Archive for the Category ‘Opinion’

What being Latvian means to me

What being Latvian means to me

There are more than six and a half billion people in the world, and most of them have some kind of national identity. Our planet is full of people who call themselves Chinese, French, Venezuelan, South African or Norwegian. All of us have some national identity, although by the 21st century most of us have […]

My meeting with the Chechen ambassador

My meeting with the Chechen ambassador

Aminat Saijeva is Lithuania’s ambassador-in-exile to the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The day of our meeting her thick black hair is tied back in a low bun and she is dressed in a white linen suit jacket with an orange t-shirt, an olive and white flower-patterned skirt, and white pumps. We meet beside the bell […]

Hanging out in Haapsalu, Hiiumaa and Saaremaa

Hanging out in Haapsalu, Hiiumaa and Saaremaa

When I woke up, the sounds of some distant party were still ringing in my ears. I heard laughter, music, loud toasts, the clinking of glasses, the run of silverwear on plates, but all the time far away, far, far, far away, and yet close, just downstairs, but some place else. Where was it? When […]

The peace and pacts of August

The peace and pacts of August

In August, Latvia marks three anniversaries worth noting. On Aug. 11, 1920, Russia signed a peace treaty with Latvia. Nineteen years later, on Aug. 23, 1939, the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany. This promise of non-aggression between Stalin and Hitler led to one of the bloodiest wars in human history and […]

No future for ethnic purity

No future for ethnic purity

I recently gave a series of lectures at Hugo Treffner gymnasium and other schools in Tartu about the crisis of civic nationalism. The students were fairly quiet during the lectures but I am told by their class teachers there was heated and furious arguments about what it all means for Estonia after I left. Some […]

Estonia and Russia’s forgotten backyard

Estonia and Russia’s forgotten backyard

I am an adaptive type, but when in Setomaa, I sometimes feel like I am being pushed and pulled, squeezed back and forth like a local musician’s karmoška. I don’t know what I am doing, I don’t know where I am going, and I have absolutely no idea what they are saying. Setomaa. It’s a […]

Time for guns and Georgian wine

Time for guns and Georgian wine

I have discovered that I like to shoot guns. I’d always been a little stuck-up about guns and a bit of a snob, too. But after firing the World War II Nagan rifle in the woods out by the old partisan, Jonas Kadzionis’s, bunker, I felt a sense of empowerment I didn’t know I could […]

Once upon a time in the White House

Once upon a time in the White House

Twenty years ago a Latvian prime minister and foreign minister met with an American president in the Oval Office of the White House. It was July 30, 1990, and Latvia was still an occupied country. Why did President George Bush meet with Ivars Godmanis and Jānis Jurkāns a year before Latvia restored its independence, and […]

“Welcome to the Third World”

“Welcome to the Third World”

We recently posted something Justin Petrone wrote about customer service problems in Estonia, and I can assure you that the problem is not confined to the northernmost Baltic state. Despite anything Invest Lithuania or Enterprise Lithuania, the two off-shoots of the now-defunct Lithuanian Development Agency tell you, the southernmost Baltic states is also rife with […]

Time to squeeze out the sponges

Time to squeeze out the sponges

“It’s complicated being an ametnik. They have so much responsibility.” I paraphrase Tea Varrak on the April 5th television broadcast of Vabariigikodanik, defending state-sector salaries against criticism leveled by journalist Vallo Toomet. Toomet pointed out in a recent Eestipäevaleht column that state sector salaries are, on average, one-third higher than private sector salaries, and that […]

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