Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ages in Estonia

Take a peek into Estonia's past: crusaders, conquerors and independence! 

The Livonian Order and the Teutonic Knights (1200- 1500)

The Battle of Lake Peipus - Alexander Nevsky takes a different bite in 1242!

The Swedish Empire and Charles XII (1600)
Peter the Great and the Russian Empire (starting from 1700)

The Estonian Republic during the 1930s before WWII

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Important Dates in Estonian History - Tähtsad aastad Eesti ajaloos

Hiigla suur linnumuna kivisamba otsas ei ole tavaline. Miks ta seal on? Kas on tegemist Kalevipojaga? 

Eestimaal leidub palju huvitavaid kujusid, nii muinasajast kui ka muinasloost. Samamoodi on Eesti ajalugu põnev, keeruline ja erinev teistest Euroopa riikidest, kuigi ta on paljude riikidega seotud. Igal nädal paneme pilte, jutte ja mõtisklusi, tule kaasa minevikku!

Why would anyone place a huge granite egg on a monument? Was it Kalevipoeg? Estonia is full of peculiar statues and sculptures; likewise its history is intriguing, complicated and very different from the rest of Europe. And yet not completely - many states and cultures have left their mark over the centuries. Come along for the journey through time! Every week we include stories and quizes along with the battles.

Olulised ajaloo etapid – Significant timelines:
Esimene etapp
1200      Saksa ristirüütlid Eestis (Teutonic Order)
1210      Ümera jõe lahing (Battle of Ümera, in Latvia)
1217      Madisepäeva lahing (Battle of St. Matthew's Day, near Viljandi)
1343      Jüriöö ülestõus (St. Geroge's Day Uprising, April 23)
1535      Esimene raamt eesti keeles (First book published in Estonian)
1575      Esimene aabits (First Estonian primer)

Järgnevad etapid
1600      Rootsi aeg (Swedish Rule)
1700      Vene tsaari võim (Csarist Rule)
1918      Eesti iseseisvus (Estonian Indepedence)
1944      Nõukogude Vene okuptsioon (Soviet Occupation)
1991      Taasiseseisvus (Re-Independence)

Ja linnumuna? See on kaarnakivi (raven’s stone). Eesti rahvalugu seletab, et kaarnakivi võim annab inimesele kõik, mida ta tahab – kui inimene selle leiab ja oskab targalt soove kasutada. Kaaren on vanast ajast mitmele ravhvale müstiline lind.

In mythology, the raven is associated with dark and magical powers. In southern Estonia, if you find a certain kind of raven’s egg, rub at exactly the right time and then make a wish – it will come true! Juhan Jaik was born in Rõuge, Võrumaa. His short story collection „ The Raven’s Stone” was published in 1980. He died in 1948 – this is his monument.

History is like the raven's stone - it will give you a glimpse of the future by studying the past.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Essential Estonian Facts- Põhilised faktid Eestist

Eesti Riigi sümbolid - Estonian National Symbols

Eesti lipp - Estonian flag
Sinine väljendab helget tulevikku ja tähistab põhjamaist taevast. 
Must meenutab rahva minevikku ja tähistab mullapinda. 
Valge märgib rahva püüdlusi vaimuvalguse poole ning tähistab talvist valget lund ja suviseid valgeid öid. (
Valge meeutab ka puhtust ja lootust paremale tulevikule.

Sini-must-valge trikoloor võttis eelmisel sajandil kasutusele  esimene eesti üliõpilasorganisatsioon EÜS (Eesti Üliõpilaste Selts) ja õnnistati 4. juunil 1884 Otepääl.  (Loe lipulugu siit.)

The colours of the flag reflect Estonian nature: blue-sky, black-soil and white-purity, hope and of course, white nights. The original flag, which went into hiding during the Second World War, is now 127 years old. Fewer than 10% of the world's flags can claim that distinction!

Eesti vapid - Estonian coats of arms

Suur riigivapp
Greater coat of arms 

Väike riigivapp
Lesser coat of arms

Eesti Riigihümn on „Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm“
„Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm“ kirjutati 1869. aastal esimesel üldlaulupeol ettekandmiseks.
Sõnad:         Johann Voldemar Jannsen
Muusika:    Friedrich Pacius

Eesti rahvuslind on suituspääsuke.
The national animal of Estonia is the barn swallow.
Bird of the Year 2011
Aasta lind 2011

Kuna suitsupääsuke viivib suviti Eestis, õeldakse, et ta toob päevasoojust. Nii on pääsukesed rahvaga koos ammust ajast elanud ja nii kestab edasi.

2011 is an important year for the national symbol, the barn swallow or suitsupääsuke. Although it migrates to Africa, Australia and the Sahara, when the swallow returns to Estonia (and other northen countries) it makes its nest among barns, hence the name.

