AHTI KALLIKORM Jana Toom's election advertisement on Laagna Road violates the Language Act and sows hatred

Ahti Kallikorm
, Ahti Kallikorm, member of the supervisory board of AS Confido (Isamaa)
Photo: Tairo Lutter
  • It is said that a chain is only as weak as its weakest link.
  • Jana Toom is trying to take advantage of the rift between the Estonian and Russian communities.

In addition to its message, Jana Toom's election advertisement directly contradicts the Language Act, Ahti Kallikorm (Isamaa) writes about observations in urban space.

Estonian integration cannot be considered a success story. For more than thirty years, the Center Party has cultivated populism, actively fought against Estonian-language education and issued other anti-Estonian messages in order to capture the votes of the Russian-speaking voters here. Times haven't changed. There is still grumbling about the transition to Estonian-language education and election posters sometimes still feature different messages in Estonian and Russian.

The Laagna Road trickery

To be more specific, I noticed an election advertisement of Jana Toom hanging up on Laagna Road, which featured the slogan «selg sirgu, Eesti!» («stand tall, Estonia!») in Estonian and «не прогибаться!» in Russian, which could be translated as «don't bend!», «don't submit!». Moreover, note that the word «Estonia» is missing from the Russian version. Therefore, if the addressee so wishes, it can be interpreted as a call to disobey anyone, even the Estonian state power.

​Although there is a certain similarity between these two messages, Jana Toom here is very much playing the game of reading between the lines, trying to gain the votes of the Putinists living in Estonia with an ambiguous slogan.

«Stand tall!» is not «right in the teeth!»

Because while «stand tall!» is a positive and encouraging command that we are used to hearing from our physical education teacher, a disobedience command refers to resisting something or someone. In one case, it is recommended to maintain dignity, to be brave and self-confident, in the other, there is a clear call for resistance. Who or what to disobey is left to the reader to decide in the text. Unfortunately, we have too many people who more or less openly root for the aggressor and interpret this slogan in the way they prefer.

The fact that this is an activity that is directly contrary to the Language Act can also be pointed out as a point of concern, because according to subsection 1 of section 16 of the Language Act, signs, signposts, business type names and outdoor advertisements, including outdoor advertising, installed to a public place with the purpose of political campaigning, and the notices of a legal person shall be in Estonian.

Subsection 2 of the same section specifies that the translation of the text into a foreign language may be added to public signs, signposts, business type name and outdoor advertisements, however, the text in Estonian shall be in the forefront and shall not be less observable than the text in a foreign language. In the case of Jana Toom's advertisement, we have an untranslated phrase in Estonian and a Russian slogan that has not been translated into Estonian.

The opposition is based on the message that our Russian-speaking residents should «show resistance» to either Estonia, the European Union or NATO.

To Europe by cursing Western values

Although the violation of the Language Act is, of course, important, it is not the most important thing. The saddest fact is that instead of uniting Estonian and Russian-speaking communities, Jana Toom and the Center Party are (once again) trying to profit from opposition by manipulating the messages in this election advertisement to create a semiotic framework to encourage attitudes against the Estonian state.

The opposition is based on the message that our Russian-speaking residents should «show resistance» to either Estonia, the European Union or NATO. The message is left vague namely so that a potential voter can read the message, interpret it as they see fit, and then identify with it.

Although it is not the first time for the Center Party to send different messages to different target groups, it has always come at a price: fighting against Estonian-language education has obviously worsened the competitiveness of the Russian-speaking youth here in our labor market and alienated them from the state.

Ahti Kallikorm
Ahti Kallikorm Photo: Erakogu

However, in today's security situation, such politically aggressive slogans are a direct call to follow the information channels of the neighboring country, to have a negative attitude towards Ukraine and to oppose Western values.

And all of this is done so that, with the votes of those in favor of Putin, it would be possible to leave hated Estonia and go to hated Brussels. To sophisticatedly pour French or Italian wine into glasses and, clinking them together, curse the European Union and praise the bold initiative of our eastern neighbor's leader in bullying his neighbors.

It is said that a chain is only as weak as its weakest link. Thus, the entire list of the Center Party is just as ambiguous and anti-state as the most ambiguous message of their most dubious candidate.