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Russia’s Threat to Nuke the “Near Abroad” is met with Silence

One gets the sensation that something is really out of kilter with the world that we live in. On Thursday, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, cautioned over NATO’s expansion eastward, and warned that the risks for Russia to be pulled into local conflicts have “risen sharply.”

Mr. Makarov would of course like to have it so that “what is sauce for the goose is NOT sauce for the gander.” No ethic of reciprocity here. If there is anyone who has constituted a threat to the Baltic peoples and a great many other peoples on the periphery of the Russian Empire for over the centuries, it is Russia herself, while the periphery itself gets beaten about the head and shoulders, and not vice versa. Russia continues to be permitted to take massive precautions against possible military threats, but perish the thought that any of her neighbors – overrun by Russia so many times before – might entertain thoughts of having viable defense postures.

Anyone who has studied Kremlinology and Russian history knows by heart the hypothesis about the Russians being terrified – to the point of not being able to sleep – of encirclement, which, if taken to its logical conclusion, would apparently give them some sort of unexplained right to expand their borders and keep expanding their borders because of this paranoia. Witness the rollback of the color revolutions and Russian attempts at reconquista of recent years.

For as long as I can remember, a large number of Western Russia-watchers have parroted in chorus: “poor things, they are deathly afraid of being encircled, we must try to understand them.” No one else in the world is permitted to prattle such nonsense, but then one is also not permitted to question the uniquely “mystical Russian soul”, which only Russians themselves are qualified to understand, while others are not. Don’t even try, it is beyond the comprehension of all others.

Wouldn’t it be more sensible for the Russians to create a reasonably reasonable form of government and a set of relations with their neighbors that are based on trust and goodwill? It is not as though Estonia had designs on Russia, nor does Georgia, nor Finland, nor Hungary, etc.

Makarov says that Russia is facing a heightened risk of being drawn into conflicts at its borders that have the potential of turning nuclear, blaming this on demographic issues. Russia’s military currently consists of approximately a million troops, but is set to dwindle somewhat. Those who track defense and armaments matters know of course that a future smaller (but better trained and better equipped) military force might be something that one needs to fear a good bit more than the larger but fairly undisciplined pool of troops that Russia has had in the recent past.

The entire Estonian population – in contrast to Russia – consists of about a million persons, with the Estonian Armed Forces being made up of some 6,000 men and women on active duty, plus reservists and the Defence League (think of a paramilitary Home Guard). Estonia doesn’t possess a single tank or warplane.

The US is engaged in Afghanistan and to some extent still in Iraq, and starting to focus on the Pacific. The US has wanted a reset with Russia pretty badly – unrequited love? Europe is nearly undefended, if one were to exclude the Brits and the French, and otherwise exaggerate a tad. What is General Makarov going on about?

So: while the top guy in the Russian military threatens the world (or at least its supposed Eastern European “sphere of influence”) with possible nuclear conflagration, engaging once again in the saber-waving and the pounding with shoes on lecterns that has unfortunately tended to be the hallmark of the country for just about as long as one can remember, what does Google News feature as its top story? A dozen protesting university students out at UC Davis getting pepper-sprayed by the police in the context of Occupy Wall Street. This with all due respect to the unresisting students, who didn’t really deserve to get maced as they were carted off to be booked.

Do we not live in a remarkable age? It is perhaps the best thing to do – to ignore the Russians and to not encourage them. To not take the bait proffered by the Bear.

Still, as Alice would cry: “The world is getting curioser and curioser”. Back in 1962, the world was brought to the brink of war by the Soviets trying to emplace nuclear missiles on Cuba. Now the head honcho in the Russian military warns of The End of Days for her neighbors, and is answered with a yawn as well as near media silence.

Ireland Advances towards Euro Cup and Estonia Reaches Football Maturity

After a rankling 0-4 loss in Tallinn for Estonia last Friday that left a bad taste in the mouths of many, Estonia tied Republic of Ireland 1-1 in Dublin tonight – the result of a hard-fought, satisfying (for both sides) and fairly played game. “Best performance ever”, this according to Estonian TV announcers, who said that on their “personal expectations scale”, Estonia attained four points in Dublin of a possible five. One has to also keep in mind what David Hytner of The Guardian reported from Dublin: “Estonia bore the scars from the first-leg. They missed three key players to suspension and lost a fourth, the left-back Dmitri Kruglov, to an early injury.” Ireland advances to the Euro Cup next year with Estonian best wishes, while the Estonian team can return home feeling good about itself.  It would be too much to expect Estonians to be elated, since Republic of Ireland attained a 5-1 aggregate win, but I’m writing here from a long-term and balanced Estonian perspective. Instead of returning home in shame, some Estonian players can possibly expect contract offers from decent teams. As long as they have jobs, Estonian football has prospects for improving and proceeding to a new level during the time frame of the next two, three or four years. Taavi Rähn is one guy to keep our eyes on, Martin Vunk is another, and Pavel Londak is a third.

