Interview with Riho Kruuv, new chargé at the Estonian Embassy in Ottawa (4)
Many younger people with Estonian backgrounds, particularly those that read the internet version of this paper, no longer read Estonian well, and some not at all. Hence this interview is in English.
I have been told by some of our first generation people that they often slip from reading an Estonian article to reading an English language article without even noticing. This is hardly surprising given that more than 65 years have passed since they were forced to flee the fatherland during the tumultuous events of the Second World War.
While our Estonian language skills may have become weak and somewhat rusty and in some cases lost completely, this does not mean that we are not interested in our Estonian heritage, Estonia, and in particular, this tiny bit of actual Estonian territory, the embassy and its people in our midst.
A belated tere tulemast to Canada to you!
First of all, when did you officially take over from your predecessor, the very popular Rasmus Lumi, who we understand is now in charge of the St. Petersburg Russia consulate?
My official starting date was December 1, 2009 but we arrived a week before that so my predecessor Rasmus Lumi could brief me and bring me up to speed.
Where were you posted before you came here?
I have worked for Estonian Foreign Ministry since 1996. During my diplomatic career I have worked on several posts. My last work in Tallinn was related to non-proliferation, arms and export control and before that I worked for our Washington embassy. While there I was also accredited to Canada in respect of economic and commercial affairs and dealt with Canadian officials several times.
Which part of Estonia do you come from?
I was born and raised in Tartu.
Where did you go to school/university?
I attended Tamme Gymnasium in Tartu and after that studied economics and business administration at Tartu University obtaining my bachelors degree. After my Washington posting I attended George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and obtained my master’s degree in international commerce and policy there. This was possible thanks to a scholarship provided by the Estonian American Fund.
I understand that your wife and your newborn daughter are here with you. What are their names?
My wife’s name is Kristine. She made a pause on her position with the Estonian Ministry of Agriculture to come here. Our daughter’s name is Alessandra. She was born in late September.
I recall that you mentioned at Rasmus Lumi’s farewell party here in Ottawa that you are not a stranger to North America. How is this so?
Well, I was posted to Washington from 1999 to 2000 and subsequently went to university in Virginia. My duties at the embassy required me to travel quite a bit in the US and I also visited Canada, particularly Ottawa and Toronto several times. As well, I have relatives in Toronto, Waterloo and Vancouver.
Is it just a coincidence that you look and dress exactly like Rasmus Lumi or does the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have a giant “cookie cutter” that stamps you diplomats out? When I first met you I thought, well, here is Rasmus’ twin brother!
No, it is only coincidence. Rasmus Lumi and I just happened to have the same tastes, hairstyles and builds.
I know that you recently wrote a seasons greeting article in Estonian for our readers, however, some would not have been able to read that article because of language skills. Others that were able to read Estonian are doubtless interested in knowing a bit more about you and your plans for the embassy. Do you have any comments that you would like to convey to readers of Estonian Life?
I came here with a good understanding of our embassy’s priorities for the next 3 years. This is a very small station so we have to be quite focused in what we do. In particular, I hope to be able to visit all the Estonian communities in Canada during my term here and maintain good communications with them.
Also, I want to provide consular services to Estonian citizens to the best of our ability. I would like to expand the network of honorary consuls which I believe is necessary given the geographical size of Canada.
I am also here to strengthen political ties between Estonia and Canada. We are partners in many respects, if you take Afghanistan mission just as one example.
Finally, given my background in business and economics I would also like to develop and further economic interests between Canada and Estonia.
Thank you, Riho Kruuv. We wish you every success in your new job.