I have selected this word because it looks so cool. “Haua” I think means “tomb.” “Öö” means “night.” And “õudused” means “horrors.” Maybe it means “nightmare”? I have no idea. If anybody can translate this word of the week, you can be Eesti tõlk of the week too!
Oh God, I enjoy watching the History Channel. I have often nicknamed it the “Hitler Channel” because it’s all World War II, all the time. The History Channel’s main audience are post-war Baby Boomer males who are infatuated with the blood hungry period immediately prior to their births. Not being heroes themselves, they enjoy the heroic feats of their fathers and hope that by watching the Hitler Channel they can somehow become more heroic.
Anyway, last night’s installment was called “Roots of Evil: Hitler & Stalin.” I was quite pleased to see the two mustachioed villains portrayed side by side, with our beloved American love of analysis thrown in for good measure. Some interesting tidbits? Hitler was still painting water colors while he was commanding his wehrmact. He consumed an daily cocktail of amphetamines to keep him going, and then took barbituates to sleep. They even had film of Hitler’s shaky hand (due to amphetamines usage). He also had his hometown shelled – including the church, lest anyone discover that his father may have been the illegitimate son of a Jew! In fact, given the choice between allocating resources to win Stalingrad or kill more Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals – Hitler chose the latter. They also said the drugs affected is judgement and that his diaries reveal that he may have had early stage Parkinson’s disease.
Stalin’s portrayal was more about the extent to which he erased his political enemies. Sure the mass deportations and executions were discussed, but the show enjoyed showing photos that had been doctored to “erase” the existence of political opponents. These people, it was said, died two deaths – the first being real deaths, the second being a historical death – being eliminated from public memory. There is a special focus on how the man of Steel tracked down Trotsky – who was living it up eating fried bananas in Mexico – so that he could be ice-picked to death. Though Trotsky was a communist expansionist ideologue, he has gone down in Western memory as a curly-haired intellectual – much prefered to the hitman Stalin. Apparently, old Josef was also planning another deportation when he died in 1953. Tough luck!
All of this comes to a head today, where, the Estonian parliament rejected a proposal by Res Publica and Isamaaliit to honor the Estonians who fought with the SS to keep the Soviets out of Estonia in 1944, and those who continued fighting into the 1950s.
TALLINN. March 30 (Interfax) – The Estonian Cabinet on Thursday rejected an opposition proposal to designate Estonians who fought for the Nazis, together with members of the Forest Brotherhood, as “fighters for the liberation of Estonia.”
The Cabinet agreed with the opinion of the Justice Ministry that the adoption of the resolution in its present form “is highly likely to provoke enmity between people who fought on different sides.”
The people who fought on different sides are mostly octogenarians today. And since they spent their formative years trying to kill one another, I have a feeling enmity – hatred, ill will, hostility – already exists between the two and has for quite some time.
What I would like to see Estonia do is solve all of its problems on television. This is the American in me talking, but I think a genius television show that featured two neighbors – one an old Estonian man who fought for the 20th SS, and the other an old Russian man that retook Narva – living next to each other in post-1991 Estonia would be great.
The running gaglines on the show would be that both are drunks, neither knows what they are talking about, they both are living in abject poverty while young, well-off politicians argue about their deeds, and they consistently get into the kind of stupid fights only old grumpy neighbors could get into. Of course, the show is bilingual – the neighbors yell at each other in different languages but understand most of what the other is saying.
In this mix is the younger generation of yuppie Estonians, who are, of course, all divorced with children from different relationships. There would also be some teenage characters who are obsessed with http://www.rate.ee and mobile phones and clothing – you know, typical Estonian (and by Estonian I mean all people who live there regardless of where their parents are from) kids. The adult generation – my generation in the show – would be ridiculed by playing with ridiculous attempts to remain trendy – stupid hairstyles, leather pants, etc.
Anyway, that’s my TV show idea of the day. And no, I wouldn’t call it “Roots of Evil.” I would call it “Oma ja Hea” – (Ours and Good). Any ideas for plots, characters?
