Estonia

Old Sep 28th 2018, 11:02 am
  #16  
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Default Re: Estonia

According to the European Commission, Russian is the most spoken foreign language in Estonia, followed by English. Way, way after is Finnish, and then German.

Tallinn is close enough to Helsinki to receive Finnish TV, and that was also true in the Cold War days.

But, whatever. Not my trip. Good luck with your German there.

Last edited by carcajou; Sep 28th 2018 at 11:05 am.
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Old Sep 28th 2018, 11:19 am
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Default Re: Estonia

Most people you encounter in Estonia under 30 will speak at least some English, some very well. It’ll certainly be a lot more useful than German. Older people will obviously lean towards Russian.
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Old Sep 28th 2018, 6:33 pm
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Default Re: Estonia

According to Wikipedia, 25% of the population of Estonia are ethnic Russians, and the same for Latvia. Those are both higher percentages than Ukraine has (17%). Quite a few ethnic Russians from Latvia work in Oslo, my son tells me.
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Old Sep 29th 2018, 6:59 pm
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Default Re: Estonia

Originally Posted by scot47
My German is fluent and I can understand Russian (and Serbian) since I am a Bulgarian speaker.
Scot: fill us in a bit, will you? How come you speak Bulgarian? And how come you understand Russian and Serbian, which I wouldn't have thought are all that close to Bulgarian? I would have said (in my ignorance) that they would correspond to French and Spanish, say, rather than to Norwegian and Swedish. No?

In any case, it's all pretty exotic stuff, and there must surely be an interesting story or two attached...
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Old Sep 30th 2018, 3:26 am
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Default Re: Estonia

Originally Posted by Gordon Barlow
According to Wikipedia, 25% of the population of Estonia are ethnic Russians, and the same for Latvia. Those are both higher percentages than Ukraine has (17%). Quite a few ethnic Russians from Latvia work in Oslo, my son tells me.
Gordon, you should pencil in an Estonia visit on your next trip to Norway - it's fairly easy to get there from Oslo. If you can get to Stockholm there is a ferry that runs to Tallinn from there.

Further to your other point, it was common practise in the Soviet days to try and move large numbers of ethnic Russians into the other Republics, as a means of building up the ethnic Russian presence there to balance out the locals, as a means of control. Whether they stayed or not after the fall of the USSR depended on many things - in Latvia, many stayed, but in other republics (like Tajikistan) they did not. They stayed for a while in Kazakhstan but the figures have started declining substantially there too. In most of Central Asia, all of the Caucasus, and in Moldova - civil wars broke out, pogroms started, local economies fell into the gutter, and the tables were turned on discriminatory practises. Not very appealing if you had other options . . . and the Soviet Union was no melting pot. The saying there was that the country was a "quilt."

Narva is a town in Estonia on the Russian border, it's almost completely ethnically Russian, and an interesting place to visit.

Worth doing in your life is the Caucasus. I spent the early part of my career working there. It's pretty much stable now except for a few areas and very difficult to beat for scenery and food.
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Old Sep 30th 2018, 1:34 pm
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I lived and worked in Bulgaria from 1991 to 2008. My second wife was Bulgarian and we have two Scoto-Bulgarian daughters. I promise that I have no connections with the spooks. Well hardly any. Not any more.

Speakers of Bulgarian can understand Serbian and Russian. The languages are close. Croatian and Slovene are a bit far removed from Bulgarian but I managed quite well with Bosniaks speaking their version of what used to be called Serbo-Croatian.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shtokavian

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Old Sep 30th 2018, 4:00 pm
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Default Re: Estonia

Originally Posted by carcajou
Gordon, you should pencil in an Estonia visit on your next trip to Norway - it's fairly easy to get there from Oslo. If you can get to Stockholm there is a ferry that runs to Tallinn from there.

Further to your other point, it was common practise in the Soviet days to try and move large numbers of ethnic Russians into the other Republics, as a means of building up the ethnic Russian presence there to balance out the locals, as a means of control. Whether they stayed or not after the fall of the USSR depended on many things - in Latvia, many stayed, but in other republics (like Tajikistan) they did not. They stayed for a while in Kazakhstan but the figures have started declining substantially there too. In most of Central Asia, all of the Caucasus, and in Moldova - civil wars broke out, pogroms started, local economies fell into the gutter, and the tables were turned on discriminatory practises. Not very appealing if you had other options . . . and the Soviet Union was no melting pot. The saying there was that the country was a "quilt."

