Thursday, 30 April 2015

Cappuccino Kefir Named Best Estonian Food Product of 2015 | News | ERR

The Estonian Food Industry Association (ETL) has announced the results of its annual best taste contest. This year's overall winner and the Best Food Product of 2015 is Valio Gefilus cappuccino kefir.

"The winning product won the jury over with its novel concept and surprisingly daring taste," said Sirje Potisepp, ETL's head and organizer of the contest. "That kefir too has moved from plastic and tetra-packs into comfortable, easy-to-carry bottles, is a logical development, considering our quick pace of life."

Kefir or keefir, as it is known in Estonian, is a fermented milk drink made with kefir "grains" (a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter) and has its origins in the north Caucasus Mountains, but has been produced in Estonia since 1885. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep milk with kefir grains.

The contest took place for the 21st time this year across several categories:

Best Non-Alcoholic Drink - A. Le Coq Aura apple-peach-carrot squash

Best Alcoholic Drink - Liviko Silver Vodka

Best Health Product - Põltsamaa Felix Pai+ Breakfast Smoothie

Best Meat Product - Rannatrootsi Teriyaki pre-cooked ribs

Best Seafood Product - The Scandinavian Spicy Sprat Fillet by DGM Shipping

Best Vegetable Product - Salvest "Põnn" Organic Mango Puree for babies

Best Bread Product - Crunchy Bread with Hemp Seeds by Lõuna Pagarid

Best Pastry Product - Eesti Pagar Frozen Chocolate Cake

Best Processed Food - Peetroot Puree SUPIKE by Kadarbiku

Best Sauce - Põltsamaa Mild-flavored Mustard

People's Choice - 'Spotted Dog' candy by Kalev and Liviko Vana Tallinn Ice Cream

Regional favorites were also awarded:

Wild Garlic Butter by Gurmeeklubi Saaremaa

Functional Blueberry-Raspberry Jam by Bacula

Cereal Coffee Drink with Chicory by Maadlex

Raspberry Vinegar, an artisan product by Metakor

Source: Cappuccino kefir named best Estonian food product of 2015 | News | ERR

University of Tartu World Class in Media and Philosophy

The international consultation company Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) published its QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015, which ranks the world’s universities in 36 subjects. The University of Tartu is represented in the ranking list with five subjects.

The UT has the highest position in communication and media studies (101–150), in which it is ranked for the third year already. This is followed by philosophy (151–200), English language and literature (201–250), modern languages (251–300) and medicine (301–350).

According to Vice Rector for Academic Affairs of the University of Tartu Martin Hallik, the UT as an international university is moving in the right direction in its teaching and research activities, as in addition to staying among the top 3% of the universities of the world, more and more UT specialisations make it to the subject ranking each year. “In the competition with the universities of the world, the University of Tartu has very strong specialisations in all fields of research. This should be great news for both prospective and current students and give credit to the university community for their committed work,” added Hallik.

Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy Professor Margit Sutrop is very happy about the strong position of the Faculty of Philosophy in three subjects. While modern languages ranked high also last year, this is the first time philosophy has such a high position.

Sutrop believes that UT’s position among the best 200 in philosophy shows that the direction to internationalisation taken fifteen years ago starts to bear fruit. “A dozen doctoral degrees defended at the best universities abroad, opening of the English-taught master’s curriculum in Tartu, participation in international research projects and cooperation networks, involvement of international teaching staff and dozens of postdoctoral fellows as well as the organisation of numerous international conferences has helped to improve the quality of teaching and research of philosophy and increased our visibility in the world,” said Sutrop.

Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, Professor of Media Studies of the University of Tartu, says that making to the top 150 in communication and media studies is a pleasant recognition to the entire Institute of Social Studies. “A lot of work is done together as a team and it is great that our joint efforts and achievements continue to bear fruit and stand out,” commented the professor.

QS that compiles the QS World University Rankings ranks the world’s top universities by individual subject areas since 2011. The aim of the QS World University Rankings by Subject is to give the public comparable information on the universities’ subject-level strengths.

When compiling the ranking list, QS takes into account the universities’ academic reputation among the academics and employers of the corresponding subject area as well as research citations (based on the bibliometric database Scopus by Elsevier). When compiling the 2015 edition of the subject rankings, the data of more than 3,500 universities was analysed, with almost 900 universities ranked for at least one subject.

In the QS World University Rankings 2014, the University of Tartu had the record-high position – 379th.

