Sunday, 31 May 2015

Jüri Pootsmann wins the Estonian version of American Idol

Congratulations to Jüri Pootsmann who won the 6th season of the Estonian talent show Superstaar.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Très Court International Film Festival 5 - 14 June 2015

A unique film event is soon to take place in Tallinn and across the globe. The 17th Très Court International Film Festival will screen a selection of short films simultaneously in 24 countries. Each short film has a maximum running time of three minutes and is shown in its original language with English subtitles. Tallinn is one of the cities participating in the festival with screenings scheduled to take place at the Tallinn Viimsi cinema. 

For more information, please click here:

Friday, 29 May 2015

Tallinn Old Town Days Will Bring a Medieval Atmosphere to Estonian Capital | News | ERR

Starting on Saturday, the annual Old Town Days will fill the yards, squares, streets and parks of Tallinn Old Town with countless performances, processions, workshops and tours. This year's event follows a theme "Masters through centuries".

The opening show of the 34th Old Town Days by Polygon Theater and Theater-school, titled "Master's play", will start on the Town Hall Square at 20:00 on Saturday evening. But even before, people can enjoy the "Paw walk 2015", a dog parade, featuring tricks and demonstration performance at 13:00, and watch the opening of the renovated Viru Gates and a procession to the Town Hall Square at 19:15, among many other things.

The following days' events are divided up by themes. Sunday is dedicated to Tallinn's churches, Monday to children and Tuesday to health. Following days are dedicated to museums, art and theater, music and finally, on June 6, the "Medieval Day". A full schedule of events is available on the 34th Tallinn Old Town Days website.

Most of the events are free to all town citizens, as well as tourists. Regular concerts and other events will take place at the Town Hall Square, the Towers Square, the Freedom Square and the Al Bastione restaurant, as well as various other locations.

Tallinn Old Town Days have been organized since 1982. Throughout the week, the streets are filled with people who are wearing ancient clothes to create a medieval atmosphere.

Tallinn Old Town Days will bring a medieval atmosphere to Estonian capital | News | ERR

Estonia's Oldest Cookbook

Estonia's oldest known cookbook dates back to the year 1781. The 750 page book is written in both Estonian and German and features a range of recipes from soups to meat dishes and desserts.  Four chocolate recipes are included in the book which is quite interesting considering chocolate making didn't really become popular in Estonia until the early 1800s.

This historic culinary book has been preserved and can be found in the National Library of Estonia or you can download a pdf copy here:

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Karask: Estonian Barley Bread Recipe

As someone who likes to try new things, particularly Estonian things, I thought I might try my hand at making Karask over the weekend. I have been aware of this recipe for quite some time but never got around to making it, perhaps  because it's not easy to find barley flour in the supermarket. After many attempts I eventually found a packet of barley in the health food shop but had to grind it into flour myself.

Karask is a cake-like barley bread that was traditionally eaten by more affluent Estonians on special occasions. This recipe is hundreds of years old and has been enjoyed for generations.

1 cup barley flour
1/2 cup whole grain wheat flour
125g curds (cottage cheese or ricotta)
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp melted butter
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven and grease a rectangle baking tin. In a bowl mix the curds, buttermilk, egg, salt and honey together.  Add in the melted butter. Combine the dry ingredients then add to the mixture. Stir thoroughly until the mixture is smooth. Poor into the baking tin and bake for 35-40 minutes at 200 degrees. Serve with jam and cream.

Cinema Attendance Reaches All-Time Record in Estonia | News | ERR

According to Statistics Estonia, there were 2.6 million cinema visits in 2014, which is Estonia's all-time high since the restoration of independence. In the last nine years, cinema attendance has increased each year.

In 2014, there were 353 films screened in Estonian cinemas, 28 of which were Estonian productions, 157 from the US, 148 from Europe and 20 from other countries. The average price of a cinema ticket was 4.9 euros and the total box office of cinemas 12.8 million euros.

