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NO 42 I SUMMER I 2016

SPECIAL!

Digital Age

Tim Draper Toomas Finds New Heroes Hendrik Ilves: In Estonia President Of Getting Personal The Digital With Personalised Generation Medicine E-Residency Goes Viral Estonia’s Cultural Treasures Organic Estonia

land & people I state & society I economy & business I technology & innovation I culture & entertainment I tourism


The Digital Era – from the Nordics to the World COVER Toomas Hendrik Ilves Photo by Atko Januson

Twenty five years ago, in July 1991, the GSM standard for mobile phone communications was first rolled-out in Finland. This Nordic-born innovation changed the world and created a totally new tech-generation and startup scene. We have seen the rise of many great companies such as Nokia and Ericsson, and we have seen them fall as well, giving a chance to other companies like Skype as well as industries including the gaming industry. The digital era is changing the world, sector by sector. We have seen Uber transform the taxi industry, how Airbnb has shaken up the accommodation business, how TransferWise revolutionised fintech, the list goes on... There is a buzz in the Nordics once again, with the creation of a totally new type of benign disruption for the world – and this time the category is government.

Editor Reet Grosberg reet.grosberg@ambassador.ee Translation Ingrid Hübscher Language editor Andrew Whyte Design & Layout Positive Design Partner

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The President of the Republic of Estonia and one of the most renowned technology evangelists, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, loves to say: ‘You can’t bribe a computer!’. It is not enough just to adopt new technology – people’s values and perceptions must modernize, too. The way the Nordics understand the value of transparency, lack of corruption, tolerance, trust etc. are aligned with the values inherent in the information society. This gives the Nordics a competitive advantage and the ability to think in a totally new dimension. For example a new buzzword has been born in Estonia: CAAS – or, ‘country as a service’. In 2015, approximately 14 000 children were born in Estonia and in addition, 10 000 new e-residents from outside the country signed up to the scheme. These e-residents decided to tie themselves to the Estonian economy and use the services offered by the government without for the most part actually being present physically. Teleport, another promising startup from Estonia has estimated that there are more than 350 million people who have the potential to work location-independently and who control more than 1.75 trillion dollars every year. This is a vast market which not only Estonia, but the whole Nordic region could benefit from.

Photo by Kai Kuusisto

Executive publisher Positive Projects Pärnu mnt 69, 10134 Tallinn, Estonia think@positive.ee

We have set a goal for Estonia to have 10 million residents of all kinds by 2025. Looking at global trends and regional potential, this can be achieved. Even if they do not all live here. Taavi Kotka, CIO of the Government of Estonia

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Where to Go This Season? Life in Estonia Recommends

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News & Events

Tim Draper: My Heroes were Gorbachev, Washington and Deng. Now the Estonian President and Prime Minister are on the List too!

One of the world’s most successful venture capitalists, Tim Draper, says that Estonia’s top statesmen are changing the way governments operate. And because of their visionary work, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and PM Taavi Rõivas find their way on to his list of worldchanging heroes. Draper gives us his thoughts right after his speech at the Latitude59 startup conference in Tallinn at the beginning of June this year. INNOVATION

If Estonia were a Company, it would be Malwarebytes 31_

COVER STORY

Toomas Hendrik Ilves – the President of the Tigerleap Children 16_

This year’s Gathering of the Friends of Estonia will be the last for Toomas Hendrik Ilves as President of Estonia. Foreign policy and digitalisation are the two topics which have defined his two terms of presidency. He has continuously underlined the importance of political support in providing the legal structure for new digital solutions. Looking back over Estonia’s last quarter of a century, Ilves notes that the country has primarily achieved success when it has dared to do something in a new or different way: ‘rapid and decisive reforms, implementation of modern technology, and, during the last decade, the powerful rise of a civil society that is impacting social development’.

LAND & PEOPLE

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Paul Keres: Chess Genius

The World Chess Federation has declared 2016 the Year of Paul Keres. No other Estonian in any other field of life has received such a high level of praise. The chess world remembers him as ‘The Eternal Second’, as ‘The Crown Prince of Chess’, the ‘great silent one’. But who was the man behind these titles? STATE AND SOCIETY

E-Residency: Estonia’s Most Scalable Idea 25_

Kaspar Korjus is the man heading Estonia’s hottest idea after Skype. It is called e-Residency and may well transform how the world does business via a secure digital identity. Lately, Estonia hit its 10 000th eresident milestone. Daniel Vaarik talks to Kaspar Korjus, e-Residency Program Director, about the bold idea behind e-Residency.

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One of the hottest cybersecurity companies on the market, Malwarebytes reminds us in many ways of the business history of Estonia. It is small compared with its competitors, it has shown unbelievable growth, is dynamic and can make strategic decisions in the blink of an eye as well as choosing its own way for growth and development.

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Getting Personal with Personalised Medicine

‘My eHealth’ is a patient’s digital health information portal, which gets almost a million requests every month. The patient’s portal was launched in 2009, and since then 17 per cent of the population has visited ‘My eHealth’. ‘My eHealth’ is part of a health information system which is an inseparable part and backbone of a personalised or precise medicine.

ECONOMY & BUSINESS

Raintree Estonia Producing Medical Software Solutions for US Doctors 38_

Raintree Estonia, based in Tartu, produce management software for medical companies in the US. The software is already used by over 40 000 licensed doctors and medical employees, thereby offering more effective treatment to millions of patients.

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Teligent Chooses Estonia as their Beachhead to the EU

Teligent, a US-based pharmaceutical company marketing topical and injectable products, has been expanding rapidly after raising US$143 million on Wall Street in December 2014. This was followed by the need to put boots on the ground across the Atlantic, since many of their suppliers were in Europe. Jason Grenfell-Gardner, now Teligent’s CEO, suggested looking at Estonia…


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Tallinn – Daetwyler’s First Choice Location for 20 Years

For more than two decades, Tallinn has been a key competence centre for the welding of machine beds and other technically-demanding and complicated steel structures. Daetwyler’s representative in Estonia, member of the board Robert Bécsy, emphasizes that the company offers everything from a single source – from initial consultation to the finished workpiece.

Olga Temnikova – National Treasure 62_

Olga is the cofounder and CEO of one of the most successful private galleries in Estonia, Temnikova & Kasela. She is by far the most internationally-exposed person on the Estonian art scene and was presented with the Federation of European Art Galleries Association award for inspiration and innovation (FEAGA Award) this June.

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Corner France: It’s All about Passion and Love

Estonia’s Greatest Musical Family – the Järvis

Every summer the global Järvi music dynasty retreats to the Estonian seaside town of Pärnu – to spend time together at the old family country estate and to pass on their musical legacy, through the Järvi Academy, as part of Pärnu Music Festival. The three celebrated conductors – Neeme, Paavo and Kristjan, each have their personal style and trademarks but they also share a strong common musical heritage and rootedness in Estonia in spite of their globe-spanning careers.

Corner France is a company which can truly claim to be founded through love and passion: a passion for wines, and a love for Estonia. With the help of Business France – a government agency which is promoting French companies – Bertrand Senut started this company three years ago to do exactly what their name implies: bring a little corner of France here, for every Estonian to enjoy. CREATIVE ESTONIA

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Louis Zezeran – Stand-up Comedy Importer Supreme

Even if you’ve only just arrived here in Estonia, you’re more than likely to have already come across a poster of the ‘Work in Estonia Guy’, seen an image at Tallinn Airport, or just noticed through your peripheral vision one of the many other creative representations of Louis Zezeran – founder, integral force, and one of the best-known personalities behind Comedy Estonia.

