Estonian political parties and policies from a 'Western' viewpoint: Part 1

13.11.18 ... Trying to keep on top of the movements of the political parties in Estonia can be a bit like herding the proverbial cats at times, particularly now we're in election season. From an "anglophone"* perspective, there are plenty of parties — around nine in all, three in government, three in opposition and three more potentially winning a few seats in March. This compares with three and a half parties in Britain (UKIP is the "half"), outside of Northern Ireland, plus the two major Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties. Or the two perennial players in the US, with a population about 250 times that of Estonia.

Day in the Life: Kristjan the university project manager

10.11.18 ... I've reached a point where I can't imagine ever going back to a 9-to-5 that requires me to be at my desk all day. While the high season involves responding to a lot of small fires, so to speak, on campus, my job has also taken me to Sakha in Siberia and the deserts of Tajikistan. My name is Kristjan Klauks, and I am a project manager at the University of Tartu Narva College.

B1 Estonian exam, Part 1: Citizenship condition and practical experience

06.11.18 ... I'm taking the B1 Estonian language exam soon so it might be useful to journal those experiences, such as they are, not for their own sake, but as a practical how-to for others planning on taking any Estonian level exam. An additional reason is the particular level I'm taking is the minimum threshold for those applying for citizenship (not that I am). This will be a good way of testing how practical the benchmark is, on the grounds that if I can do it, anyone can. Or, should I fail, we can revisit claims that the level is too difficult. So here follows part one, of three.

Interview: Riina Sikkut on health, labour, equality and her role

05.11.18 ... Of Estonia's ministerial roles, all 16 of them, that of Health and Labour gets sidelined compared with more "glamorous" positions like defence, foreign affairs, finance, or justice.* It tends to get politicised around election time, often skewered by opponents for costing too much in taxation (via the health and unemployment insurance funds) yet paradoxically presiding over underfunded or ineffective systems.

Do they really have to choose? Estonian citizenship explained in detail

04.11.18 ... The case of the Rutto family from Abkhazia, who lost their claim to Estonian citizenship following a recent Supreme Court ruling, has brought the issue of Estonian citizenship back into the media. Though the Rutto case concerns the matter of citizenship by birth, reactions have included other aspects as well, demonstrating once again how confusing the provisions of Estonia's Citizenship Act can be. What follows is an attempt to untangle things, strictly following the law: an overview of Estonian citizenship, who is entitled to it, who cannot lose it, who can, and why.

The Eesti Kontsert saga and the opacity of state appointments in Estonia

01.11.18 ... Now that MP Laine Randjärv (Reform) is assuredly not to be the next head of the Eesti Kontsert Foundation, it's useful to examine the story so far, what went wrong, who said what to whom and so on — though on another criterion than newsworthiness in the normal understanding.

Day in the Life: Simo the analytical chemist

27.10.18 ... When I was still in grade school, I thought it'd be interesting to do something for a living when I grew up that not everyone wants to do. Now that I work in a research and development lab, no two days are alike. My name is Simo Lõo, and I am an analytical chemist at Cambrex Tallinn.

Moscow-Constantinople split highlighting Estonia's role in Orthodox church

21.10.18 ... Triggered by a dispute on religious authority over Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church broke off all ties with Constantinople on Monday, 15 October. This step potentially marks one of the biggest ruptures in Christian history.

Day in the Life: Kersti the flautist

20.10.18 ... Younger me would likely be surprised by my life today, but so are many of my peers. Even my old university classmates would ask, "Do you actually earn money doing this?" Some were surprised I played that well. But I earn a living today doing what my family has done for generations — I play an instrument. My name is Kersti Perandi, and I am a flautist in the Vanemuine Symphony Orchestra.

Interview: Vahur Afanasjev's tribute to a fading culture

15.10.18 ... Vahur Afanasjev is a multifaceted man who has written poetry as well as prose, produced films, performed music, and dabbled in many other creative arts. Time and again, these activities have landed him in Estonia's spotlight. Yet when his novel Serafima and Bogdan was published last year, it became resoundingly clear that Afanasjev is a writer above all – and a fantastic one at that. The novel first won the Estonian Writers' Union's Novel Competition and then, this spring, received the most esteemed local literary prize: the Cultural Endowment of Estonia's Award for Prose. To top it off, the work has been highly acclaimed and is currently being translated into English for publishing in the UK. Serafima and Bogdan is a pan-generational story about the lives of Russian Orthodox Old Believers inhabiting the western shore of Lake Peipus. It endeavors to determine the driving forces behind revenge and violence, as well as to comprehend what man's role is here on earth.

