Estonians in the USA

The Lakewood Estonian House celebrates platinum anniversary

The Lakewood Estonian House in New Jersey, United States, is turning 70, which can only mean one thing – time to throw a party.

A lot happens in a span of 70 years. Halley’s Comet nearly completes its seven-billion-mile elliptical cruise around the solar system. In the east, the Sun rises over 25,000 times and sets at the same frequency in the west. Two generations of humans make room for a third. A child is born, grows, ages and becomes content.

And in that same timespan the Lakewood Estonian House in New Jersey was built with sweat equity, inhabited, expanded and filled with stories. In 2016, the meeting place for several generations of Estonians turns 70 and celebrates it platinum anniversary. The significance is elemental, for just like platinum, Estonians are rare, strong and, of course, sometimes dense.

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Just like the physical structure was built from scratch, so too were the memories. Many of those reading this now are smiling and remembering times of merriment, Estonian style. Maybe it was the Estonian School Christmas pageant, when the kids performed carefully choreographed recitals on stage while verivorstid (blood sausages) crackled in the kitchen.

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Maybe it was the Jaanipäev (Midsummer Day) celebration when the sun set a little later and you went to bed a lot later, so as to not miss a joke or a conversation. Or, maybe it was a collage of events spanning the Friday night open houses when locals gather to eat open faced sandwiches sprinkled liberally with dill, enjoy a beverage of choice and keep a culture alive in a distant land.

70th anniversary

And if you are thinking a 70th anniversary would be wonderful reason to celebrate days gone by, and a pleasingly optimistic future, you would be correct. This is not a round-number occurrence to be squandered. As Estonia marches toward its 100th anniversary, significantly, the small enclave 4,000 miles from Tallinn will turn 70.

Lakewood - Harry Verder

As such, the Lakewood Estonian Association invites all those with a connection to Lakewood to come home for a weekend. Branded “Tulge Koju”, or “Come Home”, the celebration begins Friday evening, 2 September 2016, with Andres Raudsepp on guitar playing your favourite folk songs. One should expect a healthy dose of conversation and laughter to accompany the music. Then, on 3 September, the grounds will host a volleyball tournament, the New York Segakoor (mixed chorus), energetic folk dancing with the Saare Vikat dance group and a memory lane. As the evening kicks in, get back on your feet to continue the party when Väike Mees (Little Man) arrives from Estonia to play their brand of folk rock.

Clear your calendars for 2-3 September 2016. Call your friends and get nostalgic. Come home for a weekend!

Estonian community in Lakewood

Many Estonians started to settle in Lakewood already in the 1930s. They came mainly from New York City, which already had an Estonian community. In 1933, a young couple, Konstantin and Martha Lacht, donated the land in Lakewood on which the current Estonian House stands.

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From early on, the members of the Estonian community demonstrated remarkable spirit of entrepreneurship: they established poultry farms in the 1930s and three pubs in the 1940s and 1950s – one of the pubs was called Alligator Inn.

Estonians in Lakewood

The Estonian Lutheran church was erected in the early 1960s.

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The community started to build its clubhouse in 1946 and it was completed a year later. In the 1970s, as the number of Estonians in the community increased to over a thousand, the building was expanded and even hosted theatre productions by the Lakewood Estonian Theatre troupe. It has accommodated performers, folk-dancers, musicians and singers since.

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Photos courtesy of Lakewood Estonian House. Read also: Estonian communities around the world: On the map – Lakewood Estonian House.

JBANC: the ironclad leadership of the US in NATO is critically important

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC) is very concerned with recent misguided statements related to the United States’ commitment to upholding NATO treaty agreements.

As a nonpartisan organisation, JBANC believes in and advocates for robust transatlantic relations between the United States and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

We stand firm in our belief that NATO and America’s commitment to its NATO allies are fundamental to ensuring US and European security, and we urge both the current administration and the new one elected in November to continue to support all NATO allies, including the Baltic countries. We urge to reaffirm commitment to the NATO’s Article 5 (NATO’s collective defence: an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies – editor). Continued dangerous rhetoric on either side of the Atlantic could harm some of America’s best friends, partners, and allies [in NATO].

