Tuesday, 31 March 2015

WWII Estonian Refugee Book Now Reissued and Translated into English

Mis teha – siin ta on (Refugee: Refugee Life in Pictures) is a story of a refugee from Estonia in the mid 1940s. The book, written by Arnold Sepp and Endel Kõks was published in a refugee camp in Augsburg, Germany in 1947. The book was recently reissued and translated into English.

The reissue of Mis teha – siin ta on is published by Eesti Diasporaa Akadeemia (Estonian Diaspora Academy), a non-profit organization founded in December 2013 by Maarja Merivoo-Parro, Sander Jürisson and Aivar Jürgenson, and the book can be purchased at the Occupations Museum in Tallinn, and Apollo and Rahva Raamat bookstores in Estonia.  Readers abroad with questions about the book may contact  sander.jyrisson@gmail.com  or maarjamerivooparro@gmail.com.

To read more , please click here: http://upnorth.eu/estonian-world-war-ii-refugee-story/

Monday, 30 March 2015

Watch Ott Lepland Perform in Kenya in the Travel Show 'Reisihitt'

Each week in Reisihitt an Estonian singer visits a different country to learn a local song then has one of theirs performed by a local artist. In episode four Ott visits Nairobi in Kenya, check it out! http://www.tv3play.ee/sisu/reisihitt/587959

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Film '1944' Proves a Box-Office Hit | News | ERR

Over 100,000 people have watched '1944' in Estonia since its release on February 24. Please click here to read the full story: '1944' proves a box-office hit | News | ERR

International success for Estonia / USA Film Cooperation | News | ERR

SPRING Trailer (Romance - Horror - 2015)

Horror is not one of the genres that I naturally gravitate towards but this film has definitely piqued my interest. To find out more, please click here:
International success for USA, Estonia film cooperation | News | ERR

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Why the Soviet Union was an Evil Empire

The world has witnessed many atrocities during the course of human history.  The Mediaeval Period in Europe is legendary for its barbarity.  Thousands of people were burned at the stake, crucified and hung for refusing to convert to Christianity, opposing the Catholic Church or for practising “witchcraft”.  The Holocaust saw 11 million Jews, Roma, Poles, homosexuals, and disabled people murdered by the Nazis.  However, the scale of these atrocities in terms of absolute numbers killed does not match those of the Soviet Union during the 20th century. Oppression, deportation and murder were systematically pursued by the Soviet regime to consolidate its power and to strike terror into the hearts of its subjects. US president Ronald Reagan first referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” in a speech to the United Kingdom’s House of Commons in 1982.  Whatever you might think of Ronald Reagan and his politics, he was 100% correct.  The Soviet Union was indeed an evil empire.

The Soviet Union consisted of 15 republics at its peak.  Some were more willing members but others such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had been independent and thriving democracies before the Second World War.  These were invaded, occupied and illegally annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940.

On two occasions the Soviet authorities orchestrated mass deportations of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians from their homelands.  On 14th, 15th and 16th June 1941 and 25th March 1949 tens of thousands of Estonians were forcibly removed from their homes, torn from their families and transported to Siberia in cattle wagons.  Those murdered or deported were Estonia’s elite consisting of politicians, senior military officers, judges, policemen, academics, business owners then later on farmers who opposed the collectivisation of farms – anyone considered a threat to the Soviet regime. Some did not survive the trip to Siberia, many were murdered after they arrived and others perished from famine and appalling living conditions. 

It is abundantly clear that Stalin and those that came after him had no regard at all for human life. Anyone considered a threat was simply eliminated.  Hundreds of Soviet crimes committed both inside and outside the country’s borders have been documented.  One of the cruellest acts of Soviet terror was the Holodomor, a deliberately engineered famine perpetrated against the Ukrainian nation which claimed around 7 million lives.  Ukraine is an enormous country with some of the most fertile soil in the world.  The food produced by Ukrainian farmers would have been more than enough to feed the entire population.  A famine occurred because Soviet soldiers confiscated all foodstuffs and murdered anyone found hiding them. People had no choice but to watch their loved ones suffer and die because there was simply nothing to eat.

