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Showing posts from July, 2009
Freedom is the best solution
By Mart Laar
Published Postimees 18 July 2009 A response to the article “Laar's dilemma” This week Abdul Turay asked how to get Estonia out of the crisis, if the basis of our success is in Milton Friedman and Austrian economy school principles. There is doubt about the two ideas and the two theories are caught up in conflict. Furthermore conservative policies have been replaced by left-wing ones.
Actually this has been talked about a lot. There has been a reversal of fortune. Now Friedman, the free market and low taxes get abused as people continually point to this as the reason as to why the crisis emerged. The world did the opposite in the 1930s and paid dearly for this. Now the great powers generally avoid protectionism and taxes have fallen more than they have risen. But it is government intervention in the economy that has grown, not doubt in the free market.
I didn't go ahead with my economic reforms in Estonia for five years on the basis of some…
It's a Global Election
By Amy Goodman
First published in syndication across North America 21 July 2008
TALLINN, Estonia –
When I arrived in Estonia last week – a former Soviet republic that lies just south of Finland – everyone had an opinion on Barack Obama's speech in Berlin. The headline of the British Daily Telegraph we picked up in Finland blared "New walls must not divide us," with half-page photos of the American presidential candidate silhouetted against a sea of 200,000 people.One of the first people I met in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, was Abdul Turay, the editor in chief of The Baltic Times, an English-language weekly that covers Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the three Baltic nations. Granted, he's not a typical resident for this country of largely fair-haired light-skinned people: Turay is a black Briton whose parents come from the West African nations of Liberia and Sierra Leone. And he is Muslim. While Estonia has no mosques, he notes…
Revisiting school days
By Abdul Turay
First Published Jun 11, 2008

My spouse’s father is a fisherman. Since she grew up with the sea I once took her to see the first sea clocks in Greenwich. These 18th century inventions made safe sea travel possible for the first time.
First I showed her the drama “Longitude,” which tells the story of how the clocks were created. Inventor John Harrison went through hell making the things. This gave the visit an extra poignancy for my partner because she knew the human story behind the clocks.

This is a good recommendation for any site-seeing tour. If you read the book or see the film first, then you will enjoy the place you go to see more. Palamuse is a small town in Jogeva County. It has just 2,500 people. It is most famous as the place where Oscars Luts, a 20th century Estonian writer, went to school.
Luts is often compared to Dickens, but with less blood and guts. One of his most famous works, Kevade (Spring), is about his school days. Tha…
Bigotry and denial
By Anton Dwyer, Marge Tubalkain-Trell and Adam Mullet
First published May 22, 2008


A man, let’s call him Joe Bloggs, told The Baltic Times about a horrible experience he had while traveling to the Baltics in the days before the Schengen zone.

He was crossing the border by bus between Estonia and Latvia when immigration officials came to look over the passengers. They frog-marched Bloggs off the bus and took him to a room to interrogate him. He was striped naked and inspected. His belongings were searched.
The officials took away his mobile phone and did not allow him to call his embassy. He was locked in a windowless room where he spent the night. Eventually, in the morning, they let him call his embassy and they came and got him out.

This was not the first time that Bloggs had been detained. If it had happened once it could be just bad luck, if two or three times then exceptionally bad luck, but after the fourth incident he realized that it was more than just bad luck. …
The language myth
By Vincent Freeman with additional reporting by Adam Mullett
First published July 16, 2008

Tallinners can be strange. Not only do they dislike Russian-speakers speaking Russian, they don’t like Finnish tourists speaking Finnish.
“We are not in Finland. If you can’t speak Estonian, speak English” would be a typical response.
It’s understandable that Estonians prefer English — it is, after all, an international language. Also, in this part of the world, it is politically neutral. Russian, German and even Swedish can be associated with occupation and colonization. Estonia and the other Baltic states are small nations, and they can’t expect everybody to learn their language.

There are also practical reasons. The fact is, a lot of people living in Estonia don’t speak Estonian. It is possible for two people born in Tallinn in the same year to be forced to converse in English because it is the only language that they have in common. It’s part of the great Russian-Estonian divide.
The Swedish Empire strikes back
By Abdul Turay
First published June 18, 2008

The following list may be familiar to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the history of the region. Danes, Teutonic Knights, Swedes, Germans, Russians, Nazis, Soviets. These are the powers that have occupied and exploited the region, especially Estonia and Latvia, over the past millennium or so.
Conventional wisdom says that there are two gaps on this litany of foreign occupation – 1919 to 1939 and 1991 to present.