Additional information: Reesi Lepa, UT Head of International Cooperation, +372 737 6123, +372 504 4190, email:

Source: University of Tartu ranks high in five subjects | University of Tartu

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Old Tallinn Photographs - A Glimpse into the Past

It is interesting to see how Tallinn has changed over the centuries. Different dress, new modes of transport and the construction of new buildings have all contributed to the transformation. While many things have changed in Tallinn over the years, it is good to see how some things have remained the same. Famous landmarks in particular that were once visited by our ancestors and enjoyed by us today are sure to bring pleasure to future generations.

Here is a small collection of photographs of Tallinn in yesteryears.

Pirita 1870

Viru Gate 1887

Tallinn 1888.

Tallinn Viru Gate 1900

Tallinn ca. 1900.

Viru Värav. 1908.

New market. 1910

Eesti pank. 1913.

Nunne Tänav.1920s.

Viru Värav.1928.

Kalev Sport Stadium.

Aerial view of Tallinn.

Jaani Tänav. 1927.

Harju Tänav. 1928.

Pärnu Mantee. 1934.

Raekoja Plats. Before 1944.

170-Year-Old Champagne Bottles Found in Baltic Sea Reveal Taste From Past | News | ERR

170-year-old champagne bottles found in the Baltic Sea.

French scientists have conducted a research on the chemistry of 170-year-old champagne bottles that were found in a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea between Finland and Estonia.

The old champagne provided insight into winemaking practices used at the time as the French scientists were able to work out the detailed composition of the wines, revealing chemical characteristics in terms of small ion, sugar, and acid contents. The distinct aroma composition of these ancient champagne samples, first revealed during tasting sessions by the scientists, was later confirmed using state-of-the art aroma analysis techniques.

"After 170 years of deep-sea aging in close-to-perfect conditions, these sleeping Champagne bottles awoke to tell us a chapter of the story of winemaking," the researchers said. "Discovering ancient objects from excavation sites or simply at the back of a cellar has always piqued human interest because of the messages from the past they may contain. Unsurprisingly, our interest increases even more when exhuming old bottles or even jars that seem to have contained grapes or wine, giving a glimpse into the little-known history of winemaking.”

The bottles, believed to contain the oldest champagne to ever have been tasted, were discovered in a shipwreck off the Finnish Åland archipelago in the Baltic Sea in July 2010. The ship was a 21.5 meter long two-masted schooner, around 200 years old and sitting at a depth of about 50 meters. “Total of 168 bottles were found in nearly ideal slow-aging conditions in terms of temperature, 2-4 °C, darkness, low salinity, and high pressure.”

None of the labels remained, but bottles were later identified as champagnes from the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin (VCP), Heidsieck, and Juglar (known as Jacquesson since 1832) champagne houses thanks to branded engravings on the surface of the cork that is in contact with the wine.

By figuring out the chemical consistency of the champagnes, the scientists also tried to find out where the bottles were intended to. “Based on the site of discovery, once could assume that the champagne bottles were en route for the Russian Empire. Indeed, Madame Clicquot did strive to please the Russian taste for sweet wines from as early as 1814. Nevertheless, the frequent correspondence with her agent in Saint Petersburg testifies to the customers’ distinctive request for a very specific sugar dosage of nearly 300 g/L. 'Here they always have some sugar on any table close to their wine glass, for they add sugar not only to red wine but also to champagne'. Thus, the relatively low sugar levels of the shipwrecked bottles, less than 150 g/L, suggest that they might instead have been intended for the customers in the Germanic Confederation.”

But the key question remains: what did it taste like? Well, the experts who sampled the wine first used terms such as “animal notes,” “wet hair,” “reduction,” and sometimes “cheesy" to describe the wine. However, upon swirling the wine in the glass to oxygenate it, the aroma apparently became far more pleasant - "grilled, spicy, smoky and leathery, together with fruity and floral notes."

170-year-old champagne bottles found in Baltic Sea reveal taste from past | News | ERR

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

New Portal ''Work in Estonia'' Launched Today!

Do you want to step into the future? Work and live in a paperless, digital and tech-savvy society where innovation and forward-looking ideas are cherished! Life is too short for slow career advancement in a place with poor prospects for the future. Make a change. Work in Estonia!

A new portal, ''Work in Estonia'', was launched today aimed at simplifying the process for local companies to employ overseas experts and promote ‪‎Estonia‬ as a great destination for fulfilling one’s potential. 

