Chris Glew

Chris Glew is Estonian World's London Editor. Chris has also written for other international media outlets, as well as for Estonia's Postimees, Eesti Päevaleht and Delfi.

The day the Soviets invaded Britain to capture an Estonian

The Shetland Islands are the northern-most part of the United Kingdom. A group of islands situated between the Atlantic and the North Sea, they are a windy, cold and lonely place. For one Estonian fisherman, they proved to be quite terrifying.*

The waters around the Shetland Islands are well known for the abundance of fish and the Soviet factory ship Ukrania, and its fleet of assorted trawlers and motorboats were on a voyage they had completed many times before. The calm and clear night of 25 June 1958, however, was a night like no other. It was the night Erich Teayn, an Estonian crewman on the Ukrania, made his bid for freedom.

Using a commandeered motorboat, one of the several accompanying the Ukrania, he powered towards the coast of the Shetland Islands. He had realised that his journey wouldn’t be easy and might even be dangerous, but he hadn’t counted on 30 of his Russian crew-mates giving chase, hoping to foil his escape. In choosing a faster boat, he managed to land slightly ahead of his pursuers, on the ragged coast near the small village of Walls, West Shetland.

Communicating in German and sign language

Teayn spent five hours trekking through bare and treeless terrain in the late daylight with the Russian crew scouring the area, looking for any trace of their former colleague. He eventually stumbled upon the cottage of a local crofter, David Fraser, and his son. Communication was difficult as Teayn spoke no English and Fraser spoke no Estonian (nor Russian), but both had learned piecemeal German. Teayn managed to explain that he was fleeing Russian fishermen and that a search-party had been dispatched to locate him. Fraser hid the terrified Estonian well out of sight within his small cottage, cooked him a meal and alerted the police by telephone.

Meanwhile, a local coastguard, James Thomson, had been observing events with his binoculars and reported to his superiors in Lerwick, the largest town in Shetland, that a large group of Russians had come ashore, travelled several miles inland and he was baffled (and slightly annoyed) as to why. His superiors alerted the police, who had by now received Fraser’s call, and dispatched two sergeants to investigate.

At the same time, the (all non-English speaking) Russians were trying to obtain information from local residents as to Teayn’s whereabouts. Dr Hepburn, the local GP, told The Guardian that two Russians had knocked on his door and tried to communicate using sign language, adding that “it took rather a long time to find out what they wanted”. The police in Lerwick were already worried, as the parish of Wells was small and with a population of under 1,000, it was feared the Russians might start to forcibly enter and search properties.

Similarly, it was a nervous wait for Teayn and his hosts, as at one point the Russians had passed within 50 yards of Fraser’s cottage. By the time the police arrived, after a treacherous drive on poor roads, it was nearly 2 AM and the Russians had given up their search and returned to their vessels. The two police sergeants arrested Teayn under the Aliens Act (he was an illegal immigrant, after all) and took him back to Lerwick, where he was placed in custody.

Russian commanders demand Teayn’s transfer to their custody

The next day, the three senior Russian commanders of the fishing fleet landed in Lerwick to demand Teayn’s transfer to their custody. The Provost and senior police officer were both on leave and despite their apparent politeness and friendly manner, the police refused them all access to Teayn.

By now, news of the affair had reached a concerned Home Office in London. Leader of the Liberal Party and Shetland MP, Jo Grimond, asked Home Secretary, Rab Butler, about the incident in the House of Commons; Butler said that “every consideration” would be given to Teayn’s claim for asylum and confirmed that the 30 Russians who pursued him did so illegally and had now “gone away”.

On 27 June, two days after he fled the Ukrania, it was decided that Teayn should be taken to Edinburgh to be questioned by senior immigration officials. He travelled under heavy security and spent most of the long boat ride locked in a cabin with one of the police sergeants who initially came to his rescue on the 25th.

