Talvo Rüütelmaa, director of the Traffic Control Unit of the Tallinn Transport Department, shared photos on social media of costumed officials taken at a Tallinn City Government event. While Rüütelmaa maintains he was simply dressed up as a miner, many commenters believed his costume, in which all of his exposed skin was painted black, to be racist.
Raepress confirmed that the photos in question were taken at the Tallinn City Government's summer days event, which took place from 29-30 June at Nelijärve Holiday Centre.
The summer days' lighthearted program was dedicated to celebrating the 100th birthday of the Republic of Estonia, and invited to the birthday celebration were the country's best-known companies. Each government department drew lots to determine which company they would represent at the event, and the Transport Department thus came dressed up as miners, representing the Estonian Mining Museum.
Despite this, Rüütelmaa captioned a photo in which he posed together with Tallinn Deputy Mayor Aivar Riisalu (Centre) "Integration :)", drawing the ire of a number of commenters.
"Talvo Rüütelmaa, are you really unaware of the history of blackface, are you just that ignorant?" asked illustrator Katrina Indiana.
Rüütelmaa responded under the post, explaining that he had dressed himself up as a miner for the event.
"We had a tent set up with mining gear, and on this photo, a good miner and a politician are integrating," explained the city official. "It is very welcome to see that a politician does not despise being photographed with a representative of a difficult trade. In my opinion, miners' work is honourable and difficult and it should be given more attention. All other interpretations and labels are arbitrary and only demonstrate the degree of the arbitrary viewer's own depravity."
Editor: Aili Vahtla