To learn more, click here:

Estonian-Australian Stories

In 2007 the Migration Heritage Centre in Australia held an exhibition featuring the stories from some of the Estonians who migrated to Australia after World War II.

More than 70,000 Estonians joined the exodus to the West from 1940–44. Invasion from Russia and Germany, killings, deportations and war forced this exodus. Families were separated and homes abandoned. In September 1944 Soviet rule was reimposed and Estonia’s borders were closed.

Those who left at this time became war refugees. Many spent years in Displaced Persons (DP) camps before being resettled in Australia, Canada or the United States.

Here are the stories of Ilma Maidla and Reet Simmul describing their experiences when they fled Estonia in 1944.

You can view their interviews here: Estonian-Australian Stories

Estonia: Bear Population Spread into Western Estonia

This article is a few years old but I was drawn to it by this fascinating photograph. I have never seen a family of bears before, it's quite a sight to behold!

If there were no bear litters in Estonia’s Laane County as early as six years ago, then four females with cubs had arrived there in accordance with a recent count, the daily Eesti Paevaleht reported.

Peep Mannil from the game monitoring center of the Environmental Information Center said that growth in the bear population could be noticed both in Laane County and in the western areas of Harju County. “This was apparently due to hunting. Hunting pressure has been modest until the present and no adult female bears have been shot there,” he said.

But bears have not permanently populated two Estonian counties, Voru and Valga. The reason for this is hunting.

In accordance with the recent population assessment, there are 650 to 700 bears living in Estonian forests. If in the previous hunting season 53 bears were shot in Estonia then this year the number of bears shot was 55.

The development plan of the protection and restraint of large carnivores foresees keeping the bear population at at least 60 litters with cubs and 600 individuals.

Estonian World Lists 100 Ways to Know that You are From Estonia

Estonian World recently compiled the list 100 ways to know that you are from Estonia. It's a thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious read that many Estonians can identify with. If some of the points don't resonate to you personally, then you'll probably know someone with whom it does.

Even though I wasn't born in Estonia, I'm Estonian by descent and can still identify with many of the points listed.  Of course some of the language things do go over my head!

Here are 10 points that I can easily relate to:

1. When someone ask you “where is Estonia?” you quickly reply that it’s located in Northern Europe close to Finland…

2. Every year you believe, deep in your heart, that Estonia will once again win the Eurovision Song Contest.

3. You don’t think that “terviSEKS” is a funny word.

4. You don’t give a damn about religion, but get lost in a spiritual section of a bookshop for hours.

5. You’re proud that Ernst Hemingway wrote that you can find at least one Estonian in every harbour in the world.

6. You look in both directions before crossing the road, even if it’s a one-way street.

7. You are so proud of every Estonian that you correct foreigners who say that the population is one million, not 1.3 million as it actually is.

8. Everyone in your family has pictures from funerals.

9. You presume that all other countries also have ubiquitous internet access.

10. Potato to you is the same as rice to a Japanese.

Then there's this one. It got a good laugh from me! 'You think any beverage below 20% is non-alcoholic'.

Anthropology of the Estonians

In the 1920's and 30's, Estonian anthropologist, zoologist and eugenicist Juhan Aul measured 15 000 men (20 to 30 years old, mostly army recruits), 700 women and 2000 schoolchildren.

He concluded that Estonians are racially mixed - migrations, immigration, trade and wars brought different elements to the population.

There are two main races: the Nordic and the Baltic race. The first is tall and long-headed; the latter shorter and has a shorter head. Both have blond hair (including light brown) and blue eyes, which do vary a bit every now and then. Both are depigmented.

The Nordic and Baltic types have been present side by side since the stone age. The old Finnic element seems to be expressed by the Baltic race.

The Nordic type was dominant in Northern Pärnumaa, Läänemaa, Western Harjumaa, Muhumaa and partly in Saaremaa.

The Baltic type was dominant in Võrumaa, Petserimaa (a county located east of Võrumaa, currently occupied by Russia), partly in Tartumaa, Harjumaa, Virumaa, Hiiu island and Southern Pärnumaa.

A mixed Nordic+Baltic type (the most frequent among Estonians) was found in Saaremaa, Viljandimaa, Valgamaa, Järvamaa, partly in Virumaa and Tartumaa.

The Western Estonians had a cranial index below 76% while the Eastern: 76-81%. Average head height-length index was 80,7.