The Irish, with their decades of experience, may still be able to boast of better handling of the ball and overall mastery, but Estonia rose from the ashes on Tuesday evening in Dublin’s snazzy Aviva stadium and didn’t give the Irish the satisfaction of a win on their own home pitch – a solid accomplishment. It was a good, clean and hard-fought contest that the Dutch referees permitted Estonia to play to the end with a full array of 11 players, compared to Friday, when the Estonian side was whittled down to 9 men.

The second half in particular was satisfying, with 800 Estonian fans joining in the chant: “Eesti – suru Iiri vastu muru!” – “Estonia – bring Ireland to her knees” (“press her onto the turf” is a more literal translation).

The overall consensus is that Estonian football has had a good year. One indication of this is psychological resilience. Not more than some years back, the 0-4 loss experienced on November 11 might have taken the team aback, but if they were somehow fazed, it didn’t show tonight – not one iota.

If things continue in the same manner, Estonia may realistically stand a chance of advancing next year, and if not, then a few years down the road. To block as many Irish shots as the Estonian side did and to cause a good bit of cliff-hanging titillation at about the 86th minute tonight and during the very last minutes of play- this is as good of a result as one could expect under the circumstances. A maximum result, actually.

Estonia may not quite be rocking them yet – “Buddy you’re a young man-hard man, shoutin’ in the street, gonna take on the world some day”, but she acquitted herself with mettle and more tonight. To engage in the making of predictions is a risky business, but who knows? The future of Estonian football may bear watching.

Did I mention? Vassiljev’s goal for Estonia, smashed in from 25 yards (meters) at the 57 minute mark was a gratifying one! It flew past Irish goalkeeper Shay Given with centimeters (inches) to spare.


					
Posted by: Juri Estam | November 15, 2011

Once Again, the Game’s Afoot! Estonia vs Ireland in Dublin

Once Again, the Game’s Afoot! Estonia vs Ireland in Dublin

Reflection does us good. As one reflects on Estonia and (European) football, one can be thankful that Estonia is back on the map of Europe again. It was bad – very bad – during the era of Soviet hegemony to have to live as men and women without  a country.  See here what Martin Reim – an Estonian football great – has to say about that, as rather nicely reported by the Irish Independent. I hope I haven’t linked to that previously.

The reality of the matter is that when a previously submerged nation such as Estonia reappears on the scene, both privileges and obligations come with the territory. It turns out that life is a contest, pretty much all of the time. Estonian sports underwent a reality check when we played last Friday and lost to Ireland 0:4.

That we have reentered the fray is good. We’re being measured in all sorts of areas under our own name again on the basis of our abilities and accomplishments. From a shaky start or practically from zero, Estonian football has gotten better over the course of twenty years, and will continue to improve. It’s incumbent upon us to to hone the blade and develop. On the other hand, this Lilliput of a nation has now also been reminded of who she is. We live in the world of the big dogs. EUFA as well as FIFA are “big dog” leagues. “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi” – “What is permitted for Jupiter is not (always) allowed to the oxen”, meaning what works for the big guys doesn’t always work for the smaller ones.

Sometimes wonders can be worked, but team sports will not necessarily be where Estonian athletes will shine in the future. Rather: we’ve always been a nation of individualists and of winners in one-man and one-woman disciplines. Names like those of Kristjan Palusalu, Paul Keres, Kristina Šmigun and Erki Nool are the ones who have made us proud. Individual Estonian athletes in one on one competitions will probably continue to stand the best chance in the future, which doesn’t mean we don’t need team sports or teamwork.

Something seemed to go wrong at A. Le Coq stadium in Tallinn on Friday. Not just in terms of the Estonian hosts undergoing a reality check, but also in respect to some of the refereeing. IMO, the Irish have railed for so long against the injustice done against them in Paris two years ago that the referees in Tallinn had “let’s not do another injustice to Ireland” on the brain. For more details, you can read an opinion piece by me at the Estonian State Broadcasting ERR site if you wish. It’s a longer magazine type of article.  (Click on the ERR link in the earlier sentence to go there).

Tonight, Estonia joins battle with Ireland once more in Dublin. It’s a bit of a long shot, somewhat shell-shocked as the team and the public are from Friday, but the athletes and their manager Tarmo Rüütli need and deserve our support.

Red Cards for All

When all else fails, Estonians resort by their very nature to one of the tactics also favored by Ireland’s archenemy  (England), meaning humor. Estonia’s dry and understated humor is akin to that of the Brits, and I find it to be to my liking. As I write, Estonian fans are wandering around Dublin showing red cards to passers-by. Although the hotel staff seems to be taking it with good humor, this sounds like a good way to get or give a bloody nose in your average working man’s pub.

