Monday, 30 June 2014

New! Estonian Song Celebration Video

This video was released recently and watching it moved me to tears.  It captures the essence of the song festival beautifully. Estonians may be known for their reserved and serious nature and their stubborn refusal to show their emotions in public but when it comes to the song festival, all that changes. Singing has been at the centre of Estonian culture for centuries; it's the heartbeat of the nation, the glue that unites all Estonians. This year will see record numbers participating at the festival, including the descendants of exiled Estonians who are now scattered all over the world.

The Official Photo and Video Bank of Estonia

If you're ever in need of good quality photographs of Estonia then a visit to the 'Photo & Video Bank of Estonia' is a must. The website is part of Enterprise Estonia and offers images free of charge if used to promote Estonia. It's a great idea that benefits both parties and the collection is growing all the time. The website is divided into four main categories  - tourism, business, education and video which makes it easy to navigate and find what you're looking for.

The Official Photo and Video Bank of Estonia can be found by clicking on the link below:

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Thousands Attracted to Estonia Folk Festival - BBC News

BBC's Damien McGuiness explores the history and preparations behind the Estonian Song Festival.

You can watch his video report here.

“All the good things in Estonia” – Children's Art Competition

Late last year President Ilves launched an art competition inviting Estonian children to submit entries to depict why they think Estonia is a good place to live. The contest, 'All the Good Things in Estonia' (Meie Eesti head asjad) received almost 12,000 drawings from children all over the country. More than fifty of these drawings will now be printed as outdoor posters and displayed in large towns across Estonia.

Further details can be found at the President's website.

Judging from the quality of many entries, it's obvious Estonia has many talented young artists. Here are three of my favourites artworks from the competition.

Digital Identity Cards: Estonia Takes The Plunge

An interesting article published in yesterday's edition of The Economist.

Friday, 20 June 2014

It's Almost Time - the 26th Estonian Song & 19th Dance Festival

It only happens once in year five years but now the time is upon us to celebrate one of Estonia's most cherished events - the 26th Estonian Song Festival.

The song festival is of profound significance to Estonians. The country's rich  singing tradition has served as a 'cultural glue', bonding and galvanising the nation throughout the many occupations it has endured. The first song festival was held in Tartu in 1869 as was the second one before the event was permanently relocated to Tallinn.

Last Sunday at 4am the torch ceremony began, which saw the flame commence its 18 day journey from Tartu to Tallinn. When the torch arrives in Tallinn the flame will then be  placed on a tower next to the stage at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds.

A record breaking 42,000 participants will take part in the Estonian Song and Dance Festival this year. During the three day event, 1046 choirs with 32000 singers will be present along with 654 dance groups.


The 26th Estonian Song Festival runs from 4-6 July 2014.  More information can be found at the official website.

Balloon Tallinn Opens Today!

From today you can see Tallinn like you have never seen it before - from the air! Balloon Tallinn commences operations near the cruise terminal today and for €25 you can enjoy Tallinn from 120 metres off the ground. Sounds great!

For bookings and further information, please refer to their website:

Monday, 16 June 2014

Migrant Hostel Photographic Exhibition, "A Place to Call Home", Opens at the National Archives - Australia

The National Archives in Canberra has launched a new photographic exhibition giving an insight into life in Australia's migrant centres after WWII. From a collection of 20,000 photographs, 50 images are featured in the exhibition. The first migrant centre established in Australia was Bonegilla in Victoria in 1947.  Other centres were opened soon after and located all across Australia to accommodate the mass intake of European refugees after WWII.

The exhibition runs from 30 May 2014 - 30 September 2014.

National Archives of Australia
Queen Victoria Terrace
Parkes ACT

More information can be found at:

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Remembering Those Lost in the June 1941 Mass Soviet Deportations

Today we bow our heads in remembrance of the family and friends we lost due to the mass Soviet deportations which took place in the summer of 1941. In a single night, 10,000 Estonians were forcibly removed from their homes, packed into cattle wagons and transported to Siberia to perish. Many of these people were our former leaders, Estonian politicans, academics, senior police officers, military personnel - anyone who was considered a threat to the evil Soviet regime. Good men and women who had committed no crime were persecuted or murdered during the illegal occupation of Estonia.

Not a single Estonian family was left unaffected by this horrendous Soviet crime. Everyone has a story, everyone has suffered, everyone remembers.

Eariler this year I went back to the old family home in Koie Street, Tallinn. Three generations of my family lived in that house and I wanted to see how the building has changed. I was actually prompted to go there after reading my grandfather's cousin's memoir who described in detail their escape from Estonia and how life was when the Soviets first arrived.  In this memoir, my grandfather's cousin Dorothea also recounted her return to this house in 1978 and meeting with an old neighbour she knew from childhood. Mr Talvere was five years old in 1941 when my family fled Estonia and to my surprise, he still lives there today.

My grandfather Alexander with his parents Margarethe and Arthur Lestal outside their home in Koie Street in 1923. Arthur's mother Helene also lived here and was able to flee prior to the Soviet deportations.