Alerted by the Grimond’s question in the House of Commons, the national press had begun to follow the story and pictures of Teayn, hidden under a sheet, embarking and disembarking the boat were featured in newspapers and on the television news; some of those who had met the Russian search party were interviewed by the BBC. Crowds of local residents flocked to the pier and dockside to watch the commotion. It was also at this time it transpired that Teayn had left behind a wife and young daughter in Estonia.

Teayn granted asylum

Three Russian diplomats arrived on 27 June in Lerwick, Shetland, to interview the officers in charge of the fishing fleet. Despite it being made known that local officials would be happy to meet them, they declined and remained aloof. According to port officials, they even declined an offer of a berth near a jetty and preferred to anchor at a distance from the town.

Over the weekend of 28 – 29 June, the British government increased the diplomatic pressure by sending a formal note of protest to the Soviet Embassy in London, detailing how they took “a grave view of the action of these seamen in landing on British territory and of their subsequent conduct there. Had they apprehended by force the person for whom they were searching, a flagrant violation of the law would have occurred.” The Soviets were asked to issue instructions to the commanders of all Soviet vessels that would be entering British waters to ensure that such an event would never reoccur.

The Soviets meanwhile tried to have Teayn extradited – but on 15 July, it was announced in a written answer to the House of Commons that their request had been refused. Two days later he was formally granted asylum by the British government and travelled by train, as a free man, to King’s Cross station in London, accompanied by Dr Jaak Taul, chairman of the Estonian Lutheran Church of Great Britain. The decision to grant him asylum was announced in the House of Commons by an under-secretary of state from the Home Office, to much cheering and waves of order paper in delight.

Unfortunately, it is here that the story goes cold. The last information we know of Erich Teayn is from a brief paragraph taken from the home news section of The Times of 31 July 1958, entitled “ESTONIAN SEEKING WORK”. It details how he had travelled to Shipley, near Bradford in Yorkshire, to stay with an Estonian family and was indeed looking for work. I would love to know if he found it…**


Cover: A Soviet fishing vessel near Shetland (the image is illustrative/photos by & Chris Glew). * Please note that this article was first published on 9 May 2013 and lightly edited on 17 April 2018. ** Erich Teayn lived a long life in Leicester and died in the city on 14 April 2016.

Cambridge Baltic Conference 2014 to focus on education

Some of the finest minds in the Baltic are to gather in Cambridge on 10/11 October to discuss education, which is the theme of this year’s Cambridge Baltic Conference.

After a successful one day event in 2013, which focused on the Baltic/EU relationship, the event is now spread over two days, the first being given over to workshops which will be attended by students from Cambridge University.

The conference proper will begin on Saturday with a keynote address from Dr Roberts Ķīlis, former Latvian Minister of Education and Science, on “Skills versus Knowledge in Secondary Education”.

Other distinguished guests include Sir Paul Judge (benefactor of the Judge Business School), Maive Rute, former CEO of KredEx in Estonia and now a Resource Director at the European Commission, and Tõnu Pekk, Chairman of the Board of Young Scholar Grant.

The patrons include all three serving British Ambassadors in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.


Tickets and further information is available at Cambridge Baltic Conference.

Book review: “Radio” by Tõnu Õnnepalu

“A bus ticket from Tallinn to Tartu costs twenty Estonian kroons” is how Tõnu Õnnepalu’s hefty tome Radio begins, and it is indeed hefty. As opening sentences go, it’s devoid of much beyond the literal meaning but it sets the scene for much of the following 600 odd pages.

The narrator, an openly gay Estonian filmmaker, is returning to his homeland after a decade spent living in Paris. The contrasts between the glitz and glamour of France and the drab, grey coldness of the pre-EU Estonia become quickly apparent (especially as the narrator has a habit of including the French for certain words in parenthesis). Stuck in a permanent identity crisis and with self-esteem at the doldrums, he weaves together a memoir of a love affair, his thoughts on returning home, and a caustic guidebook to modern Estonia, its history and people. It is the latter in which I think it shines most.

