Sunday, October 15, 2006

Eesti ajaloost

I think that ever since I read Jaan Kross's subtle, but defiantly Western tones in "Czar's Madman" (I must have been twelve or thirteen) I have felt particular sympathy towards Estonia. Of course the whole cultural climate of Southern Ostrobothnia and its Pietist circles was very positive towards the Estonians even in the middle of the blackest Finlandization. (Realpolitics aside, the way the majority of our late Kekkonen era intellectual elite chose not to see, not to hear and not to understand the Soviet crimes against humanity is unforgivable.) Jaan Kross has remained a great favourite and my understanding of the incredibly tragic history of modern Estonia has slowly developed and deepened along the years. By 1945 Estonia had lost a quarter of her 1939 population and was in the grip of the triumphant, hysterical Stalinist state that immediately started to undermine her national traditions, her language and culture after having already destroyed Estonian elites, economy and state. From those ruins this astonishingly determined, astonishingly rooted nation has risen to be a full member of the EU, Nato and the UN.

Of course for us Finns there is this special bond of linguistic closeness - I'm listening at the moment to Justament's "Petseri tsura ja Hiitola ätt", you basically physically feel how the languages are situated so near to mutual intelligibility:

Mis on salmide sisu, mis on jutu moraal.
Igaühel on isu meist surra isade maal.
Las see eestlane aasib, las see soomlane neab,
et poliitilist fraasi “loll” laulu sisuks vaid seab.

Minge elage nädal või paar parem Laadoga rannal.
Minge Petserimaale ja tehke seal tilluke tiir.
Ja siis küsige endalt miks igatsus koju on kallal,
ja siis pärige poistelt kust kohalt küll jooksma peaks piir.

And yes, there also are some common, very bitter historical experiences... "Läevad tunnid ja päevad ja kuud aga rahu ei anna, et üks naaber võib olla nii kuradi sitt ja nii sant!"

But we are also divided by this closeness as it hides the differences: whereas Finland still enjoying the long period of post-war peace and stability looks towards Scandinavia, many of the structures of the deeply wounded Estonian culture are more Central European. There is also much too little understanding in Finland of the cruel trials and traumas of recent Estonian history, and too much easy Nordic arrogance that comes with this profound lack of imagination and knowledge. Still, the bonds easily are far more significant than these temporary discords. Our solutions might differ but the geopolitical challenge is quite the same - an archaic, still very militarized and territorial great power next door. This is not to say anything about the great Russian nation and its brilliant cultural tradition - but the state that rapes Chechnya in the way it has raped Chechnya, the state that lets Anna Politkovskaja be slaughtered at her own doorstep, the state that makes mockery of liberal democracy will remain deeply corrupt and immoral, deeply unpredictable, a perpetual problem for all its small, civilized and Western neighbours.


petteri said...

What a wonderful essay about Estonia, her people and our, Finnish, relationship with both of them! To me, the Estonian independence was like gaining a log lost relative who's demise was just a cruel hoax. "Ich bin ein Berliner" sort of an adage comes to mine, so; Olen virolainen!

stockholm slender said...

Same here - it was such an exhilarating moment to see pictures of the "Singing Revolution" on Finnish TV, the blue, black and white flags and the sense of a desperate ice age finally lifting...