Inspirational Stuff

One of my favorite scenes in the classical 1989 Finnish film “Winter War” involves Finnish soldiers preparing to go unto the breach against the Russian juggernaut in 1939, with a priest standing on a boulder and heartening the combatants, not unlike the famous St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. So gird your loins and get thee hence, at least in spirit, if not in the flesh.

Here a recording of Richard Burton rallying the troops. Me, I think Burton performs a better rendition than those of Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, with all affection for the latter (Olivier and Gielgud here).

Hopefully the Bard and Burton won’t give offense to random Irishmen who might stumble across today’s blog entry (no offense certainly intended, it is just hard to do better than the “Band of Brothers” speech). For everyone, but particularly for local fans who need some adrenalin as the Estonians unsheath their swords in Dublin, figuratively speaking, here’s the link to a war song in Estonian presented jointly by the RAM male choir and Metsatöll. “Raua needmine.”

Good luck!

 

An after-the-fact correction or adjustment: “Raua needmine” – “Curse Upon the Iron” is actually anti-war or anti-violence in nature, rather than a war chant. On the other hand, it sounds pretty martial. Summing up: Republic of Ireland was not up to the task of defeating Estonia in Dublin on her home turf, if not peat! (Though on aggregate, after two games, Ireland did advance against Estonia). Consequently – if Veljo Tormis’ “Raua needmine” helped keep Ireland from winning that particular Dublin game outright, that’s fine with me and a bunch of Estonia fans!

 


					
Posted by: Juri Estam | November 12, 2011

Guinness flows freely tonight – Ireland victorious 4-0

Guinness flows freely tonight – Ireland victorious 4-0

Estonia was trounced today at European football 4-0 in Tallinn by Ireland. The teams are slated to meet again next Tuesday in Dublin.

The Estonian Delfi news portal warned in an editorial earlier today against both excessive optimism as well as despondency, should Estonia lose.

There are any number of explanations for why the match turned out the way that it did. Although no one can accuse the Estonian soccer team of complacency, it was apparent as the evening wore on that Ireland was the more skilled team of the two. Better players, better communications on the field, better technique.

We need to draw the appropriate conclusions. If we do, over time, Estonian soccer will improve.

A few days ago, (November 9) The Irish Independent did a pretty good job of explaining why Estonian football, the level of which is improving, still has a long way to go. “From July 18, 1940 when they defeated Latvia 2-1 pre-occupation, Estonian withdrew from the beautiful game.”  As the Irish paper elaborates, Estonians didn’t play football during the Soviet occupation, because that’s what the Russians engaged in, along with ice hockey. Basketball, on the other hand, was an Estonian game, and “football lapsed into a coma”. Cycling and cross-country became favored Estonian sports in addition to basketball. There is more to be read about this in Simon Kuper’s 1994 book “Football Against the Enemy”, later released in the US as “Soccer Against the Enemy”. Read More…

Posted by: Juri Estam | November 11, 2011

Estonia trailing 1-0

Estonia trailing 1-0

Ireland scored at the thirteenth minute. The Irish visitors seem somewhat more adept, with the Estonians taking long shots that haven’t borne fruit. Also to Estonian detriment, Andrei Stepanov (Estonia) committed a foul against Robbie Keane at the 34 minute mark, receiving not one, but two yellow cards from the referee. The number of Estonians playing was reduced as a consequence from 11 to 10. Alan Tyers of The Telegraph writes ” It should be plain sailing (for the Irish) from here”, but it’s not over until the fat lady sings. The half-time break continues.

Posted by: Juri Estam | November 11, 2011

Telegraph portal to follow progress of Estonia-Ireland live

Telegraph portal to follow progress of Estonia-Ireland live

Haven’t properly delved into all options – but there are apparently live streaming possibilities for watching tonight’s Estonia-Ireland soccer match (commercial feeds are available, that much I’m sure of). The following link purports to be free, I don’t vouch for it.

Streaming

Here is the Estonian Television live feed with Estonian-language commentary

ETV

An alternative is to follow written coverage of the game in real time at the Telegraph newspaper.

Daily Telegraph

Ireland is tipped by some as the favorite, while others say 50-50. Tonight there is the “home stadium advantage”. The stadium is sold out in any event. Most of Estonia is glued to their TV sets. The national anthems have been sung, kickoff is just minutes away. TV announcer says the Estonian team has never before had a game like this.