Radio by Onnepalu

Aside from the narrator, the only character of whom we ever see more than two dimensions is Liz Franz (always “Liz Franz” – never “Liz”), a famous singer and former (heterosexual) paramour of our narrator. Her rise to stardom, career, interests and foibles is described in detail and clarity. Yet the other, more minor characters drift in and out in a transient fashion, not unlike the cardboard cutouts you see at shooting ranges, and you care about them almost as much.

Where the novel shines, however, is in its description of near-contemporary Estonia. Õnnepalu’s description of an unemployed husband is spot on:

“His wife works and ensures the family’s economic subsistence, and often very successfully, at that. The husband has lost his job or has not yet found himself in the professional field. He sometimes has creative ambitions. He plans to start writing opinion pieces (opinions) for the newspaper, although initially limits this to participation on Internet commentary pages, where he publishes fairly politically-incorrect positions concerning ‘blacks’ (who are practically non-existent in Estonia), Russians (Estonia’s primary minority), gays, women, politicians, as well as other social categories and phenomena.”

Sound like anyone you know? The book is littered with other witty and erudite observations on modern Estonian life and people, and would probably make a disturbing reading for them, although I hardly think they’ll be reading Radio.

What makes the novel rather heavy weather though, is the lack of sympathy one has with any of the characters. Our interlocutor’s narcissism not only drains sympathy from the reader at a rate of gallons, but the drab and lifeless characters he interacts with are seen only through his own eyes, clouded with self-obsession.

As the novel ploughs on, even the sparkling witticisms on Estonian life break up the narrative too much. You get the impression that the same story could have been told in a book one third of the size.

Still, Õnnepalu follows in the great tradition of other literary classics and this is worthy of much praise – the only problem with Radio is that by the end, you really don’t give a damn.


Tõnu Õnnepalu’s book “Radio” was published in English by Dalkey Archive Press in March. Translation by Adam Cullen.

Cover photo: Tõnu Õnnepalu.

Concert review: London Symphony Orchestra, conductor Kristjan Järvi/Dhafer Youssef/Barbican Centre, London

It goes without saying that concerts featuring any kind of crossover element tend to drag, but on the night of 24 April at the Barbican this adage, and a piano lift, were stretched to their maximum.

Kicking off proceedings at London’s brutalist Barbican Centre was Arvo Pärt’s Fratres (“Brethren”), here in its strings and percussion guise, a richly harmonic and yet decidedly formulaic work, combining fervent activity and great stillness and was performed as I’d never quite heard it before. The piece is founded on eight or nine chords and founded on a deep, low drone, which harkens back to the traditions of Russian Orthodox male choirs. In what some would consider musically questionable, conductor Kristjan Järvi noticeably slowed the pace and the piece lost a lot of its severity. It’s always refreshing to hear familiar works re-interpreted, but in this case, I can’t but help thinking that some of those of not such intimate terms with Fratres would have missed out on hearing it more traditionally played.

Up next was Pärt’s third symphony, the only piece to emerge from the composer’s self-imposed creative exile of the 1960s. A fusion of elements of Gregorian chant, his Russian Orthodox faith and harmonic simplicity, the work is dedicated to Neeme Järvi, the father of conductor Kristjan. Again, the piece is one which would benefit from a hard-headed and sober approach but Järvi conjured up a dreamy and visionary performance which blurred out much of the simplicity of Pärt’s style. Where one was hoping for tight strokes of clarity, there were unnecessary adornments. Nevertheless, Järvi is an engaging and dynamic presence and if he managed to convert some of the many world music lovers present for part two of the evening, then it’s definitely a good thing.

If you’ve ever wondered whether it is an easy task to manhandle a grand piano onto the stage of the Barbican concert hall, I can tell you that it is no mean feat. Due to the breakdown of the piano lift, a dozen or so hardy and beefy chaps were enlisted in order to undertake the task of relocating this mammoth instrument to its rightful place. After a few Laurel and Hardy-ish scrapes, the piano was in place enabling its (Estonian) musician Kristjan Randalu to perform.