The most popular Estonian films in 2014 were “Nullpunkt” by Mihkel Ulk (43,000 visits), “Kirsitubakas” (Cherry Tobacco) by Andres and Katrin Maimik (20,000 visits) and “Risttuules” (In the Crosswind) by Martti Helde (18,000 visits). In 2014, Estonian films were watched in cinemas by a total of 123,000 people, or 5 percent of all cinema visitors.

Estonians' love for animations shows no sign of fading, as Disney and other US blockbuster animations continue to dominate the most viewed list. The most popular foreign films last year were “Frozen” (88,000 visits), “Rio 2” (74,000 visits) and “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (68,000 visits).

During one cinema visit, a visitor spends an average of 10.9 euros, nearly 8 euros of which are spent at the cinema and 2.9 euros on transport and other expenses outside the cinema. The total annual expenditure of cinema visitors amounts to 67.4 million euros. The expenditures of cinema visitors account for 27 percent of all the expenditures of the visitors of sports and cultural events.

There were eight full-length feature films and 12 full-length documentaries produced in Estonia in 2014. In addition to the full-length films meant for screening in cinemas, 44 short feature films, 85 short documentaries and 10 short animations were also produced.

Source: Cinema attendance reaches all-time record in Estonia | News | ERR

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Puude kallistamine / Tree Hugging Day

If you're in Tallinn on May 31 why not head down to Kadriorg Park and hug a tree! The feel good event starts at 11am and will be hosted in conjunction with Isvara Yoga.

Hug a tree and say thank you to Mother Nature!

For more information, click here:

Monday, 25 May 2015

Seven uncharted shipwrecks discovered during operation Open Spirit | News | ERR

In less than a week, the annual minesweeping exercise 'Open Spirit' has led to the discovery of seven unknown wreckages in Estonian waters. The minesweeping operation includes participants from 15 countries, with a total of 18 ships and seven diving units. It is the largest operation of its kind in the Baltic States, with over 800 marines from the United States, Belgium, Estonia, the Netherlands, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, France, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Denmark and the UK taking part.

To read the full story, please click here:
Seven uncharted shipwrecks discovered during operation Open Spirit | News | ERR

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Estonia Achieves 7th Place at Eurovision

Congratulations to Stig and Elina who represented Estonia at the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. They achieved a very respectable 7th place among stiff competition. Out of the 45 countries represented in this year's competition, Belgium, Australia, Sweden and Italy stood out as the best acts. Guy Sebastian gave a very professional performance and Belgium's entry was a very pleasant surprise.  Thank you to everyone for making it a thoroughly enjoyable show! Can't wait till next year!

Aitäh Stig and Elina - you did Estonia proud!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Sofi Oksanen's Latest Novel Now Translated into English

A few years ago I was unaware of the works of  Finnish-Estonian writer Sofi Oksanen until I was given a copy of  Purge for Christmas in 2013.  I then quickly realised the significance of her work. In Purge Sofi Oksanen masterfully provides a deconstruction of Estonian history through the dark and harrowing past of the novel's two central characters. Much of the inspiration behind Purge came from the author's childhood experiences whilst visiting her grandmother in Soviet Estonia. It was in the countryside, not Tallinn, that Oksanen got to see the 'real Estonia'.

Purge is an international best seller and has been translated in 38 languages. Her latest novel, When the Doves Disappeared has recently been translated into English and is sure to be as gripping and psychologically engaging as Purge.

First published 2008, translated into English 2010.

Purge is a chilling drama of two generations of women, set in wartime 1940’s Estonia during the Soviet occupation, and in the same country in the 90’s as it grapples with the realities of a new Europe. Narrated through a polyphonic choir of individual voices, Purge tells the suspenseful and dramatic story of Aliide Truu, an old Estonian woman whose hands are soiled with the crimes she committed during the Soviet era, and Zara, a young trafficking victim who in the present has managed to escape and has come to seek shelter at Aliide’s countryside home. As the two women start to approach each other and the links between them are revealed, a tragic and complex family drama of rivalry, lust, and loss that plays out during the worst years of the Soviet occupation of Estonia unfolds. In this way, Purge becomes an investigation into the cost of survival in a repressive system.