Gallery: Students primary force behind excavation of medieval Kalamaja find

14.10.18 ... Earlier this year, news broke of an extraordinary find of medieval artifacts in Tallinn — not in the famous Old Town, but outside of its walls, in what is the now trendy district of Kalamaja. The thousands of artifacts uncovered at the construction site of the new Mündriku Residents complex at Jahu 6/Väike-Patarei 1 have since reached the hands of the Estonian History Museum, among others, but just two months ago, the priceless objects were still being dug up and bagged up by hand — by students.

Day in the Life: Erle the hatmaker

13.10.18 ... Some people work to afford their hobbies. Some work to get by but harbour dreams of doing something else. Some work just to get by. I am lucky enough to be able to combine all three and realise my dream of owning a small business and making a living doing what I love. My name is Erle Rander, and I am the owner of Ardiisia Hat Studio in Tartu.

How does the electoral system in Estonia work?

09.10.18 ... With two elections happening in Estonia next spring, at the national level in March followed by European elections in May, questions about how the system works and who can vote are inevitable. The electoral system in Estonia is not especially complicated, and similar to those of many other European nations. However it is radically different from those in the UK or US for instance, so let's take an overview, focusing primarily on the general election to the Riigikogu.

Saaremaa residents recall Estonia's first collective farm with tenderness

03.10.18 ... Recent University of Tartu graduate Aivo Põlluäär writes about life on Estonia's first kolkhoz*, or Soviet collective farm. The folklorist and local researcher's interest in the Viktor Kingissepp Kolkhoz in Saaremaa goes beyond research subject, however — his parents also met and fell in love there.

INTERVIEW: World-famous opera tenor José Cura on new Tallinn production

20.09.18 ... This month, Tallinn's Opera and Ballet House (Rahvusooper) finds time in its permanently frenetic schedule to host a new production of La fanciulla del West, by Puccini. Set in the old American West, it deserves to be as familiar as La bohème and Madama Butterfly, or, for hitherto opera ignorati such as myself, even simply Nessun Dorma as it accompanied Paul Gascoigne's crying at the 1990 World Cup Finals.*

Finance authority: Denmark knew about Danske risk in 2012

17.09.18 ... The Financial Supervision Authority (FI) relayed suspicions about Danske Bank transactions in Estonia to the Danish head office in 2012, it says. Following an FI inspection in 2014, Danske was obliged to curtail non-resident accounts with the Estonian branch, though neither this nor word from the Danish authorities happened quickly.

INTERVIEW: Tallinna Vesi CEO makes Tallinn water even more transparent

15.09.18 ... Utility company Eesti Energia may hold more media headlines, with its wind farm acquisitions, green energy and charges of monopoly behaviour. But there is another utility – not nationwide and with a smaller turnover, but still providing for one third of the Estonian population with an absolute essential, water – which merits a closer look.

Major artists support worldwide, Estonia-inspired cleanup day

13.09.18 ... World Cleanup Day (WCD) 2018 on Saturday, 15 September sees music stars join millions worldwide, getting their hands dirty, as well as performing and spreading the message, with input from ERR News too.

FEATURE | Interview with the Kalamaja archaeological time team

01.09.18 ... This summer, what would appear to be just another Tallinn construction site became something of a celebrated case as the preliminary digging work led to the discovery of a wealth of mostly domestic artefacts from the late middle ages. The find, in Tallinn's Kalamaja district, effectively filled in a gap in knowledge about society in Estonia in the 15th century.

Inside look at the Russian propaganda factory as it operates in Estonia

30.08.18 ... A 2016 arrest by Estonian intelligence agents of a 55-year-old citizen of the Russian Federation led to the discovery of a whole trail of electronic communications, giving us a glimpse of just how Russian Federation-funded sites, masquerading as news, operate as well as some of the figures involved in their finance.

Accommodation discrimination: Does racism in Tallinn rental market exist?

26.08.18 ... ''Is Estonia a racist place?'' is a question which has been repeatedly raised on expat online forums recently, with claims arising that this is indeed the case in the apartment rental market and expats living in Estonia often reporting getting rejected by a potential landlord/lady. Those commenting sometimes state their belief that this rejection is due to the colour of their skin. A recent piece on online magazine Estonian World condensed some of these reported experiences. But comments sections often generate more heat than light, so how do we go about sifting the facts from the feelings?

Thirty years on, Estonian-Irish relations continue to flower

21.08.18 ... It was thirty years ago this year that a small group of Irish musicians made their way to Estonia to take part in one of the most extraordinary, not to mention one of the first, albeit unofficial recognitions of Estonia as a (potentially) independent nation.

Ragnar Klavan and the leaving of Liverpool: To Cagliari for €2 million

18.08.18 ... Liverpool's loss is Cagliari's gain it seems, as the Sardinian team sign star Estonian defender Ragnar Klavan for €2 million. Angelo Palmeri gives us the details about what to some of us might look like an interesting direction in Klavan's career.

