A first in Estonia: biography shredded

Oliver Kund
, reporter
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Photo: Erlend Štaub

Recently, Estonia set the precedent of a publisher Ajakirjade Kirjastus withdrawing from bookstores a biography by Triin Tulev «Elus» (Alive) on sale for a year, had it destroyed and swallowed the costs. Without a court judgment.

The step was taken as publisher was threatened by court action by main character in the book, former unmarried partner of Ms Tulev, Rasmus Vesiloo, convicted in battery of the woman. He claimed Ms Tulev has repeatedly lied about him in her book.

As the published begun to look into the matter, it turned out the woman was unable to prove lots of her claims.

«In good faith we believed that as Ms Vesiloo was already convicted at County Court all was correct. But turns out Triin Tulev had inserted facts which were not true or not proven,» admitted Tõnu Väät, CEO of Ajakirjade Kirjastus.

«Triin Tulev says it is all true; Rasmus Vesiloo says nothing is true. The jurists assessed the facts in the book very difficult to prove,» said Mr Väät.

Instead to go for a court dispute, the publication backed off and agreed with Mr Vesiloo to call the 1,000 print run back and hand it over as a gesture to Mr Vesiloo who feeds them into paper shredder.

Mr Väät says the publishing house will take the €5,000 loss and will never ever print the book again. The CEO says this is to save face.

What do we learn?

Truth be told, the Tulev-Vesiloo saga would better go untold from now on – but for a lesson better learned.

Namely, in Estonia’s best-known and most-published recent domestic violence case, both parties have succeeded to repeatedly fool the public.  

With remarkable ease, false information has reached quality media and bookstores.

On October 8th 2014, the onetime socialite and disc jockey Triin Tulev came public on Estonian TV with detailed description of being battered by Mr Vesiloo and its medical consequences, announcing a plan to found a charity for women suffering from domestic violence.

Overnight, she became a best known face in fighting violence against women and her foundation was publicly supported by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

As county court convicted Mr Vesiloo soon after Ms Tulev’s biography was presented, forensic experts added that Ms Tulev had exaggerated her account on several instances.

Instead of the 60 hits, she had only been hit a couple of times. Ms Tulev did not suffer loss of hearing and her decision to terminate her pregnancy was voluntary as the baby she was expecting at the time had not been affected.

While the judgement is in force, Mr Vesiloo has filed civil action against Ms Tulev demanding the alleged lies in the book «Alive» to be refuted, the moral damage compensated and the distribution of the book to be discontinued. The initial court session is on May 16th.

Estonian Publishers’ Association head  Kaidi Urmet said she does not remember any incident of a publication on its own initiative withdrawing a book from sale, sending it to be shredded and swallowed the costs.

Primarily, the Ms Tulev case serves as an excellent example of how dangerous it is to write in a book on details of private life and that long before the court judgement.