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Archived Articles 27 Nov 2007 Justin PetroneEWR
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For me and many others yesterday's 'devaluation scare' in Tallinn reached me the usual way — through the websites of Postimees and Eesti Päevaleht.

There were no silent whispers in downtown Tartu yesterday. No one pulled me aside and said, "get out your savings and exchange it for euros at the currency exchange, ASAP" in Estonian. Like so many occurrences in this country, the latest international news simply ... did ... not ... occur ... here.

Watching the images of the lines of people standing outside currency exchanges in Tallinn at the Postimees website, you were struck by the immediate thought of: What are those people smoking? But the truth is that I wonder if Estonians in Viljandi or Võru really bothered to think about it all.

This was Tallinn, after all, the place where crazy things happen. To your average Estonian, who is female, speaks Estonian as a first language, doesn't live in Tallinn, and is between the ages of 45 and 49, the capital must increasingly look like some revolving circus of riots, stag parties, ugly post-modern buildings, and devaluation fears. It is the capital of Estonia, sure. The only problem is that it doesn't look too much like the Estonia most Estonians see from their kitchen windows.

It wasn't always like this. Most Estonians went through a similar carnival of dysfunction in the early 1990s. Maybe they lost their savings when the kroon was introduced. Maybe they lost their property when its pre-1940 owners arrived from Canada to reassert their claims.

Younger people, of the "winning generation", flocked to Tallinn or Tartu to find work in banks or IT firms, creating a property-owning class of 30 year-olds with children, perhaps a divorce under their belts, nice wheels, a smart mobile phone, and the notion that this country belongs to them. Older people settled in for the luckless life of the pensioner. And the guys somewhere in between got lost in the shuffle. A few lucky fellows became CEOs and government ministers. The rest became incorrigible drunks.

This is the story of most Estonians. In recent years though a measure of pride returned to the men and women of Tõstamaa, Antsla, and, my personal favorite, Rannapungerja. They were proud when their country joined the club of democratic European countries -- the EU. They feel more secure that their country is in a military alliance with countries that include the US, the UK, Germany, and France.

So one could say that for those average, 47-year-old women working as schoolteachers somewhere in Läänemaa, a blanket of normalcy has returned after a jarring period of absence. Maybe they have extra money, enough to renovate their apartment. Maybe the dirt roads of their villages have been repaved with EU funding. And as far as Tallinn is concerned, they are interested, but not that interested.

Finance Minister Ivari Padar is from this Estonia. A Võru native, he has a nice farmhouse in the countryside where he probably does Estonian things like chop wood and whip himself with birch branches on occasion. Watching him once more explain that devaluation fears were unfounded, I could sense his impatience with the carnival of Tallinn. The more outrageous things get, the more, to most Estonians, they almost seem boring.

(Teisipäev, November 27, 2007 – Itching for Eestimaa)
 
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