Fun (or not) facts about Tallinn!
- Estonia doesn't fare well on the "happy scale". It's ranked one of the world's most unhappy countries. The Guild Museum in Tallinn that we visited surmised that centuries of occupation and repression are the key to this.
I have found that when I travel - even though I find many things I love about other places around the world - there's no place like home and there are many ways where we have, as a nation, been so fortunate.
Since around 1940, Estonia was occupied first by the Russians, then the Germans, and then the Russians again until 1991 when they finally gained their independence. We learned that the Russians were more hated and crueler than even the Germans, albeit hard to believe. We also learned that while many Estonians escaped the Russians (after getting rid of the Germans) by going to Sweden, they were then rejected and sent back (and then killed by the Russians) because the Swedes knew that some of the immigrants were Nazis. For whatever reason, they didn't want to figure out which were Nazis and which were innocent Estonians, so they just sent them all back.
Even earlier in history before all the Russian/German/Russian business, Tallinn and Tartu in Estonia became part of something called the Hanseatic League (1400-1800), which was a network of German merchant trading cities. But, what ended up happening was the Germans took over the cities and made the Estonians second class citizens and laborers, so even then, for hundreds of years, the Estonians were repressed.
But just think in terms of 1991. In 1991 I had a 4 year old daughter. I could do whatever kind of work I wanted. I could travel wherever I wanted nationally and internationally. I didn't have to worry about the KGB. I didn't have to worry about if I was seeming too friendly to a tourist that I happened to be speaking to, nor did I have to worry that a family member might be sent to Siberia ...or that I might do something that may end in ME being sent to Siberia (of which, I might note, as I complain about the 50 degree windy weather we've had on this trip, that I would last about 30 seconds in Siberia).
And while we are all well aware that the Nazis were trying to create the perfect race (by getting rid of other races), I - at least - didn't realize that "russification" was similar in that the Russians were forcing non-Russian communities to give up their culture and language in favor of the Russian one. And while they didn't as overtly murder people as the Nazis did, they knew that sending people into hard labor and basically starving them, would also result in their "removal".
In other words, as recently as the year that my daughter was born, people in this country had to worry about these kinds of things.
It is sobering. Also frightening, because both the Russians and the Germans, when they invaded Estonia, started by identifying groups of people and then exiling those people. It is said to be the first step to genocide. A slippery slope.
One of the best things about our country is that those things haven't happened here. We can be proud of our melting pot heritage. We can be proud of our compassion as a nation.