No, this is about Canada – the country to our north, the kind of place Americans consistently forget they need a passport to enter. I almost made that mistake last week when I was about to leave for Vancouver. This was my second time to Canada and I was looking forward to an extra day there to enjoy the fresh, moist air of the Pacific Northwest.
Canada should be similar to the US. I mean, we Americans basically think, as South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker stated in Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, that they “aren’t a real country anyway.” I mean they talk like us, look like us, and basically are us, just farther up north and with a maple leaf on their flag, right?
Wrong. Obviously the first thing that hits you is that Canada is officially bilingual. That doesn’t mean that everyone speaks two languages. But it does mean that Air Canada has at least one French speaking flight attendent on all its flights. And it does mean that the Air Canada flight magazine features interviews only with Canadians and that it is all in French and English.
Reading the magazine you have to feel sorry for those poor Canucks. For all the greatness they’ve exported – Jim Carrey, Neil Young, Dan Ackroyd – there are hundreds of artists and writers toiling away getting attention only in Canada. Canadians also have a strange, disarming English accent. They pronounce most “a”s as “ä” not “ah.” The “ou” in “out” and “about” is pronounced as in “bow” rather than “owl” – which is how we do it, at least in New England. So their “about” sounds like how we would say “a boat.”
All of their vowels are condensed and tight, which gives Canadians a sort of controlled air when they speak. Perhaps they are all suffering from lockjaw. The women sort of have a sing-song, Valley Girl lilt to their voices, while the men – who often have names like Neil, Mitch, or Bruce, have this unnervingly polite, soft-spokenness to them. You get the impression that even when a Canadian gets mad and yells, the anger is to be heard in the content, not in the voice.
Canada’s big nasty secret is that they still love the Queen. They love Queen Elizabeth II so much they put her face on nearly all of their money. It’s not like the US where we have republican scalywags like Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, and Ulysses S. Grant on our cash. Sure they have pictures of dead white Canucks on their money, along with the requisite waterfowl and maple leaf. But the Queen is on the twenty dollar bill. The Queen of England. All the way in Vancouver. How strange.
Vancouver itself is an interesting amalgam of cultures. The dominant culture is the Anglo culture – and by “Anglo” I mean FROM ENGLAND – and Ireland and Scotland too. That’s where the peculiar accent comes from, because their ancestors were mostly from there, and many didn’t get to British Columbia until late in the 19th century. But the other big culture is Asian – and by Asian I mean Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, in that order. The Japanese played a major role in the development of this region – some even fought for Canada in WWI and there are monuments and such. My hotel was in an Asian neighborhood and there were many restaurants and Internet Cafes where the characters were all in Japanese or Korean or Chinese or Vietnamese. On a weekend night these places were packed with Asian teenagers and young adults, all crammed in drinking beer and eating noodles. They seemed like the kind of places you had to be invited into. I even went into a Korean grocery store which stank of dried fish. They even had cute, cuttlefish munchy snacks for children with cartoons on them. Yum!
Directly north of Vancouver, through the verdant Stanley Park and across the Lions Gate Bridge (which sadistic härdcore Vancouverians crossed on rollerblades and by bike – I walked) is the Squamish First Nation Reserve. This is what we in the US would call a reservation, and it looked like one and was situated like one – right under the bridge. The anecdote is that when Europeans destroyed native economies and cultures, they gave them the shittiest land. My guess is that when the Vancouverians were plotting to build a bridge from Vancouver to North Vancouver, they chose to put the foundation right over the Squamish’s remaining homeland.
On the other side I met a Squamish woman and her two kids. At first I thought maybe they were also asian, but no, they were definitely Native Americans. I usually don’t run into Native Americans in New York City as the people that lived here 400 years ago were driven west to the Lenape nation and eventually moved – you guessed it – to Canada. The Squamish have lost their language and are trying to keep their traditions together. But they have this weird feeling about them – like they are so involved in what their culture is that they don’t pay much attention to all the noise around them. I envied them in a way.