The Baltic countries are undeniably strong in their commitments to NATO and fully understand what is at stake. Although challenged in fully rebuilding their militaries over the past 25 years, they have worked to fulfil their NATO commitments.

“The Baltic countries are undeniably strong in their commitments to NATO and fully understand what is at stake.”

Estonia spends over 2% of GDP of pledged defensive expenditures, and while currently just under 2%, Latvia and Lithuania have been increasing their military budgets more rapidly than any of the other NATO members over the past few years, and will be reaching that threshold soon.

There has been rock-solid commitment and engagement by the Baltic countries in supporting NATO and US-led actions in Iraq, the Balkans, and in Afghanistan, after invoking the Article 5 commitment to help defend the United States after 9/11.

“Estonia spends over 2% of GDP of pledged defensive expenditures.”

The alliance is facing more and more unconventional threats. It is imperative for allies to share their collective knowledge in key security areas – whether cyber, strategic communications, or in the energy security sphere. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania make substantial contributions in all of these areas.

JBANC condemns any indication that the United States might reconsider its treaty obligation to defend a NATO member, especially on economic grounds. During these increasingly turbulent times, we need strong solidarity among all of our NATO allies.

“JBANC condemns any indication that the United States might reconsider its treaty obligation to defend a NATO member, especially on economic grounds.”

Baltic Americans particularly understand the importance of effective US leadership in supporting these alliances. We take great pride in the cooperation and strong relationships forged between the United States and the Baltic countries and support all actions to continue them.

Transatlantic ties must be solid; the United States cannot allow any weakening of resolve or commitment to our allies. The ironclad long-lasting leadership of the United States in NATO is critically important.

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Cover: President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press before meeting with (former) Latvian president Andris Běrzinš, Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite in the Cabinet Room of the White House, 30 August, 2013 (official White House photo by Amanda Lucidon).

Two Estonian artists showcase their work in New York

Two Estonian artists, Diina Tamm and Valev Laube, will be presenting their work at a performance art show “Reflection Spectrum” in New York City.

An interactive performance art project will be taking place at Anita’s Way, a permanent public plaza that accommodates artists and audiences in the centre of New York. In the course of two days and four performances, the visitors of the outdoor performance venue right by Times Square will have the opportunity to be a part of a visual art and dance shows.

“Reflection Spectrum” is an interactive performance that fuses together dance with graphic visuals in a unique and interactive space. Four unique interpretations to the same artistic thought are conceptualised by New York-based choreographers – Estonian Diina Tamm in collaboration with Amanda Carlson, Vivake Khamsingsavath and Brinda Guha.

Choreography for the show is performed by a large international cast and accompanying visuals and video installation are made by an Estonia-born, New York-based, visual artist Valev Laube.

“Each choreographer presents its own unique take on the duality of identities hidden inside of us. The concept focuses on a humbling process of self-reflections, which we all struggle with on a regular basis: the person we are and the person we project,” Laube told Estonian World.

Anita’s Way helps the audience engage with the artwork in a reflective manner. “Organisers aim to create a personal, yet inspiring space for the audience to be able to reflect and engage with the artistically presented spectrum of personal stories. Which is the real you – the one people see or the one on the inside and how are we affected by visible reflections? How much of it are we aware of?” Laube added.

Diina Tamm, a dancer and choreographer born in Estonia, is a co-producer of the show. Originally from Tallinn, Tamm currently lives and works in New York. Her credits include dancing and co-choreographing the Columbus Day parade on ABC, Italian musical “Seven Worlds”, as well as music videos by artist Misterwives and Icona Pop. As a choreographer, she has presented her work at various shows and festivals in the United States and Estonia. Tamm is also a dancer and choreographer for the M.O.V.E. non-profit organisation that raises funds and awareness for a variety of social issues.