Posted by: Juri Estam | November 9, 2011

Estonia-Ireland: Clash of the Bantamweight Titans

Estonia-Ireland: Clash of the Bantamweight Titans

Never in days of old, when I had the “enormous fortune” to be stuck with football yobs in the subways of Munich (“wir sind die blöde Idioten” or “we are the stupid Idiots” echoing around innocent passers-by as their rallying cry), did I think I’d ever venture to write a piece about soccer (European football), but as Butch Cassidy once declared, “there are no rules in a knife fight”. There is always a first time for everything. A good Estonian has gotta do what he has gotta do.

Estonia (population 1.3 million) faces Republic of Ireland (population 4.5 million) in a two-game play-off during the first half of November. Round 1 to transpire this Friday – Nov. 11 – while the second match will be played Tuesday, Nov. 15 in Dublin.

Responding preemptively to nitpickers, “bantamweight” is of course boxing nomenclature, but you get my drift.

What’s at stake is a place at next summer’s UEFA European Football Championship – commonly referred to as Euro 2012 or the Euro Cup. The Irish soccer team arrives in Tallinn tonight (Wednesday), with a considerable number of their countrymen in tow. This is a considerably bigger deal for Eesti than your average sports event! Read More…

Posted by: Juri Estam | August 8, 2011

Indigenous People’s Day: Live Sustainably and Let Live

Indigenous People’s Day: Live Sustainably and Let Live

Ever since 1994, August 9 has been the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, thanks to an initiative of the UN General Assembly. Even if the UN is sometimes a strange and weak organization, not that I personally would like to have it any more powerful than it already is, it has its strong suits.

In 2004, the UN General Assembly proclaimed a Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The goal of the Second Decade is to further the “strengthening of international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment, and social and economic development, by means of action-oriented programs and specific projects, increase technical assistance, and relevant standard-setting activities”. The quote sounds like bureaucratese, but the idea of a day for First Nations is needed.

 Estonians: are we “indig” or are we mankurts*? 

Estonians too are an indigenous people. Modern Estonia rests on the foundations of a number of ancient tribes who have now substantially but not utterly coalesced into a whole.

Some regions of Estonia have boasted a rejuvenation of local identity in recent years. This is evident most of all in Southeastern Estonia, which is the home of the Seto people. Down the road from the Setos to the West, the Võro dialect or language is spoken. Then there are the Mulks, and so on. In Southern Estonia and elsewhere, other local dialects also exist, hanging on by the skin of their teeth. While the Setos and Võro speakers are doing reasonably well, others are less successful and some will probably end up packing it in in the not too distant future – for example the South Tartu dialect of my ancestors. Read More…

The Tragedy of the Estonian Mass Deportations has been Compounded by a Massive Miscarriage of Justice – part VI

The Bad Dream Accelerates

In 1984, a fuss erupted in America about a film called “Red Dawn”. Left-leaning critics panned the movie, which is about an invasion and partial takeover of the United States by the Soviets and their allies, calling it anticommunist hysteria. In one of the first scenes of the film, paratroopers land on the grounds of a school while a teacher is talking to pupils in a classroom. When he goes to check on what’s going on, he’s cut down by a burst of rifle fire. While the movie isn’t as bad as B-grade, it doesn’t aspire to artistic greatness either. Even if the film doesn’t rank up there with masterpieces, that doesn’t mean that events of this kind didn’t actually take place in countries like Poland, Tibet and Estonia. Only people who aren’t familiar with the cases of Estonia and Tibet, among other similar ones would say that the basic premise of Red Dawn is wrong, or that such things never happened in recent times.

In the USSR, during the infamous show trials and the Great Terror of the thirties, the wolves devoured one another as well the innocent people who got in the way. Collateral damage, as Stalin would say. “Chips fly”. When Stalin broke down Estonia’s fences, it was inevitable that the residents of the Happy Country portrayed by Washburne wouldn’t be spared the blood and dirt of his totalitarianism. Read More…

For my readers: Notice About what’s Happening with this “Tragedy of the Estonian Mass Deportations” Series of Essays

“This is the captain speaking.” I undertook this series of essays with clear goals in mind, one of which was to devote a little bit of space to the June 14, 1941 deportations per se, and to some of the victims. I haven’t been able to get to that yet.

As can happen with the best-laid plans of mice and men, I missed my own deadline, wanting to have been done by the 14th.  As someone who writes out of his free time, I hadn’t adequately foreseen the labyrinth of issues that I felt was necessary to cover  in order to tell the story properly. To make it come together, there were certain topics that ate up more time than I had figured on, along with the tuning up of raw texts.

Yesterday, Estonians and Latvians and Lithuanians marked the seventieth anniversary of the first of the two great Soviet era deportations in the Baltic States (the first was in 1941, and the second one eight years later). Typically, many Estonians light candles and put them in the window. Flags flew at half-mast. It simply isn’t true that Estonians aren’t spiritual people. We just have our own ways of getting in touch with our inner selves, and in this case with the departed.

 

Read More…

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