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Ellerhein – A Flower that Blossoms Every Spring

Estonia is a land with a strong choral tradition and Estonians just love to sing. There is something unique about the Estonian choir movement – our choirs and singers are mostly very young. One beautiful blossom amongst the many youth choirs is the girls’ choir, Ellerhein, who celebrated their 65th birthday with a grand spring concert this year. TOURISM

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PORTFOLIO. Alice Kask ­­– an Artist who Physically Shakes up the Viewer 50_

Very few young artists have managed to arrive on the Estonian artistic scene as abruptly and convincingly as Alice Kask (b 1976). She graduated from the Estonian Art Academy in 2002 and as early as 2003 she was awarded the most prestigious painting prize in Estonia, the Konrad Mägi Prize. Alice Kask’s paintings have a universal appeal – they touch people who on the surface seem to have nothing in common with each other. Such universal impact is rare.

Estonia – the World’s First Organic Country!

Lonely Planet has ranked Estonia as the number one best value destination for 2016. The guide recommends making a foray into the forest one particularly worthwhile experience. And Estonia has a lot of forest to offer, all of it organic! The idea of Organic Estonia clinched a grant from the Development Idea competition organised by the Estonian Fund for Development in 2015. One of the authors, Siim Kabrits, tells us how the idea of Organic Estonia was born and what it contains. He also tells us what organic snacks to buy to go if you are travelling around Estonia and what organic souvenirs to take home as well.

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Photo by Harri Rospu

I WHERE TO GO THIS SEASON In the role of the Dutchman Estonian baritone Rauno Elp

THE FLYING DUTCHMAN Romantic opera by Richard Wagner World premiere on 2 January, 1843 in Dresden Semperoper Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on 22 September, 2016 Conductors: Vello Pähn, Jüri Alperten or Kaspar Mänd A stormy journey at sea from Riga to London and the ‘Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski’ by Heinrich Heine inspired the young Wagner to write one of his most popular operas. ‘The Flying Dutchman’ (Der fliegende Holländer) was Wagner’s fourth opera and the one in which he came closer to his own style and aspirations of writing a music drama. The young composer found a kindred spirit in the cursed and ever sailing Dutchman: a man who pursues to change the accustomed rules and who yearns for rest from the storms of life. Wagner’s tempestuous and compelling story of The Flying Dutchman’s captain cursed for eternity and seeking redemption through the unconditional love of a woman is clothed into a modern and visual setting by the stage director Pamela Recinella (Italy), designer Yannis Thavoris (UK), lighting designer Matt Haskins (UK) and Italian video design company Apparati Effimeri.

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SONG OF THE EARTH First time in Estonia! Short ballet by Kenneth MacMillan World Premiere on 7 November, 1965 at the Stuttgart Ballet On 4 and 6 November 2016 at the Estonian National Opera Choreographer: Kenneth MacMillan Conductor: Vello Pähn Music: Gustav Mahler’s Symphony “Das Lied von der Erde”, arranged by Glen Cortese Staging: Grant Coyle Designer: Nicholas Georgiadis Realisation of the ideas of the Designer: Lady Deborah MacMillan Estonian National Ballet and Estonian National Opera Orchestra Kenneth MacMillan (1929–1992), one of the leading choreographers of the 20th century, had long been hoping to choreograph a work to Mahler’s symphonic song cycle, but the Royal Opera House board had rejected his proposal. MacMillan offered his idea to the Stuttgart Ballet instead. He got the chance to create ‘The Song of the Earth’ in 1965. MacMillan described the theme of his ballet succinctly: ‘A man and a woman; death takes the man; they both return to her and at the end of the ballet, we find that in death there is the promise of renewal.’

June 30, 2016 at 8 pm Estonia Concert Hall

GREAT SUMMER GATHERING. FRIENDS SILVIA ILVES (cello) Estonian National Symphony Orchestra Conductor NEEME JÄRVI WEINER TCHAIKOVSKY ELLER

GERHSWIN ELLINGTON GROFÉ

SILENT MONOLOGUES Short ballet by Thomas Edur Premiere on 24 November 2016 at the Estonian National Opera World premiere on 30 June, 2009 at the London St. Paul Cathedral Choreographer, Stage Director and Designer: Thomas Edur Music: Heino Eller, Artur Kapp, Artur Lemba, Eduard Oja, Arvo Pärt and Peeter Süda The one-act piece for three couples speaks of the silence of the inner loneliness, the ups and downs, self-exploration, shared happiness and sadness of human relationships. We hope that we are understood, but there is always something that cannot be reached in another human being and not everything can be put into words…

Tickets: 22 ¤ / 16 ¤ www.piletilevi.ee www.piletimaailm.com

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Two Innovation-Filled Days: Over 1 500 Tech & Startup Enthusiasts Gathered for

Latitude59

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The flagship tech event in Estonia, Latitude59 was held on May 31 – June 1, 2016 in the historic power plant called Kultuurikatel. More than 1 500 startup enthusiasts, innovators and venture capitalists from Northern Europe as well as from Silicon Valley, Europe, Russia, and Asia gathered in Tallinn. The Prime Minister of Estonia, Taavi Rõivas, opened the conference by emphasizing that the state has to keep up with the fast pace of startups, and not just by creating the conditions necessary for growth, but also by enabling it. Prime Minister Rõivas also handed over an eResidency card to the keynote speaker of Latitude59, HRH The Duke of York.

Ilves, space is the new infrastructure, the new internet and new trilliondollar market. Even a small country like Estonia can do big things in space!

Pitch@Palace Estonia The highlight of Latitude59 was Pitch@Palace Estonia, where nine teams presented their ideas to a high-profile jury. The winners of Pitch@Palace Estonia were cyber security startup RangeForce and timber measurement startup Timbeter, who will have the opportunity to pitch their idea at Pitch@Palace Global at St James’s Palace on December 7, 2016.

The opening words were followed by a panel session between the Prime Minister, Tim Draper, and HRH The Duke of York who, together with Sten Tamkivi from Teleport, discussed the pros and cons of startup ecosystems in Estonia, Silicon Valley and the UK. Draper stated that he does not see that startups should necessarily move to Silicon Valley but should, however, visit occasionally and keep an eye on the competition. The idea that Silicon Valley is not the only or necessarily the best place to start a startup was brought up several times during the two days.

Words to delete from the vocabulary: ‘impossible’, ‘realistic’ and ‘humble’ Even if the location you choose ends up not being the right one for your startup, it does not matter too much as far as you figure that out quickly. ‘Learn to fail’ was the advice the American venture capitalist Tim Draper gave on stage, briefly introducing how things are done at Draper University, the school for entrepreneurs he has founded : ‘We encourage people to make mistakes. Some of the greatest inventions were initially mistakes,’ he explained. No obstacles are holding back two amazing Estonian female founders who are conquering the world of space and machines – Erika Ilves from Shackleton Energy Company and Mari Joller from Scarlet, who introduced the technological possibilities of the future. According to

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Photo by Mihkel Maripuu / Scanpix

Funderbeam Launches the World’s First Startup Marketplace, Powered by the Blockchain April 2016 marked the launch of Funderbeam Markets, the world’s first primary and secondary market for early-stage startup investments, powered by blockchain technology. Funderbeam Markets provides investors with a quick, secure, and transparent way to easily pool their money and help startups raise capital across borders. For the first time ever, startup investors can trade their investments on an online aftermarket secured by the blockchain (a distributed database which maintains a continuously-growing list of data records which are protected against tampering or other revision – ed.). This promises on-demand liquidity in a space where investors have traditionally had to wait years for an exit. In solving this, Funderbeam seeks to help reinvigorate capital markets in the early-stage growth segment. ‘The abundance of capital has radically altered the role of stock exchanges,’ says Funderbeam CEO Kaidi Ruusalepp who has recently been mentioned in Forbes as one of the 100 Successful Female Founders in Europe. ‘Rather than being simply places where you can raise capital, they’ve become exit gates for earlier investors. However, most people have very limited access to early-stage investment opportunities. Plus, too many intermediaries have made the process prohibitively expensive. We’re here to fix that and bring growth-stage opportunities to more investors and startups.’ Tim Draper, one of the world’s most prominent venture capitalists, was among the first to hail arrival of the data, investment, and trading platform: ‘I want to congratulate Funderbeam on their launch,’ said Draper.

