Telegrams from all over the world stop off at Tallinn's Lasnamäe

The telegram messaging service in Lasnamäe.
The telegram messaging service in Lasnamäe. Source: ERR

Starting this January, German postal company Deutsche Post has decided to discontinue its telegram message delivery service due to the lack of demand. However, Aleksander Sahan, who owns the telegram message delivery company "Telegraf ÖU" and sends telegrams from Lasnamäe, Tallinn to recipients all over the world, believes he will not find himself out of work just yet.

Telegram messages (the old-fashioned type) sent from one part of the world to another, often make a stopover in Lasnamäe, Tallinn on their way. A telegram sent from Tokyo for instance, may first go to London, then Tallinn, before being forwarded to Moscow and finally ending up with its intended recipient in North Korea. The entire trip around the world can be completed in just five minutes.

Though telegrams are being sent less and less often nowadays, Aleksander Sahan, still expects to have plenty of work to do for the time being.

When a Belgian postal company stopped sending telegrams five years ago for instance, Portuguese users, who had previously sent messages via Brussels, instead began routing them through Telegraf ÕU in Tallinn. "A lot of Italians and Serbs as well as French and Canadian people also send them," said Sahan.

According to Sahan, there are a number of reasons why people in developed countries still opt to send telegrams. "Maybe there had a mobile phone, which had (contact) numbers on it, but it's been broken or lost and now there's no way of contacting someone. However, if you can remember (someone's) address, you can send a telegram and restore those contacts," he explained.

To send a telegram, all you need to know is the recipient's address. Sahan recently sent a congratulatory telegram from a user in Kyrgyzstan to someone in Lithuania, for instance, which finished with a request for the recipient to "Skype me."

Telegrams are also used to send messages of condolence, as they are considered as official documents during visa issuing processes.

Three years ago, an English company offered Sahan the opportunity to also start transmitting messages from his Lasnamäe office via telex, a station-to-station two-way text-based messaging system, which had its heyday in the post-World War 2 era, before declining in popularity following the emergence of the fax machine.

At the time he was approached, only around 30 companies were using telex services to, while now, as many as 80 use Sahan's services in Lasnamäe to communicate.

"Telex is the same (type of) telegraphic connection, which businesses and companies (can) use (to communicate) between themselves. They can connect directly to each other and send all kinds of information," Sahan said.

While in the past telegrams were mainly used to enable communication between those the mainland and those on ships out at sea, nowadays Sahan's main customers are banks.

"Most of them are small banks that don't want to use SWIFT or for whom using SWIFT is too expensive. Most of our customers are in very exotic countries like Vanuatu or Borneo. Australia is not a very exotic country, but it is a really big user (of the telegram service)," explained Sahan.

According to Sahan, the only country to which it is not possible to send telegrams is Mongolia, where, unlike in North Korea, there is no one on the ground who can deliver the messages.

Speaking of North Korea, Sahan said, that telegrams are being sent there. However, so far, Sahan has not noticed any messages coming in the opposite direction.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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