Nordic? Defense? Mwahahahahahah.

Remember the Winter War where Finns young and old bound skiis to their feet and defeated Stalin’s invasion of Finland? Ok, so maybe you don’t, but that was the highlight of Nordic military prowess in the 20th century.

Other Nordic countries, like Sweden, just decided to let Hitler do as he pleased. Denmark surrendered, Norway had to endure Quisling’s Vichy-like regime, Iceland went fishing, and Estonia? Well, Estonia didn’t listen to Laidoner.

But now, the Nordic defense ministers are cooperating, and the EU’s Nordic battalion, which includes troops from Estonia, Finland, Norway, and Sweden this week opened its headquarters in the Swedish city of Enköping.

Meanwhile Jürgen Ligi, Estonia’s defense minister is also in Enköping to dream up scenarios where they could possible use the Nordic Battalion Group – perhaps defending Lake Peipsus from drunken Russian fishermen, or defending the Faroe Islands from drunken Faroese fishermen or…

Defence Ministers from Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and Finland are taking part in a workshop Tuesday here on coordinating activities.

The four countries are members of the Nordic Battle Group, a rapid reaction force, which is to be ready to work with the European Union during the first half of 2008.

Tuesday’s workshop, at the home of the Uppland regiment in Enköping, includes a series of fictitious scenarios where the defence ministers will discuss cooperation and decision-making on the national, joint, and EU level.

Eesti Mayor of Mälmo to be Tried for Junket

From The Local, Sweden’s News in English:

A senior Social Democrat politician in Malmö will go on trial this August charged with taking bribes.

Municipal commissioner Ilmar Reepalu is accused of accepting a free trip to Africa from businessman Dan Olofsson. He is being charged together with former governor of Skåne Bengt Holgersson. Olofsson is being charged with bribery.

“I think that this will be over with before the election,” Reepalu told Swedish Radio.

Sweden goes to the polls on September 17th

According to Swedish Wikipedia, Reepalu was born in Estland in 1943 but found some very important reason to relocate to Sweden as a youngster.

Las õpime jälle!

OK, I have a limited amount of time so here are my five new words –

Lahkuma – see tähendab “to depart” inglise keeles. Mu lause on –

“Järgmine Silja laev lahkub kell 17:00.”

Teine sõna on kuumutama. See tähendab “to simmer.” Ma proovin –

“Las riisi kuumutab pottis pool tunneks.”

Ja järgmine on äädikas. Äädikas tähendab “vinegar” inglise keeles. Proovime –

“Inglismaal söövad nad kala ja krõpsud äädikasiga.”

Tegilukult mina olen lugenud menuud eesti keeles, sest et mu järgmine sõna on purustama. See tähendab “to crush” inglise keeles. Nii –

“Kui te tahaks teha veini, siis te peaks purustama viinamarjad.”

Viimane sõna on libu. Libu tähendab “harlot” inglise keeles. Nii –

“Kui sa tahaks leida üks odav naine, siis mine Molly Malone’sse laupäeval õhtul, sest et palju libusid hangivad seal.”

Ja see on kõik (ja tore)!

The Politics of Pronks

First, dear readers, I would like to apologize for writing another post about the most controversial monument in Tallinn. However, I was thinking, and thinking, and then thinking some more about how this will play politically, and I came up with a few basic thoughts. Being an American and an Atlanticist who believes that World War II was more about power and geography and less about ideology, I am perhaps biased in the eyes of some readers. Well – whatever – here are a few main political observations on this controversy.

1. This is bad for Tallinn mayor Jüri Ratas. Ratas, as mayor of Tallinn and a member of what appears to be the most popular party in Estonia, Keskerakond, should have been front and center in this debate. Instead he’s been invisible, wondering what all the fuss is about. His nonchalant attitude about the memorial shows him catering to his “nostalgic for Communism” base – funny considering that the USSR died when he was a spotty 13 year-old. He might preserve KESK’s hold on the “nostalgic for Soviet times” crowd, but his lukewarm defense of the controversial soldier will cost him big in the “character” category.

2. This is also bad for Isamaaliit AND the future Isamaaliit-Res Publica Union. With its smart ties and Eurospectacles, Res Publica seemed like Isamaaliit for the 2000s. Isamaaliit – it’s name translates as “fatherland union” was the more old fashioned, genuinely patriotic party, with roots going back to 1987. Most of its members probably are nothing but Estonian patriots. But the high profile media attention given to certain Isamaaliit members like Kalev Rebane, and other skin heads, leaves a bad taste in anybody’s mouth.

3. This is actually a win for the Reform Party. Andrus Ansip’s commitment to moving the soldier to a cemetery – where most war monuments are located – and out of central Tallinn speaks less about what the monument stands for, than the fact that there is a Soviet memorial in central Tallinn that is a lighting rod for conflict. The Soviet nostalgia parties every May 9 don’t help. With Isamaaliit and Res Publica voters pondering their future following the merger of the two parties, many could jump ship and move to Reformierakond.