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‘I love what they’re doing. You know, the existing market is not working. The public markets just aren’t working and Funderbeam is doing something about it. And boy, is this going to be exciting! We’re going to have tradeable [investments] in the private markets and I’m so proud of everyone at Funderbeam for making this thing happen. I love these Estonians. They’re crazy!’ In a nod to its roots, the first four startup syndicates created on Funderbeam’s platform are Estonian: Huntloc, Shipitwise, SportID, and  Sportlyzer. These syndicates are raising more money and faster than the average, with logistics startup Shipitwise reaching its 100k Euros target within a just a few weeks, and thereby becoming the largest equity crowdfunding success Estonia has seen. Not only is Funderbeam giving everyone–from professional to first-time investors–access to invest in these great startups, but it also is making it possible to invest with growth in mind. The goal is to shift the majority of focus from the IPO and inflated valuations to companies that are growing and becoming steadily more valuable.  ‘We are introducing all this on Funderbeam Markets and that is why we simply call it "startup investing, fixed",’ said Ruusalepp. ‘Investing in the future will be digital, always on, and transparent. As will companies. I’m excited to see us take the first steps toward that future.’ To date, Funderbeam has raised 1.75m Euros (2m US dollars), primarily from British and Estonian business angels, as well as the Vienna-based 3TS Capital Partners. The company currently employs 15 people.


Cyber Security Summer School – Towards a Digitally-secure Future From July 3-8, 2016, the International Cyber Security Summer School for doctoral students and junior researchers is to be held at the Estonian IT College in Tallinn. The topic of the event will be ‘Digital Forensics – Technology and Law’ and will focus on the relationship between digital technology and forensic sciences, particularly how the two fields are inter-related from a legal perspective. The summer school will bring together experts and practitioners from all over the world, whose day-to-day work involves an integration of both the relevant fields: information technology and law. During the course of the week, students will hear presentations from top experts in their fields, take part in discussions, as well as participate in a practical assignment: the collection of evidence and its use in court proceedings. ‘The objective in creating the Cyber Security Summer School was to elevate Estonia’s reputation as a nation that has a focus on higher education and scientific development in the field of cyber security,’ says the Director of the Information Technology Foundation for Education (HITSA), Erki Urva. ‘Last year when we organised the summer school, it proved very easy to get top international experts to agree to come – in fact everyone wanted to come! They even said that soon it will be embarrassing for a professional in this field to say that he or she has not been in Estonia,’ he added.

This year, the event focuses on digital forensics – a subject which combines a variety of technical and legal issues from the areas of digital evidence, identity, authentication and security. One of the world’s most recognised specialists in digital forensics, Stephen Mason, is leading the legal component of the Summer School. Together with Hein Dries-Ziekenheiner, Olaf Maennel and Helen Eenmaa-Dimitrieva, he has designed a comprehensive, technically-demanding case study scenario which the student teams will be working on throughout the week in order to present their cases in a court setting at the end of the week. The Cyber Security Summer School will create an environment full of ideas, experiences and enthusiasm for what participating lawyers and techies can accomplish together. The noted speakers and mentors, as well as participants coming from all over the world, will undoubtedly help to spread these achievements globally. This intensive study week has been made possible through the collaboration of the Information Technology Foundation for Education (HITSA), Tallinn University of Technology, the University of Tartu, and the University of Adelaide, Australia. The summer school is supported by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.

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Photo by Petros Kremonas (EENA)

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Estonian Emergency Response Centre bags the ‘European 112 Award’ The European Emergency Number Association (EENA) has presented the Estonian Emergency Response Centre (EERC) with its prestigious European 112 Award. The EERC won the award for the successful implementation of the project of transitioning to a single emergency number, 112, for the whole of Estonia, together with a great dedication to saving lives and for creating a safer society.

number 112. A new program in vocational education for call-takers was prepared, and there were several in-service training groups for existing calltakers, dispatchers and supervisors. ICT devices and systems were improved to be more reliable, which involved a new operational voice communication system, a new information system for processing of emergency messages (including GIS112), and a new alarming system over the TETRA network.

The selection of the European 112 Award took place over two stages of the competition. A committee of experts, drawn from all the rescue services, selected two or three nominees in each category, and a survey of the members of EENA then chose the winner in each category. The Estonian project of transferring to the single emergency number 112 was selected as the winner in the category of Outstanding Change Management Initiative.

Instead of the eight centres previously the case, emergency messages are answered and operational units are dispatched in four EERC regional centres which all have voice and data interconnection. People in need only have to remember the one number, calls are answered faster, the caller location information is more accurate, information exchange (both inner communication and information sharing with cooperation partners) and alarming units operate faster, and operational units are used in a more effective way.

The EERC is a rescue organisation within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior, responsible for the 112 service all over Estonia. It answers approximately 1.4 million calls per year and dispatches fire and rescue teams, EOD squads and ambulance teams. The actual transition to a single emergency number 112 took place on 11 February, 2015. In 2010, when the project of transition in Estonia started, there were two emergency numbers in use: the common European emergency number 112 for ambulances, and fire and rescue, and the national emergency number 110 for the police. Since 2010, more than 80 different subprojects were carried out in order to transfer to a single emergency

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General Director of EERC Janek Laev with Demetrios Pyrros, President of EENA and Dieter Nuessler, Vice-President of EENA

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In conclusion, one of the biggest internal security projects to have taken place during the last few years in Estonia has ensured that it is now much easier to call for help and quicker to get it as well. The arrival of the emergency services to the scene is swifter, which in turn means more saved lives and less damage to property as well. EENA is a Brussels-based NGO set up in 1999, dedicated to promoting high-quality emergency services as reached by the number 112 throughout the EU. The EENA memberships include more than 1 200 emergency services representatives from over 80 countries worldwide.


Estonia Hits the 10 000th e-Resident Milestone Manu Sporny, the CEO of a US-based company called Digital Bazaar, became the 10 000th e-resident of Estonia, after picking up his e-resident’s card from the Estonian embassy in Washington DC. Although he’s never physically visited Estonia, Sporny has keenly followed the country’s e-Residency initiative, which aims to build a borderless digital society, since the program started. ‘I was originally interested in e-Residency from a business perspective,’ Sporny says. ‘I’m the CEO of a digital payments and identity company in the US and we were looking for ways to establish a business presence in Europe. We had known about Estonia’s internationally acclaimed work in digital online identity for some time and thought it was the natural place for an international payments and identity company to pick as its European headquarters,’ he explains.

Kaspar Korjus, the director of the e-Residency program, added that the 10 000 e-Residents are a ‘group of bright individuals who have also invested their time and knowledge to become the pioneers of our service while learning to adapt in our business environment’. It took about 18 months from the e-Residency program’s alpha launch in December 2014 for Estonia to reach 10 000 e-residents. The program ambitiously aims to reach 10 million virtual residents by 2025. So far applications have arrived from 129 countries. Finland tops the chart at the moment − nearly 20 per cent of e-residents are Finnish − followed by Russia, the US and Ukraine.

Estonian Bookseller Rahva Raamat Ranked among the Top Four Bookshops in the World At this year’s London Book Fair, which took place from 12-14 April, the title of International Bookstore of the Year was clinched by Readings of Melbourne, Australia. But Estonian bookshop Rahva Raamat, located at the Viru Keskus shopping mall in Tallinn, was ranked among the top four bookshops in the world as well! Rahva Raamat competed with small and large bookstores alike, from all over the world, making it into top four from among 168 candidates.

This was the first time that the London Book Fair, in cooperation with the UK Association of Publishers, awarded the title of International Bookstore of the Year, one of the fourteen categories representing and introducing global publishers. According to the organisers, the mission of the award is to demonstrate that bookstores today are not just places to introduce new books to the public, but they also increase awareness about the many great books which have been published worldwide and which are worth reading.

‘The nomination for Bookstore of the Year is a great honour for us – the Rahva Raamat bookstore based in Viru Keskus has become a favourite with many Estonian book fans and has also won awards in Estonia,’ said Airi Ilisson-Cruz, Marketing Director at Rahva Raamat.