Typical clay hut giving shelter to Estonians deported to Siberia.

There were instances of entire nations being deported from their homelands.  Between 1942 and 1943 the entire population of indigenous Crimean Tartars was deported from Crimea to Uzbekistan, thousands of kilometres away.  This consisted of 230,000 Tartars, 100,000 of whom died from starvation or disease as a direct result of being deported from their homes. 

Operation Lentil on 23rd February 1943 saw the entire Chechen, Ingush, Kalmyk, Balkar and Karachai nations being deported from their homes in the Caucasus to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. This represented nearly 750,000 people, many of whom died both en route and during their exile. Anyone deemed unfit for transportation was killed on the spot as ordered by NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria.

Like the Nazi regime which had some of the vilest psychopaths the world has ever known in its top ranks, the Soviets were not short of their own.  The evil did not end with Stalin’s death in 1953. When Hungarians decided in 1956 that they no longer wanted communism and foreign occupation in their country, the Soviet Union sent over a thousand tanks into Hungary to suppress the rebellion. 3,000 Hungarian civilians were killed and 200,000 were forced to flee their country as result.  The same scenario happened 12 years later in Czechoslovakia during the 1968 Prague Spring.

Memorial for the victims of the 1941 & 1949 deportations in Paldiski.

Whilst some people may be nostalgic for the Soviet era, these are typically those who were relatively unaffected by its terrors – those who were completely used to the system and had never experienced a better way of life.  In Estonia this is certainly not the case.  Estonians bitterly resented being occupied by the Soviets and resisted them for as long as they could. Estonia's restoration of independence is dearly cherished by all of her citizens and never taken for granted.

The victims of Soviet deportations mourned today | News | ERR

VIDEO: Deportations of 25 March 1949

A very poignant video. Every year on this day a candle is lit in Freedom Square for every man, woman and child who fell victim to the Soviet mass deportations.

Küüditamise ohvrite mälestuseks. https://vimeo.com/89475385

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Märten Männiste rambivalgust ei karda: lihtsalt tuleb ennast kokku võtta | ETV | ERR

Märten Männiste recently won the 'Laulukaruselli' Song Carousel Competition in Estonia. He's a confident and talented young man with a bright future ahead of him. It's such a joy to hear him sing!

To watch his interview with ETV and to listen to him sing the Curly Strings hit Kauges Küles, please click here: Märten Männiste rambivalgust ei karda: lihtsalt tuleb ennast kokku võtta | ETV | ERR

Friday, 20 March 2015

The First National Open Farm Day to Take Place in Estonia This Summer | News | ERR

On July 19 the first national Open Farm Day is to take place, where more than 100 farms and agricultural producers across Estonia are open to receive visitors.

“One really has to drive to the countryside to find proper food and that is why many farms will open their doors to the public this summer,” said Minister of Agriculture Ivari Padar. “There hasn’t been an event of such scale to promote agriculture and rural life in Estonia before.”

According to Padar, this day could mark the mutual respect of producers and the Estonian people. “National food production is of great value to any state, which is surely appreciated by any food lover. Equally, the farmers find the domestic consumer the most important. We hope that during the Open Farm Day people will reconnect with rural life,” he said.

On the first national Open Farm Day on July 19 the visitors will be able to see large and small farms, exciting agricultural technology, various animals and plants. It will be possible to taste real farm food and buy local produce. Each farm has its own program, displaying the farm’s particularities.

The initiative of the national Open Farm Day was born from cooperation with representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Rural Economy Research Centre and Järvamaa Avatud Talud.

Open Farm Days are organised in many countries across the world, including Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal, Australia, Canada, the USA, and many others. Open farm days in Estonia have so far been organised in Järva and Saare Counties and Pandivere.

The first national Open Farm Day to take place in Estonia this summer | News | ERR

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Northern Lights Captivate Estonia

On Tuesday night people in Estonia witnessed a rare and beautiful sight - the stunning Northern Lights! Take a look at these fascinating images!




Sunday, 15 March 2015

Estonian Short Film "The Visit" / "Külaskäik"

This beautiful short film is a reminder to all of us who spend our lives distracted by technology that our family and roots are what matter the most.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Ten Estonian Language Tongue Twisters

This is fun and interesting article recently published by the University of Tartu.