Diina Tamm

“Kaleidoscope Girl”, the act of the show that is choreographed by Tamm, focuses on people’s tendency to judge themselves based on what they assume other people think of them. “The vision of ourselves often becomes blurred if we try to see ourselves through the eyes of people around us,” Tamm said. The performance also includes some interaction with the audience and powerful video installations by Laube. The cast includes dancers from the United States, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France and Germany.

Laube’s most notable artist works have been exhibited in the United States and Canada. His most recent works include a music video for the Estonian-Finnish indie-pop band, Popidiot, and numerous promotional designs for companies, like Kenneth Cole, Steve Madden, WilsonArt and many others.

Prior to “Reflection Spectrum”, the two Estonian artists have worked on numerous projects of which the most recent performance took place this year at the Estonian Cultural Days in New York.

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“Reflection Spectrum” takes place in collaboration with Chashama, a non-profit arts organisation, from 26 to 27 July in New York, at Anita’s Way, 137 West 42nd Street (the through-block connecting 42nd and 43rd streets, between Broadway and 6th Ave). Performances take place at 4:30pm and 6pm. All shows are free and open to the public. Cover: poster image of the show.

Fifty-five years of advocating on Baltic issues in the US celebrated

The Joint Baltic American National Committee looks back at 55 years of advocating on Baltic issues in the United States.

The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc, came together 55 years ago on 27 April 1961, documented by the decision and signatures of the heads of the leading national Baltic organisations. In doing so, it would combine the efforts of the three main national organisations of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians based in the United States. JBANC, as it came to be known, helped coalesce activities in Washington, DC, for the three national groups in order to better engage with policy makers and to keep closer to the pulse of American politics.

In organising the Baltic-American communities into an effective advocacy force in the United States, JBANC’s forefathers had the foresight to strengthen its standing and efficacy by pledging to coordinate efforts together. It was force multiplication in triplicate.

How did this come about when it came about?

JBANC was born largely of the Baltic refugees who came to America following the Second World War. It is true that the existing Lithuanian community in the US had been around much longer and was already much larger. However, the displacement of wartime European populations and the corresponding Displaced Persons Act in the US in 1948 presented an opening for a great new influx of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians to emigrate westward across the Atlantic to American shores. As the new wave of Baltic communities established themselves in the US, they also began to organise themselves, first societally and soon politically. By that time, the Cold War was in full swing, and Soviet threats to the West were growing. To help counter the challenges, the North Atlantic Treaty, which created NATO, was signed on 4 April 1949.

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As the Baltic-American communities took root in America, a greater awareness in the United States of Soviet and Nazi crimes in Europe arose following WWII. Communist crimes in the Baltics were highlighted, for instance, during the Kersten Committee hearings in the US Congress in 1953-54. Many newly arrived Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians were witnesses at these hearings on Soviet atrocities.

The post-war world was entering a new era in which colonial empires were being deconstructed. Instead, the opposite was true with the Soviet empire, as the communist world expanded. It became better known that the Soviets were quite prolific in lording over subjugated peoples – and quite brutally at that. With this backdrop, a Captive Nations movement arose in the 1950s to shed light on the over 30 nations that were behind the Iron Curtain, including the Baltic countries. When JBANC was established in the spring of 1961, citizens of East Berlin had been fleeing to the West, and only a few months later the Berlin Wall was erected to stop the steady drain. There was a lot happening internationally, and the Baltic countries could not be forgotten.

For JBANC’s first thirty years (from 1961-1991), the main focus was to retain recognition of the exile Baltic governments and keep hopes alive for one day achieving the goal of seeing the Baltic countries independent again. Thankfully, during these years, the Welles Declaration remained a cornerstone of US policy regarding the Baltic countries. It was issued by the US government in 1940 and condemned the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries, and stated the US’s refusal to recognise the Soviet annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. JBANC, as the voice of the unified Baltic-American communities, helped inform US policymakers on developments in the Soviet-occupied Baltics, and for the importance of standing up for this very important principle of non-recognition.