The theme of the evening was spirituality, ostensibly the link between the works of Pärt and those of Dhafer Youssef, a Tunisian composer, vocalist and player of the oud (similar to a lute and an ancestor of the modern guitar), and his ensemble. The programme notes event went so far as to suggest a direct link between Pärt and Youssef, which I confess was lost on myself.

Youssef is an unashamed showman, and his performance was, at times, a kitch, over-the-top display of flamboyance, the only highlight for me being Randalu’s excellent performance on the piano. As a vocalist, Youssef has a pleasing enough voice but it was marred by the distraction of a digitally enhanced echo. Järvi and the LSO were relegated to providing the accompanying sounds which they did as well as could be expected.

After the rapturous encore, I was definitely of the opinion that the evening was tailored more to the world-music and jazz cross-over crowd. The Estonians I was sitting near left after 15 minutes of the second half and I was tempted to join them. The evening mirrored the day’s weather – sunny spells early on but ended decidedly overcast.


Cover photo: LSO performing at the Barbican Centre in London. Photo by Chris Glew.

Review: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir at LSO St Luke’s in London

As part of the London A Cappella Festival, on 22 January the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir performed “An Eastern Vigil”, at LSO St Luke’s, conducted by Daniel Reuss, accompanied by Gilad Atzmon, which included works by Pärt, Rachmaninov and others.

There are no better words than “solemn” and “mysterious” with which to describe An Eastern Vigil, the opening performance in the London A Cappella Festival, a four-day event of unaccompanied vocal and choral singing.

The evening was book-ended with more well-known works – Arvo Pärt’s Slavonic Psalms, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis, Sergei Rachmaninov’s All Night Vigil (often mistakenly called simply “Vespers”) – which the EPCC handled beautifully, with improvisational and insightful interludes from the supremely talented (and always reliable) saxophonist and clarinettist Gilad Atzmon. To hear famous pieces performed with such freshness was a treat, especially from an ensemble so used to performing them.

But the real mystery of the evening was as to the other composers and their works, namely the Estonian Cyrillus Kreek (almost unknown outside of Estonia), the Ukranian Vasyl Barvinsky and the Russian Nikolai Kedrov. My own knowledge was sketchy – I knew of Kedrov’s setting of the Lord’s Prayer (Otsche Nash; well worth seeking out) – but of the others, precious little.

Sadly no enlightenment was to be found in the exiguous (or “stingy”, as an Estonian sitting near-by suggested) accompanying programme, which didn’t include the sung texts in translation, a fact also not lost on those sitting close to me. Notes would have been helpful, with works performed in Estonian, Russian and Old Church Slavonic. Having said that, in this age of instant gratification, it was reassuring to see 400 people sitting in dim lighting, enraptured by this most non-visual form of art.

Two highlights were Kreek’s setting of Psalm 22 with its jolting change of register; and Barvinsky’s Oh, what a Wonder!, with a charming soprano accompanied by a humming choir, over which Atzmon wove improvised melodies gracefully and without distraction.

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is at the top of its game and sings effortlessly with poise and grace, performing music it loves to an audience who loved it all, as the encore proved.


Cover photo: The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (Kaupo Kikkas)

Arvo Pärt world’s most performed composer for third year running (video)

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt has, for the third year running, been given the title of the “world’s most performed living composer” by the classical music event database, Placing 38th in the overall composers’ ranking, he was ranked higher than his two principal competitors, Scottish composer James Macmillan, who came 45th, and veteran film music composer John Williams, who was ranked in 77th place.

Estonian-born Arvo Pärt was recently also nominated for a 2014 Grammy award for his composition Adam’s Lament, alongside fellow Estonians, the conductors Tõnu Kaljuste and Neeme Järvi. calculates a series of statistics each year which show the number of times the work of each composer has been performed, along with information regarding the “hardest working” conductors, orchestras and most performed individual works.

Verdi’s La Traviata was, unsurprisingly, the most performed opera and, for the first time, the music of Mozart was performed more than the music of Beethoven, although by the slimmest of margins. Benjamin Britten was a surprise entrant in 4th place, although perhaps not so much of a surprise when one considers that 2013 was the centenary of his birth.

