Brotherhood (mis)understood

Anneli Ammas
, reporter
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Photo: Liis Treimann

At present, words of the cultured carry no such weight as at end of 1980ies, observes folklorist and former first lady Ingrid Rüütel (EKRE) while admitting Estonia could never solve the problems of the nations of the world. Even so, Estonia might play a part in international cooperation provided we feature wise, experienced and balanced politicians.

-Ingrid Rüütel, how very much are you worried for what is happening in the world and in Estonia? What would you warn against seeing where Estonia is moving with the rest of the Western world?

I am very worried for what is happening in the world. It is only in cooperation with Islamic nations and Moslem communities that the Christian world can overcome extreme Islamism, not by standing in opposition to them.  

It would be most dangerous if Islamic world and Christian world come at odds and turn into war. Then indeed the destruction of humanity is not far anymore! If anyone is left at all, they need to begin anew from archaic times.

A hundred thousand and more Estonians have also gone to Europe and elsewhere in search of a better life, though we have no war.

-What would you tell people who due to their fears and insecurity (including in private lives) are open to simple explanations regarding what is happening around us? How ought they to understand when half truths are being spoken or outright lies? How to make the difference, keeping in mind that the world has no simple answers, that the world is more sophisticated?

Up to now I have always believed that what is characteristic of Estonians is personalis, as claimed by Oskar Loorits, and that they are rather the ones to think for themselves, such as are not easily carried along by mass psychosis. We had not much ear for fascism and even communism was rather the outward defensive adaptation to the inevitability of a totalitarian regime.  

The world of today has turned more complex and much more multifaceted. To understand all that is happening in the world is difficult, if not impossible. There is no absolute truth; probably, all parties have their own truths. And there are not two parties but many.

-Have you also perhaps felt at some point – be it after the latest attacks in Paris or Brussels –, that fear is gaining control and we’d want to close the borders and eyes? That peace and empathy are leaving me too? Or what have been your feelings watching on TV the endless images of the hordes arriving in Southern Europe? Largely the young men, but also the small children and the worn-out women?

On the one hand, mass migration does naturally frighten; on the other hand, I do feel compassion on the kids, the families, and these young men who find no place in their war-torn homeland and hope to find self-expression in the outwardly peaceful Europe. They are being accused of coming to Europe in search of a better life; but 100,000 and more Estonians have also gone to Europe to seek a better life though we have no war.

In Syria, there are no two sides to choose between. There are several grouping hostile towards each other. Many young men do not want to war, but peace is nowhere to be seen yet.

Ms Merkel has even invited them to Germany – the population is ageing, the state needs labour force etc. A bit too late did she notice that she went too far with that. Now the other, smaller and poorer states cannot be imposed migration quota, other solutions need to be sought.

-What has gone wrong in the world that wars keep on bursting forth, bringing misery on location and ending up spreading to Europe, very close to us?

Why these wars break out, very hard to tell. But in quite a few instances outward interventions have played a part.

And the reason for the old colonies lagging behind has been the very colonisation. For centuries, lots of native people got all they needed from the rainforests. Now these have been hewn down. But not in all southern nations is agriculture a sure way of making a living. If there is no rain, the crops perish and families end up in desperate situations. But there is no alternative.

At places, large industries useful for colonialists were established in societies still living in matriarchate. The kids were common and it was the task of the women to tend for the home and for the children. Now they were forced to go work at the factory and the kids were totally neglected. All life was disrupted.

In Africa, however, the tribal battles today are largely over the mineral resources. Unable to find compromise, and they keep killing one another. People are dying, cultures are being destroyed.

-I was reading thought about radicalisation in the portal. Over there, they reached the conclusion that those governing Estonia cannot do much to avoid radicalisation i.e. the deepening of conflicts. Firstly, the people in Estonian government are young and come across untrustworthy, and secondly what is happening is way beyond Estonia. What, in your opinion, could people in Estonian government and Riigikogu do for us in Estonia to keep soundness of mind, understand what is happening, and keep living next to one another in friendship? Both in Estonia and in Europe?

Estonia cannot of course solve the problems of the nations of the world, while in international cooperation the tiny Estonia might play a part provided we have wise, experienced and balanced politicians like the former Finnish President [in 1994–2000 Martti] Ahtisaari, who was often called into international crisis hot spots as expert.

When it comes to Estonia then the refugee hysteria has of course crossed all boundaries of tolerance and made Estonians angry at one another. While Muslims value brotherhood, we are getting mean.

I would never expected Estonia to have such expressions of anger towards people with dark skin colour or Muslim women wearing their headscarves but also towards people who are friendly towards them. The more so that lion’s share of these youth from other parts of the world have come to Estonia to study!

It is with the provision of education that, indeed, we are able to help these nations. Young people keep telling me of embarrassing incidents they have had to witness in Tallinn or in Tartu. An elderly black gentleman enters a bus – perhaps, he is a professor even at a university or some other specialist –, those on the bus demonstratively turn their back. Really embarrassing. But there are the way worse stories.

I do not know what the government of the parliament might do, but I do believe the world can be made better firstly by each person making themselves better. Goodness infects those around us and helps put off evil.

At the same time, I support zero tolerance towards any kind of violence and sadism, whether it concerns children, animals, women or whoever. There’s this saying [in Estonia] that only the grave will heal a hunchback, and at times this seems to be true.  

-What ought Estonia’s intelligentsia to do? Throughout the times, the intelligent, the culture personas able to interpret the world have been listened to. Do they, you included, have such impact in 2016 as at end of 1980ies? Is there hope that we may still be able to tame the radicalism and its perils in Estonia, see people differentiate between truth and lies?

At the moment, their word doesn’t not seem to carry such weight. Back then, the situation was simpler in a way – you were for Estonia’s independence or against it. Though there were differences even regarding how and who should restore the independence. Now the problems are more, and culture personas come with varying views.

I do not know whether art needs to be so politicised as in the recent farce [by the theatre NO 99] named «Savisaar». Do we have to get at somebody all the time? Perhaps, it would be more prudent to seek solutions in reasonable negotiations instead of fighting. In other words: instead of cursing and mockery, we would need more of the intelligent public debate where every side is able to prove its views.

On the other hand, some young culture personas and many youth overall are often a bit naive and quixotic unable to detect dangers to the nation, as they have not lived in the Soviet times when the percentage of Estonians was nearing a critically low level. But falling into numerical minority in one’s historic homeland is the very reason for nations vanishing in Russia and the world. Then, it is no longer possible to ensure the continuance of own language and culture.

At the moment, we have 400,000 Russian speakers in Estonia. Their mentality does greatly vary. Among them, there are patriots of Estonia as well as those who feed on Russian propaganda only and want the former times back.

And we may not forget that the big and unpredictable Russia is right behind our border. Already, manifold more refugees are coming across the Russian border than from the south. Yearly, [Citizen and] Migration Board grants hundreds of residence permits to those coming from Russia. Last year, 800 came officially from Russia, and 600 from Ukraine. It’s as if we are seeing to it that Russian speaking population increase in Estonia. But should anarchy break out in Russia, why would we think our border will hold!

But what seems to be most dangerous, to me, is the indifference in lots of Estonians or outright negligence towards our nation, language and culture. It is especially unpleasant to hear from opinion leaders that the Estonian language will die out soon anyway. I am more optimistic. Until the Estonian nation lives, our language lives as well. This, however, takes care and dedication by us all.