US Capitolium

Through the 1970s and 1980s, JBANC helped raise awareness of Baltic political prisoners and the Soviet Union’s continual transgressions against the Helsinki Act’s Declaration of Principles, particularly those having to do with human rights and the self-determination of peoples. The budding nationalist movements within the Baltic nations during the Gorbachev era gave rise to renewed hopes of freedom, and Baltic-Americans rose to the occasion during a multitude of actions and political rallies in support of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

When the restoration of Baltic independence was achieved in 1990-1991, it did not spell the end of JBANC and the “Baltic lobby” in the United States. For some, in order to help build new democracies back home, a number of Baltic activists moved to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to lend their expertise to their ancestral homelands. In the US, Baltic-Americans continued to contribute, as there were plenty of issues to remain engaged in. One key issue was the concentrated effort in the US to ensure that lawmakers remained focused on the peaceful withdrawal of the Russian armed forces from the Baltics in 1993-1994. That was followed by a nearly ten-year campaign to help bring the Baltic countries into NATO to address the security void. Without the underlying political support of that effort in the US, that would have been a tougher sell. JBANC’s efforts were crucial in that effort.

JBANC

Other key areas of focus for JBANC during the past ten years have centred on human rights, democracy building, energy security, defending against Russian propaganda and disinformation, and helping support regional issues in the Central and Eastern European neighbourhood, such as helping Ukraine push back against Moscow’s continuing military invasion. We need to be up to today’s challenges in light of Russia’s increasing threats and aggression. From 1995-2015, JBANC has organised eleven Baltic conferences in Washington, DC, to discuss important issues like these. The twelfth JBANC conference is slated for the spring of 2017. These have helped bring together Baltic-American activists with the policy community and with leading political figures from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In addition, annual commemorations of the 1941 and 1949 deportations and the Black Ribbon Day on 23 August remain important activities.

For Americans of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian descent, JBANC has remained a central place for information and policies affecting the Baltic countries and for conveying the concerns of the Baltic-American community to Congress, the White House and other US government agencies. For 55 years, JBANC has remained a unified voice and a force in advocating for Baltic issues. These efforts will continue.

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This article was first published on the Joint Baltic American National Committee website. Cover: President Reagan signs a proclamation at the White House, naming 14 June, 1983 Baltic Freedom Day. From left behind the president are: Rep John Kasich, R-Ohio; Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-NY; Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; and Rep William Broomfield, R-Mich. Courtesy of AP.

Donald Trump becomes an Estonian e-resident

The controversial American presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has applied and been granted Estonian e-residency, Estonian World can exclusively reveal.*

Trump’s interest about the e-residency was sparked after a successful covert operation by the Estonian secret service ESSAD, its agent, who asked anonymity, disclosed to Estonian World.

Despite the property mogul’s contentious image and his offensive remarks made during the US presidential campaign, Trump’s application for Estonian e-residency was granted ultra-fast by the country’s authorities, even despite objections by the Social Democrats, one of the coalition partners in the current Estonian government.

The Estonian secret service initiated the successful operation to woo Trump in December last year, after becoming increasingly worried about the loudmouth candidate’s too cosy affair with the Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Trump received praise from Putin, who called Trump “bright and talented”, after the presidential hopeful had previously brushed off accusations that Putin has assassinated political adversaries and journalists. Trump said in return that he would “get along fine” with the Russian leader if elected. “If Putin respects me, and if Putin wants to call me brilliant … I’ll accept that, and I’ll accept it on behalf of our country,” he said.

This was a red alert for the Estonians. But as Trump himself as said that “luck is everything” – among many hundreds colloquialisms he has managed to come up with during the campaign that resembles a comedy show – luck smiled to the Estonian secret service indeed.