4. This hurts Edgar Savisaar’s presidential ambitions. Savisaar’s belief that the monument should stay there reinforces the attitudes of his opponents that he is nothing but a Soviet-style yes man, an Estonian slave with a Russian master. Just read the comments on Postimees and you can see how deeply in hate some people are with the guy.

5. This helps the presidential ambitions of Toomas-Hendrik Ilves. Because where is Ilves these days? He’s in Brussels. Far away from skin heads, spray paint, red flowers, and the bronze soldier in central Tallinn. He has said little if nothing on the matter, and he shouldn’t have to – he’s in the European parliament, it is wholly out of his jurisdiction. So as the mud flies, none of it lands on him.

An interview with Aili Jõgi

We were discussing the two girls that destroyed the first monument to Red Army soldiers in Tallinn – a wooden one – before the occupation authorities decided bronze would be more fitting, and less easy to destroy. Well if you ever wondered what happened to the two girls that blew up the first Soviet memorial in downtown Tallinn 60 years ago, now’s your chance.

Aili Jõgi was less than 15 years old when she, and her neighber Ageeda got rid of the first memorial there. She spent her 15th birthday in an NKVD prison. She was allowed to leave Siberia in 1970.

A key moment in her interview:

“Ja mis tehti meie presidendiga? Ma mõtlen siis, kui Lennart Meri kirst toodi Kaarli kirikust välja ja kirstuga auto läks sellesama punasõduri eest läbi. Kas nad tõesti ei saanud teiselt poolt minna?! Kas matuse korraldajail üldse aru peas ei ole?!”

“And what did they do with our president? I think that, when Lennart Meri’s coffin came out of Kaarki Kirik, the car coffin went right in front of and past the Bronze Soldier. Couldn’t they really have gone the other way? Didn’t the organizers have any common sense?”

Jõgi says she took up the discussion of the memorial with Tallinn mayor Jüri Ratas, but he decided, after a lot of thought, that it didn’t bother him.

Uskumatult loll avaldus… Poisslinnapead ei häiri, kui tema linnas on pisuke maalapp, kus Eesti riigi lipp ei tohi lehvida, aga punalipp tohib.

“This was an incredibly stupid statement…it doesn’t disturb the boy mayor [she refers to him as poisslinnapea throughout the piece, Ratas is 28 years old.] that his city used to be a little chunk of land where it was prohibited to wave the Estonian Republic’s flag, but it was permitted to wave the Red flag.”

Laanet Bans Pronkssõdur Protests

Estonian Interior Minister Kalle Laanets is your typical Estonian public servant – young and faced with difficult decisions. At age 41, he is of the same generation of post-Soviet leadership as Finance Minister Aivar Sõerd and Education Minister Mailis Reps – people born long after WWII yet somehow caught up in the historical melee.

Can you believe that? Fighting over history? So angry that you are willing to become agitated and violent for something that has actually little bearing over your life here and now, in the present? It happens everywhere. It’s some kind of human disease.

Well anyway, as of today rallies for and against the bronze soldier in central Tallinn have been banned. That means that neither Tiit Madisson from Isamaalit nor Vladimir Lebedov – a founder of Intermovement and an opponent of independence from the 80s – can hold rallies and argue about who killed who in World War II in front of the controversial memorial and May 9 party zone.

While the move seems undemocratic, banning sounds scary, it’s actually not. It’s fairly common to not allow protests in certain municipal areas in this zion of democracy known as the United States of America. And it is a safety issue.

But it has attracted the attention of international media.

Karvased Päevasõnad

Ok, several of today’s words come from Mõmmi Aabits, a song to which my daughter knows all of the words.

Täna esimene päevasõna on sarnane. See tahendab “alike” inglise keeles. Siin on minu lause –

Tõnis Kasemets on Markko Märtini sarnane.

Nümber 2. Küpsetama. See tahendab “to bake” inglise keeles. Minu lause –

Kaur praegu küpsetab küpsid köögis.

Kolmaks sõnaks meil on arendama. See tahendab “to develop.” –

Anstile meeldib oma auto arendama.

Järgmine päevasõna on abiratas. See tahendab “training wheel” inglise keeles.

Mõned blogijad oli kirjatanud, et Tallinna linnapea on Jüri Abiratas, mitte Jüri Ratas.

Ja me lõpetame sellega, Karvane. See tahendab “furry” või “hairy” inglise keeles.

Ruhnu karu on kindlasti karvane!

…Ja Veel

OK, I think I have found some more words to learn for today. Täna hommikul ma sõitsin rongiga tööle. Need on minu päevasõnad.

Lurr – ma õppisin seda sõnat eile õhtul Epuga. Me lugasime ‘Laps ja Toit’ – üks ajakiri Eestist. Siis, see on minu lause lurrile.