Pärt, born in 1935 in Paide, spent the first half of his life in Estonia before being allowed to leave the Soviet Union after a prolonged and difficult struggle with the reluctant Soviet authorities. He now lives alternately in Tallinn and Berlin.

Video: Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel performed by Filipe Melo (piano) and Ana Cláudia Serrão (cello).

Map: Estonians in England and Wales – how many really are there?

In April 2013, Labour MP and shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant courted controversy when he slammed businesses in his South Wales constituency for “hiring Estonians and Latvians” instead of the local population. “It would be nice sometimes when you go into a British hotel if the receptionist was British,” was the remark that drew most criticism, suggesting to many that the opposition was just as confused on the issue of immigration as the government.

But, immigration policy aside, it made me curious as to just how many Estonians are there in the United Kingdom. Obviously there must be a reasonable number, I supposed, as otherwise how could the shadow minister for immigration and a former minister for Europe make such a claim about all these Estonians pushing out the locals?

A useful statistic is the amount of National Insurance numbers that are given out to foreign nationals – an NI number is essential if you wish to work legally in the UK, pay tax and claim any sort of state benefit. As you can see in the chart below, the largest amount of NI numbers given to Estonians was during the period immediately following its accession to the European Union.

In total, for the years 2002-2012, 17,851 National Insurance numbers were granted to Estonian nationals. This figure doesn’t tell us how many Estonians live in the UK at any given time, but does tell us that over the decade as a whole, over 17,000 Estonians worked or applied for work in the UK at some point.

Bizarrely, the UK Office for National Statistics does not publish a complete breakdown of the number of foreign nationals living in the country, only a breakdown of the top 60 nationalities and an estimate as to the number of people from each one. It’s a list on which Estonia does not feature.

The ONS has, however, published a detailed list of the number of people who indicated in the 2011 census that their “main language” was Estonian. The map below, produced using Google Fusion Tables, presents this data in interactive form for England and Wales (the data for Scotland and Northern Ireland wasn’t available when work commenced on the map).

There are various caveats, namely that despite completing the census is a legal requirement, not everybody does so. Similarly, the census is a snapshot of the country on the day on which people were asked to complete their census form. Those who were abroad on census day (I was in Vienna, for example) therefore are not included. You could be an Estonian national whose main language is Russian or, if you’re married to a UK citizen, English. Or you might be living in a shared house with some Germans and therefore your “main language” could still be English. There are numerous other scenarios – therefore these figures are to be used with caution.

According to the census, England and Wales was, on census day, home to 3,398 people who listed Estonian as their “main language”. Like most population figures, this is likely to be an underestimate but I’m not willing to predict by how much. I surveyed 15 Estonians I know who were living in the UK on census day, and 13 assured me they fulfilled their legal obligation (one admitted they hadn’t and the other couldn’t remember). Based on that most unscientific of polls, the census results should be fairly accurate. Or perhaps I just know more conscientious Estonians?

Nevertheless, the map does indicate which geographical regions are more likely to contain Estonian nationals than others. London, unsurprisingly, has the highest concentration of Estonians, namely in the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hillingdon. Birmingham and Manchester similarly have boroughs with a sizeable (over 40 people) Estonian population, as do the university cities of Cambridge and Oxford. Leeds and neighbouring Bradford would, if combined, contain the highest concentration of Estonian native speakers in the country – Bradford is, after all, home to both an Estonian club and an Estonian school and attracted a large number of Estonians after World War Two. If you can highlight any other possible communities or interesting points, let us know in the comments.

Despite all that, the total number of Estonians is still a mystery and likely to remain so, as the government doesn’t publish the figures for people entering or exiting the UK. Nevertheless, I would regard any figure above 10,000 with some scepticism.

So what of Rhondda, the constituency of Chris Bryant MP? Rhondda itself forms part of the (larger) Rhondda Cynon Taf local authority, for which the census records nine Estonian speakers (and, for the record, six Latvians, also singled out by Bryant). Even if these figures only represented 10% of the actual number (itself an error that would make the census beyond useless), Estonians would still be outnumbered ten to one by those with an East Asian main language and four to one by those listing an African main language.