He noticed that numerous local types have developed in Estonia. The Baltic type in Viljandi county is different from that in Harju county, while the type in Petseri county is also different of the former two. The purest Baltic type seemed to be found among the Setu people. Livonians had a local type with strong Nordic influence and great height. It was evident that different races can develop in geographically small areas.

71,8% of Estonians had blond hair. 64% had blue-grey eyes, 24% had blue eyes. Aul noted the presence of a short dark-haired and dark-eyed type (10%-13%).

The foreign dark type was mostly found in Saaremaa, Southern Pärnumaa, Southern Viljandimaa and Central Tartumaa. These are also the areas that have been ravaged the most in various wars. He thought the dark elements have a Southern/Central and/or an Eastern European origin. Partly it could have been due to Latvian influence (as they had more of this dark type, as did the Finns who might have gotten dark features from the Saami). The dark type was mostly composed of the Alpine race while he also mentioned the Dinaric type and the Mediterranean type. The dark types had gotten strong influence from the surrounding population, though.

In 1814, Karl Ernst von Baer also mentioned the dark type: "The (Estonians') hair is most frequently blond, often white in childhood; there is also black hair along with a dark complexion. The very few Estonians that have dark hair are short, but have a stronger build. They are more serious, stubborn and reserved than the majority who are phlegmatic."

According to Aul, average height in Estonia was 172 cm. The tallest Estonians lived in Western Estonia, the shortest in South-Eastern Estonia. Some figures: Läänemaa 173,4 cm, Viljandimaa 171,3 cm, Harjumaa 172,3 cm, Tallinn 172, 6 cm, Järvamaa 172, 1 cm, Tartu 171,7 cm, Võrumaa 171cm, Petserimaa 170,1 cm. In Kirbla, Martna and Lihula area the average height was even over 175 cm.

In comparison, average Finns were 170,9 cm tall, Russians 167,2 cm, Latvians 171,3 cm, Livonians 174,2 cm, Lithuanians 166,2 cm, Prussians 168, 2 cm, Poles 167,7 cm, Norwegians 172,5 cm. The average European height was around 162 cm. By height, Estonians were equal to the Swedes.

Estonian females averaged 162 cm.

The most slender neighbors were Finland-Swedes and Livonians, while the most stocky were Latvians and Russians. Estonians were in-between. Men were more slender than women.

Looking at the data from Tallinn in the viewpoint of social layering, common workers were stockier than the intellectuals. The most stocky national groups were in Petserimaa and Ida-Virumaa while the most slender people were in Läänemaa, Northern Pärnumaa and Muhu island.

Estonians were among the heaviest people in Northern Europe, only the Finns were heavier. "Thus it is not surprising we are primarily known as a country of strongmen." This physical virtue was most prevalent in Saaremaa.

It is also interesting to note that in Tallinn and other cities, the average height was greater than in the countryside. Also, the educated social classes were taller. Even the educated worker was taller than an uneducated worker. There seemed to be a tendency that height increases with cultural development.

Aul considered the mongoloid question to have no scientific basis and said it has never been taken seriously in anthropology. He categorically denied the presence of mongoloid traits (like thick black hair, epicanthic folds, shortage of facial hair, etc.), and claimed that even if there were such traits to be found, it would have to be an individual case, due to some later influence; there were no such indigenous elements.

Source: Anthropology of the Estonians

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Look at Health & Mortality in Estonia

One thing I noticed when I first visited Estonia in 2003 was the apparent absence of obesity among its population compared to the United States and Australia. These countries have seen a sharp rise in obesity during the past thirty years due to the increased consumption of processed foods, high sugar diet and lack of exercise.  It is no accident that obesity is rife in some countries and not in others.

In Estonia the male life expectancy is disproportionately low compared to that for females. Typically women live 12 years longer than men. On average women in Estonia live to 79.2 years compared to men at 68.6 years. There are several factors contributing to this, primarily the dietary habits and food choices that vary according to gender, age and income level in Estonia. Women typically live longer because they eat more fruit, vegetables and berries compared to men and premature death in adults is often a direct result from alcohol abuse and smoking.

