation - and repeatedly turned the other cheek. Estonian passports have been distributed as though Estonian citizenship were one of those plastic goodies they give to kids at McDonalds. At this point in the game, the "who does the allegiance of the Russians here belong to" thing is basically decided.

It is the Russians who came to Estonia and Latvia during the Soviet period who have adamantly insisted until recently on having segregated schools, to the extent of not having the same subject matter as Estonian kids, who even use different history textbooks. And the version of history told by many of the Russian teachers chooses to gloss over how Estonia came to be incorporated into the USSR, it does not tell the tale told in the Singing Revolution film.

The level of danger has risen in Estonia, and it is externally induced.

It is prudent for the Estonians to be fair and keep their heads, but don't put the onus on the Estonians. The onus to stop acting aggressively is on Russia. To not go along with Russian jingoism in Estonia is a matter of free choice that individuals ought to make. Think with your own head, or be used as a pawn.

Giustino ütles ...

If St. Petersburg-born Pyotr Volkonsky's descendant can be Tallinn-born Peeter Volkonski; if Poland-born Paweł Trubecki's descendant can be Tallinn-born Tõnu Trubetsky; if Petrograd-born Yuri Lotman can have two sons in different political parties in the Estonian Riigikogu, then I believe it is possible that the "ethnic factor" can be surpassed, in time, by the "national factor" in Estonia.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Energy workers, builders and miners act and think differently than a Prince Volkonski. It's not like we had a flourishing Estonian Russian culture or something.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Volkonski is an old aristocrattic family, tied to Estonia for a long time. Peeter is a gentle spirit, speaks perfect Estonian, the Estonians love him, he is in fact Estonia. Trubetski is more similar to Jaan Kaplinski - Polish-Estonian - than he is to the Russians we have been talking about. Their hearts - Peeter and Tonu - are open to Estonia and Estonians (it would be illogical if that were not the case, Trubetsky is Estonian on his mom's side). Ergo the Prince and Trubetski are not representative.

The big impacted wave of Russian colonists arrived in the sixties, seventies and eighties. Many of them seem to be capable of living in splendid isolation, laregly unreachable by Estonian voices. Integration and assimilation are demographic phenomena, which are notoriously slow. Even more difficult is "making" someone love you or care for you. And then there is the small matter of the very considerable harm done to the Estonians. Catholics know the drill for reconciliation and redemption... this involves admission of wrong-doing, penitence, apologies, etc.

A better poster boy of how it is possible for young Russians to fit in in a constructive way might be Jevgeni Kristafovits: http://www.nordvux.net/page/334/jevgeni.htm

Giustino ütles ...

Ergo the Prince and Trubetski are not representative.

They are representative of the fact that a person can become, over time, either through residence or intermarriage, Estonian. In other words, not all of Volkonski or Trubetsky's forefathers have been here for 5,000 years.

The big impacted wave of Russian colonists arrived in the sixties, seventies and eighties.

I know about the past, but what about the future? Estonia is a European country, but how do you turn this post-Soviet community into a European minority?

They are not going away, and they are not just going to "assimilate" because they live next to a country of 140 million people who produce media in their native tongue.

In fact, that is the greatest reason why proponents of the dual-linguistic-state ideology are wrong. You pit 920,000+ Estonian speakers with their few daily newspapers and TV channels up against the linguistic might of the Russian Federation. It's easy to see who is the winner and who is the loser here.

The emphasis on culture and language is required, but there must be a greater emphasis on values.

It is Western values that make Estonia what it is. Narva was flattened and repopulated, and yet, it's still, by virtue of historical inertia, part of the West. You can do and say things in Narva that you cannot do or say in Ivangorod.

If you want to "win hearts and minds" language lessons and flag waving contests aren't going to do the trick. You have to dismantle the Soviet infrastructure of communal living and state-tv consumption and replace it with an organizational system that reinforces those values.

We wrote about Lasnamäe. Well, the Lasnamäes of Estonia are crumbling. All across this country the poorly constructed tenements of the Brezhnev era sit like dinosaur skeletons waiting to collapse. What will replace them?

Anonüümne ütles ...

"We wrote about Lasnamäe. Well, the Lasnamäes of Estonia are crumbling. All across this country the poorly constructed tenements of the Brezhnev era sit like dinosaur skeletons waiting to collapse. What will replace them?"


Anonüümne ütles ...

To Giustino

Would like to see how you are going to pull this off in the next let's say 100 years. Not that I resist your desire to accomplish a state of being in which the Russians in Estonia fit in better. Yes, I am doing something less-than-desirable, which is to categorize Russians in Estonia, while in reality there are some individualist Russians and nonconformists and democrats and such, but generalizations are part of the human condition if sentences are not generally to be as long as this sentence is!

Efforts must absolutely be made to not aggravate the situation. But at the expense of truth and expression?

Russia -- not only its leadership, but the public as well -- believes its actions in Georgia are 100 percent justified both politically and morally. (Surveys have been done).

A significant number of influential countries, and most of the Estonian (ethnic) public holds the opposite view. Surveys have been done. The Russians in Estonia are not in alignment with the Estonians (surveys have been done).