Kristiina Heinmets with Donald Trump in 1997First, the former Miss Estonia, Kristiina Heinmets-Aigro, was contacted to. Heinmets-Aigro had met Trump, while participating in the Miss Universe contest in 1997 – the business tycoon owned the beauty pageant at the time and as a self-confessed ladies-man, eagerly mingled with its contestants. Heinmets-Aigro remembered that Trump had been aware of Estonia – apart from complimenting on how beautiful Estonian women look like, it turned out that his nanny had been an Estonian refugee, who had settled in New York.

Next step was to find the Estonian nanny who had been trusted with a hard task of looking after young Donald. Luckily, the Estonian House in New York came to rescue and pointed to a right direction. A lady called Maiu Hoiataja was still alive and well, living in a great spirit in the city’s Queens borough, just down the road from the hilltop mansion where Trump grew up.

Hoiataja, an elegant and gracious woman despite being in her 80s, still keeps a contact with the Trump family, especially with his older sister Maryanne. Through her, ESSAD managed to establish a contact with the prospective president himself and during the course of February, convinced him to become an Estonian e-resident. There are rumours that the former Republican presidential candidate, senator John McCain, also played a role, making clear to Trump that using name ‘Estonia’ in a campaign is a blessing, rather than curse. McCain, who has visited Estonia on numerous times and knows the country well, agreed to help because he is also committed to keep Trump as far from Putin as possible.

One of the selling arguments to Trump was that if he receives a travel and business ban in the United Kingdom (where he has invested millions of pounds mainly in exclusive golf courses in Scotland, where his late mother originated from) due to his offensive comments about Muslims, he could set up a golf course in the Estonian island of Saaremaa instead – and Estonian e-residency could help him to conduct all the necessary business affairs not just there, but in the entire European Union, without a need to set a foot here. Apparently, he liked the idea.

Saaremaa golf course

From the Estonian point of view, any high profile international politician who becomes an e-resident, doubles also as a sort of security guarantee for the country – should for example, Vladimir Putin get struck down with dementia and forget that the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 – then Trump as a proud Estonian e-resident, wishing to protect his assets, would hopefully remind his Russian counterpart that Estonia is an independent country and its Russian minority does not need Volodya’s “protection”

Estonian World contacted Maiu Hoiataja early this week and she agreed to share some of her memories of young Trump. “I was a young and attractive girl, who had just arrived to New York as an Estonian refugee in the early 50s,” she recalled. “I was studying at a medical school in Woodhaven, when on one day a gentleman, who later turned out to be Trump’s dad Fred, came by to recruit a nanny for his son. And he chose me, after stating that ‘young Donald needs an attractive and smart lady to look after him’”.

Young TrumpAccording to Hoiataja, the young Donald was a restless boy, but didn’t resemble anything like a sort of hate-figure he has become during the presidential campaign. “This is a town with different races, religions, and peoples. It breeds tolerance. Donald played soccer on a team dominated by boys from Latin America, so it is weird to hear all this nonsense about bad Mexicans now,” she told us, while expressing hope that should her former protege become elected to the White House, he would take her to visit Estonia on an official visit together. Hoiataja also appeared to calm down fears about a bombastic Trump, emphasising that the businessman is far more intelligent than he seems.

After many unsuccessful attempts, Estonian World finally managed to get in touch with Mr Trump, and got few minutes to talk to him via Skype early this week, while he was taking a break from his campaign in New York.

“I hope they said good things about me, huh? Because people love me. Everybody loves me,” the Republican front-runner told us.

After establishing that we called from Estonia, where the cold weather was still biting, Trump recommended that the solution for a better climate is on the way.

“It’s freezing and snowing in New York, just like in Estonia – we need global warming!”

Discussing the Estonian e-residency, Trump said he liked it, because he “likes big ideas”. “I don’t like losers. If you’re going to be thinking, you may as well think big. So I like it. I like it. It is not ripping us off like China or Japan or Mexico,” he reiterated.

