Feature

Interview: NATO commander on challenges of role in Estonia

17.03.19 ... Having already interviewed some of the personnel from the 1 YORKS battle group, the third such battle group to form, together with its NATO allies, the core of the alliance's Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP), it made sense to catch up with the commander of the eFP, Col Giles Harris, formerly of the Welsh Guards. I was very privileged to be able to do just that, at the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) HQ in Tallinn, providing a great opportunity to colour-in further the picture of what the British-led eFP does here, its aspirations and its day-to-day activities.

Day in the Life: Raivo the blacksmith

16.03.19 ... After decades of working for someone else, being your own boss, while it demands discipline, is very rewarding, especially when you can use it as a means of promoting your people, your language, your history and your culture. My name is Raivo Jänesmägi, and I am a Seto blacksmith.

Interview: British soldiers with NATO Battle Group reflect on job well done

12.03.19 ... Estonia has been a NATO member since 2004, but only in recent years has any of that become more visible to most people. With US troops first arriving in 2014, the impetus grew after the 2016 Warsaw Summit's decision to strengthen NATO's eastern presence in the Baltic States and Poland. Within a space of time which might make Brexit negotiators, on both sides, hang their heads in shame, the Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) and its principal base at Tapa became reality in 2017.

What happens to UK citizens in Estonia post-Brexit? Essential FAQs answered

20.12.18 ... Given the level of concern amongst UK citizens living, working and studying in Estonia on the possible effects of Brexit, we thought it useful to put together some FAQs on what will and won't change, from the perspective of the relevant government ministries and other authorities. Please note this is an article which first appeared on 20 December 2018, updated to reflect developments surrouding Brexit since then, principally in questions 3), 5), 10) and 11).

Day in the Life: Roland the young chef

24.02.19 ... My daily reality does not actually involve serving the President of Estonia and her thousand guests and dignitaries hors d'oeuvres, although this year marks the second time I've done just that on Independence Day. On a typical week, I'm actually kept busy juggling my studies at the Tallinn School of Service and my job working in my dad's kitchen at a hotel restaurant in Pärnu. My name is Roland Visnapuu, and I am a young chef.

The Long Road to Laulu- ja Tantsupidu, Part 1: North America

24.02.19 ... Over 6,000km and the Atlantic Ocean stand between North America and the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, but until 1990, it was the Iron Curtain that rendered the Estonian Song and Dance Festival completely unreachable to diaspora singers and dancers. This year, more than a dozen diaspora Estonian choirs and folk dance troupes from the US and Canada alone are trying out for a chance to perform in the double-jubilee festival, and even those who don't speak the language know at least three words: Laulu- ja Tantsupidu.

Opinion: There is nothing patriotic about fake news

13.02.19 ... It turns out that it was all made up. The two Estonian men attacking a foreign woman in Tallinn, throwing rocks at her and her dog, shouting "Go home, foreigner", in English. Founder and CEO of Jobbatical Karoli Hindriks, once she heard the story from someone she refers to as a friend, took the chance to write a lengthy post reporting the case and addressing how "Estonia has become angry", an unfriendly place towards foreigners who come here to work, contribute to our economy, and pay taxes.

Day in the Life: Tarmo the administrative manager

16.02.19 ... There are some jobs where your job title just doesn't sum up what you actually do on a day-to-day basis. What would you call someone whose workday could easily include repairing medieval props on one floor of a nine-storey tower, typing away at a keyboard in a tiny, off-limits office on another, and setting up to DJ an evening event in the Glass Gallery off a third? My name is Tarmo Põldroo, and I am the administrative manager at the Time Centre Wittenstein in Paide.

Liisa Past: Online voting fits into lively Estonian digital ecosystem

13.02.19 ... While its implementation seems to remain a farfetched idea in other countries despite increased digitalisation in other areas, online voting, also known as e-voting or i-voting, dates back to 2005 already in Estonia, where it is right at home in a society where banking, prescriptions and other services have long since largely gone digital as well.

Representatives of seven Estonian parties take part in Toronto town hall

13.02.19 ... On Sunday, 10 February, representatives of seven Estonian political parties participated in a town hall discussion at the Toronto Estonian House in the run-up to the 3 March Riigikogu elections. The discussion focussed on how the Estonian government might better engage with Estonians and their communities across the globe, and how to maintain and strengthen their connections to Estonia and their Estonian identity.

More than Russian or Estonian: Narva through the eyes of its own people

04.02.19 ... From government meetings and foreign media to Facebook groups filled with diaspora Estonians, Narva and its famously majority Russian-speaking population are popular hot topics that are typically magnets for strong feelings. Often, however, certain centrally important voices are conspicuously absent from these discussions: those of Narva residents themselves. ERR News' Aili Vahtla took two days last week to travel to Narva and speak to some of its people directly — about themselves, their lives, and their city.

Day in the Life: Tanel the history teacher

03.02.19 ... While I spend my summer holidays running a 17th Century pharmacy at a castle located right on the northeastern border of both NATO and the EU, during the rest of the year I'm more likely to be found teaching about that same century to children of a linguistic minority in Estonia's largest majority Russian-speaking city. My name is Tanel Mazur, and I am a history teacher at Narva Estonian Upper Secondary School (NEG).

