Monday, February 16, 2015


Russia’s western border consists, going northwards, of the Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia and Estonia, with Lithuania slightly further west, making the third Baltic Republic with Latvia and Estonia. All formerly part of the Soviet Union, Estonia became independent in 1991, though about a quarter of the population still regards itself as Russian, so the problems current in Ukraine can be foreseen for Estonia too, at some point in the future. 

Estonia keeps the Russian minority under control by making proficiency in the Estonian language a requirement for citizenship (it’s a bit like Finnish and a bit like Hungarian, but it doesn’t belong to the family of Indo-European languages and it isn’t at all like Latvian or Lithuanian), so they mostly can’t vote, and so they can’t vote for a pro-Russian party that would then want to join the Russian Federation. No doubt Comrade Putin has plans and contingencies to deal with this when the time comes. Western-oriented, a member of the EU, committed to a market-forces economy, a leader in technology (Estonia has the world’s best broadband and was the first country to allow online voting; in Estonian binary and Estonian html, obviously), Estonia achieved the miracle of 7% annual growth, and sustained it even through the 2008 recession, though only with difficulty. It joined the Euro in 2011, so the economic miracle is unlikely to last; bailing out the multiple collapsed economies of Europe will be more than any successful economy can sustain. 

Though the President is also the Commander of the Armed Forces, the role is largely ceremonial. The current President is Toomas Hendrik; the current Prime Minister is ridiculously young at 35 to be in such a job; the government is a coalition of his centre-right Reform Party (is that not a contradiction in terms?) with the centre-left Social Democratic Party, with a majority of 3 in Parliament, so watch out for elections soon (or don’t bother, if you can’t speak Estonian).

Estonia is probably not on your bucket-list of must-visit countries in the world, perhaps because it was part of the Soviet Union and therefore closed for so long, perhaps because it doesn't advertise itself, perhaps because it's cold and dark up there in the Arctic north. But it should be. From the Kadriorg Palace to the onion dome churches, there is as much history to explore as you will find in France or Italy or Spain; save only the art and literature - sadly they don't have too much of that yet.

Marks For: 6

Marks Against: 2

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