At a restaurant nearby I ate a burger and watched hockey with some steel-eyed Canadians who like to drink beer and watch hockey. The bartendress and waiter were so polite I began to quietly wonder if they were conspiring to have sex with me after serving my food. It was the, “Anything else I can do for you?” and gleam in their eyes that set me uneasy. After awhile I started to like the dull rhythm of hockey, punctuated by the silly fights. I could see how up in the mist of Canada, watching a puck go back and forth could be entertaining.
Back in my hotel room later I settled down to watch Canadian television. I got to catch the remaining moments of a show where Quebecois sing French pop songs together (they have similar shows in Finland and Estonia) and watched some local news, “a ferry sank near Victoria Island.” There were “heated” political discussions with people diplomatically expressing their views, so unlike our news channels. There was even a program called “Out and About.” Ha ha ha. Eh, not that funny anymore. I also watched a cartoon show where the hero did everything “by the book.” People often thought he would screw up – like not catch the crooks – but he did everything “by the book” and wound up on top in the end. How Canadian!
After awhile, the accent started to be less prominent (in fact, I was told that I didn’t have a New York accent, and sounded like a Canadian) and I just pondered how polite the Candians were. A good example of this is when my bus ticket had expired, and the bus driver said that it was ok if I rode the bus anyway. That would never happen in New York. A bad example would be waiting in line to check my bags where the Air Canada clerk tried to hard to make chatty conversation while I had to a) pee really bad and b) catch a flight. She even told me I should get a härd case for my guitar. Thanks but…Interestingly, Canadian passport control was equally as chummy. I had to explain how I got my job, I even mentioned the Estonian Genome Project – just to get in the country!
Just when I thought I was headed back to normalcy, I met US Passport Control and came face to face with a guy that looked like US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and had a southern accent, which is even more foreign than a Canadian accent to me.
“Deed yew pack alyur belongins? (did you pack all your belongings?)” he asked.
“Is this guy really from my country?” I thought to myself. Oh well, I guess he was, at least according to my passport.
This week, as Estonia’s first post-occupation president is being laid to rest in Tallinn, a possible future president is being interviewed by Postimees (actually Kanal 2, but…).
The big question to current European Parliamentarian and former foreign minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves:
Kas kinnitate kandideerimist Eesti presidendiks?
Jah. Olen oma nõusoleku kandideerimiseks andnud ka SDE-le, aga nemad kinnitavad oma kandidaadid 2. aprillil.
Basically – ‘are you going to run for president?’ answer – yes.
As a candidate, Ilves has some things going for him. Probably the most important to Estonians is his bow-tie. Estonians I have spoken with are hungry for an engaging, stylish leader after five years of Rüütel. It’s not that Arnold lacks charisma, it’s just that – along with wild teenage parties at Kadriorg and rumors of Alzheimer’s – some have speculated that he is asleep at the wheel. But Ilves is fairly young (52) and has had, for some time, a vision of where he wants to take Estonia (he wants to continue to make it a normal, boring Nordic country).
Another asset is his biography – born to Estonian refugees in Stockholm, Ilves actually grew up in the US, where people that know him refer to him not as “Toomas” but “Tom.” Though it does not please me to say this, there’s a reason that Vaira Vike Freiberga is President Bush’s favorite Baltic president (I heard this from someone who knows – off the record) as he demonstrated by choosing to visit Latvia before traveling to Russia last May to take in some goose stepping. That’s because Vaira also grew up in the West (Canada) and can, most importantly, speak perfect English.
Being able to speak a key language of NATO and the European Union fluently is paramount to preserving good relations with these organizations that safeguard the future of the Estonian Republic. Plus Ilves has a lot of personal connections with leaders in Europe and abroad. He sits on the EU’s foreign affairs committee. He’s a known quantity in Europe. And he was ambassador to the US from 1993 – 1996.
Third, a major plus for Ilves is that he has no Communist past. There are no “his father was a collaborator” rumours (like with Meri) and there will be no birthday editions printed in ironic red of Estonian newspapers for Toomas (like they did with Rüütel in 2003 for his 75th). He has a clean slate. And that’s healthy for the country.