Day in the Life: The Muradyan family, the cafe owners

26.01.19 ... The days are often long, and things can get very busy, especially during the lunch rush, but nothing is more satisfying than plates all but licked clean coming back to the kitchen, and our wonderful and supportive customers. And, of course, working together as a team. We are the Muradyan family, and we are the owners and sole employees of Cafe Smile in Tartu.

The strange case of Andres Anvelt

25.01.19 ... Former interior minister Andres Anvelt's links to businessman Anton Ger as highlighted again in the media, a man who around a decade ago faced charges of large-scale money laundering, may not have resulted in any wrong-doing. However, the timing of his leaving the role, not to mention the cause, has resulted in plenty of speculation, not least in a piece in weekly Eesti Ekspress dated 23 January.

ERR election broadcasting regulations overview

23.01.19 ... Public broadcaster ERR is on its general elections regime between now and polling day on 3 March, and its coverage will be in line with these regulations, explains ERR ombudsman Tarmu Tammerk.

Day in the Life: Heiki the senior border guard officer

19.01.19 ... The Border Guard was re-established in Estonia even before the country's independence was formally restored, and I was there in uniform from day one. Even after the 2010 merger establishing the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), I, like many of the other veteran members, have remained first and foremost an officer in green at heart. My name is Heiki Suomalainen, and I am a senior border guard officer at the Mustvee Border Guard Station.

Day in the Life: Tiit the sport facilities manager

13.01.19 ... One might think that, in terms of ski conditions, the more snow in the forecast, the better. The night before a major cross-country event, however, it's sometimes better to cross your fingers that the trails you and your team spent days prepping and grooming to standard don't see another centimetre. My name is Tiit Tammemäe, and I am the manager of sport facilities at Tehvandi Sports Center.

B1 Estonian exam, Part 3: Certificate and conclusion

03.01.19 ... I recently took the B1 Estonian language exam, primarily because it was simply there and doesn't cost any money, but also to investigate how practical setting that level as the citizenship benchmark is.

Opinion: Estonia 200 leader means well, but could actions benefit EKRE?

02.01.19 ... Kristina Kallas, chair of fledgling political party Estonia 200, which will be contesting its first ever general election a couple of months from now, raised some interesting points in a recent opinion piece where she set out Estonia 200's in opposition to the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

Christmas interview with Archbishop Urmas Viilma

23.12.18 ... Archbishop Urmas Viilma has been head of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) for four years, ample experience to draw on his reflections on the church, the largest denomination in the country by attendance.

Day in the Life: Risto the sausage cutter operator

22.12.18 ... When Estonian families sit down to their Christmas dinners next week, many of their tables will include traditional staples like liver pâté and the popular holiday favourite blood sausage. While some still make their own, I make sure that their store-bought versions taste just right. My name is Risto Veinglas, and I am a sausage cutter operator at Nõo Lihatööstus Meat Processing Plant.

E-Residency 2.0: Paradigm shift, hidden in bland new white paper

18.12.18 ... The e-Residency programme introduced its new white paper on Tuesday, outlining the next steps to be taken in Estonia's extension of its state services to non-physical residents. While the paper itself is rather on the bland side, offering little new information, the implications are in fact considerable, as two of the programme's masterminds explained to ERR News.

Day in the Life: Maiu the working student

15.12.18 ... Most people who know me associate me with my passion for hiking, and some might even think I somehow make a living doing that full time. In reality, I have a full-time office job in Pärnu, and four days per month I travel to Tallinn, where I am studying graphic design — also full time, but via distance learning — at the Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences (EUAS). On top of a few side hustles. My name is Maiu Lünekund, and I am a working student.

Interview: Researcher on Faroese e-Government and the Estonian experience

12.12.18 ... Being a small, northern country once ruled over by Scandinavians, Estonians are in an ideal position to bring their e-government know-how to their distant cousins strung out across the North Atlantic, on the Faroe Islands. This is by no means, however, a one-way street, but more of a crossroads — or rather an X-Road, given Estonia's name for its widely-known interoperability solution — with Estonia benefiting just as much from the symbiotic relationship.

Toronto Estonian community to open new centre in 2021

09.12.18 ... On Saturday afternoon, the Toronto Estonian House, located at 958 Broadview Avenue, hosted An Estonian Christmas, known in Estonian as Rahvajõulupuu, complete with children's choirs, folk dancing and Estonian Christmas fare. Not for the last time — yet. But beginning in 2021, the Toronto Estonian community's largest holiday celebration will be held in a new space — the new International Estonian Centre in Toronto's downtown Annex neighbourhood, which is expected to open that May.

Day in the Life: Jaanek the ceramics sales manager

08.12.18 ... In a world where you can walk into any store and buy any number of fancy pots and pans or other home goods, it's not every day that a customer can come into your work and show you an item made by your company that is older than you are, and survived World War II no less. I take pride in being part of a family carrying on a hometown legacy that is over 130 years old. My name is Jaanek Kurs, and I am the sales manager at Siimusti Ceramics.