In addition to the bookshop, Estonian literature also had a successful representation at the fair. For several years publishers have been increasingly interested in Estonian literature and as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are due to be the Market Focus countries in 2018, interest has grown significantly. 

‘It is our mission to be the most reader-friendly bookshop in Europe and it is great to see that we are very close to reaching our goal. Estonians love books and this is obvious in our stores – the bookshop in Viru Keskus is not just a store selling books, but has become a true meeting place for book lovers,’ she goes on.

The London Book Fair, the market focus no less, was established in 2004. Its primary objective has always been a focus on creating commercial and cultural ties between publishers and authors of a specific country or region, highlighting its publishing industry and the opportunities for conducting business with the rest of the world.

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Speakers at the symposium have included Professor Timothy Garton Ash (UK, Oxford University); Stanford University Professor James F. Fishkin and Hans Vestberg (CEO of Ericsson) as well as Andrew M. Thompson, Founder and Head of Proteus Digital Health.

A Summer Gathering of Friends of Estonia For the last seven years, Estonia has been busy celebrating those notable people such as investors, politicians, academics and artists, whose activities and advice have helped Estonia make great strides in its transformation into a modern style European democracy with a dynamic economy and vibrant culture.

Estonian Honorary Consul to Singapore, Sonny Aswani at the symposium “Quo vadis, Estonia?�

Sven Tamkivi, co-founder of Skype and co-founder and CEO of Teleport and Balaji Srinivasan, co-founder and CEO of 21, Board Partner at Andreessen Horowitz are now partners at Teleport.

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Daniel Vaarik

The Estonia’s Friends International Meeting is a three-day event, which gives an opportunity to those who have any interest in Estonia to meet and exchange their ideas. Every year a slightly different selection of friends is invited to the event, since the organisers would like Estonia to have a variety of good and influential friends all over the world. About 700 people have participated in the meetings in total over these seven years.

Taavi Kotka

One of the goals of the event is to spread the message that Estonia is successful, interesting and open to investment. When introducing Estonia, entrepreneur Margus Reinsalu has found that when someone simply talks about Estonia to foreigners they will politely listen but can soon forget what you have told them. ‘However if these same people can visit Estonia and see for themselves how successful Estonia is, what great opportunities are here for investment and how beautiful the environment is, then they are sure to remember and return here,’ Reinsalu goes on.

Since 2013, one aspect of the gathering has been the opening seminar, organised by Enterprise Estonia and concerning interesting ideas, products and businesses in Estonia. These events have comprised the following:

The Estonia’s Friends International Meeting has a set program which allows the participants to contribute to discussions at the business seminar and symposium, meet the current President and Prime Minister, and participate in a varied cultural program as well.

Besides discussions about Estonia’s development, innovation and investment opportunities, the guests of the meeting can look forward to a wonderful cultural program. It has become a tradition that on the first night for the hosting of a concert by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, led by renowned conductor Neeme Järvi. This concert has become a popular cultural event in its own right. The following evening there is due to be a traditional concert at the Oandu watermill in Lahemaa, surrounded by a beautiful Estonian natural setting. In some years the guests have been able to attend the famous Estonian Song and Dance Celebrations.

The first Estonia’s Friends International Meeting was held in August 2010 in Tallinn, concurrent with the Day of Restoration of Independence festivities. Since 2011 the meeting has traditionally taken place at the beginning of July. Many different topics have been discussed at the symposia: the realities of post-crisis Europe, changes in global political climate and economic environment and possible future scenarios for a country as small, open and flexible as Estonia; e-democracy, e-governance and their role in modern societies; e-health, identity online and offline; development in the digital age to name but a few. Speakers at the symposium have included Professor Timothy Garton Ash (UK, Oxford University); Stanford University Professor James F. Fishkin and Hans Vestberg (CEO of Ericsson) as well as Andrew M. Thompson, Founder and Head of Proteus Digital Health.

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2013 Estonia – Contributing for a Smarter World 2014 Global Estonians   2015 Estonia – Where Stuff Happens First 2016 Estonia and the Future – You Won’t Believe What Happens Next

Estonia’s Friends International Meeting is jointly organised by the Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia, Enterprise Estonia and entrepreneur Margus Reinsalu. Feedback from previous events has been very positive and surely this year’s event will be memorable for all those friends due to attend, and will no doubt lead to many new friendships forming and interesting discussions on the future of Estonia taking place.

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I COVER STORY

Toomas Hendrik Ilves – the President of the Tiger-leap Children

By Silver Tambur

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In 1967, when the 13-year old Toomas Hendrik Ilves was learning programming as part of an experimental math class in New Jersey, the US, Estonia was firmly behind the Iron Curtain. The majority of people could only dream of travelling abroad at that time, let alone learn programming. Back in the free world, however, 100 000 people converged in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco to question everything and anything about them and their environment – a social phenomenon that became to be known as the ‘Summer of Love’, a hippie counter-culture that was eager to integrate new ideas and insights into daily life, both public and private. Young Ilves would listen to ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’, by the British rock super group Cream, on his parents’ record player that same summer. Ilves’s parents were Estonian refugees who had fled the Soviet occupation of their beloved homeland over thirty years earlier in 1944, and he was actually born in Stockholm, Sweden. When he was three, his family moved to the States, to Leonia, New Jersey, a small borough by the Hudson River. It was at the local high school where he first got exposure to the computer programming which would later shape his views on how best to inspire schoolkids in Estonia. Ilves graduated as valedictorian (the student who delivers the valedictory speech at the graduation ceremony – ed.) in 1972 and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University as well as a master’s degree in the same subject from the University of Pennsylvania. His subsequent career saw him first holding various diverse posts – as a research assistant, an English teacher and even leading the arts centre in Vancouver, Canada – until a job with a leaning towards politics came along. The Cold War was still at its height and Ilves became an analyst at Radio Free Europe – a Munich-based, anti-communist news source. Funded by the US government, its broadcasts were tailored specifically for the Soviet Union and its satellite countries. As such, its radio signal, albeit pretty weak, was also picked up in occupied Estonia, where the older generation in particular, with their memories of an independent country, secretly and illegally listened-in.

But times change; Ilves became the head of the station’s Estonian desk in 1988 – the year of the Singing Revolution in Estonia – and during the ensuing turbulent period, which culminated with the collapse of the Soviet Union and Estonia regaining its independence in 1991, he started to participate in the new democratic movements of the country of his forbears. ‘We thought the Soviet Union and a divided Europe were to last forever. Yet in a span of two years the edifice collapsed, the glacier melted. Anything was possible,’ he says of the period. So when Lennart Meri, the first freely-elected president since regaining independence, called Ilves in 1993 and asked him to become Estonia’s ambassador to Washington, he accepted it in a heartbeat, despite having to relinquish his American citizenship in the process. To the younger generation, accustomed to the comfort and capabilities of a modern member state of the European Union, Estonia’s diplomatic service of the 1990s sounds poles apart. ‘Today, the early days of independence seem somewhat unreal. Sometimes we didn’t even get paid, and lived off our credit cards. Our bank was kind enough to patiently await delayed transfers needed to cover the embassy building’s rent. To make space for additional diplomatic staff, I forfeited my driver and drove myself around,’ Ilves recalls. But it was also during this uncertain time when the new, forwardlooking mindset, was implemented. While the Mart Laar-led government introduced sweeping free-market economic reforms at home – a flat income tax rate, privatisation, abolition of tariffs and subsidies, balanced budget – Ilves played a major part in Washington in reorienting Estonia decisively towards the West, rather than its former imperial oppressor, Russia. ‘We had to do whatever possible to join the European Union and, hopefully, NATO,’ he recollects about the time when very few dared to believe that Estonia could one day be a part of either.