One of the major challenges faced by Estonia today is its declining birth rate. The birth rate in Estonia has dramatically declined since 1990 due to insecurity, fears for the cost of education and people postponing having families.. In March 2014 Estonian Minister of Economy & Infrastructure Urve Palo said that only 29% of people are pleased with their family life which is a major contributor to Estonia's low birth rate.  In 2013 there were 13,531 births in Estonia compared to 15,244 deaths. This represents a population growth rate of  -.0.68%. Deaths now outnumber births.

Estonia's declining birth rate

Here are 10 health and demographic facts about Estonia.

1. The 5 leading causes of death in Estonia are coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, liver disease and hypertension. Diseases affecting the circulatory system account for 42% of all deaths in Estonia. This is one of the highest rates in the EU. 

2.  According to the 2011 World Heath Ranking, Estonia was 5th in the world for pancreatic cancer, 6th for alcohol related deaths and 10th for poisoning.

3. Despite the fact that the average life expectancy has increased in recent years in Estonia, it is still below the EU average of 78.

4. Much of the deteriorating health which occurs in Estonia is preventable. Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death for people under the age of 65. External injury deaths such as drowning, suicide and car accidents are often a result of alcohol abuse and the Estonian government is working hard to address this issue.

5. In 2005, 20% of all deaths in Estonia were caused by cancer. Approximately 3,500 deaths from malignant tumours occur in Estonia each year.

6.  Estonia has a relatively low rate of breast cancer in the EU. Less than 30.0 deaths per 100,000 females. Denmark has the highest.

7. According to the 2014 Statistics Yearbook the number of cases of infectious diseases varies from year to year. The most common diseases in Estonia are acute upper respiratory tract infections which in 2012 had a 13% lower incidence rate than the previous year. Cases of influenza, whooping cough, tick-borne encephalitis, tuberculosis and salmonella all decreased that year.

8. New cases of HIV infection have steadily declined in Estonia since 2007. In 2012 there were only 36 new cases reported.

9. The fertility rate in Estonia is now officially 1.46. In 2014 that meant that there were 10.29 births per 1,000 population.

10. According to a World Health Organisation study completed in 2013, the majority of Estonian children eat fresh fruit daily and have a low consumption of milk.

For addition reading, please click here:
Estonian Causes of Death RegistryWorld Health Rankings16 Cancer Causing Foods You Should Avoid, Estonia Demographics Profile 2014.

Following Estonia's Example, Over Half a Million Volunteers Will Clean up Ukraine, Greece, Baltics, Cyprus This Weekend | News | ERR

The Let's Do It! World Cleanup 2015 campaign is uniting five European countries in massive cleanup actions this weekend. The total of over half a million volunteers are expected to participate in the events.
On April 25, volunteers in Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and part of Romania will clean their countries from illegal waste. People of Greece and Cyprus will do the same a day later.

Ukraine is getting ready for a cleanup event despite political instability and military conflict in some regions of the country. With the number of volunteers growing each year, Ukraine hopes to increase the participation from 170,000 last year to 250,000 this year, aiming for 5 percent of the total population.

"We are organizing a country-wide cleanup at such a difficult time because people would like to be engaged in activities that are not related to military action,” Yulia Markhel, head of Let’s Do It! Ukraine commented on the timing of the cleanup. “Our project brings people together at a time when they are separated."

"It’s very important to know that you’re not alone and there’s the whole country that supports and shares your goals and moreover, the whole world," Markhel added.

Both Latvia and Lithuania are aiming for at least 200,000 volunteers as well. The organizers there said that the amount of illegal trash collected by volunteers is decreasing every year. In Lithuania it has been reduced from 11,000 tons to 2,000 tons.

The international network of Let's Do It! aims to solve the illegal dumping problem on a local and global level both short and long term – by engaging a large part of the society in the cleanup activity on an action day, raising the issues related to illegal dumping and engaging both experts, political and local leaders to find more sustainable systemic solutions. The movement began in Estonia in 2008 when 50,000 people came together and cleaned up the entire country in five hours, removing 10,000 tonnes of waste. Today, Let’s Do It! is a global network of 112 countries, having so far engaged a total of 11.2 million participants.

The clean-up dates of participating countries can be found here.

Let's Do it! Estonia (Teeme Ära!) will take place the following weekend, on May 2, although it has evolved from a simple cleanup action to a more general community day. The weekend after that will see action around the Mediterranean coastline, in Malta, Turkey, Croatia and Italy.

For more information:

Birch Sap - Estonia's New Export Opportunity? | News | ERR

Every year, thousands of Estonians traditionally turn to birch trees to tap them for their lightly sweet, fresh and healthy sap. But now an international market is growing around the beverage, which Estonians hope to exploit.