Finally, he’s a Mülk – from Viljandimaa. He even owns a farm in Mülgimaa. And as my wife will tell you, Mülks are allegedly the most ambitious of Estonians.
The floating head to your left is Ernest Hemingway. He is sort of your penultimate American expat – he enlisted to serve in the US ambulance corps in World War I and never turned his back on that continent. Hemingway’s Europe of the 1920s appealed to his generation much the same way the Europe of the 90s and 00s appeals to mine – it’s a new frontier, particularly “East” Europe, that is former communist Europe (because Vienna is farther east than Prague is). In the 1920s, the frontier of America, which had sustained America’s adventurers for 300 years, was dead. Defeated. But in the cafes of Paris – well, there was a new adventure brimming.
Not only adventure, but a sense of homelessness drew me to Europe. I went there the first time in 1994. I was 15 and came from a country where I had to sneak pornography into my life and sneak a sip or two of alcohol while no one was looking. But in Zurich, I saw, you could read a nudie magazine in a barber shop. You could hand out flyers to strip shows in the street. You could shoot-up in the park. You could drink beer in the streets. You could let your guard down, let your heathenism run free, and then sleep it off on the train home. This was the Europe I tasted and I went back as a young man.
I went back to Reykjavik first, for three days. It was peaceful. I sort of wanted to lock myself in an apartment there with a life supply of beer and yogurt and watch movies for the rest of my life. Then I went to Copenhagen – for four months – to “study.” Oh, what an education! Everything was soft. The drugs, the leather shoes. I was supposed to be studying – but I was getting, as we “yanks” say, “hammered” by life. In Copenhagen I met many like me, many other Hemingways that wore black (I wore brown) and liked the fact that their parents couldn’t drive to see them. That they could keep their American world at an ocean’s distance. There were no strip malls or nasty SUVs, less fat people, less homeless. Sure Denmark was made of sausage, blonde girls with thick thighs, a rotty tongue, and bad (BAD) pop music, but, it beat the hell out of the US’s motor cities at the time.
When I got back to the tame post 9/11 United States I felt haggard, hungover, and out of place. Here was a country bordered by the great inland sea of Middle America and the Atlantic Ocean. My world was the Northeast corridor – Washington, DC to Boston – that’s it. Everyone spoke English. Sex was concealed, drugs were bad, Kylie Minogue was foreign and pompous talking heads on television were God. And nobody cared about the wonderful world of peeing in alleyways, meeting strange people, enjoying old architecture and sucking down exotic beers of the other continent. They just cared about buying new shoes, and typical crap. Stuff I too quickly relearned to use to occupy my time. But the stimulation wasn’t there. Everything was in English – what was the fun in that? And Americans are so into America. America America. I had to leave. I got out. I got to go to Finland. I had to get back to “normalcy.” I’ll never forget how it felt when I looked out of my window in Finland back in the summer of 2002. It felt like the best place to be on Earth at that moment. The trees were green. The sun was warm. There was a Valintatolo next door, and I was happy. Hooray for me.
I got back – and I stayed back. I married my wife. We lived there. And slowly the routine life I escaped in New York became my routine life in Tallinn, Estonia. I had to be places at certain times, I was responsible for doing things, producing things on time. I was in the toilet and my cell phone rang at Hansapank – it was my boss, he had a job for me. Oh, dear. I started to dislike the people sometimes. I grew impatient with the lumbering ways of communication affected by northerners. Suddenly, I wasn’t getting away from anything. Anything was very much here. I missed the New York sense of humor, the American distrust and disregard for all authority. I was in a country full of students and young parents and old bums. And I could no longer slur my words or pepper them with “fucks” and “shits” like I used to. The excitement of going home with a strange woman gave way to looking at bars thinking “how did I ever think it was cool to go home with those ho’s?” And I was satisfied with peeing in alleyways maybe three or four times a year, as opposed to every friday and saturday night.
Stuck in a land filled with elves that like to eat berries and jellied meats, I threw myself into the cuisine of my youth – pasta every night, substituting Estonian salami for the real thing. Sometimes, in the quiet of the day, I had the urge to scream “FUCK!” in the Raekoja Plats.