Please click here to read more: 10 Estonian Tongue Twisters for Language Hackers

This is an example of how the Estonian language can sound rather cute!
It's a term reserved for your sweetheart.

Happy Estonian Mother Tongue Day! Emakeelepäev!

Today is Mother Tongue Day or Emakeelepäev as it is known in Estonia. This national holiday celebrates the beautiful Estonian language and marks the birthday of Kristjan Jaak Peterson (1801-1822) who is considered the founder of modern Estonian poetry. Sadly Kristjan's did not live to see his work published, he died from tuberculosis at the tender age of 21 but his legacy lives on.

The Estonian language is spoken by roughly 1.1 million people. It is closely related to Finnish and more distantly to Hungarian and belongs to the Finno-Ugric language group. Estonian has a number of dialects, broken into the larger northern and southern groups, the most distinctive of which are Võro and Seto.

The oldest records of written Estonian date from the 13th century, and in 1525, the first Estonian book was printed - a Lutheran Bible. Due to a long history of occupation, the nation's language did not have a chance to truly flourish until the 19th century.

On this special day national flags will be flying proudly across Estonia and no doubt, in the homes of Estonians living abroad!


Friday, 13 March 2015

The quirky side of the Estonian language | News | ERR

This is a really interesting article that was published today in the lead up to Emakeelepäev / Mother Tongue Day. I particularly like the tongue twisters such as jõululaululaulja (Christmas carol singer) and habemeajaja (barber), not to mention the palindrome  kuulilennuteetunneliluuk (the hatch a bullet flies out of when exiting a tunnel).

To learn more, please click here: The quirky side of the Estonian language | News | ERR

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

VIDEO: 'Welcome to Estonia' creator suggests new ways to promote Estonia as 'Scandinavia with a twist' | News | ERR

ETV's "Ringvaade" interviewed Marksteen Adamson, the man behind the "Welcome to Estonia" brand, launched a decade ago to introduce Estonia and its identity to the outside world. Adamson explains the aims of the back then costly and rather controversial campaign, and discusses what else could be done to create a positive and effective image of Estonia as "Scandinavia with a twist."

VIDEO: 'Welcome to Estonia' creator suggests new ways to promote Estonia as 'Scandinavia with a twist' | News | ERR

Monday, 9 March 2015

Remembering the 9th March 1944 Soviet Bombings

71 years ago today, thousands of Soviet bombs fell on Tallinn, destroying one third of the city. The attack killed more than 700 people, destroyed 1,549 buildings and left another 3,350 badly damaged. Over 20,000 people were left homeless.  Today we remember this horrific event.

Tallinn was left in ruins after the Soviet air raid. 
Many of the city's former buildings no longer exist and some streets were shifted, widened or built over as part of new town planning. 

This building on the left  was the former Vaekoda which was located in the centre of Tallinn's Town Hall Square. On the 13th March 1920 the Tallinn Vital Statistics Department was opened here as well as the Family Registration Office which was run by Vladimir Smetanin (the husband of my great-grandmother's cousin).  It was here,on opening day that Smetanin performed the marriage ceremony of writer Anton Hansen Tammsaare and his wife Käthe.  Two weddings took place at the Family Registration office on that day, with Anton's and Käthe's being the second. After the Soviet bombing in 1944 the building was badly damaged and authorities decided to have it demolished.

How the Vaekoda looked prior to the Soviet bombing.

A list of the victims can be found here;

German Influence in Estonia

Many countries have left their mark on Estonian culture through the centuries. The Swedes built Tartu University, the Danes gave the Estonian capital its name (Taani-linn – Tallinn – Danish town) but it is the Germans who, without doubt, have exerted the most influence on Estonia over the course of history.

Tallinn was formerly known by its German name - Reval.

