Sten Hankewitz

Sten Hankewitz is a lifelong journalist and Deputy Editor at Estonian World. Having lived in Estonia, Spain, the UK and all around the US, he now resides in Chicago, IL. He loves to write and besides working at Estonian World and doing some occasional blogging, he writes books and contributes to other outlets in Estonia, Israel and elsewhere. He has strong convictions and he shows them unashamedly. You can follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook or check out his personal blog. You can write to Sten at sten@estonianworld.com.

Estonian-founded Pipedrive is the 14th fastest growing software company in the US

The Estonian-founded tech company, Pipedrive, is, according to the Inc. magazine, the 14th fastest growing software company in the United States.

The New York-based company is, according to the 2016 Inc. 5000 rankings, also the 19th fastest-growing private company in New York City.

Pipedrive was founded in 2010 and it develops a customer relationship management platform that gives sales teams in small businesses control over their selling processes. According to the company, its software is used by over 30,000 customers, and it has offices in both New York and Tallinn.

Pipedrive support team at their Tallinn office

The Inc. 5000 list ranks companies according to their percentage revenue growth over a three-year period. According to the magazine, the companies listed “are the superheroes of the US economy”. Inc. magazine is an American monthly publication focussed on growing companies.

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Read also: Pipedrive – an Estonian company in Shaq O’Neal’s investment portfolio. Cover: Pipedrive offices in Tallinn.

Estonian war film “1944” released in the UK on DVD

The Estonian war film, “1944”, has been released in the UK with English subtitles and is available on Amazon.

The film is available to all other European countries through the Amazon UK website, amazon.co.uk. For the European market, the movie’s titled, “1944: Forced to Fight”.

“1944”, written by Leo Kunnas and directed by Elmo Nüganen, is about the events that occurred in Estonia in 1944, from the Battle of Tannenberg Line (25 July – 10 August 1944) to the Battle of Tehumardi in Sõrve Peninsula (October – November 1944) and is shown through the eyes of Estonian soldiers who had to pick sides and fight against their fellow countrymen.

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The movie focusses on the individual in the context of the war rather than war itself, and shows the war from both perspectives – those of the Estonians in the Red Army and in the German Army.

The film can be purchased for £7.99.

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Cover: screenshot from the movie.

Eastern Europeans in America support US commitment to NATO

The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 20 million Central and Eastern European Americans, strongly backs the United States’ continued unconditional commitment to upholding the NATO Treaty as well as US support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all Central and Eastern European nations.

“Our organisation stands firm in its belief that America’s close cooperation with all NATO allies and partners is fundamental to ensuring U.S. and European security,” the organisation said in a statement. “The CEEC urges both the current and future administrations to continue developing allied relations with all NATO members and transatlantic partners, and to take such action as deemed necessary to maintain security of the alliance, including the European Reassurance Initiative.”

According to the CEEC, the renewed aggressive behaviour and actions of Russia against Central and Eastern European nations “have raised the importance of NATO’s credibility and cohesiveness for regional stability”.

“In February 2016, then-NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove, stated at a hearing of the US House Armed Services Committee that ‘Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies and partners’. Earlier this year, the CEEC sponsored a policy forum on NATO’s stance on Russia on Capitol Hill. A major theme of our discussion characterised Russia’s increasing aggression since 2008 not only in terms of fanning regional conflicts but as a fundamental assault on the post-World War II international order.”

The CEEC believes the commitment by the United States to NATO countries should be based on collective defence, shared values and democratic principles, as well as support for regional partners. “We have, and continue to support the principle of NATO’s Open Door policy, for all willing and qualified nations,” the organisation said.

“The security of the United States lies in the peaceful expansion of democracy, not in the appeasement of aggressor states making imperial claims,” the CEEC added. “Proactive US leadership is vital to NATO’s continued effectiveness, to protect peace and security in Europe. The crisis driven by Russia in Central and Eastern Europe, and in Ukraine specifically, will not just go away. In an informationally interconnected and economically interdependent world, the United States must take the lead in promoting international norms and consolidating geopolitical stability.”