Trump's tariffs and their potential effects on Estonia

09.08.18 ... "Trade wars are good, and easy to win," so tweeted US President Donald Trump at the beginning of March this year, thus commencing a round of tit-for-tat tariff-imposing between the US and, well, most of its trade partners. But will this affect Estonia and if so, how much?

Expat problems: 'Does anybody know where I can find Pho Bo in Estonia?'

08.08.18 ... For many foreigners/expats/immigrants, call them what you will, living in Estonia, particuarly if they don't speak Estonian well, can be frustrating. Knowing where to find an English-speaking doctor or dentist when they are sick, or where to find a good lawyer, plumber or electrician, how the public transport system works – even such esoteric worries as where the best Vietnamese Pho Bo is to be had in town, can be far from clear. Fortunately Deniss Peld, himself formerly an expat who was living in Berlin, and a native of Estonia, has set up a helpful website which can answer all these questions and more. We asked Deniss about the site, his motivation for setting it up and how he sees it developing in the future.

'No (stateless) person, no problem?': An interview with Yana Toom MEP

04.08.18 ... I arrive slightly early for my interview with Yana Toom at her constituency office in a fashionable street in central Tallinn, only to find out that she has beaten me to it and is already there. A very tall woman, easily recognisable thanks to her distinctive russet hair, she is wilting in the current heatwave in Tallinn just as much as I am and we go out for a pre-interview cigarette on the office balcony (''I'm just a summer smoker'' I say, not very convincingly).

Feature: Behind the European Intervention Initiative

05.07.18 ... Last year, 25 of the EU's 28 member states committed to the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) scheme, spurring a wide array of specific military projects and investment pledges, French President Emmanuel Macron's European Intervention Initiative being one of them.

"It's the rules, stupid!" Estonia and EU financial framework negotiations

02.07.18 ... The European Union is currently in the early stages of its negotiations about the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the 2021-2027 period. Though funding may be received through new priorities, co-financing rules are a source of worry for the Baltic states, and especially to Estonia.

Video: Overnight storm causes floods in Tallinn streets, damage to TV house

22.06.18 ... Last night saw a storm in the Tallinn area which wrought havoc with transport and even contributed to curtailing the last few minutes of ETV's broadcast of the Argentina-Croatia World Cup football match.

Netherlands recruits Baltic states to compensate for effects of Brexit

12.06.18 ... The Netherlands is building new coalitions within the EU to compensate for the loss of the UK as the union's main free trade champion, and has found partners in the Baltic states. At the same time, a domestic policy issue involving gas supplies and the Dutch stance on Russia have the potential to put what has been dubbed the New Hanseatic League to the test.

In case of crisis, NATO lacking capability to quickly move troops eastwards

08.06.18 ... While NATO is working to establish a "credible deterrent" on its eastern flank, swift and large-scale allied troop movements across Europe currently aren't possible. The infrastructure as well as the planning capacity of the Cold War is largely gone and now needs to be rebuilt step by step, an overview presented at the Dutch Ministry of Defence showed.

Faroe Islands look to Estonian example setting up own e-government system

14.05.18 ... The Faroe Islands are an archipelago of 18 tiny and remote islands in the North Atlantic. An autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, which already has an e-state of its own in place, they decided in favour of Estonia"s approach—for technological as well as political reasons, writes Richard Martyn-Hemphill.

Macron, Merkel in the White House: Back to basics

08.05.18 ... French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were both in Washington D.C. recently, on visits to the White House. Whereas President Macron was greeted with a lavish state reception, Chancellor Merkel’s visit was a modest working visit.

Social Democrats challenging the status quo now a matter of survival

22.04.18 ... What seemed to be just an option has now become a necessity. Coming up with proposals for real change appears to be the only way for Social-Democratic parties not to disappear in an ever larger undifferentiated political center. Both in Germany and in Estonia, the current phase of transition will determine the fortunes of SPD and SDE in the coming months.

Feature: Ruussaar in Eastern Ukraine, Part 4 | Corruption

31.03.18 ... ERR's Ainar Ruussaar traveled to Eastern Ukraine in February this year as part of a training program for local journalists. In the fourth and last article of his series, Ruussaar talks about an aspect of Ukrainian life that has decisively affected the country's fate as well as its reputation: corruption.

Feature: Ruussaar in Eastern Ukraine, Part 3 | Mariupol

25.03.18 ... In the third feature of his four-part travel series, ERR's Ainar Ruussaar describes his destination, Mariupol, a historic city, resort town on the Sea of Azov, and industrial center all in one.

Feature: Ruussaar in Eastern Ukraine, Part 2 | On the train

18.03.18 ... ERR's Ainar Ruussaar traveled to Eastern Ukraine in February as part of a training program for local journalists. This is the second of his four-part report on his trip, in which he talks about his journey from Tallinn to Mariupol. ERR News is publishing Ruussaar's account of the situation in the area over the next few weekends.

