Essay book explains why Estonia is different from Finland – Culture

Professor Kari Tarkiainen explains the differences between Estonia and Finland with a strong sense of history in the essay book Magic in the Air.

Nonfiction book

Kari Tarkiainen: Magic in the air – essays on old and present Estonia. SKS. 148 pp.



Estonian the rhythm of the language sounds like a fast staccato compared to Finnish, but many words sound familiar. Sõita, however, does not mean to play, but to travel. Professor Kari Tarkiainen flashes the beginning of his language studies in the collection Magic in the air – essays about old and present Estonia.

The stories in the work tell about Estonia, which unmistakably has the same characteristics as Finland, but which is different from Finland. In addition to language, this applies especially to history.

In the light of the most recent research, the genetic heritage also seems to bind Estonia rather to the Baltics and Europe. Christianity, German nobility and colonization also came to Estonia from Europe.

Baltic Germans the legacy lives on in the customs of the student corporations of the University of Tartu, in literature and as little palaces in the landscape. Under them, that is, the Estonian peasantry, rural people.

Tarkiainen personifies the central difference in the history of our countries as a peasant who lived in Estonia for a long time subjected to German feudalism. The episode also included serfdom.

Later, the conditions of the peasant eased, but even though Virokin was part of the Swedish empire from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 18th century, the manor institution dominated life. The death blow to it was only the independence of Estonia.

“In connection with the termination of the manor institution in the 1920s, a large number of agricultural workers joined the ranks of the peasants, for whom a small farm was carved out of the manor’s lands. Then came the power of the Soviet Union and the peasant was sent to Siberia accused of being a kulak,” writes Tarkiainen.

Stories are knowledgeable, but in the crowd individual outdated notions crackle, such as that half of Estonians would say they know Finnish.

In the last census, a tenth said so.

Some of the interpretations are left in the air, such as that the majority of the Russian population of Estonia would have accepted the reasons for the attack on Ukraine presented by Russian war propaganda. Such a drastic claim needs justification, especially when Tarkiainen names the question of the Russian population and its treatment as the most important, unsolved problem in modern Estonia.

Polls have shown the split in Russians’ opinion regarding the war.

At their strongest, the texts draw from Tarkiainen’s living environment in Tartu and history, from which surprising parallels emerge.

Estonian Tarkiainen characterizes the republic’s first constitution as extremely democratic. It was “kind of like Spruce and The gilding the Finnish constitution written by the red people’s delegation, which never entered into force.”

Independence had been preceded by a war of independence against the Germans and Russians. It was not a class war, Tarkiainen reminds us a couple of times.

In Estonia, the fight of the local tribes against the German crusaders in the 13th century is also remembered as a war of independence.

Tarkiainen writes from Estonia with the somewhat outsider’s eyes of an experienced Estophile.

Estophiles refers to friendly fans of Estonia. In Finland, Estonian friendship organizations form a network stretching from Meri-Lap to southern Finland, largely as a legacy of the early 1990s, while in Estonia the Finnish hobby is unorganized.

Tarkiainen’s interest in Estonia was sparked by his stamp hobby in the 1940s, when he was a little boy from Helsinki.

Tarkiainen traveled to Tallinn already in 1961, when there were still four years to go before regular shipping connections returned. The Lasnamäki and Mustamäki suburbs did not yet exist, and residents from different parts of the Soviet Union had not moved to them.

“The city was still damaged by the war, but clearly only Estonian,” he characterizes.

When property was privatized in Estonia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Tarkiainen worked in Stockholm at the Swedish State Archives. There, refugee Estonians and their descendants settled their property from the time of Estonia’s first independence.

Residents of the suburbs of Lasnamäki and Mustamäki were able to redeem their apartments almost free of charge based on years of work.

Today Tarkiainen divides his retirement days between Tartu and Helsinki. Half of them are from Estonia.

Tarkiainen’s personal experience of Estonia is so long that it could have been glimpsed more. In addition to history, the stories include literature, cuisine, the world of trees and parks, famous people common to Finland and Estonia, and for example chapters about headless and one-legged people.

The book defines linguistic nationalism as a characteristic of Estonians. It is not only because of the experience of being threatened in the Soviet Union. Tarkiainen looks further and explains this as a centuries-old lack of governmental institutions.

Patriotism is in honor, but its target is not the state, but the nation, whose identity stems from a common language, analyzes Tarkiainen.

“When you learn their language, you become one of them.”

By Editor

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