At the same time I got what I came for. I got gorgeous architecture. I got to love it at night. I got to say proudly to visiting American tourists that “this is where I live” as they paid a bank account full to stay here for a week, while I got to stay here all the time. And I started to enjoy the culture. I really liked Saku originaal, and I enjoyed watching Laulukarusel and Eurovision, shoveling vanilla pudding in my mouth. My wife’s family did their best too. While I am not fond of salads with meats mixed in, I did eat a lot of mustard and potatoes. And I lost all that weight that I tried so hard to get rid of in the United States. Things were going good. I couldn’t engage with a co-worker about the A-Team, but other than that I found things to talk about. I met other expats – from Belgium, Germany, Spain – they sort of were like me, swindled there by the allure of Estonian womanhood. Supposedly all Estonian women are sexy, but when my Estonian female doctor checked if I had a hernia once, I barely felt a thing.
So I realized that I had achieved the second stage of Hemingway – the 1930s stage – the part where you actually care about things other than poetry, sex, getting drunk, and new adventures. Now I cared about politics and NATO and the EU and Russia. I was fully prepared to throw myself into the gears of the continent. I was ready to pick up my machine gun to fight Franco’s fascists. I had achieved expat version 2.0. I was so into version 2.0 that when my daughter was born, and I went to the pharmacy in town to get my wife a few things during her labor, I crossed paths with some American travelers, and I saw them as foreigners. They were only staying for a few nights. This was just a stop on the stimulation express. Things were often like this. I’d cross paths with weary, dirty North American travelers, and I had no desire to join them. Me? I was headed to Jarve Selver to pick up some home improvement supples. Then I’d pick up some Saku and Latvian cheese at Säästu Market. Then I’d go home and watch a movie from the 1990s – like Austin Powers – munching on my Latvian cheese and drinking down my õlut, and I’d feel like I had died and got to Jumala to “chillima” and “hangima” with Taara.
Occasionally somebody would mention something going on in America, like “who do you think will win American Idol?” and I’d have no clue what the fuck they were talking about. I missed 9/11, I missed the anthrax scare, I missed the DC sniper, I missed the blackout of ’03. And now that I am back, I am proud to say that i have never watched American Idol. So don’t talk to me about it.
Yet sadly, I never got past Hemingway version 2.0. I moved back to the US shortly after that. And that took getting used to. It took awhile for my slow European english to get up to date. I missed the coarse humor I had grown up with, and slowly the ca ca jokes came back too. And I began to see the different cultures in America from a new, almost anthropological perspective. Now I can pick up new accents the same way I could distinguish languages on the trains and buses of Europe. Now I can enjoy the US not as an American, but as an ex-expatriate – a traveler. I keep journals of my trips here the same way I kept journals of my trips there.
My fondness for the “old country” grows each day. Sometimes I feel like a dusty British academic the way I scour the news for “news,” read early 20th century Noor Eesti poetry, and rejoyce when Andres Veerpalu shows the Norwegians he’s the boss. And because I went and lived in Europe during some of the most important moments of my life, the moment where I realized, sitting sick in my bed in Copenhagen at the very late age of 21, that I should get off my ass and start making music, the total culture shock and intellectual rewards of being tossed from the UK to France to Italy to Slovenia to Ireland, the love of my soul mate and the birth of my daughter, I cannot say that it is a foreign place to me anymore. And so when we move back next time, I cannot say that I will be a true expatriate. I don’t know what I’ll be.
“Wherever you are, we will get you.” These words, beamed to Sweden over the Soviet-controlled Estonian radio, haunted the memories of a 21-year-old housewife and her friends seeking entry into the U.S. last week. They were the leitmotif of a journey that had seemed endless. “I fled from Estonia to Finland because of the Germans,” said the girl, on Ellis Island. “A year later, in 1944, I fled from Finland to Sweden because of the Russians.” Her shipmates—steelwork-ers, a glassblower, weavers, seamstresses, mechanics, lawyers, farmers, fishermen—had similar tales to tell. An Estonian farmer told how his 76-acre farm had been seized when the Russians decided he was a kulak. A girl remembered the sight of three boys, their eyes pierced, their fingers cracked, their hair torn out for resisting Russian conscription.