First published 2012, translated into English 2015.

1941: In Communist-ruled, war-ravaged Estonia, two men have deserted the Red Army—Roland, a fiercely principled freedom fighter, and his slippery cousin Edgar. When the Germans arrive, Roland goes into hiding; Edgar abandons his unhappy wife, Juudit, and takes on a new identity as a loyal supporter of the Nazi regime... 1963: Estonia is again under Communist control, independence even further out of reach behind the Iron Curtain. Edgar is now a Soviet apparatchik, desperate to hide the secrets of his past life and stay close to those in power. But his fate remains entangled with Roland’s, and with Juudit, who may hold the key to uncovering the truth...

Sofi Oksanen has won numerous awards for her work including being named Person of the Year in 2009 by Estonian newspaper Postimees and in 2010 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves decorated her with the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana.

To learn more about Sofi Oksanen, please click here

24 Estonian Festivals Chosen Among Europe's Finest | News | ERR

Over two dozen Estonian festivals, including Black Nights Film Festival, Prima Vista International Literary Festival and Viljandi Folk Music Festival, have been awarded an EFFE label that marks Europe's finest festivals of 2015-2016.

Click here to read the full story:
24 Estonian festivals chosen among Europe's finest | News | ERR

You can find the list of the 24 selected festivals here:

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Estonia Makes it Through to the Eurovision Final!

It was great to see Estonia voted into to final of the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest last night. Stig Rästa and Elina Born gave a top performance with their hit song 'Goodbye to Yesterday'.  If you are yet to hear their entry, here it is:

Wishing Stig and Elina all the best for the final to be held on Saturday night! Hoiame pöialt!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

7 Fascinating Places to Explore in Estonia this Summer

With summer just around the corner, now is a great time to make plans to explore Estonia. Whilst many visitors spend the majority of their time in the capital, the country has so much more to offer. Nothing is too far away in Estonia, all you need to do is hire a car and drive! Here is a list of seven stunning places to visit in Estonia that will inspire and delight you!

1. Jägala Waterfall
Located 30 km east of Tallinn, Jägala Waterfall has been delighting visitors and locals alike for generations. In 2012 Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf named Jägala as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.

Jägala Waterfall

2. Lahemaa National Park.
Only an hour's drive from Tallinn, Lahemaa National Park is one of Europe's most important forest conservation areas. It is teeming with wildlife and consists of pine forests, picturesque bogs, sandy seashores and numerous waterways. A stunning place for those who love photography and outdoor adventure. 

Lahemaa National Park

3. Piusa Sandcaves
This popular tourist attraction was created as a result of mining glass sand by hand between 1922-1966. The Piusa caves comprise a system of sandstone archways and pillars and there is also a 1.4 km hiking trail on the nature reserve. In winter, the caves are home to the largest colony of bats in Eastern Europe.

Piusa Sandcaves

4. Puhtitsa Convent
Located in Kuremäe in Ida-Viru County the convent was established in 1891 and was originally an monastery. Now home to approximately 150 nuns, the convent consists of six churches dedicated to Christian Orthodox Saints as well as a number of immaculately kept buildings and gardens. Visitors are welcome to stroll around the grounds or take part in a guided tour. Puhtitsa Convent is simply beautiful and well worth a visit!

Puhtitsa Convent

5. Kihnu Island
There are very few places in Estonia where the national costume is worn on a daily basis as regular attire but in Kihnu it is the norm.   With a population of just 600 Kihnu has a very strong sense of community and their steadfast attachment to to the customs of their ancestors has enabled the culture of this island to thrive.  The people of Kihnu Island have a rich cultural heritage in song, dance, games, and handicrafts.  The island is also famous for its traditional wedding ceremonies.  A trip to Kihnu is delightful and inspiring!