This year, Harju County-based company Kloostrimetsa Fideikomiss sent 20 tons of sap to Italy, where it is used in natural cosmetics, Maaleht reported. Company's manager Ando Eelmaa said that the company has been in the birch sap business for about a decade. Most of the sap is exported, some goes to waste, as the need in the internal market is small - people simply aren't used to buying it.

Industrial scale production of birch sap first started in Finland in the 1990s with Arto and Susanne Maaranen's small family business. Today, they export the sap under the brand of Nordic Koivu to many different countries.

The London Evening Standard recently hailed birch sap as the "coconut water of 2015". An opportunity for Estonia? Possibly, but... The international market is already populated with brands from several countries, including the above-mentioned Nordic Koivu, Belarus's Byarozavik Birth Tree Water, and Denmark's Sealand Original Birk.

The Latvian beverage company Sula has also announced its plan to start exporting products made from birch sap to European markets. Sula is currently producing birch sap soft drink and birch sap sparkling wine for the Latvian market, Public Broadcast of Latvia reported in March.

Estonia's birch water producer Nopri farm started selling its product in selected stores and markets only a year ago. Last year, they collected 8 tons of sap, which was fermented before being bottled. Birch sap is collected over a short harvesting period in early spring and has a very limited shelf life, so fresh juice is difficult to sell.

Producers say that collecting the juice is not a problem, but marketing it is much more complicated.

"Birch sap is an unused opportunity in Estonia," Tiit Niilo, the owner of Nopri Farm, told Maaleht.

However, in cooperation with researchers at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the farm is trying to develop new products from the sap, including lemonade, ice-cream and concentrate.


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

In Loving Memory of My Aunty Christine

Last week I received the extremely sad news that my Aunty Christine lost her battle with cancer. She first met with the challenge of overcoming breast cancer before falling prey to lung cancer. We all hoped for a miracle that her health could be restored whilst her fiancée frantically tried to save her by searching for new treatments online. All to no avail. My Aunty Christine celebrated her 60th birthday in January this year, a milestone, she was much too young to die. 

In the past 12 months I have lost three people close to my family. The most it has been for a while. Even though I have experienced grief and loss before, it's always tough dealing with the emotions that follow. Five years ago I lost someone I loved very deeply. I found that once I digested the initial shock it can be extremely difficult imagining a life without that person. Essentially life is never the same again. It can take years to recover from a devastating loss.

My Aunty Christine was a lovely woman, I have such fond memories of her from my childhood. We used to have lots of family gatherings and  I remember she always greeted me with a big warm smile. She was always cheerful and I can't recall a single time seeing her angry.

Unfortunately I was not able to attend her funeral which took place today. It's a bit far to travel.  It's been almost four years since I've been in Australia and several, more since I last saw my aunt. Since I learnt her condition was terminal I've been thinking of her constantly. It's a terrible feeling knowing that when I eventually return home, I will never see her again.

Rest in peace Aunty Chris, you will be dearly missed.

Monday, 20 April 2015

How to Achieve Happiness? A University of Tartu Academic Had an Answer 200 Years Ago | News | ERR

Two hundred year ago, people also understood the meaning of personal happiness and regarded it as a choice or something we decide to be. “I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health,” said Voltaire, the French writer and philosopher in the Enlightenment era.

But during the Enlightenment happiness was seen as something that is shared by the whole community, rather than a personal state. The task to make everyone happy was the primary objective of every benign ruler. A booming economy, the welfare of citizens, and a system of law and order were the measures by which a sovereign was judged as either good or bad. Every citizen had to do his or her share in order to achieve the common goal.

While we sometimes disregard the past, research has shown that, as a rule, educated people during the Enlightenment were full of optimism and had a strong belief in progress. This in turn, encouraged them to be creative and invent new things, climb the highest mountains, circle the globe or set up schools for the poor. Every member of society needed to have a specific objective and feel responsible for the greater good; everyone had to feel they were being useful.

Parrot's happiness formula basically reflects this holistic mindset. He didn't write a poem or a philosophical essay, but he drew a pyramid-like schema, depicting the indicators needed to make us happy in a unified society.