Feature: Ruussaar in Eastern Ukraine, Part 1 | War

11.03.18 ... ERR's Ainar Ruussaar traveled to Eastern Ukraine in February as part of a training program for local journalists. ERR News is publishing Ruussaar's account of the situation in the area over the next few weekends. This is the first of four parts, where he describes his arrival in the Mariupol area.

Feature: Why the radical right is here to stay

04.03.18 ... If there is one thing we can take for granted after the rise of the radical right in Europe is that the populist parties are here to stay. To understand the exclusive relationship between the people and these factions, we have to look beyond the mere politics of scaremongering and unveil the asymmetries of a dislocated class conflict.

Riigikogu thanks those instrumental to state's creation, preservation

22.02.18 ... The Riigikogu adopted a declaration on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia on Thursday to thank all those who were instrumental to the creation, defense, preservation, and restoration of the Estonian state.

Feature: The case for a progressive income tax in Estonia

18.02.18 ... Estonia’s income tax scheme based on a flat rate worked well during the boom years. But as EU structural support payments are about to shrink, the government is looking for new sources of revenue, and inequality is growing, it is time Estonia considered coming up with a progressive income tax of its own, Federico Plantera writes.

Part 3: First blood spilled for sovereign Estonia on Feb. 25

17.02.18 ... In the third and final part of a special three-part series dedicated to the pivotal events of Feb. 23-25, 1918, Piret Kriivan, host of Vikerraadio's "Estonia's Story," spoke with Tallinn City Archives director Küllo Arjakas about the events of Feb. 25, including what was arguably the first battle fought in defense of the newly independent Republic of Estonia.

Feature: Crimea and Ukraine's role in ongoing disinformation campaigns

15.02.18 ... To talk about a new multipolar world order and current threats to global security without mentioning the annexation of Crimea is the same as using a compass that indicates only three of the four cardinal directions, Oleh Pokalchuk and Marina Dadinova write in a recent piece for the International Centre for Defence and Security.

Feature: Four pitfalls of digital innovation

11.02.18 ... We live in what is arguably the world's foremost digital state. Innovation and digitization have been widely used almost synonymously with Estonia. But while the promoters of e-Estonia are only slowly beginning to realize it, the narrative is already wearing thin.

Part 2: Salvation Committee begins issuing orders on Feb. 24

10.02.18 ... In the second part of a special three-part series dedicated to the pivotal events of Feb. 23-25, 1918, Piret Kriivan, host of Vikerraadio's "Estonia's Story," spoke with University of Tartu Associate Professor of Estonian History Ago Pajur about the events of Feb. 24, including how German troops marched on Tallinn and Tartu even as copies of the Estonian Declaration of Independence continued to spread across the country.

Part 1: Estonian independence proclaimed in Pärnu on Feb. 23

03.02.18 ... In the first part of a special three-part series dedicated to the pivotal events of Feb. 23-25, 1918, Piret Kriivan, host of the Vikerraadio program "Estonia's Story," spoke with Pärnu Museum director Aldur Vunk about the events of Feb. 23, including the details surrounding the first proclamation of Estonian independence that night in Pärnu.

Blue Awakening: The next generation of Estonian nationalists

15.01.18 ... Nov. 30, 2017 marked the fifth anniversary of the youth organization of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), Sinine Ӓratus ("Blue Awakening"). Blue Awakening was founded and is currently led by Tartu city councillor and EKRE board member, Ruuben Kaalep. Although EKRE is a relatively new party, founded only in 2012, they are growing rapidly and have come in third in Estonia's monthly party ratings.

Michael Kofman: What actually happened during Zapad 2017

23.12.17 ... German tabloid Bild reported earlier this week that in its Zapad 2017 exercises, Russia ran scenarios that included an invasion of the Baltic states, Poland, Finland, Sweden, and Norway, and bombing Germany. Security and defense expert and global fellow at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, Michael Kofman, provides a more realistic account of what Russia's military exercises actually were.

November 1917: Estonian Provincial Assembly declares itself supreme power

28.11.17 ... Following the October Revolution, the Estonian Provincial Assembly declared itself the supreme power in the Governorate of Estonia on Nov. 28, 1917. This marked the beginning of Estonia's political struggle for independence, and also the violent backlash the country would face over the following years.

The specter of Red October still haunts the Baltic states

07.11.17 ... The Baltic states followed a unique trajectory following the October Revolution, breaking free from Bolshevik power and enjoying two decades of independence. When Sovietization finally arrived, the region’s peoples responded by leading double lives. It was a tactic that ultimately played an important role in hastening the Soviet Union’s demise.

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