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Photo by Cia Pak / UN

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President Ilves greeting the participants of the Song Celebration in 2009

Foreign policy aside, it was another field that would 20 years later define his presidency: digitalisation. During those busy days as an ambassador, Ilves contemplated ideas on how to get his country back on its feet again: ‘If you look at the GDP of Estonia in 1991, it stood at either US$900 or US$1 300 per capita, depending on whether you look at purchasing power parity or nominal value. In other words it was very low; the country had a terrible infrastructure. So we had to ask ourselves: how do we get out of this mess? We don’t have resources, we don’t have infrastructure,’ he recalls.

Major political leaders and tech luminaries soon got involved with the idea and all thought it was a goer, and in 1996, the Tiger Leap project got the green light and soon snowballed: all Estonian schools gained internet connections, and most had computer labs installed too. In hindsight, Ilves sums it up like this: ‘One thing that Estonians always do well is math and engineering – or if you are artistically-orientated, you may well become an architect.’ The importance of political support in providing the legal structure for new digital solutions has continuously been underlined by the president. Estonia has been lucky to have a general consensus when it comes to digital innovation – something that Ilves experienced first-hand when he relocated to the country in 1996 and served as foreign minister there until 2002. ‘There was a willingness to risk 15 years ago: “let’s do the digital signature thing”, “let’s have a secure ID for everyone”, “let’s see how it goes”. This was a time when people with seemingly-crazy ideas were nonetheless listened to – it was a unique combination of political will and leadership. People were willing to take risks and see if things worked. But the key to doing things successfully digitally is that you need a legal framework that allows you to do it in the first place,’ Ilves emphasises, alluding to his time in the government when the digital signature law was passed, giving it the same legal basis in Estonia as a physical signature.

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One of Ilves’s long-term goals was achieved when Estonia joined the EU in 2004 – as foreign minister, he had succeeded in starting the negotiations with the EU – and he was among the first Estonian MEPs. Whereas before, and even for a few years after, the 2004 accession, Estonia, together with the other new members of the EU, was still looked at a bit like an inexperienced young recruit in an old boys’ club, things gradually started to change. The digital society took off: the founding of Skype in Tallinn kick-started a startup ecosystem. Following the global financial crisis in 2008, as Europe plunged into trouble, Estonia managed to lift itself out of the mire by exercising remarkable budget discipline and, as a result, qualifying for and joining the Eurozone in 2011. Still a relatively new member state, Estonia became part of the Eurozone ‘core’ and was cited as a model example of how fiscal credibility can facilitate higher growth and rising employment. When the NATO Cyber Defence Centre was established in Tallinn, delegations from various European countries and media outlets started to flock to Estonia, to inspect its e-government and digital solutions. Mistaken were those who had claimed that the country’s word would count for nothing in the EU!

Photo by Ardi Hallismaa

Photo by Indrek Veskis

Inspired by his own experience as a young programmer, Ilves proposed the Tiger Leap project – which involved investing in the development and expansion of computer and network infrastructure in Estonia, with a particular emphasis on education. ‘Because I learned to program at the age of 13, I knew that if you started early, you’d have an advantage. That is why I proposed this idea to first computerise the schools. But I knew very well that most schools weren’t likely to have people who could teach programming. However, I knew from my own experience that you can learn by yourself; there are always kids who would look how to take things apart, find out how things work etc., and this will inspire them learn how to program just as much as any classroom,’ he says.


Photo by Raigo Pa jula

ial White House Photo Photo by Lawrence Jackson / Offic

Photo by Toomas

Volmer

Photo by Laurent Blevennec

Ilves, who had been elected president in 2006, became one of the principal global spokespersons for this newly-confident, digital Estonia which also became a hotbed for startups, treating the entire world as their market from day one. Always eager to embrace new technology, he also became known as the ‘Twitter President’, due to his prolific use of the online  social networking  service, personally tweeting on topics ranging from international politics to cyber security to startups and more. ‘I like this sort of creative and youthful thinking found in startups. Besides, startups need international recognition, so I’m perfectly happy to promote them. There are, of course, established industries in this country, but many are regional,’ the president continues, on his special focus.

At Skype summer gathering in 2011

He rejects the implication that Estonians have become almost ‘too good’ at creating a hype over their digital society and startup culture. ‘For any country with our climate and our lengthy periods of darkness in winter, we all need our myths. I’m not so worried about that. Every culture has its myths and legends and this is a fairly benign “myth”. If it encourages people, if it gets young people to try something new, I’m not worried,’ he explains.

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Amongst other things, the report states Estonia is one of a handful of countries closest to becoming a digital society. But here, Ilves is more modest and again, emphasizes the legal basis, rather than technological one: ‘Estonia is closest to a digital society when it comes to the legal framework. But this can all change – a lack of legal foundation is holding most other countries back. There is no technological advantage in Estonia; it’s just that we have given it a legal premise. The limitations are either physical – infrastructure and money – or they are the legal limitations.’ Yet, the president admits that Estonia’s digital reputation has started to precede the country around the world, including in Africa and the Middle East. ‘There was a woman in Twitter, with a Chinese name, who said: ‘I’m in Dubai, I need a card reader – are there any Estonians in Dubai?’ It turned out she had worked for an Estonian startup before. This is a Chinese-Canadian in Dubai and asking, are there any Estonians around?! This kind of image has thus been created and it is, indeed, bigger than the country itself. People assume that if you’re an Estonian, you can fix anything computer-related,’ Ilves says, amusingly, before adding that he did retweet the woman’s request to his Twitter followers, currently numbering around 70 000, too.

Photo by Rene Velli

Due to his championing of the digital society, Ilves has, in recent years, taken on many international advisory roles. Together with Kaushik Basu, the chief economist of the World Bank, he was responsible for preparing the World Development Report, entitled ‘Internet for Development’. The report, which is the World Bank’s most influential policy paper gives examples from different countries, including e-services available in Estonia – and according to the president, despite weighing-in at over 300 pages, has become by far the most downloaded in the entire history of these reports: ‘Estonia figures a lot in it; it is often brought up as an example of what has been done successfully. It clearly talks about what the better technical solutions are, but I try to emphasise what makes it universal, and applicable to Europe as well. It’s not just about developing the technology, but encouraging competition and providing the legal framework that you can do things with, just like Estonia did,’ Ilves emphasizes.

In Afghanistan in 2010

Coming back to limitations, one of his most resonant subjects recently has been the European digital single market – or rather, the lack of it. One of Ilves’s favourite stories is how it’s easier to order a bottle of olive oil from Sicily to be delivered to the north of the Arctic Circle, than to send a song from iTunes across the border to Latvia, where his wife, Ieva, works. Therefore, he has proposed a fifth freedom in the EU – the free movement of data.

Photo by Ilmar Saabas / Ekspress Meedia

‘I think that the European Commission is pretty good, but it’s rather the case that the individual member states have very different attitudes and some have very strong protectionist tendencies. There are some countries that are pressing criminal charges on Uber drivers, for example. And that is what I’m trying to say in Europe: if you become protectionist, you will ultimately lose. We can be very advanced right now, but it could be that in five years, when other countries such as India are very bold, things can change – it’s not a static situation,’ he asserts.

With Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in 2011

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‘If we don’t have free movement of data across borders, our economy will slow down. You can have a car running on computers – not even a self-driving car, but computerised – and then you can get all the way to the German-French border, but if there is no data transfer, your car stops right there. That is not a reality, but a metaphor, but unless we resolve what I call the fifth freedom of the EU, which doesn’t exist yet, we will run into trouble,’ Ilves predicts. He argues that in this sense, Estonia is far ahead of other countries, but its companies and startups stand to lose a lot if the cross-border data transfer doesn’t become a reality across the EU.


President Ilves discussed the future of the common digital market at Slush 2015 tech conference with the former European Commission Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes.

Photo by Jussi Hellsten

Ilves cites the upcoming bilateral cross-border data exchange between Estonia and Finland as a positive example: ‘If you are a Finn, having a good time in Estonia and happen to lose your medicine, you just go to an Estonian pharmacy and if the data has been exchanged, you’ll get your medicine in Estonia. Ideally, this kind of system should be panEuropean – that’s what I’m arguing for. But right now, many countries don’t even have electronic records,’ he remarks.