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Cover photo is illustrative: An F-22 Raptor pilot from the 95th Fighter Squadron, based at Tyndall Air Force, and his jet at the Ämari Air Base, Estonia, in 2015 (courtesy of USAF).

Estonia to assemble memorial to the victims of communism

The Estonian state real estate management company has chosen the design “Journey” (“Teekond” in Estonian) as the future memorial to the victims of communism and officers of Estonia.

The winner of the design competition was chosen by Riigi Kinnisvara AS (RKAS, the state real estate management agency) in cooperation with the ministry of justice, the victims of repressions organisations, the City of Tallinn and the Estonian Association of Architects.

The winner, called “Journey”, was designed by Kalle Vellegoog, Jaan Tiidemann, Tiiu Kruus, Martin Prommik and Lidia Zarudnaja of JVR OÜ, an Estonian architecture company.

The future memorial is to consist of two parts – one is to be “Journey” and the second “the Home Garden” (“Koduaed” in Estonian). “To reach the home garden, one has to undertake a journey. To undertake a journey, one has to leave the home garden,” RKAS explained in a statement.

Communism memorial

According to the state real estate management agency, a journey is a metaphor that combines hope and hopelessness. “A journey is a spatial experience that shows the power of the system, that selects, compartmentalises and decides over a person’s fate. The person is small and weak, compared with the system. A journey is not a place of being, but a place of moving. Undertaking a journey is a ritual that helps experience the past,” the agency said.

The “Journey” part of the memorial will be a long dark tunnel with plaques with the names of the victims of communism on its walls. Next to the plaques will be plates without names to symbolise the unknown victims of communism. “The plaques hint at the compartmentalising nature of the system. Every plaque will be numbered and will have fifty names. The round number of the names and the clear structure of the plaques will help visually understand the amount of the victims.”

The other part of the memorial, “the Home Garden”, is to be a metaphor to combine dreams, memories and homesickness, RKAS said. “People feel safe at home, there’s peace and quiet at home. The home garden is a place of being, not moving. The symbol of the home garden is an apple tree. Planting an apple tree is a ritual that looks into the future.”

“The Home Garden” will be placed in a hollow and its centre will be rounded by apple trees that separate the centre plaza from its surroundings. “At the corner of the plaza there will be a dark cube in front of which and around it memorial events can take place. The floor of the plaza will be made of concrete with a floor board pattern to signify the floor at one’s home,” the statement said.

Communism memorial II

The memorial for the officers of the Republic of Estonia will be a long dark wall, decorated by a figure of an officer. “A proud officer standing next to a dark wall is a powerful, but a dark image that, with the journey behind the wall is to symbolise a field with multiple meanings,” RKAS said.

The memorial will be built in Tallinn at Maarjamäe between Kadriorg and Pirita. The memorial will be dedicated to more than 20,000 people who lost their lives due to communism, of whom many died abroad and whose final resting places are, in many cases, unknown. The cost of the memorial is to be up to €4.45 million.

Estonia ranks first in the Freedom House democratic development index

Among 29 post-communist nations, Estonia ranks first in democratic development in an index compiled by Freedom House, a US-based human rights organisation.

Estonia is followed in the index by Slovenia, Latvia and the Czech Republic. Lithuania ranks fifth, Poland sixth and Slovakia seventh.

The countries in the index, called “Nations in Transit”, are rated on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of democratic progress. Estonia scored 1.93 in democratic development; in comparison, the worst nations in the index – Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan – both scored 6.93.

democratic index

Freedom House notes that Estonia has long been considered to have a low level of corruption, outperforming in various indices even among some Western European countries.

However, the organisation says that two events this year may change that perception. “In addition to several minor cases of money laundering, political patronage, and influence peddling, investigations by the Internal Security Service (ISS) revealed two major corruption cases. In one, the managing board of the state-owned Port of Tallinn was accused of taking bribes. In the second, Centre Party head Edgar Savisaar was suspended from his post as mayor of Tallinn and accused of accepting property and monetary bribes. Savisaar has denied the charges.”

According to Freedom House, the process and outcomes of these cases will play a significant role in demonstrating the practical effects of anticorruption laws and other regulations that aim to enforce the country’s democratic principles.