Sixty-nine refugees who feared that the Russian threat might reach into Sweden for them crowded into the Prolific, a blunt-nosed fishing schooner, about half as big as the Mayflower. They had sailed over 6,000 miles of ocean to reach a U.S. haven. They had weathered storms in the Bay of Biscay and off Cape Finisterre. They had traded their clothes for grapes and coconuts in Madeira and broken their steering gear in a hurricane off Bermuda. Under leaky hatches in fetid, 90° heat, their women had nursed children sick with chicken pox. After 60 days at sea, they had put in at Wilmington, N.C., and been shipped by train to New York.
Since 1945 more than 230 Baltic refugees have come to the U.S. in cockleshells even smaller than the Prolific. The Estonia, which brought Kou Walter and his wife and children to Florida, was only 47 feet long. The Erma, which sailed from Stockholm to Little Creek, Va., charting her course on a standard schoolboys’ map of the Atlantic, measured 37 feet.
Most of the passengers of the first five boatloads to arrive in the U.S. have been given visas, and many have taken out their first citizenship papers. Others have been paroled to the Salvation Army. So far, none have been returned to Russia, and, though immigration officials are reluctant to say so, none are likely to be.
Amazingly there’s a wealth of information on Estonia. Understandably it drops off the radar from the 1940s to the 1980s, but the 1930s and 40s stuff is absolutely chilling.
Here’s an example of Time’s coverage:
June 19, 1933, concerning the Vaps:
Not exactly Nazis, the blatant bravos of Estonia call themselves Front Soldiers, wear rakish “front caps.” Last week in mellow Dorpat, “the Estonian Athens” (it has a university), scurrilous Front Soldiers had fun with pompous President Jann Tonisson of Estonia.
Directly in his path they launched a skyrocket. Zizzling true to aim it hurtled into President Tonisson, dented him painfully, did no real damage. When the President retreated to his car, Front Soldiers seized the off side mudguards, jounced Herr Tonisson severely, nearly turned his car over before police interfered. Next day, pale with fury, the President summoned his Cabinet at Reval on the Baltic. Declaring Estonian democracy “menaced,” the Cabinet put Dorpat under martial law, dismissed half the town’s police force as tainted with Front Soldier ideology.
April 16, 1934, on a Soviet-Baltic non-aggression pact:
Last week Maxim Litvinoff, roly-poly Commissar for Foreign Affairs, met in Moscow with the plenipotentiaries of the three [Baltics]. They took up the two-party non-aggression pacts they had signed with Russia four years ago and extended them for another ten years. Glowing with the respectability of a proved peaceful intention. Mr. Litvinoff talked for the world’s ear:
“In every corner of the globe much is being said about the menace of war, but little about means of averting such a catastrophe. Let the agreements which we have signed here today remind the world that there are governments which consider it their duty to work toward strengthening the peace structure. Chauvinism, nationalism and racial prejudice are foreign to the Soviet State, which does not put its ambition in conquests.”
Not laughing/recoiling in horror yet? It gets better. October 1939 –
Bluff and Bombers. Meanwhile, Dictator Stalin suddenly brought down Russia’s fist upon Estonia. This prosperous little Baltic state flanks the sea approach to Leningrad, where the Red Navy is frozen up tight at least three months of each year, and its capital, Tallinn, is an ice-free port. On the pretext that the Estonian Government recently “allowed” an interned Polish submarine to chug out of Tallinn and become a commerce raider—actually it shot its way out, fired upon by harbor batteries (TIME, Oct. 2)—the Moscow press and radio have been violently attacking Estonia as “hostile” to Russia. These attacks redoubled in fury last week as Soviet stations screamed that the pint-size Russian freighter Metallist had been “torpedoed in Estonian waters” with a loss of five proletarian lives by a “mysterious submarine.”