Kihnu Island

6. Setomaa
A culture within a culture, Setomaa (literally "land of the Setos") is a unique area with traditions, customs, myths and language differing substantially from the rest of Estonia.  The Seto people are best known for their beautiful folk costumes with large silver breast plates and ancient polyphonic singing tradition known as "leelo".  Singing is a major part of the Seto culture and if you visit during one of the festival times you are in for an unforgettable treat. 


7. Russian Old Believer's Settlement
First arriving in Estonia during the 17th Century to escape persecution, Estonia's Russian Old Believers now number approximately 15,000. They have made their home on the western shores of Lake Peipsi for the last four centuries.  Old Believers are known for their very traditional and conservative lifestyles and rigorous adherence to Orthodox rites.  A unique 7km road comprising the villages of Raja, Kükita, Tiheta and Kasepää lines the westernmost shore of Lake Peipsi.  All of the houses are situated in a single line and have unique architectural features such as towers or balconies. Every Old Believer's home has an icon inside and spade in the yard.   

Russian Old Believers' Settlement

Estonia achieves its best ranking in Human Capital Index | News | ERR

The World Economic Forum has ranked Estonia 16th out of 124 nations on an index that measures how well countries nurture, develop and deploy its people, with a focus on education, skills and employment.

Click here to read the full story: Estonia achieves its best ranking in Human Capital Index | News | ERR

Friday, 15 May 2015

Estonian Embassy in Berlin Celebrates its 95th Birthday

On the 15th of May 1920 the Estonian Embassy in Berlin opened its doors for the very first time. Located in quiet Hildebrandstraße 5, not far from Potsdamer Platz, the embassy is sure to have witnessed many things during the course of its history. 

I have visited this lovely embassy on several occasions (mainly to renew my passport) and always had a very pleasant experience despite fumbling with the language. The staff are helpful and I quite like their display unit containing interesting brochures of things to see and do in Estonia. Great ideas for holidays to come!

Contact information:

Estonian Deepest Experience: Kohtla Mining Park Opens Unique Visitor Centre

The mining park's new visitor centre, the only one in Europe dedicated to the oil shale industry and based in the former mining and sorting premises of Kohtla mine, opened on April. The centre has different interactive displays that introduce the field of energetic and geology to children and adults alike.

The Kohta mine closed in April 2001. Its underground tunnels were reopened as a tourist attraction eight months later.

"The underground museum has since been an important tourist attraction in Ida-Viru County and the entire country," said Hardi Murula, Chairman of the Museum Board. "The new visitor centre offers additional value to the deepest experience in Estonia and makes the mining park even more attractive to families."

"The people of Ida-Viru have turned their industrial heritage into a regional strength," added Hanno Sutter, CEO of Eesti Energia. "Giving a new lease of life to the enrichment factory is a fine example of the heritage of the oil shale industry, the revival of which has generated new value for the region."

The mining park uses interactive displays, games and first-hand experience to introduce to visitors the natural resources of Estonia - overground display includes about 30 metric tons of different rocks, the daily work environment of miners, and the past, present and future mining technologies. Sutter hopes that interesting exhibits also help to attract young people to physical sciences and encourage a generation of future engineers.

The new visitor centre cost over 3 million euros to complete. Most of the funds came from Enterprise Estonia's culture and tourist attractions development measure, which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Win a Trip to Estonia Courtesy of Eesti Ekspress!

Want to win a trip to Estonia? Then now is the time to get creative and enter the Eesti Ekspress editorial cartoon contest!

The rules of the contest are simple:
1) Either send an editorial cartoon (acceptable file formats .jpg, .pdf) or a simple joke in English/Russian (please try to ensure it translates across languages) about Estonia or Estonians to the e-mail address by COB 29th May 2015. Please add your contact details (although the presentation may remain anonymous – please specify). 