Freedom House also says that discussions on how to deal with the major challenges facing Estonia – such as slow economic growth, declining population, shortage of skilled labor, weak local governments, imbalance between the capital and regions, and finding new revenue sources to cover increasing social costs – will remain on the political agenda.

“Although there are no quick solutions to Estonia’s internal problems or to burning external issues like the migrant crisis, it is obvious that these difficulties will not pass and the country must devise strategies to deal with them. Yet the government appears to have no clear idea how to address the challenges in an effective way and prefers to fine-tune existing measures. It is probable that the power struggle between the coalition parties will continue, and the government will likely not find the strength to deal with these pressing issues in 2016.”

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Cover photo is illustrative.

Russian submarine signal buoy found on a Saaremaa beach

The Estonian Rescue Board’s bomb squad on Wednesday removed a Russian submarine signal buoy that was found on a beach in Mustjala Parish on the Estonian island of Saaremaa, “Saarte Hääl”, a local newspaper, reported on 22 July.

The head of the bomb squad, Janek Sõnum, told the newspaper that the buoy was a Russian KSP submarine emergency signal buoy that, when released by the submarine, breaks the surface, shoots out a signal rocket and then lets out smoke for a while.

Since 2005, the western Estonian bomb squad has got 16 calls regarding such objects. Similar buoys have also been found on the Swedish coast, the newspaper added.

According to Sõnum, the resque board does not know where these buoys are coming from.

“Looking at the KSP, it seemed pretty fresh, so it begs the question, when was a Russian submarine near this coast and why?” the local resident who found the buoy, said.

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Cover: the Russian Federation’s Baltic Fleet, based in Kaliningrad, uses Kilo-class submarines.

Donald Trump speaking at a rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona, in March 2016. Courtesy: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia

“President” Trump wouldn’t automatically rush to NATO allies’ aid

If the New York businessman Donald Trump, who tonight is to accept the Republican nomination for president, would be elected in November, he wouldn’t automatically rush to NATO allies’ aid, he said in an interview.

In an interview with the New York Times, published on Wednesday, Trump questioned whether he, as president, would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.

When the newspaper asked him about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved Estonia and the Baltic States, Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us”.

 “If they fulfil their obligations to us, the answer is yes,” he then added, without specifying which “obligations” he exactly had in mind.

Along the same lines, the former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, a staunch Trump ally in the Republican Party and this year’s presidential campaign, today on “CBS This Morning” programme said “Estonia is in the suburbs of St Petersburg”.

“The Russians aren’t going to necessarily come across the [Estonian] border militarily,” Gingrich said. “The Russians will do what they did in Ukraine. 40% of Estonia is Russian. They’re suddenly going to say they’re being mistreated. They’re going to have a militia. I’m not sure I would risk a nuclear war over some place which is the suburbs of St Petersburg.”

According to Statistics Estonia, as of 1 January 2016, only 25.1% of the Estonian population are ethnic Russians.

Trump and his allies’ takeover of the GOP marks a significant change in the party’s line of defending American allies, especially the members of NATO that the United States, according to Article 5 of the NATO charter – the collective defence article – has promised to protect.

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Cover: Donald Trump speaking at a rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona, in March 2016. Courtesy: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia

Barclays: Estonia and South Korea lead in digital empowerment

According to the Barclays Digital Development Index, Estonia and South Korea are joint global leaders in digital empowerment among ten countries that were selected based on different criteria to represent a broad spectrum.

According to Barclays, a British banking corporation, the index “is an effort to shift public debate in the UK and elsewhere from a discussion of basic digital competence towards one of digital empowerment, and to understand how ready the UK workforce is for the digital economy, compared with its rivals”.

The index compares the workforce digital skills and attitudes of nations, along with the policies that are in place to improve them. “It is based on a self-assessment survey that asked adult workers in 10 countries to evaluate their current digital skills, what they’ll need in the future, and how their employers and governments are helping them to address the gaps.”