Worth doing in your life is the Caucasus. I spent the early part of my career working there. It's pretty much stable now except for a few areas and very difficult to beat for scenery and food.
This is all very interesting. My travelling days are over now, so I will have to give Estonia a miss. Maybe in my next life. The Caucasus countries too. When I did my BIG travels in my twenties, I skirted the Caucasus but never got inside what was then The Iron Curtain. It was not easy - maybe impossible - to get visas to visit that part of the Soviet Union, at least for cheapo travellers. A companion and I hitched almost beside the border, in Turkey and Iran, but not inside it. My meagre knowledge of the Baltic countries was gleaned from stamp-collecting. I remember going right up to the Russian border-fence in the north of Norway in '63 and peering through the trees at the forbidden land, feeling very daring. Much easier now, of course!

As a matter of interest, what on earth were you doing in "the Caucasus"?
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Old Sep 30th 2018, 4:30 pm
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Default Re: Estonia

Originally Posted by scot47
I lived and worked in Bulgaria from 1991 to 2008. My second wife was Bulgarian and we have two Scoto-Bulgarian daughters. I promise that I have no connections with the spooks. Well hardly any. Not any more.

Speakers of Bulgarian can understand Serbian and Russian. The languages are close. Croatian and Slovene are a bit far removed from Bulgarian but I managed quite well with Bosniaks speaking their version of what used to be called Serbo-Croatian.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shtokavian
Very interesting, Scot. I'm finding this and this and the Poland thread good fun. I'm too old to travel but not too old to learn. On the language topic, here's a couple of paragraphs just in from the friend of a friend:
This reminds me of a Spanish teacher I had, long ago. He spoke several languages, but insisted he was fluent in just 2 or 3, because to be truly fluent one had to "think like a native" and not just know the correct words and pronunciation and inflections, but to be totally immersed in the native culture, etc. He said his favorite pastime was to visit various nations and attempt to pass himself off as a native.

My son used to speak Mexican-Spanish like a native of Mexico, when he lived there, but I'm not sure he'd pass now. He was very pleased to be taken for a Norwegian when he lived in Oslo. The Oslo natives knew he wasn't from their city, but reckoned he must be from "somewhere up north". So, fluent enough, just. My Australian-accented English is long gone, and I am usually taken for English by English people, which is convenient but illogical. Challenged to tell me which county I'm from, they can't do any better than "somewhere in the south". To which I say, if you can't identify the county, I must be foreign.
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Old Oct 1st 2018, 2:49 am
  #24  
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Default Re: Estonia

Originally Posted by Gordon Barlow
This is all very interesting. My travelling days are over now, so I will have to give Estonia a miss. Maybe in my next life. The Caucasus countries too. When I did my BIG travels in my twenties, I skirted the Caucasus but never got inside what was then The Iron Curtain. It was not easy - maybe impossible - to get visas to visit that part of the Soviet Union, at least for cheapo travellers. A companion and I hitched almost beside the border, in Turkey and Iran, but not inside it. My meagre knowledge of the Baltic countries was gleaned from stamp-collecting. I remember going right up to the Russian border-fence in the north of Norway in '63 and peering through the trees at the forbidden land, feeling very daring. Much easier now, of course!

As a matter of interest, what on earth were you doing in "the Caucasus"?
Most of my career has been overseas, and the first part was in the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia). I've also spent some time in the North Caucasus (the Russian part). I know both South & North pretty well, but was based in the South and so know it a bit better.

In a sense - the Caucasus are superficially like the Baltics, in that there are three small countries, all with completely distinct cultures and languages, with a giant neighbour next door that has dominated them in the past. But of course the Caucasus has as its trademarks instability and blood feuds, and the economy is undeveloped, with corruption as its backbone.