This is an illusion. The reality is, as recent events show, one of the old occupying powers is back and they mean business. The Baltics are controlled by Swedish capitalists. It could be called the new Swedish Empire.
Let us look at the evidence. In Estonia at the end of 2007, the share of SEB and Hansabank was 71 percent of the loan market and almost 100 percent of banking assets belonged to foreign-based credit institutions or investors.

Investors were attracted by the region’s flexible attitude …
Quiet genius who brought the East to the West
By Marge Tubalkain-Trell with additional reporting by Vincent Freeman
First published April 9, 2008

TALLINN - The Koran is undoubtedly one of the most important texts in world culture, so it’s maybe not so surprising that the book is selling well in Estonia. No one thought, however, it would sell as well as it did. The truly astonishing thing is that it took until December 2007 for the book to be published in Estonian. There is no doubt the Koran would not have been translated at all if weren’t for the work of one remarkable man, Haljand Udam – geologist, scientist, linguist, translator, writer, and genius.

The Baltic Times spoke to the friends and family of the man who single-handedly made the most important cultural event of the year in Estonia possible, including his widow who has never spoken to the press before.

“It was his life’s work and his last work,” said Aivar Lestsinski, editor in chief of the Avita publishing company. Udam died soo…
Fighting to preserve a nation’s heritage
By Abdul Turay
First Published July 09, 2008
When Tobias Jasetas was a small child, his family emigrated to England. One summer his mother decided to go back to Lithuania for an extended holiday to visit relatives. She took Jasetas, who was then nine years old, with her.
It turned to be one of the saddest decisions made by anyone, anywhere, ever. The year was 1939 and within a few months of arriving war had broken out. The mother and son were stranded in a country under Soviet occupation. The Soviets deported Jasetas’ relatives to Siberia. Then the Nazis came and things got even worse.

Jasetas is now 87 and still lives in Vilnius in a run down apartment with basic utilities. He doesn’t like to reflect on what might have been. He is the ultimate survivor. He lived through the first Soviet occupation, the Ghetto, the murder of his mother and other relatives. He escaped from the Ghetto just before the “Child Achtung” in 1944 when Ghetto children were …
Tallinn's unlikely twin
By Abdul Turay
First published November 2008

The idea behind twinning is that two vaguely similar cities exchange cultural links for their mutual benefit. Warsaw is twinned with Coventry – both cities were flattened by the Luftwaffe, after all. Tartu, the famous Estonian university town, is twined with Uppsala which is the home to the oldest university in Scandinavia.

And Tallinn… Tallinn is twinned with Dartford. Come again, Dartford!

For those of you who don’t know Britain well, Dartford is a dull dormitory suburb on the back end of London. Dartford is in the county of Kent, the so-called “garden of England”. Technically it is both a town and a borough , but it is not a city since it doesn’t have a Royal charter to call itself that.

Say the word “Dartford” to most Britons, and they will answer back “tunnel”. The Dartford crossing is both a tunnel and a bridge. It links up Kent with London both above and below the river Thames.

When City Paper called up the town’…
A hard landing indeed
By Abdul Turay
First published Aug 20, 2008

Estonians act and think like any group of people who have known poverty. They like to spend money they don’t have on stuff they don’t need.

This is why the credit crunch has hit the Black and Hispanic community in America so hard.

Now a sensational new book which makes the same point is causing a buzz in the ex-pat communities and the corridors of power.

The book is called “Hard Landing”. It was written by Dr Claudio Zucchelli, an Italian-German, financial analyst and investor and Dag Kirsebom, a Swedish-Norwegian former banker and entrepreneur.

Ministries have ordered copies. The Estonian prime minister, Andrus Ansip is rumoured to have read it. The book has been specially ordered by Merrill Lynch. All this for a pocket-sized book that a fast reader could finish in an afternoon.