The index assesses the 10 countries in two pillars or empowerment – the individual empowerment index measures workers’ self-assessment of their digital skills in six categories ranging from basic to advanced; the digital empowerment policy index assesses national efforts to create a digitally empowered workforce.

According to the British bank, both Estonia and South Korea are joint leaders in digital empowerment. “Like most (though not all) developed countries in the index, their positions are based on active and well-organised government and business efforts to improve the teaching of digital skills.”

Barclays’ Digital Development Index Top 10

  1. Estonia

1. South Korea

3. Sweden

4. UK

5. China

5. USA

7. India

8. Germany

9. Brazil

10. South Africa

The objective of the index, Barclays says, “is to understand how well countries are equipping their workers for the digital economy”.

“It looks at a broad spectrum of countries, including those currently competing with the UK and those likely to be competitors in the years ahead. These countries include perceived digital pioneers such as Estonia and Sweden, major industrial and high-tech giants such as Germany, South Korea and the US, and rapidly digitalising markets such as Brazil, China, India and South Africa.”

Barclays also says Estonia “boasts an ambitious and well-funded broadband access policy and comprehensive training programmes, including teacher training”.

Research fellow at the European Commission, Riina Vuorikari, said that Estonia was very advanced in applying digital in public services. “They don’t have the burden of legacy systems, and are doing things that other countries are still talking about and wondering how to do.”

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Cover photo by Siiri Lind.

The US may deploy F-35 stealth aircraft to the Baltics

The United States Air Force may deploy the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth aircraft to the Baltics later this year when the aircraft becomes operational.

General Herbert Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command, said he’d like the F-35s “do some Baltic air policing”, according to the National Interest, an American online magazine.

“As I talk to the air chiefs over in Europe in this past week, all of them are very interested for their own countries to be able to see the visibility of that airplane out doing operational missions,” Carlisle said, according to the magazine.

According to the general, the F-35 deployments would send a message to the potential adversaries, like Russia, the magazine added.

The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is to enter service with the Air Force with an interim software capability, called Block 3i, that offers limited combat capability, the National Interest said.

F-35

The F-35A, the variant of the fighter to be operated by the US Air Force, is intended to replace the Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon. The stealth aircraft is expected to match the F-16 in manoeuvrability and instantaneous high-g performance, and outperform it in stealth, payload, range on internal fuel, avionics, operational effectiveness, supportability, and survivability, according to Wikipedia.

The Baltic Air Policing mission was established in 2004 to assist Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who have no airborne air defence capability of their own. The aim of the mission is to prevent unauthorised incursion into the airspace of the Baltic states and its most frequent duty is intercepting Russian aircraft and escorting them from the area. To the west of the Baltic states’ airspace is an air corridor often used by aircraft traveling to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad from territorial Russia.

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Cover: F-35 (US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen)

Over 2.7 million people take part in Let’s Do It! cleaning campaigns across Europe

In April and May, more than 2.7 million people from 20 countries joined the Let’s Do It! cleanups, accompanied by festivals and events to draw attention to the growing problem of illegal waste.

Let’s Do It! cleanup events were held in Belarus (23,000 people), Cyprus (15,000), the Czech Republic (65,000), Greece (60,000), Bosnia and Herzegovina (numbers to be specified), Latvia (190,000), Lithuania (260,000), Ukraine (763,000), Croatia (55,000), Hungary (190,000), Estonia (44,000 people), Montenegro (10,800), Albania (100,000), Kosovo (60,000) and Bulgaria (150,000). Sweden held an extended cleanup campaign over the course of three months, involving almost 768,000 school pupils. Small actions were also held in Italy, Argentina and in Lebanon.

Let’s Do It! World is the outcome of a massive volunteer initiative, pioneered in Estonia in 2008, when 50,000 volunteers cleaned up 10,000 tonnes of illegal waste in just five hours. Officials estimated the initiative saved local governments three years of work and €22,5 million. The idea caught on and has since spread globally, having now grown into a network of about 100 countries.

On 8 September 2018, Let’s Do It! World will organise a massive World Cleanup Day with 150 countries cleaning up waste on the same day.

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Cover: cleanup in Greece (courtesy of Let’s Do It! World)

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