Liisu isa ütles et Linnaleht on mingi lurr.

Järgime sõnad on ‘meeles pidama,’ mis tahendab ‘to remember.’ Ma tõesti ei tea kuidas õelda seda veel. Tavaliselt ma ütlen ‘maletama.’ Aga las ma leiutan midagi –

Sina pead meeles oma telefoni numbrit!

Okei. Järgine asi on Uskuma. Lihtne,jah? Ei.See on minu vale lause. Palun api!

Uku usub maausk.

Järgmine sõna on stereotüpiline imelik Eesti sõna. See sõna on ‘Iialgi,’ ja ma mõtlen et see tahendab ‘never.’ Proovime –

Inno ütles et ta on iialgi käinud Kärdlas.

Viimane päevasõna on ‘Valdama,’ ja see tahendab ‘to be fluent.’ Minu viimane lause on see –

Vambola valdab vabalt Võru keeles.

Õpime Sõbrad!

OK, so I have two main missions in life – Mission 1 – make music. Mission 2 – õppida eesti keelt. The missions are not exactly in that order.

In order to increase my Estonian skills I have decided to put together vocabulary lists. Today’s words/phrases to be learned are the following –
Lasema Õhku
Plehku Panema
Suurepärane
Lööma/Lüüa
Kunagi

Knowing the basic meanings is the easy part. ‘Lasema õhku’ means to ‘blast away.’ I learned this from Jüri Liim in Postimees. The phrase can be used like so, I believe:

“Jüri Liim tana hommikul ütles et ta tahaks laseda pronkssõduri õhku.”

‘Plehku panema’ I learned from E Nagu Eesti. I think you can use this one like so:

“Epp proovis püüdma Martat, aga Marta panes plehku.”

‘Suurepärane’ is an adjective. I think it should be easy to incorporate. It seems like a synonym of ‘täiuslik’ and ‘imehea.’ So it can be used like this:

“Oi oi oi, vanaema. Sinu klimpisüpp on tõesti suurpärane!”

‘Lööma/Lüüa’ looks less promising. Let’s try this one in the past tense.

Eesti löös Taani üleeile jälgpallis.

Bear with me. I know this is frustrating to watch…Ok, here’s our final term, ‘kunagi.’ Oh, it would be nice to know how ‘mitte kunagi’ and ‘nähagi’ are different. But let’s try ‘kunagi.’

Mart söi pitsat ühest restoranist Tallinnas, aga ta oli häige sellel õhtul. Ta ütles mulle et ta ei viitsi süüa seal samal kohal mitte kunagi.

I await your many corrections…

At Postimees, It’s All Pronkssõdur, All the Time!

What do you see when you look into the eyes of the Pronkssõdur (‘bronze soldier’) near the Estonian National Library in Tallinn?

Do you see the defiant look of the Red Army soldiers that drove Hitler’s troops out of Pribaltika? Or do you see the manical laugh of the men who loaded your grandmother into a cattle car bound for Siberia? Or do you just see an ugly, bronze dude in a cape (how many soldiers back then wore capes? Come on!)

I regularly read Postimees, one of Estonia’s daily national newspapers, and today has been Pronkssõdur day – the day where every leading news story is about what different important – and not so important – people in Estonia think about this guy.

One really important person who made his opinion clear today was Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, who told Eesti Radio that:

Kõige enam sümboliseerib see pronkssõdur seal okupatsiooni ja sellist ausammast okupatsioonile me Tallinna südalinnas Kaarli kiriku kõrval taluma ei peaks.

Basically, “the bronze soldier is a symbol of occupation that doesn’t belong next to the Kaarli Church in the heart of Tallinn.”

Ever the cautious public servant, Villu Reiljan told the newspaper that it wouldn’t solve the problem to move the Bronze Soldier, which Ansip has recommended relocating to a cemetery.

Not one to miss an opportunity to get a few more votes from his base, Edgar Savisaar chimed in saying that the bronze soldier should stay where it is. But I had a hard time translating him without using a dictionary so we’ll leave it at that.

Finally, President Arnold Rüütel decided that the best way to scuttle the controversy would be to bury it in red, or blue, black, and white tape. He believes that a commission should be set up to address the matter.

Other than Savisaar, Postimees found two organizations to disagree with Ansip – Vene Erakond Eestis and the Anti-Fascism Committee. VEE said that the Bronze Soldier memorial is a great place to come and put down flowers and honor ones grandfathers who won the war against fascism in World War II.

Sadly, in 2003, VEE only got 0.20 percent of the vote, or 990 votes in total. However, a spokesperson for the group said on ETV that removing the statue would not bode well for Ansip. One can only guess that VEE hopes to double its turn out in the 2007 election.

I think this debate will go on for a long time and never really cease in Estonian society. I mean look at the US. It’s 2006 and we are still arguing about the Civil War!