What the papers say: How Estonia votes at the UN, skeletons and Sputnik

Estonian newspapers (photo is illustrative).
Estonian newspapers (photo is illustrative). Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

How Estonia shapes up in voting at the UN compared with other countries, including those on the organization's security council, which it joins as a non-permanent member in January, supposed problems facing Russian state-backed media company Sputnik's employees in Estonia, and more archaeological finds – this time two several-century-old skeletons in Tartu, were in the papers on Tuesday, Nov. 19. All links in Estonia unless noted otherwise.

Estonia's like-minded nations on UN votes

Daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) looked ahead to Estonia's membership of the UN Security Council, as one of 10 non-permanent members, a two-year term which starts in January, by compiling a table of most like-minded countries, when it comes to voting at the UN as a whole.

The statistics were compiled by looking at over 2,000 votes going back to 1991, with a score given on the basis of Estonia and its paired country voting the same on a motion (be it in favor, against, or abstaining) or the opposite, and found that the other two Baltic States were the most like-minded nations.

Estonia generally votes on motions and seldom votes against them – one exception was the recent global compact on migration – and in fact the only time it voted differently from Latvia was by accident, when the wrong button was pushed.

Another interesting fact was that Estonia actually votes the same way as North Korea, than it does with its key ally, the U.S., though this can be explained by the fact that the U.S. often votes against motions, for instance on the Israel/Palestine conflict or on the environment, than the majority of states; one exception where Estonia was in a minority voting against a motion the U.S. supported concerned artificial intelligence.

After the other two Baltic States, other Central and Eastern European countries voted most closely to Estonia, including Poland and the Czech Republic; countries least in tune with Estonian voting, but which are on the UN Security Council include Indonesia (160th place), China (171th) and Vietnam (177th) as well as the US (192nd).

Estonia's bear population recovering from mid-20th century nadir, but still needs new blood

Estonia's bear population may have recovered since a low in the 1920s, agricbut still stands at an estimated 700-800, concentrated in two bands, one running north to south through central Estonia, and another in the northeast of the country, from the north shore of Lake Peipus inland, though stopping short of the Baltic Coast.

The population reached what is technically called a genetic bottleneck in the mid-20th century, when figures were down to a few dozen, something which never happened with the bear population in the, admittedly incomparably more vast, Russian Federation, but still retains its genetic, "Estonian" identity, to varying extents in three genetic subgroups of bears identified by experts.

At the same time, the more genetically diverse Russian bears crossing over into Estonia is no bad thing in keeping up Estonia's bear population, and avoiding it going the way of some western European countries such as Spain or Italy, which have much sparser populations.

The genetic mapping itself was conducted off the back of research done between 1999 and 2011, from tissue samples from bears killed by hunters or, in one case, being hit by a car carrying then-defense minister Jaak Aaviksoo.

Five PÖFF recommendations out of the hundreds of choices

As reported on ERR News, the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, or PÖFF for short, started last Thursday and runs until the beginning of December. With a wealth of international movies to choose from, everyone is likely to use his or her own method for sifting through the selection until they find something they like.

Online portal Geenius gave five recommendations (from the hundreds) to help people on their way.

First up was State Funeral, a Dutch-Lithuanian offering which is actually made up of footage, both black and white and color, of Stalin's funeral in 1953 – an ideal counterpoint to last year's well-received fictional retelling of events, the Death of Stalin.

Nova Lituania is, as its name suggests, another Lithuanian movie, a historical drama based on real life proposals to create a Lithuanian colony somewhere overseas, either in the Americas or in Africa, should the nation be so imperiled that it needed to take that step.

Tomorrow We Are Free, a German historical drama set in the Iranian revolution of 1979 which toppled the Shah, is also being shown at PÖFF, as is yet another Lithuanian movie, Isaac, which confronts the difficult legacy of that country's occupation by the Nazis, and collaboration in the holocaust there.

Finally, South African movie Fiella's Child is based on 1985 novel of the same name, orginally written in Afrikaans, and telling the story of a mixed race family in the Western Cape of South Africa, who adopt a white child.

Estonia worst place in Europe to be a Sputnik employee

According to volunteer-staffed anti-misinformation blog Propastop (link in English), the chief editor of Kremlin-funded TV channel Russia Today, and also owner of the Sputnik network, Margarita Simonyan, says Estonia systematically bullies his employees, making Estonia the worst place in Europe for them to work.

Without providing concrete examples, Simonyan accused Estonia of systemic bullying: "Even when people who come to interviews and are not hired right away and may not be so in the future get a call from the Internal Security Service, inquiring to what they were asked and who was the interviewer," Simonyan said, adding that she had not encountered totalitarian approaches on that scale "even in Arab countries."

Simonyan said that not only was Estonia small and spiteful, but added that the EU as a whole was on a downward spiral.

Propastop also listed several claims made by Sputnik Estonia over the past three weeks, including reports on how many people in Estonia die per year from alcoholism, how Estonia and the other two Baltic States are at the top of the European table for "killings", contributions to "genocide" made by Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) personnel involved in the French-led anti-insurgency Operation Barkhane in Mali, and that British soldiers serving with the NATO Battlegroup based in Tapa are not content with their lot.

Pipeline work in Tartu yields two centuries-old skeletons

Two more skeletons dated to the late middle ages or beginning of the early modern period have been found in Tartu, local daily Tartu Postimees reports.

The skeletons were unearthed during work laying a pipeline on Jakobi tänav, adjacent to the University of Tartu's main building and close to where a far larger number – 750 – skeletons were found 2010-2011.

The large number was accounted for by the fact that the site had been a graveyard and covered a wide period of history, some dating back to the 13th or 14th centuries; the latest finds showed no signs of violence or anything else to suggest that they had not been laid to rest in a similar manner, the paper says, and there is possibility that more bones will be found when work continues.

Still no progress on Kopli skyscraper

The status of a proposed skyscraper in Tallinn's Kopli district was the subject of a piece in daily Postimees.

The area was prepared for building as long as 20 years ago, with real estate mogul Sonny Aswani promising in 2009 to have it finished within a decade – i.e. by now, the paper reports.

However, in 2017, Aswan's company, Phoenix Land, signed an agreement to sell the site to Estonian developer Endover, but the latter still is not the official owner of the site, the article says.

The site is still the subject of a legal battle.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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