Georgia was seen as a desirable place to live in Soviet times, and its Black Sea coast rivaled Crimea, but with the added plus that the entire Caucasus is known for its mineral spas. Dish per dish, in my view, Georgia has the best food in the world (I say that having an Italian wife) and supposedly wine was first invented there a few thousand years ago. The Georgian restaurants in Moscow are famous across Russia and you will also find them in neighbouring Caucasian countries (and the Baltics). Armenia was the first country in the world to make Christianity its official religion, and Georgia the second. A lot of the sparkling waters popular in Russia and Eastern Europe come from there - Borjomi (Georgia) was the most popular but after the Russia-Georgia War it was banned in Russia and got supplanted by Jermuk (Armenia) - Essentuki (which is North Caucasian) also does a good business. Borjomi and Jermuk are both spa towns and resorts; the Soviet Olympic ski team used to train at Tsakhadzor (in Armenia). The wine is very, very sweet - it can turn your teeth inside out - think of it more along the lines of supercharged ports. Armenia of course is famous for its brandy. Oil money has modernised Baku, and the city is probably the most developed of any in the Caucasus. They have done a particularly good job preserving their old town and some of the fire temples on the outskirts.

Yes, at the time of your travels, I imagine it would have been impossible to get visas for the Caucasus, certainly not without Intourist behind you every step of the way. Westerners wanting to go there probably would have been viewed with intense suspicion.

In the North Caucasus - Chechnya got all the attention because of the war there - but Dagestan is far more unstable, and within just that one region, there are about a thousand language groups all separated by the mountains. A bit of (what passes for) normalcy has been returned to Chechnya but it is much more of a complex puzzle to do the same in Dagestan.

The differences between these small regions play a big part in the politics of today. Turkey vs Armenia, Armenia vs Azerbaijan, Georgia vs Russia, etc. The old Soviet trick was to swap around territories based on ethnic lines, so you had one ethnic group being ruled by a rival ethnic group, so there was always the potential for conflict and Moscow had a perpetual excuse to have a heavy presence to keep the lid from blowing off. So that's why Nagorno-Karabagh was given to Azerbaijan, Abkhazia to Georgia, Nakhchivan is an exclave etc. Parts of historic Armenia are in Turkey. As the Soviets weakened and then went away . . . the lid certainly did blow off.

So that's why the Armenians deal with the Russians, to keep the Turks and the Azeris out. The Georgians deal with the Americans, to keep the Russians out. The Russians deal with the Ossetians and the Abkhaz to harass the Georgians and try to keep the Europeans out . . . and they deal with the Karabaghi, to antagonise the Azeris, to encourage the Armenians to keep them in. The Turks are strongly allied with the Azeris, which puts them against the Armenians and the Russians. The Karabaghi are closely related to the Armenians and will never accept being ruled by the Azeris. The Abkhaz have pushed out the Georgians, and accept de facto Russian occupation as a way to keep the Georgians out. There are Islamic rebels in Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia who fight each other with the same gusto that they do the Russians, because some of the rebels are home-grown but others (and their financing) came from the Middle East and are importing a brand of Islam not local to the area. Of course there was also the Armenian genocide, and the Armenian diaspora is worldwide . . . supposedly there are more people of Armenian descent living in Los Angeles than in Yerevan!
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Old Oct 1st 2018, 8:33 pm
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Default Re: Estonia

Originally Posted by carcajou
Most of my career has been overseas, and the first part was in the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia). I've also spent some time in the North Caucasus (the Russian part). I know both South & North pretty well, but was based in the South and so know it a bit better.
And a fascinating life it must have been for you. Please tell us (I'm sure I can't be the only reader who's curious!) what the heck you were doing there. Of course if you were MI6, we'll understand if you don't...
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Old Oct 5th 2018, 11:03 pm
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Default Re: Estonia

I wonder how this trillion-dollar ("trillion" - with a 't'!) transaction - see the link - will affect Estonia's economy. Adversely, almost surely - but in what way? Does any BE member have any information about the scandal? It's usually places like Cayman that get hammered for money-laundering, not supposedly harmless nations like Estonia. Of course there was the Cyprus rort a couple of years ago, but still...
https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-...undering-nexus
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