The book argues that not only will Estonia suffer a hard landing but the culture and mentality of Estonians themselves has led to this situation and…
Neo-Nazi thrown out
By Abdul Turay 11 August 2009
An American neo-Nazi has failed in his attempt to remain in the country after a court rejected his asylum plea and branded him a racist and a public menace.Craig Cobb, 57, founder and operator of the Podblanc website, a sort of YouTube for racists, emigrated to Estonia in 2005. Cobb planned to make Estonia the centre for his propaganda campaign to promote white nationalism.Now it seems time is up for Cobb. He was put on trial August 2009 and banned from Estonia for a minimum of 10 years. Cobb was found guilty of endangering public security, public order, public safety, moral standards, and health. The court also found that he was promoting racism and was a racist. Cobb has not yet been removed from the country, but is being detained.“I have cash and an American passport and am expelled by Estonia, but they have me locked down here till 16 Sept if they want and I think I can get extensions every two months. One Khazarstan(sic) guy has bee…
The hairdresser who ruined Tallinn
By Abdul Turay
Published in Postimees 24 April 2009


I met a traveller on a plane about two years ago who looked like a character in a romantic novel; tall, good-looking, urbane and rich. He told me of a conversation with two young Irish property “entrepreneurs” in a Tallinn pub.

These entrepreneurs were sure that the property market would take off, just like it had in Dublin and that they were going to be rich, or more accurately, richer than they believed they already were. The couple were so full of swagger and confidence that the traveller, a stockbroker by trade, was ready to invest in property in Tallinn himself...... for about five minutes.

Then he asked the entrepreneurs what were the yield rates. Neither knew what on Earth he was talking about. A little probing revealed the “entrepreneurs'” had day jobs. The man was a mechanic and the woman was a hairdresser.

We all know that the property market has gone to hell. Most people know it is a global…
Cult of Youth
By Abdul Turay
First published by Postimees 21 November 2008


Businessman Rein Kilk thinks Estonia’s leaders are getting old and should be packed off to the European parliament. In an interview with Kuku radio on 15 November he singled out Prime Minister, Andrus Ansip and Tallinn City Mayor, Edgar Savisaar for a midnight train to Brussels.
Of course Kilk is motivated by his own support for Finance Minister, Ivari Padar. As he said to Kuku radio in English:
“Ma ütlen, Ivari, do it ja ma annan oma hääle sulle!” (I said to Ivari, do it, and I will back you).
To most visitors coming to Estonia this is an amazing thing to say. They often comment on how young the leadership of the country is.
Is Kilk right, are the leading figures in Estonian politics getting too old and is it time for a new generation?
It’s true some in Estonian politics have been around a long time; Savisaar and Mart Laar have been around for years.
However let’s look at the make up of the government. Urmas Paet, f…
Let's eat potato peels
By Abdul Turay
Published in Postimees on 2 December 2008

At a meeting of foreigner investors recently held in Tallinn there was a consensus on one issue.
Estonians hadn’t yet woken up to just how serious the current economic crisis is.
People don’t seem to realise what is at stake. It is not just a question of a few bankruptcies, nor of shopping cheaply, nor buying a smaller car, nor having a few friends and relatives out of work.

Just to shake people out of their complacency let’s give a hypothetical situation.
Imagine if the Estonian economy was owned lock, stock and barrel by Russian banks, a world in which some dour, Putin yes-man, in Moscow decides how companies do business in Tallinn. A country where your home loan was already with a Russian bank and try as you may, you couldn’t switch it to an Estonian one.

If you think that the above situation is just fantasy this is from 23 October edition of the Economist: “…one or more parent banks will put a troubled sub…
How to become Estonian
By Abdul Turay
First published Postimees 26 February 2009

I recently gave a series of lectures at Hugo Treffner gymnasium and other schools in Tartu about the crisis of civic nationalism.

The students were fairly quiet during the lectures but I am told by their class teachers there was heated and furious arguments about what it all means for Estonia after I left.

Some of you may be unfamiliar with what exactly civic nationalism is, much less that it is in crisis so let me clarify it.

It means that my own country, Britain, might actually collapse like the Soviet Union, not five years or 10 years from now, but next year or the year after.

The same thing could happen to Belgium, Spain, South Africa even the United States. Canada came within a hairbreadths of collapse 14 years ago.

In Britain the danger is very real and imminent. If you're not familiar with British politics. You might be surprised to hear this.

There are broadly speaking two competing ideas about…