In his diagram, human strengths and the power of nature combine seamlessly, creating a harmonious structure “to achieve perfection”. He interweaves natural and social sciences, arguing that the purpose of physics is to make us understand nature, because the laws of nature form the basis of discussion about the links between cause and effect. In his formula, Parrot also put emphasis on the connection between agriculture and science – as at the time it was believed that only agriculture produced new value. Economics – manufacturing, consumption, and trade – is a unified whole that is seen as a living organism, whose growth depends on free enterprise. Parrot thus shows economics as a branch of “Knowing and Harnessing the Powers of Nature” in his scheme. Education is depicted as a branch of “the Development of Human Potential (Strengths)” in his chart, as are morals. The message he imparts seems to emphasize the importance of educating everyone in order for people to use their knowledge for the sake of the common good.

The energetic Parrot, a German by birth, was himself a committed member of society. He wrote over 120 scientific papers and lectured many students. Last, but not least, he became the first rector (chancellor) of the re-opened University of Tartu (then named University of Dorpat) in 1802 – the successor to the Swedish-founded Academia Gustaviana university which ceased to exist in 1710 when Tsar Peter the Great conquered Estonia. While working there, Parrot skillfully fought for academic freedom and the right to self-government by the university – to protect it from the political pressures of Baltic-German barons who were given autonomy by Russia to govern in the Baltic provinces.

Source: How to achieve happiness? A University of Tartu academic had an answer 200 years ago | News | ERR

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

New Book Lists 100 Unique Reasons to Visit Estonia!

The team at Solo Sokos Hotel has recently released an interesting new book entitled Did you know that there are over 100 exciting, quirky, unique and important reasons to visit Estonia? The fact filled book is written in Estonian, English, Finnish and Russian and is sure to enlighten readers.

Anu Soosaar, Managing Director of Sokotel AS that manages the hotel, said the book is their first gift to Estonia for its 100th birthday, due to take place in February 2018. "It collates things we should be proud of and share with the world," she said.

Editors Peep Ehasalu and Jussi-Pekka Aukia said that the book is a good gift idea for a business partner or a friend abroad, but should also be of interest to Estonians themselves, to see what Estonia has achieved and continues to achieve.

You can buy a copy online here:
Did you know that there are over 100 exciting, quirky, unique and important reasons to visit Estonia

Large Iron Age Treasure Containing Rare Roman Coins Found Near Rakvere | News | ERR

The treasure includes 51 Roman coins - a host of sestertii and the first ever assarius found in Estonia, as well as rings and a few other pieces from 2-3 centuries AD. It doubles the number of sestertii unearthed in Estonia and stored in local collections.

Please click here to read the full story:
Large Iron Age treasure containing rare Roman coins found near Rakvere | News | ERR

Arvo Pärt’s ‘Tabula Rasa’ Voted Estonia’s Best Classical Album of All Time | News | ERR

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Walt Disney's Donald Duck in Tallinn

Donald Duck comics have enjoyed incredible popularity for many decades.  This edition, "The Hansa Hazard" was published in 2011 and is of particular interest because it features the iconic tower of St.Olaf church in Tallinn. With Donald and Uncle Scrooge dressed in classic Hanseatic clothes it is definitely an attractive addition to any collection.

During the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Donald Duck comics were the only Disney comics allowed in the country. Titled Piilupart, Miki ja teised  (Duck, Mickey and Others) they were perhaps perceived as less of a threat by Soviet censors.

It is interesting to note that "The Hansa Hazard" was published in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Brazil. Click here here to see the covers for the individual countries.

Monday, 13 April 2015

A Tribute to Paul Lestal

It has been a fascinating journey for me discovering my family history and if there is one person for whom I have a particular fondness, it is without doubt my great-great-uncle Paul Lesthal. Every time I have read one of his military records, employment documents or heard a personal account of him it has left me feeling proud in the knowledge that he was a man of substance. In a way Paul has become something of a hero for me. Whilst he had much success in his life, particularly in business, he also experienced extreme heartbreak as well. Not only did he suffer from the loss of his only child but he also lost his wife Meta in the most tragic of ways during WWII. Paul lost many beloved family members as a result of the war - his mother in 1943, his wife in 1945 and his sister Ellinor in 1946. It would have required extraordinary strength for him to carry on after losing these irreplaceable people in his life but like a true survivor, he thrived in spite of these circumstances and lived to the ripe age of 87.