Me outside the old family home in February 2014.

I rang his doorbell without hesitation and after it was explained who I was, he warmly welcomed me into his home. Even though he did not know me personally, Mr Talvere knew my family and proceeded to tell me a wealth of information. He told me that a few days after my family had fled Estonia, the Soviets came knocking on their door (one of my relatives was a military judge). They had just narrowly escaped with their lives. Sadly, Mr Talvere's own father had been taken away, and in 1949 when the second mass deportations took place his family was on the list again but this time they were forewarned. A few days prior to the event he told me, a man in uniform knocked on his mothers door and told her to go away for those three days in March 1949. Perhaps this man felt sorry for her, perhaps he knew of the suffering caused when she lost her husband, whatever his reasons he did a very good deed by warning her. She took his advise and was saved. Before this man left however, he made a point in stating he was not a Russian soldier but from Ukraine. Most probably, he morally objected to what was happening and this was the best he could do given the cicumstances. Soldiers had no choice but to obey orders.

In March this year a new film was released in Estonia titled "Risttuules" (In the Crosswind). The plot follows the fate of a family throughout their ordeals, starting with the June 1941 deportations. The film is based on real life stories.

Film trailer:

And as for my family, some of them managed to flee and avoid persecution but others were not so fortunate. My great grandmother's cousin, Major General Martin Jervan who was the head of the Estonian Army medical services was arrested then murdered in Chelyabinsk, Russia in 1942.

Major General Martin Jervan

Lest we forget.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Enchanting Doors of Tallinn

There are many delights to behold in Tallinn's Old Town but if there's one thing that has kept me in awe all this time is its decorative and ornate collection of doors.  Of course these doors are not exclusively found in Tallinn; in fact they are to be found all over Estonia but as you walk along the cobbled streets of the city you will find them in abundance.

Undoubtedly the most photographed door in all of Tallinn belongs to the house of the "Brotherhood of Blackheads." The image of this door has appeared on the covers of books, in magazines and has become something of an Estonian icon.

What makes these doors so attractive is that each one is itself a unique work of art.  I have captured just a few here to share but there are many, many more waiting to be discovered in Tallinn.

House of the Brotherhood of Blackheads.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Support the Upcoming Documentary "Keepers of the Loom"

A new Estonian documentary "Keepers of the Loom" needs your support. The Canadian based production currently has a fundraising campaign running with Rocket Hub for the next four weeks.  In exchange for your kindess by donating, you can recieve postcards, copies of the film and if you donate $250 or more you also qualify to be an extra in reenactment scenes! Not only will you be an investor but an actor too!

More information can be found at:

IOC adds Wife-Carrying to the 2016 Olympics, Boosting Estonia’s Chances of Winning More Gold Medals!

Tallinn Hosts the 40th SuperRally - the Largest Harley-Davidson Gathering in Europe

From June 5-9 The Estonian Harley-Davidson Club will host this year's SuperRally event in Tallinn. Approximately 10,000-12,000 motor enthusiasts from all over Europe are expected to visit Tallinn during the next four days.  For the second time in history, SuperRally will be attended by an official representative of the Harley-Davidson Motor Inc - Mr Bill Davidson.

More information can be found at official SuperRally website:

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Celebrating 130 Years of the Estonian Flag

The blue, black and white flag adopted as the national flag of Estonia celebrates its 130th birthday today. Originally created by the Estonian Students Society in Otepää on the 4th June 1884, it is now the pride of the Estonian nation!

This morning at 7am a special ceremony took place at the Governor's Gardens where the flag was hoisted on Pikk Hermann Tower. As a special treat, for today only, visitors can go inside and explore the tower until 3pm.

Elagu sini-must-valge Eesti lipp, elagu Eesti!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Tammsaare's "Truth & Justice" now Available in English

The wait is finally over. Estonia's most famous novel,Tammsaare's Truth & Justice is now available in English. The five volume saga that was written between 1926 and 1933 has since been translated into many languages but never into English - until now.   The first volume of the five part series was translated by Inna Feldbach and Alan Trei and published by boutique publisher Haute Culture Books.

The printed English version of Truth & Justice is only available as a collector's edition retailing at 880€ however, if that price does not suit your budget, a free digital version can be downloaded from the Haute Culture Books website.

In total Tammsaare published nine novels, two plays, many short stories and over 300 articles during his career. These works are:

Judith (Juudit) 1921
The King is Cold (Kuningal on külm) 1936

Master of Kõrboja (Kõrboja peremees) 1922
Truth and Justice (Tõde ja õigus I-V) 1926-1933
Life and Love (Elu ja armastus) 1934
I Loved a German Girl (Ma armastasin sakskast) 1935
The Misadventures of the New Satan (Põrgupõhja uus Vanapagan) 1939

The first of his novels to be translated into English was actually his last one - ''Põrgupõhja uus Vanapagan''.  It was published in 2009.

Several of Tammsaare's short stories have also been compiled into collections and published as books - "Minatures" is one of them.