2) All entries will be published in the digital (and paper – as much as we can fit) edition of our newspaper on June 3rd and announce a public vote. Participants agree unconditionally that all submissions can and will be used by the newspaper Eesti Ekspress in various forms of display.

3) The winner will be determined based on the public voting by June 12th. The 2 winners (best cartoon and best joke) will be awarded an extended weekend trip to Estonia, including flights, accommodation, and eccentric experiences only possible in Estonia – timing will be agreed with the winners.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Nordic Fair to take place in Toronto 26 - 28 June 2015

If you live in Canada and will be in the Toronto area this June, then a visit to the Nordic Fair is a must! The programme is full of cultural activities and is a great way to reconnect with your roots. With lots of singing and dancing on the agenda as well as a fashion show and wife carrying context - the fair is sure to be lots of fun!

For more information, please click here:

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Friday, 8 May 2015

Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of V-E Day

Today we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe.  The war claimed some 60 million lives and forever changed the destinies of Europe's nations.  Today we remember those we loved and lost, and those who managed to survive.

Estonia declared itself neutral at the outbreak of World War Two.  This all changed in 1940 when Estonia, along with its neighbours Latvia and Lithuania, were invaded, occupied and annexed by Stalin's Soviet Union.  No Estonian family has been left unaffected by the war.  The country was conquered by both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany during the conflict, two of the most evil regimes ever to have existed in human history.  Every Estonian family has a member who either died in battle, was murdered by the Soviets or Nazis, was deported or who had to flee the country. Whilst the rest of Europe celebrated the end of hostilities in May 1945, Estonia remained occupied and would endure many more horrors over the next 46 years.  World War Two didn't really end in Estonia until 1994 when the last Russian soldier left its territory for good.

On VE Day we acknowledge all those who resisted evil, often at great personal risk, both during and after World War Two for the preservation of liberty and human dignity.

Below is an interesting video of Berlin taken shortly after the end of the war. The city, like many, was left in absolute ruins.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Healthy Living - The Estonian Way!

Last year, Alma Kaarma, a member of my extended family passed away in Estonia at the ripe old age of 99. She was just one year shy of reaching the magic milestone of 100. No doubt Alma experienced much during her lifetime and her sound health practices contributed to her longevity.  

Estonians may not perceive themselves to be a healthy nation but in many ways they are. The older generation in particular, who still keep to traditional ways, eat natural foods and abstain from smoking and excess alcohol consumption have the potential to reach 100. Sadly, it has become the norm in society to eat large quantities of processed foods. These "foods" are laced with chemicals and additives designed to make the foods last longer but not those of us who eat them. The sooner we cut back on these processed convenience foods and eat naturally the healthier we will be.

My father is undoubtedly the healthiest Estonian I know. By no means would he consider himself a health freak as he enjoys his daily coffees and pastries etc. but he balances it out with healthy eating and exercise. Over the years he has developed some very good health habits that simply come naturally to him. Every day he eats at least 3-4 pieces of fresh fruit ( he buys apples and oranges by the boxful and in the summertime trays of mangoes, peaches and nectarines) and at dinnertime meals are usually home made and prepared from scratch.  My father lives a very active lifestyle, he does lots of natural movement (walking) and when he comes home from work he automatically has a handful of almonds, sunflower seeds and sultanas and may snack on the occasional piece of dark chocolate. Having a close and positive social network has been proven to have excellent health benefits (check out the Blue Zones).With six children my father always has visitors and on Sunday afternoons he can often be found in the backyard enjoying a drink and a laugh with his neighbours. My father has always said to me "you can enjoy most things in life in moderation." Very true!

Typically people live a long life because of the conscious or unconscious health habits which they practise on a daily basis. Estonians have many healthy life practices, they just need to ensure they make their health a priority and avoid practices which are harmful.  Here are six examples of healthy cultural habits which are part of Estonian life:

1. Estonian forests are full of wild berries and mushrooms.
These extremely healthy and natural foods have sustained Estonians for thousands of years and continue to do so to this day.  Few countries in Europe can boast that more than half their territories are covered with forests. Nearly every Estonian home is close to a forest.

