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Rein Lang: The icy breath of Russkiy Mir

Rein Lang.
Rein Lang. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Rein Lang points to manifestations of the Russkiy Mir in Tallinn and elsewhere. The icing on the cake was a light pavilion reminiscent of the dome of an Orthodox church in Tammsaare Park, which the city believes is not a suitable location for a national opera annex, Lang finds.

Russian dance music rang out in Tallinn's medieval Town Hall Square on New Year's Eve. This greatly irritated the Chuds' (a term historically applied in the early East Slavic annals to several Finnic peoples in the area of what is now Estonia, Karelia and northwestern Russia and a derogatory term for Estonians – ed.) newspapers. With good reason. It even caused a zemstvo councilman to let the mayor have it. The funniest explanation-excuse was delivered by City Center starosta Monika Haukanõmm – freedom of speech, znayete. For some reason I was reminded of the "Tujurikkuja" bit about a family being overjoyed when told they're being deported as it means a free trip with the kids.

I looked around but could not detect a public outcry over Tallinn's Christmas decorations. The cold and tasteless sparkle of lights and peculiar shapes turned Tallinn into a copy of a random Russian city. The only things missing were red-nosed Ded Morozes surrounded by salacious Snegurochkas. I suppose they didn't fit the budget.

The icing on the cake was a light pavilion reminiscent of the dome of an Orthodox church in Tammsaare Park, which the city believes is not a suitable location for a national opera annex. I suppose it is being saved as the future location of a Moscow Orthodox khram.

This decorative horror doesn't just last for a few minutes but rather works to stuff our consciousness with the aesthetics of the Russkiy Mir for months on end. Krasivo! And no one seems to take issue, or if they do, it is done quietly. We also hear no criticism of Old Town merchants still peddling matryoshka dolls and plastic disguised as amber as souvenirs supposedly befitting an old Hanseatic League city. As far as I'm aware, the Center Party and Mihhail Kõlvart are not ruling alone in the capital. Where are you, Kaarel Oja and Madle Lippus? Sotsial-demokraty?

The New Year's TV shows were a cheap copy of the Goluboy ogonyok of Soviet – or rather Russkiy Mir – culture. Gold, tinsel, champagne and poor estrade gushed from the TV set, smelling of money.

I'm reminded of an old joke about a Russian newly-rich bragging to his friend how he spent $500 on a new tie only to be told, "Fool. You could have had one for a thousand just around the corner." I guess we'll try to spend more next year.

The Russkiy Mir bloomed and rejoiced. Novyy god arrived with a bang. But why weren't we shown the movie "The Irony of Fate" beloved by laborers, peasants and NEPmen everywhere. There is room for development, comrades. Besides, the staryy novyy god is still ahead. The solution lies in the government's resignation.

It is customary to make predictions when a new year starts. I would take this opportunity to repeat a question I asked in a December 31 talk show. Which political force will propose normalizing Estonia-Russia relations in 2024 and which media channel will become a stout proponent of it? After all, the Treaty of Tartu was signed against the wishes of the West. We're still sosedi. Those who get the answer right get a chance to win a pickle.

Rein Lang (Reform Party) has been a media businessman and held the posts of justice and culture minister.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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