Photo by Raigo Pajula

Ilves has also become a well-respected global speaker on cyber issues. He says that the biggest issue in cyber security is not privacy – although it is a concern – the biggest issue is the data integrity. ‘I may not like it much if someone learns what my blood type is – but what I really dislike is if someone changes what my blood type is registered as in the system. Data integrity will become a more serious issue – we really don’t want the data to change. This also applies to relatively simple things, like IoT (internet of things),’ he explains.

Looking back at Estonia’s last quarter century, Ilves, who will hand over the presidency to his, as yet unknown, successor in autumn, notes that the country has primarily achieved success when it has dared to do something in a new or different way: ‘rapid and decisive reforms, implementation of modern technology, and, during the last decade, the powerful rise of a civil society that is impacting social development’. There are new developments to look forward to. One of these is the much-vaunted e-Residency project – a state-issued, secure digital identity for non-residents which allows digital authentication and the digital signing of documents. ‘I like e-Residency, the idea of a borderless world,’ Ilves remarks. And what would be the greatest legacy of his political career of the last 25 years? ‘Recently I visited a startup in Tartu and I asked them how they got started. And there was this guy in his mid-thirties who said: “Oh well, I was a Tiger-leap child!” So it did work, at least a good percentage of kids got into computing – they liked it and started playing around and, 20 years later, they are conquering the world!’

In Japan with Emperor Akihito in 2014

Photo by R

obertas Dac kus

In March 2015 Ilves released a compilation album ''Teenage Wasteland – 16 Early Fave Raves of the President' of songs which inspired him when he was growing up in the United States.

Photo by Rene Riisalu

Photo by Argo Ideon / Postimees

He acknowledges that innovative solutions can sometimes take some time to properly implement, but based on Estonia’s experience, it’s well worth it. ‘When we instituted digital prescriptions, for the first two months there were software bugs and other issues, creating a huge uproar first. And then within two months, it was all resolved and now everyone in Estonia uses digital prescription happily,’ Ilves notes.

Presidents of Estonia, Lthuania and Latvia – Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Dalia Grybauskaite and Andris Berzinš were presented with 'Golden Victoria' award in the category of the European of the Year 2014.

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PAUL KERES 7 January 2016 in Narva, Estonia – 5 June 1975 in Helsinki, Finland Paul Keres came 2nd on four consecutive occasions at the World Championship Candidates’ Tournament, won the Gold Medal at seven Chess Olympiads and became the Soviet Union Chess Champion on three occasions. Monuments to Paul Keres have been erected in Tallinn, Narva and Pärnu. A chess centre in Tallinn is named after him and the Paul Keres Memorial Tournaments are organised regularly. In 2000, Keres was elected the Estonian Sportsman of the Century. Paul Keres was memorised on the five-kroon bill of the Republic of Estonia and the two-euro coin.

Paul Keres: Chess Genius The World Chess Federation has declared 2016 the Year of Paul Keres. This Estonian grand master of chess, born exactly a century ago, has thus at long last garnered this fantastic recognition by the chess world.

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By Paavo Kivine


‘For me Keres was the “last of the Mohicans”, representative of the best traditions in classic chess, or alternatively – the “Pope” of Chess! Two traits made Keres the greatest chess player of the twentieth century – his modesty and his titanic ability to work,’ former World Champion Boriss Spasski says. The greatest of the century no less … no other Estonian in any other field of life has received such a high level of praise. Legends are often born of those who walk side by side with their people in both good times and bad, and Keres is a prime example. He was born in 1916, just before the birth of the Republic of Estonia. As was the case with his young nation, Keres worked himself up from the bottom. He has described his beginnings as a chess-player thus: ‘I was about four years old when I broke a bone in my arm whilst sledging and this is why I was forced to stay away from the winter fun and games enjoyed by other kids my age. Stuck indoors, I used to observe my dad’s chess matches with guests and this was my first contact with the game.’ Matches with his brother Harald, who later became a prominent physicist, followed. Neither of them knew anything about chess books. They accumulated theoretical knowledge by rewriting the chess sections in newspapers. The lack of opportunities to actually play face-to-face chess was compensated for by matches with ‘invisible’ opponents via the means of correspondence chess using the postal system. Using this avenue the numbers of the Estonian schoolboy’s long-distance opponents stretched into the hundreds. Youthful passion can make miracles happen, and it didn’t take long for Keres to realize that, astonishing as it may have seemed, he had become one of the greatest chess players in the world. In 1938, at the age of twenty-two, Paul Keres won the AVRO tournament, one of the toughest chess tournaments of all time. At the same time he won the right to defend the title against the reigning World Champion, Alexander Alekhine, who was already a French citizen by then. Unbeknownst to Keres, Alekhine had reached an agreement with Mihhail Botvinnik, a secret deal struck between a lost son of Russia with the new Russian chess icon. Neither was Keres aware that bringing the chess championship title to the Soviet Union had Stalin’s benevolence. Keres had no place in this project. Worse was to follow. In 1940, the Soviet Union occupied Estonia and war broke out a year later.

Paul Keres in 1937

Keres was not caught yet, however. He was soon on the beach waiting for the boat which was to take him and his wife and children across the sea to Sweden and freedom. But his last minute lifeline, which was supposed to rescue the newly-formed government members, resistance fighters and many other members of the cultural elite, never arrived.

Keres the resistance fighter

Participating in tournaments organised by the occupying Germans was the reason that on the same day the Red Army conquered Tallinn, a man arrived with an arrest warrant for Paul Keres. According to the new law, our chess master was to face twenty-five years of forced labour for ‘collaborating with the Germans’.

What happened next characterises Keres well. Totally loyal to his friends, the grand master started to help trapped resistance fighters. He helped to forge documents, assisted in finding shelter, and hid people under his own roof.

It was, however, not common knowledge that Keres’ ‘sins’ were much greater than this. As the Nazis were about to capitulate and the Soviet army once again ready to enter Estonia, the National Committee of the Republic of Estonia was founded in March 1944 with the aim of restoring the republic. Several of the Committee members and members of the Estonian government were friends and close acquaintances of Keres.

The Soviet regime soon arrested most of his friends and peers – some were executed, some deported to Siberia. Those arrested also had to testify against Keres. According to their testimonies, Keres knew about the activities of resistance leaders, he helped them, and participated in activities. His name was included in official documents and he was interrogated on numerous occasions. He could have faced a similar fate as his comrades. Yet amazingly they didn’t touch him! Why was this?

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But words are one thing – documents speak their own language.

The fate of one of the leaders of the chess world was naturally not to be decided upon by local law enforcement. Everything to do with Keres was reported to Moscow where the question of how to deal with Botvinnik’s main competitor was a hot subject of discussion, until a decision was made, which was not recorded in writing. In fact a KGB General was sent to Keres to announce the decision in person! The conversation took place between the two people and its contents were never revealed by Keres or his counterpart. Of course, not much remains to be guessed: given his previous activities Keres had sealed his fate as a chess player. Until 1946 the Soviets didn’t need Keres. As the war ended, World Championship match negotiations were held between Alekhine and Botvinnik and the Estonian was kept away from international chess life. But in March of the same year Alekhine died and things became uncomfortable for the Soviets. When the chess world realised that, contrary to rumours, the worst had not happened to Keres, the question was raised: should the free title not belong to Keres as the champion of the AVRO tournament? Or alternatively to the Dutchman Max Euwe, as former World Champion? In order to avoid the latter outcome, the Soviets found a solution in the 1948 tournament where three Soviet players faced Western champions. The likelihood of winning the title was thus guaranteed.