Russia -- not only its leadership, but a very significant part of the people it moved to the Baltic States in an illegal population transfer claims that they liberated Estonia in 1944 rather than take away its freedom.

The Estonians do not so much claim that they were savaged by the Soviet Union (USSR), they experienced the savaging first hand.

The Russians here as a rule are unrepentant. Seems to me as though the Estonians don't have a lot of position shifting that they can do. Or should the Estonian history books, which are already careful to not tell the whole brutal truth - be rewritten?

Cannot build Lasnamae replacements, cannot have hope for harmonious coexistence without the local Russians coming around a little bit. Can't have your cake and eat it too.

Giustino ütles ...


Absolutely. Look at the growing suburbs of Tallinn and Tartu. I wonder how many of those new suburbanites grew up in the block houses of Mustamäe or Annelinn.

Would like to see how you are going to pull this off in the next let's say 100 years.

Between 2007 and 2008, Estonia lost 1,474 people. 177 of them were ethnic Estonians.

Where do the Estonian Russians go? Some die. But a lot of them move to Germany or the UK or the US, because the only thing keeping them in Estonia was the higher living standards, and now with EU passports, they can graduate to even higher living standards.

Those who remain will have to become a European minority. It would be nice if they had more explicit rights, together with the Ukrainians and Finns and Swedes and Jews, but at the same time, when you have your own version of Postimees; your own education system; a plethora of media options, it's kind of hard to argue that you are in need of greater "protection."

Current European legislation is designed to prevent vulnerable minorities from disappearing. No linguists expect the Russophones of Narva to become Estonianized anytime soon.

But if they were conceptualized as a European minority, then we would could drop the victim/oppressor roles that poison inter-communal relationships. That's not to deny the past, but it is to build a platform for the future.

You want to tell the truth, as you see it, and that is fine. We all should tell our truths. But I do not envision my kids growing up to dislike Estonian Russian kids their own age. That seems really stupid.

Some symbolic red meat for Estonia's minority communities wouldn't hurt either. Why does every president's day gala feature the hits of the 80s but no songs of the rannarootslased or the vanausulised? Doesn't living in Estonia for a few centuries get you a seat at the table?

If you want to defeat Kremlin propaganda, then take their "compatriots" and make them your "compatriots." And if someone doesn't agree with your interpretation of history or the events in Georgia, then learn to say, quite simply, [expletive] you, and move on.

Those kids who burned the Estonian flag last April were assholes. If they feel hated by society, it's because most of society hates them because they are assholes. Sorry to be crude about it, but case closed.

Lilyta ütles ...

I was never taught to dislike Russian kids. Children are quite smart & realise themselves what's going on pretty soon. They'll ask you questions about some Russian kidz attitudes. If they're lucky they'll have pals of different nationalaties. Some childhood friends might effect our lives for long time, hopefully in good way.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Giustino, as the Estonian proverb says, one is talking of the fence and the other of the hole in the fence. You are taking the hundred year view and I am taking the view of here and now. After Georgia, Central and Eastern Europe are abuzz with the topic of "who is next?"

The issue I wanted to raise is Russian agression and how Russia opportunistically uses its colonies - its "communities of countrymen" that have been injected into various places, in order to justify aggression. The supposed discrimination of Russians and Russian citizens provides Putin with the fig leaf for naked aggression.

The likely candidate for the next domino is the Crimea. Educated guesses have it that the next least protected and vulnerable place that Putin eyes is Estonia.

The West is both incapable and also apparently unwilling to come to the aid of the little guys in the ostensibly Western fold.

Russia tried in 1924 to carry out a coup d'etat in Estonia but was foiled In 1940 and 1944, Russians and Russia's agents were central in destroying Estonian nationhood.

Estonia is in substantial danger and her Achilles heel is the presence of a large number of Russian subjects brought here illegally.

We can write of the need to render them harmless to Estonia - indeed, many Russians in Estonia are simply innocent people that the new Hitler in the Kremlin would like to use as a pawn, but would skip being used if they could.

For Estonia to eradicate bad thoughts in the heads of most of the hundreds of thousands of Russians in Estonia will take a century, or may never succeed. We are discussing a mighty tall order. Of course one must continue to dismantle the Moscow-created segregation in Estonia.

Still, in terms of clear and present danger, 17 years was too little time to take the detonator out of the grenade.

If the s&#t hits the fan, it will do so in the next months or years. Estonia has squandered time in taking necessary defense measures and this is time that cannot be easily made up for. I literally mean defense measures in the sense of defense measures and better collective arrangements.

I still contend that while singing is real nice, there is a heavy-duty reality disconnect going on.

Giustino ütles ...

A NATO/EU base in Ida Virumaa wouldn't hurt. It would probably be good for the local economy.

plasma-jack ütles ...

From the EU draft resolution: "In the light of the situation and in particular the implementation by Russia of all its commitments under the six-point (peace) plan, (the review) may lead to decisions on the continuation of discussions on the future of relations between the Union and Russia in various areas."

Wtf? may lead to decisions on the continuation of discussions on the future of relations ? What does that even mean?

tough talk, indeed. as tough as clear. They could've at least written "non-implementation".