2. Most Estonians know someone who owns a farm.
It is not uncommon for Estonians to buy or trade for produce from someone they know.  Whether it's fresh eggs, milk, honey or other produce, these people know precisely where their food comes from. It's usually a much cheaper and healthier option.

3.  Estonians love apples.
The great majority of Estonian homes have at least one apple tree (õunapuu) in the garden. Apples are an excellent source of dietary fibre and vitamin C and have been an Estonian staple for centuries. Many traditional Estonian deserts have apples as a primary ingredient.

4.  Estonians have enjoyed the benefits of saunas since the early 13th Century and no home is complete without one.
Saunas offer numerous health benefits including boosting your heart and lungs, rejuvenating your skin, speeding up your metabolism and relieving the burden on your kidneys.

5. Estonians retreat to the countryside for their holidays.
They may not travel internationally as frequently as some nationalities but they don't always need to. Most Estonians own their own country house or have someone in their family who does.  Estonians love nothing more than to relax and unwind in the tranquillity of the countryside.  Much of this time is spent outdoors during the very long summer days with the house itself simply being a place to sleep in.

6.  Estonians love nature. 
If you ask Estonians what they like to do in their free time the answer will usually be something relating to nature.  Estonia's dense forests, islands and national parks offer numerous opportunities for outdoor pursuits. Whether its hiking, skiing, cycling or fishing - every Estonian has his or her favourite. Estonia has been declared to have the cleanest air in the world by the World Health Organisation thanks to its forests and relatively low levels of industrial pollution. The health benefits of spending time in nature are enormous.

Eurovision 2001 - Estonia - Tanel Padar & Dave Benton - Everybody - [HQ ...

The Eurovision Song Contest is only a few weeks away. Estonians across the globe are so proud of this song! Best of luck this year Estonia!

What are the odds of Estonia winning this year? According to a poll they currently rank 4th place.

New Milestone! 90,000 Pageviews!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Estonia Seeks a Strong Country Brand | News | ERR

Enterprise Estonia (EAS), the government agency responsible for promoting foreign investments and tourism in Estonia, as well as looking generally after the country's image abroad, has initiated a search for a distinctive brand by which Estonia could be well known for around the world.

Estonia is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2018 and is also hosting the EU presidency in the same year. Various institutions and entrepreneurs complain that Estonia's image in the world is not strong enough. Last week, EAS organized a briefing in Tallinn's creative Telliskivi hub, where it presented results of various studies that are looking to find out just how powerful is Estonia's image abroad and what can be done to improve it.

Estonia's brand

International brand strategy and design consultancy firm FutureBrand, part of the US advertising firm McCann-Erickson, has for years studied countries as brands, publishing the results in its Country Brand Index.

The study examines and ranks performance of countries and assesses opportunities, insights and findings related to country branding. The FutureBrand 2012-13 Global Quantitative Survey evaluated 118 countries, Estonia among them, across a variety of brand strength measures. Country brand ratings and rankings are based on a global sample of 3,600 savvy international business and leisure travelers - people who are somewhat or extremely interested in traveling and have taken two or more international trips for business or personal reasons in the past two years.

The 2012-13 sample composed of respondents from 18 countries: the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, the UAE, India, South Africa, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Australia.

Estonia's current position is not something to boast about, but the good news is that the country has has risen 10 places to #56 in the overall index from 2011 to 2012, which is the 4th largest increase amongst all 118 countries evaluated. However, Estonia continues to under-perform in the Global Country Brand Index's Hierarchical Decision Model (HDM) measures.