Next thing Estonians knew, warships of the Red Navy appeared off their ports. Soviet bombers, some of whom the Estonians thought came from a Russian aircraft carrier, began a threatening patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside. What all this meant, the Estonian Government soon learned from their Foreign Minister Karl Selter. He had flown to Moscow the week before to “boost trade,” now flew back to Tallinn with word that the Russians bluntly asked Estonia to reduce herself to the status of a protectorate of the Soviet Union in return for trade favors. J. Stalin suggested that an Estonian delegation empowered to sign a treaty along these lines be at once brought to Moscow by Foreign Minister Selter. Some 48 hours later Mr. Selter emplaned with an imposing array of Estonian bigwigs.
The new Baltic Pact, running for ten years, provides: 1) Estonia grants Russia the right to maintain naval bases and airdromes protected by Red Army troops on the strategic islands dominating Tallinn, the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Riga; 2) Russia agrees to increase her annual trade turnover with Estonia and to give Estonia facilities in case the Baltic is closed to her goods (i. e. by Germany) for trading with the outside world via Soviet ports on the Black Sea and White Sea; 3) Russia and Estonia undertake to defend each other from “aggression arising on the part of any great European power” (i. e. Germany); 4) the Pact “should not affect” the “economic systems and state organizations” of Russia and Estonia.
This last clause, which carefully does not bind Russia to abstain from spreading Communist propaganda in Estonia, seemed to mean that the country will be spared for a time such outright Bolshevization as the Russians are putting through in their part of Poland. Military experts said that the Pact definitely transforms Estonia from a country capable of fighting for its independence into one completely at the mercy of the Soviet ships, planes and troops which are now to be based on her soil.
I know it’s long, but read it all – read it in all its disgusting glory. Smokescreens, mirrors, lies…it’s fucking crazy…
August 19, 1940
Last week, as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia officially became Russian Republics Nos. 15, 16, 17, liquidation of their nationalism began. Hundreds of men were arrested, including all leaders of former regimes that the Ogpu could lay hands on. Tribunals were set up to try and punish “traitors to the people.” Traitors to the people included not only active opponents of sovietization but all those who have fallen short of their political and economic duties, including the political duty of voting their countries into the U. S. S. R. in recent elections. Those who failed to have their passports stamped for so voting may be shot in the back of the head.
Under arrest and liable to prompt liquidation were Estonia’s onetime President Konstantin Päts, Latvia’s onetime President Karlis Ulmanis and Foreign Minister Vilhelms Hunters, Lithuania’s onetime Foreign Minister Juozas Urbsys. Special justice, including immediate confiscation of property and execution within 24 hours if they are bagged, was decreed for diplomats abroad who refuse to recognize the new regimes and return home.
April 16, 1990 (Rüütel in an odd, kick ass moment):
Mikhail Gorbachev does not like waiting. After trying several times to reach Estonian President Arnold Ruutel by telephone last week, he was in no mood for small talk when he finally got through late Tuesday evening. The Soviet President told Ruutel that he had “lost his temper” over the Estonian parliament’s decision two weeks ago that declared “the state supremacy of the Soviet Union to be illegal” in the republic. What exactly did that mean? Gorbachev demanded. If the Estonians no longer recognized the Soviet constitution, what law was operating?
Ruutel had a ready response: Estonian law. Displeased, Gorbachev called the decision “improper” and summoned the Estonian President to Moscow immediately to explain himself. When Ruutel declined, the Soviet leader turned tough. If the declaration was not rescinded, Gorbachev warned, Moscow would impose the same “regimen” there as in rebellious Lithuania. Ruutel replied that Estonians understood the consequences of their actions.
I have hoped you’ve enjoyed this little backpack through an awful, yet ultimately inspiring century. Courtesy of Time, and posted for discussion purposes only.
US President George W. Bush:
A seminal figure in the struggle for freedom, President Meri provided a moral compass to the Estonian people, ably leading them through the challenges that faced an Estonian republic that regained independence after a half-century of oppression.