This year the Estonian Ornithological Society has the Barn Swallow as bird as the bird of the year.Why?
 “ To help draw attention to one certain bird species, to study its habits more widely and to provide information to a larger audience.”

Eesti rahvuslill on rukkilill.
The national flower of Estonia is the cornflower.
Eesti lipu õige värv on sinine nagu rukilill, mis on kasvanud Eestis nii kaua kui inimesed seal on elanud - umbes 10,000 aastat!

"The campaign to choose a national flower was organized by The Estonian Wildlife Protection Society in 1967-68. The ornamental blue cornflower was the favourite.

The cornflower has grown on Estonian soil for more than 10,000 years, from the time when the first humans came to Northern Europe. The plant grows commonly in rye fields, creating a strong connection in the minds of Estonians between the flower and their daily bread."
During the Soviet era, the blue black and white flag was forbidden, so the blue of this flower carried on the national spirit. Read the Eesti Institute site for other amazing Estonian facts!

Põhilised Eesti andmed  - Estonian Facts

Two Estonian Pink Houses

When sorting out photos of Estonia, I came across this beautiful pink house with the guards in front. Is it the Stenbock House or not? Actually, the two mirror each other: both are pink baroque-style buildings with the Estonian Coat of Arms on the portal. And both are state buildings.

Below: The Office and Residence of the President of Estonia in Kadriorg was designed by architect Alar Kotli  for President Konstantin Päts in 1938, in Kadriorg, near the huge Palace. It also houses a wonderful art collection - but unless you are a guest of the president, you won't be able to see it!

"Designing the new Kadriorg Palace, Alar Kotli faced a complicated task requiring great discretion. He located the building on the same axis with the old Kadriorg Palace. The new building was not to infringe the integrity of the gorgeous ethereal ensemble of baroque architecture. Therefore, the back of the administrative building facing the old palace is serene and fairly modest, compared to the abundantly decorated facade. The garden connecting the two palaces was completely re-landscaped. As far as our brief summers allow it, the garden was and still is used for ceremonial purposes. In early summer, the President receives the best school and university graduates there. In summertime, the garden is open to visitors." 

Below: The Estonian Parliament Building on the Toompea Hill, built well over a century earlier in 1792. Although tt has changed hands many times it was always known as the Stenbock  House, in honour of Count Jakob Stenbock, who financed its construction. 

"Since 1828, after the death of Count Stenbock, the ensemble of early classicist buildings that is still called the Stenbock House today, belonged to Paul von Benckendorff, the chief of rural police court. For a long time the building was used by the knighthood: since 1855 the building sheltered the Toomkooli Boarding School and was sold to the Knighthood of Estonia in 1873. In 1891 the building was transferred to the ownership of the Administration of the Guberniya of Estonia that, 100 years after the completion of construction, first started using the building as a courthouse." Read the complete story here.

Stenbock House on Rahukohtu Street,
Photo by Samuli Lintula 
The Republic of Estonia undertook its current restoration in 1996; it was inaugurated in 2000 and houses the government session hall and executive offices.

Restored Assembly Hall/ Riigkogu saal. 
Photo: Steve Jurvetson

"The biggest room of the house initially designed as a court hall is located in the western wing on the second floor of the main building. Now the Government of the Republic holds its session here every Thursday by means of the electronic session system. This is the only room in the building where the dogtooth cornice edging the vaulted mirror ceiling has been restored. The three modernised chandeliers in the room are original designs by Peeter Tambu, interior designer of the house."  LINK.

About the Estonian Parliament
"The contemporary Estonian government follows the principles of separation of power and its people elect a 101-member parliament every four years. 

Only Estonian citizens may participate in parliamentary elections. The Parliament chooses a president, who can be in office for a five year period for a maximum of two terms. The President is the Supreme Commander of the National Defence of Estonia."

"A party must gather 5% of the votes in order to become part of the Parliament. As a rule, the President asks the party leader who has collected the most votes to form the new government. The representational model based on party politics has strengthened over the last decade. 

In the years shortly following the restoration of independence, there were dozens of parties to represent a population of only 1.4 million; at present 6-7 parties have remained. The local authorities have developed in the same direction. All permanent residents of voting age (18) may participate in local government elections". Read more from the Eesti Instituut.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Introducing: Mari Pokinen

If you flew to Estonia this summer on Estonian Air, you would have seen their elegant inflight magazine, (pardaajakiri) “In Time”. This quarterly publication highlights Estonian people, their culture and cuisine along with exotic destinations; the stories alternate between English and Estonian. If you are learning Estonian or are related to one, “In Time” is a great resource.