The HDM model takes into account:

1) Awareness – do key audiences know that the country exists
2) Familiarity – how well do people know the country and its offerings
3) Associations – what qualities come to mind when people think of the country
4) Preference – how highly do people esteem the country
5) Consideration – is the country considered for a visit
6) Decision/Visitation – to what extent do people follow through and visit the country or establish a commercial relationship
7) Advocacy – do visitors recommend the country to family, friends and colleagues

Estonia's weakest measure is awareness, with a ranking of 106, and strongest is advocacy, at 83. In other words, people who are familiar with Estonia rate the country well, but there is much work to be done to make the country better known and improve its image.

Tourism associations

FutureBrand said in its report that Estonia’s overall tourism ranking has risen considerably year on year; 66th in 2010, 58th in 2011 to 34th in 2012, indicating that Estonia is an emerging tourist destination.

Somewhat surprisingly, Estonia performs very well when it comes to food, achieving its best rank in the index at 14, out of 118 countries evaluated. At EAS's briefing in Tallinn, participants concluded that perhaps this is one area on which the country's tourism chiefs should place more emphasis.

Estonia also scores well in “value for money” rankings, at 25. Attractions and resort lodging options achieved moderate performances, while beaches, nightlife and shopping all continued to underperform in comparision to the global average.

In heritage and culture field, it is doing relatively well in arts – ranking 36, but not so well in natural beauty, at 66, albeit the country's position has improved significantly from 92 just two years earlier. Relatively weak position in natural beauty ranking is in sharp contrast with what Estonians often themselves perceive as their greatest asset – and what foreign visitors actually think. However, to calm things, EAS pointed out that a large number of visitors never venture out of Tallinn and simply never see Estonia outside its capital – and therefore its nature. “Perhaps we have to start organizing short trips to Viru Bog for thousands of cruise ship tourists who visit Tallinn every day,” the Nation Brand and Marketing Director Paul-Kristjan Lilje said, half jokingly.

Most articles about Estonia are published in... Russia

EAS also took a closer look at the international press coverage of Estonia. From 2010-2014, the largest number of articles about Estonia was published by the Russian media, just over 1,500. Many had a political context, however, diminishing the business or tourism value. Finnish media followed closely, with over 1,400 articles. Third was German press with almost 400 articles. The German coverage of Estonia is either neutral or rather positive.

However, almost two-thirds of all articles about Estonia that appeared in foreign press during that period concerned politics, followed by economy and business (13 percent), culture (11 percent), and ICT (5 percent). The relatively low percentage of articles relating to ICT and tourism (3 percent), again effectively show a wide gap between what Estonians themselves regard as globally important for the country, and what others are actually interested in.

Search for a new "Brand Estonia"

In a different study, conducted in October 2014, EAS questioned almost 500 top managers and CEOs of Estonian enterprises and asked how many of them have used either “Made in Estonia” or “Welcome to Estonia” brand when selling their products or services in foreign markets. The results are not exactly cheerful, to put it mildly – only 4 percent have used these brands in the past and just 2 percent still do. At the same time, 50 percent of entrepreneurs say that using a common Estonian brand would be helpful, prompting automatically a question about the adequacy of current brand development of Estonia.

Lilje concluded that Estonia's official slogans and logos used until now clearly don't work very well and the search is on for something new. He didn't rule out a possibility that “Welcome to Estonia,” the country's official logo which was created over a decade ago, would be scrapped altogether, but it would happen gradually.

Lilje said that the first task in the process of finding a compelling international brand for Estonia is to evaluate the results from recent brand studies, followed by a wide-reaching discussion and agreement in the Estonian society on identifying the country's strenghts and selling points. EAS is also organizing multiple working groups and panels that will comprise of experts from different fields, most crucially Estonians who have international experience either in business or the arts. Their task is to help shape a new captivating brand for Estonia.

At present, Estonia's Scandinavian neighbors Finland, Sweden and Norway are all considered “top country brands” (in the world's top 10) by FutureBrand. Will we see Estonia in the top 20 one day?

Source: Estonia seeks a strong country brand | News | ERR