Estonia’s Baltic Germans were the country’s ruling class for some seven centuries whose hegemony ended only when Estonia declared itself independent in 1918.  Although the Baltic German community’s influence and power was considerable, they never made up more than 10% of Estonia’s population.  Perhaps the most enduring influence of German presence in Estonia is that on the language.  Up to one third of the entire Estonian vocabulary is made up of German loanwords such as pilt (“Bild” – picture), pirn (Birne – pear), tulp (Tulpe – tulip), kirik (Kirche – church), torm (Sturm – storm), even reisibüroo (Reisebüro – travel agency).  German was the official language of the church, government and education in Estonia up until 1885.  Tartu University was entirely German speaking from 1802 until 1893.  German influence on the Estonian language is comparable to that of Norman French on English.

The majority of churches in Estonia today are Lutheran (the Lutheran church originated in Germany). Some of the world’s earliest known Christmas trees were erected by the German Brotherhood of Blackheads at their guildhalls in Tallinn and Riga.

Kose Lutheran church

The Baltic Germans ceased to exist as an ethnic group when most of them left Estonia in 1939 to 1940 as part of Hitler’s “Heim ins Reich” programme.  Despite the horrors of the Nazi occupation between 1940 and 1944, Estonia’s relationship with Germany is now better than it has ever been and cultural ties persisted even during the Soviet occupation.  Cultural, trade and ecumenical links still are very much alive.  Many of the 2,000 manor houses that the Baltic Germans built in Estonia are still standing today, serving either as hotels, conference centres, restaurants or private residences.  They are among some of the most beautiful buildings in Estonia.

Palmse manor house

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Renee Altrov's Photographed Portrait of President Toomas Hendrik Ilves Wins Award

The Estonian Newspaper Association and the Union of Estonian Press Photographers have awarded Renee Altrov the top prize for his portrait of President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Photographs in four categories have won prizes. You can read more about the 2014 Press Photo of the Year competition here (in Estonian). Estonian Press Photo of the Year 2014

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Estonian Oak Tree Wins European Tree of the Year 2015

The oak tree located in Orissaare, Saaremaa

An oak tree located on a football field on the Estonian island of Saaremaa has been voted European Tree of the Year. The 150 year old oak tree proved to be a favourite amongst voters across Europe achieving 59,836 of the total  185,000 votes.  The Orissaare tree has been described as 'a symbol for the world to see how things can be better.'

Legend says that during the Soviet occupation, two of Stalin's tractors tried to pull the tree from the ground but it wouldn't budge, the cables kept breaking. The marks from the cables can still be seen on the tree today. No doubt this beautiful tree is a survivor, standing proud for further generations to enjoy!

The great plane of Tata tree in Hungary was awarded second place and Poplar pollard of the Remolinar tree in Spain came in third. An  award ceremony is scheduled to take place in Brussels on 22nd April 2015.

For more information and to view the 14 competition finalists. Please click here:

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Estonian Salsa TV Reality Series Casa de Baile

How do you get a room full of Estonians to smile? Get them dancing!

This series featuring my cousin Katriin aims to help people overcome their fear of dancing and add a bit of spice to their lives. Looks like heaps of fun! 

You can watch the episodes here: www.youtube.com/casadebaile

Monday, 2 March 2015

Reform Party Wins Election in Estonia

Congratulations to Estonia's Reform Party who received the most votes (27.7%) in yesterday's parliamentary election. Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, head of the Reform Party, will now continue to lead Estonia for another four year term. A total turnout of  63.7% of the electorate voted either online, early or at polling stations during the 2015 general election.

Final results

The 101 seat Riigikogu (parliament) will now consist of the following members:
Reform Party  -  30 Seats
Centre Party  -  27
Social Democrats  -  15
Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL)  -  14
Free Party  -  8
Conservative  People's Party (EKRE)  -  7

The E-vote results were released earlier in the day.  Reform Party 37.7%, IRL 17.2%, Social Democrats 16.9%, Free Party 12.0%, Centre Party 7.7% and EKRE 6.9%. 

This election was somewhat different to previous years. Instead of the usual four parties vying for a place in parliament, this year there were six.  Newcomers The Free Party and Conservative People's Party both broke the 5% threshold to clinch seats in parliament.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

New Milestone! 80,000 Pageviews!

Thanks for reading and thank you to all those people who have gotten in touch! 
It's lovely to hear from you!