Paul and I share a bond that I didn't become aware of until fairly recently. To my dismay I discovered that Paul didn't just die on my birthday, he actually died on the very day I was born! Having this connection made me realise there was a reason why I have always felt so drawn to him during my research. I like to think that on that day when he was leaving this world and I was entering it, that our paths somehow crossed but of course that it just a romantic notion. Yet I am truly astounded we share this common connection.

Birthplace of Paul Lestal.

Paul was the son of a steward, born in the steward’s house at Ravila Manor on the 22nd January 1889. Paul and his brother Arthur were confirmed on the same day in St. Olaf church Tallinn on 10th April 1905. After graduating from Tallinn Realschool in 1907 Paul volunteered to become an army reservist and was a member of the 90th Infantry Division Onega Regiment in Tallinn. 

Paul was called up to serve in the Tzarist Army during World War One. After completing a machine gun course he was assigned to the 19th Siberian Rifle Regiment. He participated in WW1 from 21st December 1916 to 4th December 1917. In 1916 Paul was awarded the medal “Knights of the Order of St.Stanislaus”. Paul was promoted in 1917 from the rank of Praporshchik (Ensign) to Second Lieutenant becoming the machine gun commander in his regiment. During the Estonian War of Independence Paul volunteered and served in the armoured trains division. From June 1919 he held the rank of subordinate captain in the 2nd Armoured Dvision. After the war, from 4th July 1920 Paul resumed his role as a reservist and periodically completed military training exercises. He was also granted a permit to keep a firearm at home.

Paul with his wife Meta and daughter Irene. ca.1917.

In 1912 Paul married Meta, the daughter of his long time friend Johann Krüger. They had one daughter named Irene who tragically died in 1937 from tuberculosis at age 24. Irene was buried at Kopli Cemetery.  Irene has a striking resemblance to my niece Lilah. Considering they were born over 100 years apart it's truly amazing how some genes are passed down over the generations.

In 1916 Paul was awarded the medal Knights of the Order of St.Stanislaus III class.

Paul began his business career in 1908 working for bank Hoeppener & Co. in Tallinn then later in Moscow for shipping company S. Kusnitsky & Co. From 1911 to 1920 Paul worked for the 1st Russian Fire Insurance Society’s main agency owned by Hoeppener & Co. in Tallinn. He started his career with Eesti Lloyd in 1920, working his way up the corporate ladder from department head to branch manager to eventually company director in 1935.  

New offices for Eesti Lloyd

Eesti Lloyd insurance document bearing Paul's signature.

Commemorating Paul's 25 years of service working in the insurance industry. 

Newspaper article from 1939 marking Paul's 50th birthday. 

Paul was also a volunteer firefighter and in 1929 was awarded a badge for 15 years of service.

Paul and Meta lived at Gonsiori 7-4 near the old Kalevi Stadium in Tallinn. 

In this photo their house was located in the second row of houses on the right. Unfortunately their house was destroyed during the March 1944 bombings and Gonsiori Street was later shifted when Tallinn was rebuilt. To put it in perspective, Paul and Meta's house would have stood between where the Viru shopping centre and Tallink Hotel stands today.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Paul and Meta initially declined the offer to leave Estonia with the first wave of the Baltic German resettlement program. After the Soviets invaded and friends and colleagues began to disappear, they grew concerned for their own safety and decided to apply for the second wave of resettlement. They were successful. In Feb/March 1941 Paul and Meta were resettled in the Wartheland region and lived there for several years however, in January 1945 Paul tragically lost Meta during a Soviet bombing raid on Łask. They were driving in their car when the air raid unexpectedly occurred and Meta was killed from a fatal shrapnel wound. With his dead wife slumped in the seat beside him, Paul had no choice but to drive on and find a suitable place to bury his beloved wife.

Paul in 1970.

After the war Paul spent the remainder of his days living in Bensheim, Germany. He lived in close proximity to his cousins Frieda and Karl Niggul and Karl's children Dorothea and Karl. In Germany Paul continued working in the insurance industry, for the company Allianz.

Paul and his wife Meta are mentioned in Erika Aulik’s 2006 book Viru Tänav ja teised.

Eesti Lloyd Insurance Company Memorabilia

Insurance company Eesti Lloyd was founded shortly after Estonia first became independent. It's management team included my great-great-uncle Paul Lesthal and President Pät's brother Viktor.   Some people collect Eesti Lloyd memorabilia, here is some of my own.

Company brochure.

Calendar dated 1936.

Sample insurance policies.

Houses insured by Eesti Lloyd had this badge affixed to the outside of their properties.