Feature

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).

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.

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.

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?

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