“I may even scrap my idea of building a great wall between the US and Mexico, even though nobody builds walls better than me, believe me. But I may introduce an American e-residency with the help of Estonians and let Mexicans become e-residents instead. This will save us the cost of building the wall. But I will still make Mexico pay for that e-residency. Mark my words.”

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* Please note that this story was an April Fools’ Day joke. Cover: Donald Trump after speaking to Estonian World via Skype.

San Antonio, TX, has its own “Estonian” neighbourhood

The city of San Antonio in southern Texas has a neighbourhood called “Estonia” with street names like Tallinn Trace, Viljandi Moon and Kardla Forest.

San Antonio is the seventh most populated city in the United States and second most populated in the state of Texas. South from the state capital, Austin, it’s home to over 1.4 million people – which makes it bigger than Estonia. The entire San Antonio metro area has a population of over 2.3 million – and among them also the residents of the Estonia neighbourhood.

Estonia is located in the western outskirts of the city, by Texas State Highway number 151, near shopping centres and entertainment facilities. According to Meritage Homes, one of the real estate managers at Estonia, the community features a park, a playground, a recreation centre (which basically means a gym), a swimming pool and hiking trails.

One of the Estonia houses listed on the Meritage Homes website is for sale for USD239,995. The house has two storeys, three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, “a California kitchen overlooking the huge family room and a formal dining room. Upstairs is an impressive master suite with walk-in closet as well as a game room,” the website says. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the house.

The Estonian newspaper, Eesti Ekspress, wrote back on 2008 that according to one of the developers, the community was named after “a friend of a friend of one of the engineers visited Europe and was astonished by Estonia’s beauty”. After the development was named “Estonia”, the street names were a logical next step, he said.

The Estonia neighbourhood in San Antonio, TX

Among the street names at the Estonia community are Petseri Park (even though the town of Petseri is nowadays technically in Russia, it used to be Estonia before the Soviet occupation), Estonia Gate, Vormsi View, Rapla Crossing and Torva Bluff.

Google Street View image of the houses on Jogeva Way

Viewed on Google Street View, the houses at Estonia look like common American residences – and surely the entire neighbourhood is considered just one among many. Perhaps apart from the fact that the street names may not be so easily pronounced for native English speakers.

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Images by Google.

Estonian Cultural Days to be held in New York

The Estonian House in New York City will be hosting the Estonian Cultural Days from 24-27 March with a variety of events to ensure that the Estonian population in the Big Apple retains its sense of Estonian culture and heritage.

In the course of the four-day event, the local Estonians and guests from Estonia will be performing concerts, theatre, instrumental performances, lectures and other performances, according to the event organisers.

Holger Marjamaa

The Estonian Drama Theatre will be presenting its play, “Fully Committed”, with the leading actor Taavi Templenkov. Concerts will be conducted by Marko Matvere and Peep Raun and the famous opera singer Monika-Evelin Liiv. There will be a special performance from local Estonian artists in NYC, Holger Marjamaa (piano), Valev Laube (violin) and Diina Tamm (choreographer), the organisers announced.

The idea of the Estonian Cultural Days is to ensure that the Estonian population in New York retains their sense of Estonian culture and heritage, the organisers explained in a statement. “Performances selected for the program have been chosen so that it would be interesting for all age groups,” the statement added. “While some events are in the Estonian language, the performances can be enjoyed by all.”

New York

The Estonian Cultural Days are organised by a group of young Estonian artists living in New York that has made it its mission to introduce Estonian culture and artists to the local Estonians in NY but also to the world.

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The organisers are also open to receiving donations to finance the event.

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Cover: Jazz singer Lembe Lokk (photo by Vinciane Verguethen)

Estonian-developed web app helps Americans find their ideal candidate for president

An electoral compass that was partly developed by the University of Tartu (UT) scientist helps Americans find their ideal candidate for president in the 2016 election.