Final proof The World Championship Tournament of 1948 has raised many questions which are still unanswered to this day. The tournament was won by the Soviet champion Botvinnik. His victory did not raise questions itself, but Keres’ major defeat in their mini-match did, which has helped to sustain the speculation that perhaps Keres took a beating on purpose. Perhaps he was forced to lose? But what did Keres say about his defeat? In public, nothing at all... Years later a clarifying message came from the free world. Keres had dined with an old acquaintance in England and had been asked the same question, ie. whether or not he was not ordered to lose those games to Botvinnik. According to the story, Keres was not playing to lose as such, but he had been given a broader instruction that if Botvinnik failed to become World Champion, it must not be the fault of Keres...

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On November 9, 1946, Zhdanov, the Secretary of the Communist Party and a major perpetrator of the Great Terror who in June 1940 was sent to Estonia to supervise the establishment of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic and its annexation by the USSR, received a statement about Keres saying: ‘Herewith we present the proposal to include Keres as a participant at the World Championships in Chess /…/. Considering the fact that Keres has a great chance to achieve second or third place at the tournament and that the world’s chess media considers him to be one of the strongest players in the world, we consider it right to allow Keres to take part in the tournament.’ The final decision on the result of the Estonian grand chess player had been taken and Keres himself informed. One thus needs no other proof about what really happened at the World Championships where Keres shared the third place.

Estonia’s game Everything which followed in the life of the grand master can be seen as stemming from this event. As early as in 1956 he was suffering from gout, a disease resulting from stress and mental exhaustion. He participated in entire tournaments whilst suffering from various other health problems, something which the chess world was unaware of. This was followed by his early death, although his older brother, with the same genes of course, lived to a very old age. The chess world remembers Paul Keres as ‘The Eternal Second’, as ‘The Crown Prince of Chess’, the ‘great silent one’. Such recollections reflect a certain regret that he missed out on the greatest reward. We Estonians have no regrets – what he offered us was immeasurably larger than what he missed out on.  In each battle the road to victory and the fighter’s morale is measured just as much as victory itself. And all colleagues testify that Keres was the greatest: ‘I have never heard of anything which could take away from his gentlemanly character,’ says one. ‘I don’t know of any chess-player who did not respect Keres,’ adds another. And a third witness sums it up: ‘There was something about him which spoke of a grand soul. Honesty, correctness, discipline, ability to work hard and to remain modest [were all traits]. There was also something mysterious about him. I clearly felt that Keres carried some heavy load throughout his life. This baggage as I understand it now was the unlimited love for and pride in the land of his forefathers, the unwavering attempt to withstand all adversity, to take responsibility for each step. I have never met anyone else with such a high sense of responsibility.’ We say: yes, he was an Estonian, Chess Grandmaster Paul Keres.


E-Residency: Estonia’s Most Scalable Idea Kaspar Korjus is the man heading Estonia’s hottest idea after Skype. It is called e-Residency and may well transform how the world does business via the secure digital identity. Photos by Raigo Pajula

Daniel Vaarik talked to Kaspar Korjus, e-Residency Program Director, about the bold idea behind e-Residency.

Should I call you 38712012796?! You could say that this is my middle name! In Estonia, everyone has a unique digital ID and ID number which is used for interacting with government and doing business, amongst other things. Now we have opened the system to the entire world. People from practically every country can become e-residents and use our government e-services, start location-independent businesses and so forth.

What does the head of a country’s e-Residency program do on a day-to-day basis? My job is to develop and improve the Estonian virtual business environment and its e-services,

while keeping in mind the needs of e-residents and their desires. I am also constantly looking for ways to scale our technology and make it available to anyone in the world who would like to have a digital identity on the internet. Furthermore, I am constantly on the look-out for partners to develop e-services on our eResidency platform.

Last time I checked, I could also get a workable digital identity from Google, Facebook and some other global services, so why bother building yet another one? It is not the same. Some relationships need a much stronger level of certainty that a person is who she or he claims to be. For example, those involved in financial services, business, and various government services. E-residents get an identity − a digital face that is verified by Estonian government.

A digital identity opens different doors from those of a physical identity, since it is locationindependent and hassle-free. It has become a natural part of every-day life in Estonia and we believe that it will become more and more natural worldwide as well.

Why do you need partners? Our platform is like an app store or a marketplace of e-services. Currently it has some important basic e-services, like authentication and the ability to start a location independent company in Estonia and run it from anywhere in the world. New e-services are being added all the time, but in order to really scale we need developers who recognize e-Residency as a major disruption in government thinking to join in. We already have our first partners who are developing their own e-services, but we need more.

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For developers and partners, one advantage of working with us is that we are very open and easy to collaborate with. We also have clear values that ensure that we will not misuse eresidents’ trust or indeed that of our partners.

way, and hopefully become a standard for how governments relate to people and businesses as well. This approach is only going to catch on if we have openness, transparent values, and committed partners.

What is the ‘big picture’ idea that could grow out of Estonia’s e-Residency program?

In the big picture, the World Economic Forum estimates that by 2020 there will be one billion new internet users. Seventy-three per cent of these people are effectively financially excluded. We need a solution that will help these people get reliable digital identities and become financially included, so that they can use services and start businesses. People will be defined not by where they happened to be born, but by their intentions, drives and goals. Using Wikipedia and other public sources is a valuable experience, but the real empowerment happens when you can participate in the global economy.

People say that governments are lousy service providers. Agile startups looking to ‘move fast and smash paradigms’ always seem to run into bureaucratic models of governance which have developed over the centuries. This confrontation is partially necessary since governments can’t fail in the way startups are allowed to, but certainly something needs to change. In Estonia we are developing a 'country as a service' model or CAAS which can lead the

How can Estonia prevent misuse of personal data? First, we are building certain values into our system architecture. For example everyone can see when their data has been accessed by someone. Second, we rely on mathematics in building the best possible cryptography.

This spring Estonia’s biggest tech festival, Latitude59, also brought together companies that develop applications for e-Residency. This is a selection of what they had to say in their presentations.

‘After we found e-Residency, we realized that it was a great solution for us because blockchain itself can only prove that transactions happen, but it cannot prove the identity of the person being dealt with. We have customers from more than 100 countries and it is very hard to prove whether the ID is a real one or fake one. So we proposed a new solution eKYC, e-know your customer, based alone on e-Residency.’ Franky Hu / Wagecan

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‘Estonia has solved one of the major issues of the digital age and has done it in an intelligent way – by identity attribution. E-Residency pioneers in promoting a business friendly environment, transparency, frictionless business and all this with a potential global impact.’ Tommaso Prennushi / Stampery

‘[Allowing people to vote individually in our system] was only made possible by using Estonia’s ID solution. We can validate who you are, we can link you back to your holdings. Then we can say that you have this many votes. People can vote beforehand, they can vote during the AGM. You can have a snapshot of where people stand on different issues.’ Rhodri Preece-Jones / NASDAQ


Tim Draper • Born11 June, 1958 in San Francisco • Tim Draper is an American venture capital investor, and 1985 founder of the firm that would become Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ). The cofounder of DFJ Steve Jurvetson has Estonian roots. • Draper is also the founder of Draper Associates and Draper University. • DFJ and Draper’s personal funds have invested in dozens of startups that have gone on to become ‘unicorns’ – ie. worth at least US$1 billion. Among other startups, Draper was an early investor in such notables as Skype, Hotmail, Tesla, controversial medical company Theranos, Twitter, Tumblr and Baidu. • In 2013 Draper established the Draper University of Heroes. • Tim Draper’s net worth is estimated to be around US$1 billion.

Tim Draper:

My Heroes were Gorbachev, Washington and Deng. Now the Estonian President and Prime Minister are on the List too! Text by HOLGER ROONEMAA / Photos by Raigo Pajula

One of the world’s most successful venture capitalists, Tim Draper, says that Estonian top statesmen are changing the way governments operate. In the next 15 years we will see awesome changes in governance, he believes. And because of their visionary work, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas join his list of world-changing heroes. Draper spoke about his thoughts right after his speech at the Latitude59 startup conference in Tallinn at the beginning of June.

