Day: December 22, 2006


Estonica is a web encyclopedia about Estonia, in English and Estonian. It has entries on the history, culture, nature, economy and society of Estonia, and much more besides. It’s a constantly growing project, and promises to become a central information resource on the country and its people. There are maps, photographs and illustrations, and it’s also possible to comment and leave feedback.

The essays on Estonian music are particularly noteworthy, giving a background not only to the latest avant-garde and pop expressions, but also to the more traditional symphonic, choral and chamber music that still continues to emerge from this intensely European nation, not least from the country’s Russian-speaking community, with its Narva Symphony Orchestra and Russian Philharmonic Society.

Indeed, the survey of Russian culture in Estonia makes fascinating reading. The encyclopedia notes that

On 14 March 2002 the Cultural Endowment of Estonia issued for the first time a literature award to an author writing in Russian. The first award winner was Larissa Vaneyeva (1955). Various other Russian writers live or work in Estonia, e.g. prose writer Mikhail Veller (1948), an Estonian citizen who lives in St Petersburg, Tallinn and Israel and whose works appear in Russia in hundreds of thousands of copies; Yelena Skulskaya (1950), poet and prosaist whose poems have been considerably influenced by the Estonian poetry of the 1960s; Svetlan Semenenko (1939) poet and an eminent translator of Estonian literature; and some others.

The output of Russian writers is mainly published in three literary and cultural magazines: ‘Vyshgorod’ (Toompea Hill), ‘Raduga’ (Rainbow) and ‘Tallinn’, although they contain a fair number of translations from Estonian authors as well. Quite a few books by both Russian and Estonian authors have recently been published in the Russian language, with the most active period falling in the early 1990s. Today, a few publishing houses specialising in Russian literature have remained: ‘Antek’, ‘Avenarius’, ‘Ingri’, ‘KPD’. Besides fiction, they also issue, to a lesser extent, scientific and popular scientific books by Russian authors.

Chekist Day

Far from trying to conceal the growing power of Russia’s secret police, President Putin is apparently doing everything he can to advertise it, TimesOnline reports, in a description of Chekist Day:

Mr Putin, a former KGB spy, heaped praise on the secret services as state television broadcast pictures of champagne flowing and an orchestra playing classical music in a hall packed with spy chiefs and politicians.

The event on Wednesday evening marked the annual Security Service Workers’ Day, better known as Chekist Day. The Cheka, forerunner of the KGB, was founded on December 20, 1917, by Felix Dzerzhinsky, head of the feared secret police. “There are many glorious pages, bright examples of true heroism and courage in the history of national state security organisations,” Mr Putin told the gathering.

He reserved his “very warmest words of gratitude” for KGB veterans whose efforts, he said, had laid the foundations for Russia’s modern secret services. “This profession employs those who love our Motherland and who are selflessly devoted to their people. And it is not simply qualifications but also a high degree of civic consciousness and courage that act as guidelines for important and professional activities in this field,” Mr Putin said.