The compass, called Societly.com, has been launched in the US for the presidential election that will take place on 8 November 2016. One of the main architects of the web app is a research fellow at the UT Institute of Government and Politics, Dr Kristjan Vassil.

Vassil led the architecture and development of the app, which in its design is almost identical with similar compasses used in the Estonian elections since 2009. Around 10 per cent of the Estonian electorate has used the option to identify the political party aligning most with their views.

In the compass used before the last Estonian parliamentary election in March 2015, voters were asked to give their opinion on 30 propositions and finally indicate what issues would be more, and what would be less important to them. Based on answers, the compass gave an end result, ranking the political parties accordingly. Voters could further analyse their political preferences by clicking on the party of preference, after which they could compare their own position on different topics with the parties.

“The electoral compass helps bypass the usual stereotypes and focus on what is important in any democratic country – main policies,” Vassil explained.

The compass used for the US presidential election is very similar in concept and layout, but many major topics differ.

While in Estonia some of the main topics before the last election were the tax reform, defence policies, Russian minority in Estonia, wage gap, and the same-sex civil partnership bill, in the US voters are asked to choose their position on topics such as whether employers should be legally required to hire more minorities, whether the health care programme, Obamacare, should be repealed, on internet privacy laws, the legalisation of the personal use of marijuana, green energy and gun ownership. However, people’s opinion on tax levels, immigration, defence policies and gay marriage are the common themes.

Societly I

The US version, both in English and Spanish and also available in the online environment of Fox News, consists of 20 claims relevant in the American political scene and enables people to see which of the 22 political candidates aligns best with their views.

Vassil told the UT press service that exporting the concept abroad was made possible due to the fact that unlike previous compasses, Societly is technologically more flexible which enables to easily scale the compass for different elections in different countries and languages.

While the project included researchers from universities on both sides of the Atlantic – the University of California, Irvine, Stanford University, New York University, the European University Institute in Italy and the University of Tartu – Vassil said that developing previous electoral compasses for Estonian and European elections was essential for creating Societly.com. “The supporting environment of the University of Tartu in transferring the knowledge from research projects to societal applications is also significant,” he explained.

Executive management of Societly, which is an independent, non-partisan organisation, is coordinated in Los Angeles, USA, but the technical development of the project is done in Tartu. The development partner of the compass is the Estonian company Voog.

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Cover: The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. It has been the residence of every US president since John Adams in 1800. Courtesy of History.com

Estonian president releases a compilation of his favourite songs

The Estonian president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, is to release a compilation of his favourite songs, called “Teenage Wasteland – Favourites 1963-1978”, on 4 December.

According to Ilves, the songs in the compilation have all shaped his later taste in music, from the new wave to punk and grunge down to today’s British bands Wolf Alice and Palma Violets, and Estonia’s Vaiko Eplik.

“These were the songs I listened to at night with a small 12 transistor radio when I was growing up, which provided much needed redemption for life in what The Who called a Teenage Wasteland. Funny to say now, turning 62, but back then my life was saved by rock ‘n’ roll,” Ilves said.

Ilves CD

Ilves was born in Stockholm, Sweden; his parents were Estonian refugees. He grew up in the United States in Leonia, New Jersey, receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University in 1976 and a master’s degree in the same subject from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978.

The compilation includes 16 various songs from 1963-1978 that influenced Ilves when he was growing up in the United States.

Among the songs one can find:

Four Tops – “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”
The Temptations – “My Girl”
The Shangri-Las – “Leader of the Pack”
The Beach Boys – “Help Me, Rhonda”
Cream – “Tales of Brave Ulysses”
The Band – “The Weight”
The Velvet Underground – “Rock & Roll”
Roxy Music – “Virginia Plain”
The Who – “Baba O’Riley”
Lesley Gore – “It’s My Party”
New York Dolls – “Trash”
The Troggs – “Wild Thing”
David Bowie – “Panic in Detroit”
Ramones – “I Wanna Be Sedated”
Peter Sarstedt – “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?”
MC5 – “High School”