Why pick on the Estonians, then? Well, it’s easier politics to be xenophobic than racist – an accusation of xenophobia isn’t the same as an accusation of racism when it comes to newspaper headlines, unfortunately. Much easier to pick on those bloody Eastern Europeans, innit?

President Ilves in London: “Big Brother” vs “Little Sister”

President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, extolled the virtues of Estonia’s e-government infrastructure and IT systems and discussed trust and identity on Tuesday in a keynote speech hosted by the Legatum Institute in London.

The broad theme of Ilves’s speech was that of identity and trust. Making reference to Peter Steiner’s famous 1993 New Yorker cartoon, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”, he put forward that “it is the role of government to come in and provide you with a secure identity, there is no other way of doing it, unfortunately…in the same way, only the government is able to enforce traffic laws and food safety standards”. “Otherwise,” he added, “the banks don’t know if you’re really a dog or not”.

“Big Brother” vs “Little Sister”

He spoke of the difference in the way data is used by intelligence services compared with private sector organisations, who collect information via free apps or supermarket loyalty cards. “A lot of information out there is being used by companies and it has very little to do with the NSA or GCHQ or any of the other traditional “bad” guys. I prefer to call this ‘Little Sister’ as opposed to “Big Brother”. ‘Little Sister’ knows everything about you and then tells everybody.”

A key point was his emphasis on privacy vs data integrity. “A lack of privacy means people can see what you’ve said – but what happens when someone changes what you’ve said? When someone cannot just see what’s in your bank account, but change what’s in your bank account? I think that will be the big issue in the future that we have to deal with.”

When it comes to the future, Ilves wishes to see a “Lockean social contract for the digital world”, as opposed to the Hobbesian outlook of states such as Russia and Iran where the government ostensibly makes life safer by means of state control. “We need a contract between the state and the citizens. Hobbes’s view of life before government was as a war against all and that we need a strong sovereign. This is the view we see coming from people like Vladimir Putin and from places like Iran. ‘We’re going to make our country safe by making sure that we control everything.’ What we need to do in the spirit of our liberal democratic and enlightenment tradition is come up with a deal between us and government.”

On Monday President Ilves gave the opening address at the Chatham House conference “Power and Commerce in the Internet Age” and met with the UK Minister for Digital Affairs, Francis Maude.

Book review: Caught between Scylla and Charybdis – “Forest Brothers” by Geraint Roberts

The year is 1944. During the last half-decade, Estonia has been ravaged by the Soviets and the Nazis in almost equal measure. 10,000 people have been deported to a likely death in Siberia by the Soviets and another 10,000 have been killed in Nazi concentration camps. Now the Nazis are fleeing and the Soviets are returning. During World War II, Estonia was, as during its War of Independence, the battleground for these two rival powers – to the west, the Germans, and to the east, the Soviets.


That earlier War of Independence concluded in Estonia’s favour. Britain, having cast itself as protector-in-chief of the Baltic, had, along with White Russians, Latvians, Finns and others, provided much needed support to the Estonians, enabling them to forge 22 years of self-government, if not always democratic government.

It is in Geraint Roberts’ new book, “Forest Brothers”, that this British link is thrust to the fore – it is through British eyes (or, more specifically, Welsh ones) that the story is told. The central protagonist, Huw Williams, scratching out a living as a docker in Wales during the bombing of World War II, finds his past catches up with him – a visit from “a man from the government” reminds him of how he absconded from the Royal Navy in 1918 while serving in Estonia and recruits him for a special job. Williams, speaking good Estonian – “the word is ‘metsavennad’”, he corrects – and knowing the country, semi-reluctantly goes along with the scheme and finds himself kayaking treacherously towards the Estonian coast on a covert mission. He links up with the forest brothers, a band of partisan resistance fighters, and his dangerous journey through a re-remembered Estonia begins to unfold.

