Thursday, April 1, 2004

Estonia. Never been there.

But that is about to change. Actually, I have never been that far east. Well, that is probably a lie. I guess Finland is just as far to the east.

But Estonia is bound to be different. Supposedly, it is both quite poor and backwards, and at the same time booming and full of promise. I have this image of old, run-down beautiful buildings, flanked by soviet-style soul-less slabs of concrete. Of people wearing old tweet, smoking bad tobacco in small cafés, playing chess and listening to balalaika music. Of dusty, old museums, containing magnificent pieces of forgotten art. It's only been a little over a decade since the Baltic states gained their independence from the then Soviet Union, so their identity has to be still intact. Mostly, at least.

Do you remember the Soviet Union? I was teaching a few weeks back, and made a reference to them. Or that era in time. Only a couple of people smiled. The 'older' ones. The rest of them didn't get it. Which is good. And dangerous, probably. I used to rage against the mere existence of the Soviet Union. And the idea of world socialism. Totalitarianism made me see red. Literally. Now there was something worth fighting against. To save the world from. I cried tears of joy when the Berlin wall came down. I felt a sense of victory. All those people. Finally free! Able to speak their minds and do what they wanted to. No more Stasi. No more Politburo. No more thought police. How the whole world was bound to change in a fundamental way as a result.

And now, fifteen years later, we have ... Mondays. Mundane, every-day life. Decisions like whether to have fish for dinner. Or meatballs. And states like Estonia, and Lithuania, and Latvia are joining the EU. And Nato. Quietly becoming members of those 'Western' states. With mortgages. And supermarkets. And junk mail.

But also elections. And real newspapers. And differences in opinion. And that makes it all worth it. Mundane may be boring, but it is safe. And therefore good.