The New York Times:
In contrast to the office of prime minister, Estonia’s post-Soviet presidency was conceived as a largely ceremonial position. Mr. Meri, however, routinely tested the elasticity of the job. In 1994, for instance, Mr. Meri negotiated a treaty with President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia securing the withdrawal of the last Russian troops from Estonia.
International Herald Tribune:
Among ordinary Estonians, Meri, also a writer and film director, was a beloved, charismatic father figure, whose dry humor and sharp wit only added to his charm.
More broadly, he saw himself as a kind of public conscience, rather like Václav Havel in Prague, a figure who could stand above political squabbling and urge the maintenance of basic standards of behaviour. Meri’s greatest asset to Estonia remained as an international figurehead. A polyglot, endlessly curious, full of humour, Meri charmed foreign visitors, who readily forgave his famous inability to stick to a timetable. He firmly asserted what his life’s work had proved: that Estonia had the right to call itself a fully European nation, historically tied to the West.
On a state visit to Lithuania in the late 1990s, he stopped his official convoy, asked a girl in the street if he could borrow her bike and cycled off to find a much-loved bookshop. On another occasion, he found the coffee served at a City lunch in London so unpleasant that he stopped the convoy again, this time for an espresso at Pret A Manger.
Radio Free Europe:
He grew up in the Estonian missions in Paris and Berlin, learning French so well that several French presidents went out of their way, in clear violation of protocol, to have him seated next to them at dinners in Paris. His German was reputedly so good that several Baltic German families said they were sure that somehow, somewhere there was German in his background. But his father, who at the end of the 1930s was serving as Estonia’s deputy foreign minister, insisted from the start that his oldest son learn English and corresponded with him in that language both whenever he was away from home and even, on several occasions, from a cell in the Lubyanka. And possibly as a result of his perfect command of English and his father’s enthusiasm, Meri was to the end of his life the most consistent supporter of an Atlanticist perspective for Estonia and her neighbors.
Being 6ft 4in and fluent in six languages, he could not fail to stand out at any international function. Whether he talked in English, French, German or Finnish, few would have realised how much of his background knowledge had come from books hidden during Soviet occupation or from listening illegally to short-wave radio stations.
Finnish President Tarja Halonen:
The Finnish nation lost in Lennart Meri a close and sincere friend and the world, a great statesman who was one of the leading architects of the post-Cold War world.
During Lennart Meri’s time as president Estonia has greatly changed. This was in no uncertain terms achieved by the president of the country whose role in the main was connected with presenting a certain image of the country in the international community. Meri managed to create an image of Estonia in the world that was far from Soviet. It is surprising that a man who lived virtually his whole life in the Soviet Union, starting in Siberia, managed to retain a semblance of European politics. The president of small Estonia was known in different international forums for his smart suit, black tie and decent manners. A man from Tallinn!
Urmas Paet, Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Those who visited him at his home in the suburb of Nõmme, even in the old days, remember how he would, from time to time, grab from the bookshelf a French dictionary of diplomacy, inherited from his father, a pre-war Estonian diplomat. As a person who had, already in his childhood, breathed the air of international politics and had become infected by the virus of foreign policy, it was easy for him to grasp the challenges of the new times. When he became minister of foreign affairs, his motto became: “New times require new people!”, and the result was, that soon a new Estonian foreign service, staffed by extremely young and talented people, came into being. Its growth and development remained close to his heart until the end.
I was reading Kroonika in the bathtub last night, and getting pretty deep into a story about the exploits of Jürgen Kaljuvee, when I saw it – a funny word with four vowels in the middle – kuuüür. From the text and my own linguistic skills I deduced that this was not one word but two put together – kuu (month) and üür (rent).
But still, it had four vowels in the middle. As a child in elementary school, I would only dream of words cool enough to have so many vowels. In English we usually limit things to two vowels – spoon, spleen, Hawaii (and the last one doesn’t even count). But here it was, an awesome word, with four vowels, two with dots over them. How cool!
Anyway, because it is so fun to look at, it’s the first of a series of “words of the week” we are initiating here at Itching for Eestimaa. Enjoy, and don’t forget to pay your kuuüür.