For the fall issue, "Picturesque South Estonia", columnist Triin Tammert interviewed Mari Pokinen from Tartu, a 23-year-old singer, songwriter and actress, and a recent graduate of the Viljandi Culture Academy (at the University of Tartu). Her debut album “22”, released in 2010, was an overnight success and has remained in the Estonian Top 10 all year.

Her songs are simple, captivating and timeless. Having Estonian Air use her hit single "Sõpradele" as a theme song for their commercial “Olulised hetked” (Important Moments) certainly helped a lot!

Does she have mixed feelings about releasing her song to a commercial? Yes. Raadio-2 recently asked her that question on „Siin me oleme“ (Here we are), a talkshow airing weekdays around noon :
“See pole lennureisi lugu. Ühel ilusal soojal päeval kirjutasin selle oma sõpradele," lisas Pokinen, kes ei aimanud, et tema loodud kaunis laul hakkab reklaamis oma elu elama". Read the interview here.

The song was written on a beautiful warm day and dedicated to her friends, which is why it is so honest, powerful and heartfelt. And now it has a life of its own, which must feel strange to her, since her goal was to become an actress, not a singer, although singing and writing music were always a part of her life. „Ma ei ole julgenud ennast määratleda lauljana ega valida muuikat elukutseks, leivateenimiseks.“ 
"No näed":

How does she write songs? What is her inspiration? Simple things:  life in Estonia (wonderful!), friends, song – being in the moment.
Read for inspiration: see how simply the expresses her feelings about the essence of time and space in words!

"Mäletan, kui Luha tänavale kodu ehitasime, istusin oma uues tühjas kajavas toas ja kuulasin ballaadi, mis kostus üle ehitusteipide, avamata kastide, parkettpõranda liistude teise maja otsa. Ja mina vaatasin lage ja seinu ja põrandat ja kujutlesin, missugune kord olema saab nende lugu. Kui soojaks ja targaks nad saavad. Paigutasin mõttes asju kohtadele. Uurisin kõiki nurki. Ja ballaad oli vabaduseks. Kuulutas uut algust".

"I remember when we were building our home on Luha street and I was sitting in my empty new room, listening to a ballad that floated over boards, planks, unopened cartons; from one end of the house to the other. As I sat there, I imagined the life these items would have, what would be their story. How warm and smart they would become. And as I looked at all the nooks and crannies, I created a room. And the song in the air was about freedom, announcing new beginnings."

New Beginnings in Tallinn
This past summer Mari was a witch -  a hundred year old endearing, teenage witch, the kind you would want to meet! And this Christmas on ETV, you probably will – she plays the part of Nõianeiu Nöbinina, in the ten-part television series based on the book by Kristiina Kass. Like many of Kass's previous children’s stories, it is funny, sweet and easy to read – and soon out of print!

And now for something completely different....
How about a rock and roll cabaret based on "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky?  How wild is that? Very!  The „12 Karamazovs”, directed by Kristjan Smeds, is currently playing at the Von Krahl Theatre on Rataskaevu Street in Tallinn until Novemeber 24. The cast: new professional actors, including Mari Pokinen, from the Viljandi Culture Academy.

"The „12 Karamazovs” is not a classical play but a state of mind, which the whole crew has initiated. It is a statement of both modern Russia and postmodern Estonia; full of punk attitude, odd Slavic traditions, switched male and female roles and numerous surprises on the way”. Length: 4 hours, 15 minutes. Exciting, yes -  but not for the faint of heart! 

The Von Krahl is an experimental theatre, an ultra cool nightclub and restaurant - AND an academy all in one! The small theatre, led by Peeter Jalakas of the VAT Theatre, opened in 1992 and focuses on alternative modes of performance. (Estonian Theatre, Jaak Rähesoo). Sigismund Von Krahl was an Australian philosopher of Baltic German origin, whose his ideas have inspired the theatre group named for him. Interested?  Read the complete history in the article by Katrin Ruus here

And how does Mari Pokinen feel about Tartu and Tallinn?
"Käisin kodus. Tartus liigub aeg võrratute pisikeste sammudega. Tallinna aeg on jämedam ja jookseb rahust ja ilust tihti üle. Nii tundsin vajadust pealinnast eemale saada. Ja tegigi kodu mind jälle mõnusamaks. Sügis on Tartus samuti hoopis tundlikum. Sügis annab ennast seal päriselt kätte ja kõik sealne annab ennast sügise kätte." 

"I went home. Time in Tartu moves at a much slower pace. Tallinn’s time moves forward quickly and often tramples over beauty. I felt a need to escape from the capital. And I was comfortable again at home. Fall is more sensitive in Tartu and lends itself to people and they are able to relate to it more there."

Although penned in October 2010, before the release of her debut album "22", I bet she still fells the same way - Tartu or Tallinn?