ESTONIA - EESTI
by Miodrag Colic - 3 years ago
The northernmost of the Baltic countries, Estonia and its capital Tallinn are directly opposite Finland and Helsinki, so getting there quickly by a short boat ride means getting drunk quickly for the Fins. Estonians resemble Fins quite a lot, but Tallinn is quite different from Helsinki and entering it you have entered a medieval fairytale. Of course I am talking about the old city, which enclosed by ramparts and towers, is only missing a knights’ troupe to trot down the narrow alleyways towards their master’s palace. However, these troupes were more mercantile than war fighting ones, so here, like in the neighbouring Riga, we find the Black Heads’ Fraternity, a free association of traders, whose patron was Saint Maurice, one of the first Christian martyrs from North Africa. The role of the fraternity is interesting in that they were also the National Guard and the fire-fighters, as well as a wealthy association which represented the main pillar of the city’s defence. They also supported the local Benedictine monastery in return for absolution of sin.
On the main city square, Raekoja Plats, you will find the City Hall dating back to the 14th century. Its architect must have got back from the Orient and so inspired, built a very thin and tall tower, resembling a minaret. Walking down the streets of the old city, I find medieval inns in front of which girls dressed in the costume from those times offer local specials and mulled wine. At the bottom of the street called Vene, there is a Benedictine monastery where Scandinavian priests preached Christianity to the locals, who were among the last to drop paganism. Here you will also find the Church of St Catherine, the Church of St Olaf, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, as well as numerous other places of worship that deserve attention.
Estonians endured the influence of many powerful nations: the Swedes, the Baltic Germans and of course, to the largest extent, the Russians, who occupied them at regular intervals during history, from Peter the Great, to Stalin. Apart from the unusual sound of the Estonian language which resembles Finnish, Russian is heard most often around here and the Russian mentality still lingers on. I did not find a museum portraying the Russian occupation, like I did in neighbouring countries, but I am sure it exists. The aggressor remains imprinted in the victim’s mind, and sometimes in an indelible way. However, the influence of a big nation on a small one does not always have negative connotations, such as in the case of the Baltic countries; there may be some people who think about the Russian presence with nostalgia. The Russians have now delivered Estonia over to the European Union, peacefully, like they did to Hitler in 1940. God knows if they will regret it one day.
Anyhow, the mighty Russian spirit is always felt here.