“This isn’t quite a collection of my favourite songs. That would include all kinds of songs from 1963-78 most Estonians know – hits by the Beatles and the Stones, for example,” Ilves said. “They also do not include bands that wouldn’t give permission for a collection of this type, which means crucial songs such as the Kinks ‘You Really Got Me’ and ‘All Day and All of the Night’ are missing. As are the We Five’s ‘You Were On My Mind’, which a mere year later paled before Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody to Love’. Missing too is the musical and spiritual father of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, Neil Young, in his ‘Cinnamon Girl’ phase. As is the early garage punk band Music Machine’s ‘Talk Talk’.”

The collection is being released by Universal Music Baltics and will be available from 4 December on CD and Spotify.

A donation will be made from every album purchased to the My Dream Day (Minu Unistuste Päev) charity project, which makes dreams come true for seriously and chronically ill children receiving treatment at Estonian hospitals.

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Cover: AKU.

Calling all Estonian-American historians

The Estonian American National Council (EANC) needs your help to tell the Estonian-American story.  

They are out there somewhere. Maybe in an old shoebox in a dark forgotten corner of the attic. Maybe inside the front cover of a dusty book, whose pages haven’t felt a turning thumb in a decade. Or, maybe in plain view, quaintly framed on the fireplace mantle. They are highly treasured for sentiment, but are also invaluable to tell the story of Estonian-Americans.

Seattle 1950 family

The objects cryptically described above are photographs and illustrations of Estonian-American history. More personally, they may show uncle Aado adeptly laying concrete blocks, which soon form the shape of an Estonian-American clubhouse that will generate countless future pleasant memories. They may show your maternal vanaema (grandmother) at the helm of loom, where old world woollen fabric comes to spectacular multi-colour life. They may show members of the Eesti Üliõpilaste Selts (the Estonian Students’ Society), some still present and others long gone, at a party one clearly identifies as raucous even though the photograph makes no sound. Single images that correspond to thousands of words.

basketball lakewoodIf you are nodding your head, the Estonian American National Council (EANC) needs your help to complete its documentary book, “Estonian Americans: Exiles in a Land of Promise”.

For background, this writer is a board member on the EANC, which is a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting and maintaining Estonian heritage and language in the United States. My late father, Juhan Simonson, was a long time president of the organisation. Priit Vesilind, the retired senior writer and editor at National Geographic magazine, is the current editor of the book. As Vesilind recalls, my father was discussing his generation of Estonian political freedom fighters when he lamented that “there seemed to be no time for sitting down and writing books”. But, with the rekindling of that dream thanks to the EANC and Vesilind, now seems like the time.

Scheduled for publication in late 2016, “Estonian Americans: Exiles in a Land of Promise” will cover the fifty years between 1945 until 1995. Part documentary, part reference and part narrative, the 500-plus pages will tell the story of the Estonian-Americans’ “Greatest Generation”, those who came to the United States after World War II via displaced persons camps. Traveling with limited physical belongings, but carrying a passion to right the injustice of the Soviet occupation of Estonia, they settled in enclaves around the country. Their collective story deserves a compendium.

Scouting father and son

Vesilind has been compiling manuscripts collected by the previous editors, Enn Koiva and Marju Rink-Abel, which were written by a host of regional correspondents from throughout the Estonian-American community since 1995. He’s now searching for photographs and illustrations to round out the coverage. According to Vesilind, he still needs old photograph material from these geographical areas and topics: Boston, MA; Washington, DC; Buffalo, NY; Fresno, CA; Philadelphia, PA; Cincinnati, OH; Florida; Indianapolis, IN; church life; charities; fraternities and sororities; and women’s organisations. You can reach him at priitvesilind@aol.com.

Author’s note: A special thank you to Priit Vesilind for providing the background text, and the quote from my father that I could hear clearly and succeeded in bringing a great big smile to my face.

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