Day in the Life: Kreete the spa shift supervisor

01.12.18 ... Despite being born and raised in the summer capital of Estonia, my ideal beach season is only just arriving, as I am an avid winter swimmer. In the middle of the country's most famous resort town, this activity is my way of unwinding between shifts coordinating rest and relaxation for our many guests. My name is Kreete Kubre, and I am a spa shift supervisor at Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa in Pärnu.

B1 Estonian exam, Part 2: Coordination, conversation and coffee

28.11.18 ... I took the Estonian B1 test — the level required for obtaining Estonian citizenship — a couple of weeks ago after explaining my motivations in another piece, so here are my reflections on the experience. I have to say it was certainly worth it. A useful rule of thumb calls to mind the old "ask a woman how many men she's slept with and multiply it by three to get the true figure; ask a man the same and divide by three" principle.

Feature: Russia playing long game in Kerch Strait, Mariupol

28.11.18 ... Russia's military action against Ukraine's relatively small, modestly equipped navy demonstrates once again demonstrates Moscow's unwillingness to solve problems smartly, Rein Oidekivi and Dmitri Teperik of the International Centre for Defence and Security write. Instead, Russia purposely chooses tactics of aggression and intimidation.

Day in the Life: Loone the train conductor

24.11.18 ... A typical two-day work cycle may see me travel hundreds of kilometres of track, sometimes just within Tallinn and the rest of Harju County, other times across the country and back. The job involves lots of human interaction, which I love, and between journeys I have downtime during which I can read, for example, which I do voraciously. My name is Loone Astula, and I am a train conductor for the Estonian passenger train operator Elron.

Actor reads through entire UN Global Migration Compact, takes 2 hours

23.11.18 ... The UN Global Migrant Compact has been at the centre of much heated political debate in Estonia over the last week and a half, to put it mildly. But who has actually read the document – which was not even translated into Estonian until recently? One person who most assuredly has not scrimepd on the issue is actor Gert Raudsep, who read through the entire text as part of ETV's ''Ringvaate'' broadcast on Thursday, a task which took him over two hours to complete.

Sten Tamkivi: Behind every migrant stat lies a human being, not a threat

23.11.18 ... The desire to raise barbed wire and walls, first as mental barriers, followed by physical ones, would corral the Lithuanian basketball player together with the ISIS bomber, says entrepreneur Sten Tamkivi on the recent controversy surrounding the UN Global Migration Compact. Mr Tamkivi has headed up or founded companies which employ many staff members from outside Estonia, so here follows his take on the episode.

Juhan Kivirähk: Politicians credibility main consideration for voters

21.11.18 ... The most important criterion for voters at election time is trustworthiness of individual politicians, writes Juhan Kivirähk, with party names, slogans and manifestos secondary to that.

Birgit Aasa: Politicians and scientists both liable on UN compact discourse

20.11.18 ... There is an important neglected aspect of the UN Migration Compact controversy, which culminated in a government crisis last week: The fact that opinions of two highly regarded legal scholars on the binding nature of the compact were both initiators and crucial deciding factors in the public and political discourse, and that these opinions were contrasted with opposing claims of other legal experts. Birgit Aasa, attorney and PhD candidate at the European University Institute takes a look at the debate, focussing on the onus on experts presenting themselves as such in being impartial, refraining from oversimplifying complex social phenomena, and not colouring statements with personal opinion.

Kristi Raik: UN Compact and foreign policy sour grapes

19.11.18 ... While the UN Global Compact on Migration has very limited direct relevance for Estonia, a refusal to endorse it would undermine the country's reputation, relationship with its allies and partners, as well as multilateral cooperation, writes Kristi Raik, Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS).

Toomas Hendrik Ilves on Latvian centenary: We are all Livonians together

19.11.18 ... Former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has issued the following congratulatory message, on Latvia reaching its 100th birthday as an independent nation, which it did on Sunday.

Sildam: Government crisis Ratas greatest challenge as PM so far

19.11.18 ... The government crisis sparked by controversy around the UN Global Migration Framework came as unexpectedly as the first snowfall of winter, writes senior political correspondent Toomas Sildam. His opinion piece on the episode follows.

Estonian political parties and policies overview: Part 2

18.11.18 ... With the Estonian general election taking place on 3 March 2019, parties are already in the advanced stages of gearing up for polling day. Official manifestos are crystallising, prime candidates nationwide have been announced by most of the major parties, and outdoor and other advertising is starting to pop up.

Sildam: The tripartite coalition is over

17.11.18 ... The likelihood of the ruling Centre Party being able to put together a new, workable coalition in the wake of the breakdown in relations concerning the UN Global Migration Compact is negligible, says ERR's senior political correspondent Toomas Sildam, whose opinion piece on the episode follows.

Day in the Life: Birgit the pizza server

17.11.18 ... Like many university students these days, I split my time between studies and work. In my case, however, I study in one city, and live and work in my hometown. And while my job might be more typical on paper, thanks to our location, my regular clientele includes NATO soldiers — the same ones regularly featured in the news. My name is Birgit Kiipus, and I am a server and pizza-maker at Päts Pizza Café in Tapa.

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.
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