The author skilfully runs two stories in parallel, that of Huw and his present day predicament and that of his original introduction to Estonia over twenty years prior, helpfully printed in italic. For the Estonian dialogue, Roberts drops the definite articles (“the” and “a”) as an Estonian, of course, doesn’t use them. “You fight in Russian army now?” asks one, for example. “I thought that an idea would be to drop the definite articles, in order to emphasise the difference between English and Estonian speech. Some people really like it and some people really hate it – it’s rather a marmite issue,” Roberts says. Some people, Estonians perhaps, might find this technique jarring, but, speaking personally, I found it lent a rather realistic accent to the speech of the Estonian characters.

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Geraint Roberts

Roberts’ descriptions of Estonia are spot on and pleasingly match the actualité. This is unsurprising, as he’s visited the country many times and his wife is Estonian. Roberts admits he isn’t a historian but the level of realism in the book is impressive. But what I found most striking about “Forest Brothers” was its characterisation – Roberts manages to bring the characters to life without losing the taciturn and reserved nature of the average Estonian, which is no mean feat. It is the credibility that the main characters possess, especially the Estonians, that is the real strength of the novel. “Forest Brothers” is not only a compelling story of human survival, but an accurate historical narrative depicting the conditions, missions and role of the forest brothers themselves.

“Forest Brothers” is now in its second edition – impressive, considering its niche appeal – and Roberts has a prequel partially completed. It is available via Circaidy Gregory Press, priced at £7.49 + P&P and as an eBook via

Mapping diplomacy – Estonia’s global servants

What “c” do Aberdeen, Miami and Tavira have in common? Currency? No. Climate? Certainly not. The “c” in this case stands for consul – honorary consul, to be precise. Of the 193 countries in the United Nations, the Republic of Estonia has a diplomatic presence of some kind in 82 of them, ranging from embassies to consulates-general to honorary consuls. It is in Aberdeen, Miami and Tavira (Portugal) that three of their honorary consuls are located.

Most of us have a reasonable understanding of the work that Estonia’s 32 embassies and five consulates-general do and it can be broken down into two distinct strands; promoting Estonia and its interests, and providing assistance to Estonian nationals abroad upon request.

The work of its 164 honorary consuls is broadly similar, although these honorary servants of the state are neither employed by it nor authorised to officially represent it in diplomatic terms. Their work is a combination of the symbolic (attending events on behalf of the country) and the practical (assisting wayward citizens in returning home or obtaining notarised documents and the promotion of trade ties). These honorary consuls can either be Estonian nationals or citizens of the host country – one notable example of the latter is German businessman Helmut Aurenz, Honorary Consul in Stuttgart.

Mapped below is Estonia’s diplomatic representation using data obtained from the website of the Foreign Ministry. As Europe is the most popular destination for Estonians travelling outside the country then it is no surprise that the continent is the focus for Estonian diplomacy. In comparison, the rest of the world seems somewhat neglected – this is not the case. As citizens of the EU, Estonians have been able to seek consular assistance from any EU embassy or consulate in a country in which Estonia is not represented. For obvious reasons these rules do not apply within the EU itself.

View Estonian worldwide diplomatic representation in a full screen map

Some notes on the map:

Most importantly, do not rely on this map if you are an Estonian travelling abroad. Check the website of the Foreign Ministry for up-to-date information on Estonia’s diplomatic representation within your country of travel. When making the map, street addresses were fed into Google Maps and where they resolved correctly, this point is used as the placeholder. In other cases, the latitude and longitude were used to manually insert a placeholder, although the address does appear if the placeholder is clicked. You may consult this map for any purpose you wish, but if you find yourself stranded with only a compass and a tin-opener, then you may not sue the author nor

This map only marks Estonian embassies, consulates-general, special missions and honorary consuls that are present and on the ground in each relevant country. For example, some Estonian ambassadors reside in Tallinn or another city outside the country to whom they represent Estonia. For instance, the Estonian Ambassador to Romania does not feature on the map – there is no Embassy in Romania (although there are two honorary consuls) and Ambassador Eerik Marmei resides in Warsaw.

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