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How do you imagine this new kind of governance? I think it needs to be as efficient and effective and provide as good services as the private sector does in building anything from this table cloth (he points to the table cloth in front of us during our interview) to that building. I believe the governments are now in competition with one another ... but for us. We are now their customers; people, entrepreneurs, money, businesses – all of it. Once they realise they’re in competition, they will all get even more efficient, effective, with lower costs and higher value than what they have today. And your guys in Estonia know that and they know how to use it.

That leads me to ask if there is still a need for physical countries with borders at all? I mean, we already have bitcoin as an independent virtual currency, and different services that don’t comply with traditional governmental regulations. I wonder! I am not convinced that all of these land-based wars make any sense at all. But there is something to real estate – it is of value. It is one of the many pieces that the government needs to provide. I think it’s here for a while but at some point we as individuals are going to guide these competitive governances toward being more virtual and even being an itemized list. I might take my social security program in Chile, education in Estonia and religious freedom in the US. I think free speech is letting the cat out of bag. We’re all gonna say what we want to say now! (Laughs).

You mentioned during your speech that next to your three heroes Mikhail Gorbachev, George Washington and Deng Xiaoping you now have two new ones – the President and the Prime Minister of Estonia. That’s a huge compliment. Why them? Because these other leaders all surrendered their own power for the sake of their people. Deng Xiaoping said ‘Hey, we need a free market here and some of you will get rich first’. That was his thinking. George Washington said: ‘I’m not going to be the king of America and I’m giving it up after eight years’. Gorbachev said, ‘this capitalism works better than communism. Take the wall down!’. They all effectively gave up their power seat in order to build a great country. What I’m seeing here in Estonia is these guys using technology to transform their government in a new way. It’s a new kind of governance. It has the chance to lead us into a new form of government that’s beyond what any of us has ever imagined. They’re pushing forward on it as opposed to most government officials who are afraid of the change.

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Is it possible that there are going to be entirely new virtual countries that don’t exist now? Yeah, there already are in fact. There is something called DAO, which is a new virtual country on the blockchain. They use ethereum (a decentralized platform for applications to run as designed without outside interference – ed.) for it and they’re creating their own set of rules and regulations. They are in fact much more efficient than most governments are.

How well aware are you of our e-governance systems such as the e-Residency program? Well, I’m a member of it. I was the third ever e-resident!

Have you used your e-Residency card? I haven’t done anything with it yet. I need to set up a bank account and then probably figure out how to fund an Estonian company with it and then maybe buy some real estate.


Do you think it’s going to be a success? It is pretty exciting. It’s potentially getting to be a significant percentage of Estonia. Down the road people might say this is where I want my taxes to go, my world to be. I want to be a person of the world, not a person of an artificially delineated country. So I think we’re in for some major changes over the next 15 years. We’re going to see amazing things happen in governance.

Let’s talk a little about Draper University, which you established a few years ago. It doesn’t have any accreditation. It’s curriculum takes just 7 weeks to get through and one part of it is even a survival camp with the US Navy SEALs. You do everything 180 degrees opposite of what an accreditation would require. Is Draper University a business for you or a way of giving back to the community? I’m still figuring that out! So far it has been a way of giving back to the community. I don’t actually believe any business should stay in business if it’s not sustainable. So I need to make sure that it is sustainable, grows and turns a profit. We’ve got to make sure it works that way. We’ve experimented with a lot of different models. Tuition, some sort of work for payment of tuition, a percentage of students’ income for a period of time, for instance two per cent for 10 years. We’ve also funded some of the companies that our students have started and we’ve explored the idea that we would take equity for the tuition. Maybe in 10 years this will kick in and be profitable.

How did you come up with the idea of the curriculum behind it. It sounds so… crazy? It is a little crazy! I came up with it, because I thought about what it took to be an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is up against all of the

existing businesses that are doing whatever that entrepreneur is doing. You’re taking a new technology into a den of lions who don’t want you to succeed. This has happened over and over again. It happened in the car business with Tesla, it happened in telecoms with Skype. We were seeing it with Theranos, a solution which takes two drops of blood from your finger for really difficult diagnostics. When you break into an industry which is so controlled by an oligopoly of providers who are generally providing bad service at a high cost, you’re gonna threaten their existence. They’re not gonna be happy with you being there obviously, and you need to know how to stand up against that. It’s very difficult. So we give those entrepreneurs some help and support.

Did you go through the curriculum yourself with all the survival challenges and test with the Navy SEALs? I would never force my students to do something that I wouldn’t do.

One part of the curriculum is called urban survival and includes getting a job offer on paper in 24 hours. How many job offers would you get in 24 hours? Oh I haven’t done that! Good point – I have to do that myself now! I thought that it would be a piece of cake for me and so unfair, because I could probably get a job with one e-mail.

In a way you are teaching people how to make mistakes. Right? Yes, and do things that are not socially acceptable. It’s tough to break in and say I’m gonna transform a government or finance industry or medicine. People will attack you. They will sue you, they’ll call on government lobbies, line up with competitors. They’ll do anything to get you out of the way.

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I STATE AND SOCIETY Are these three words typical for Europeans? Yeah, that’s what I’ve noticed and they all use these three words a lot. In the US you almost never hear these words and certainly never in China. How would China require the word ‘realistic’ as part of their lexicon when over the last 10 years they’ve transformed into this amazing country, from a completely impoverished one.

It might be similar to Estonia in the 1990s when we got free again. Yeah, it might be a similar case for Estonia but not all of Europe.

You raised a new US$ 190 million fund recently that pays much attention to fintech, medicine and government startups. Why these industries? We are looking for investments into industries that have lagged behind in being transformed by technology.

So what’s your favourite mistake? It’s a good question. I’m trying to figure out which company I backed by mistake. I’m sure there are a few… (Laughs). Well, you know, I like the ‘mistake’ of deciding that VC could be done outside of Silicon Valley. Most of my compatriots would say that VC should stay in a 20-mile radius of wherever you are. But I’ve now got a network of venture capitalists around the world.

VCs from Silicon Valley don’t pay much attention outside of US usually. I know and I think it’s at their own peril. They’re missing something.

How much do you look at what’s happening in Europe, Scandinavia, Baltics? I look a lot. I’ve backed a few European startups, but disproportionally I’ve backed lots of Asian startups. My fund is 70 per cent US, 30 per cent outside. I believe that this latter category is gonna be 20 per cent Asia, six per cent Europe and four per cent other regions.

Usually it’s a question of government controls. Heavily-regulated industries have lagged in technology, because technology comes along and it doesn’t comply with all sorts of regulations.

What makes you think it’s going to get moving now? One industry after another is being transformed. Once there was just the post office and then hotmail came along. There were the regular telecoms companies then, Skype came along. There was the traditional music industry; guess what, Kazaa and Napster came along. Car companies in their turn saw Tesla appearing. These industries have thus all been transformed. Now there are others that haven’t – yet. These include fintech, government, education, medicine, healthcare and logistics.

You’re also a huge bitcoin enthusiast. What kind of effect do you think it will have in financial industries? Bitcoin is going to transform finance industry including my industry venture capital.

Why’s that?

When is it going to make a universal breakthrough?

There is a lot of innovation and activity going on in Asia. The excitement there is extraordinary, the work ethic is extraordinary. They are working incredibly hard. I’m hoping that the governments in Asia see the light and use a light touch in order to allow people to be free. If they don’t, it will clamp down pretty quickly. In Europe I’m seeing sort of an awakening. It’s like a mole coming out of the ground and all of the sudden they’re saying that, hey we can start a business!

It’s already being used as a currency throughout Africa, and as means for remittance throughout the world. Whenever you can’t get your money out of the country, bitcoin is a great way to do so. China is using it. When you have to make a payment to lots of people on regular basis, you push a button and everybody has a bitcoin wallet and voila, they just get the money.

What are the three words that Europeans should forget? Impossible, realistic – people say ‘let’s be realistic’ and that basically puts a damper on any brainstorming – and humble. They need to be bold.

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But why have they lagged? Because of opposition from the old industries?

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Actually a special course was just started in 10 Estonian high schools; Balaji Srinivasan is teaching Estonian pupils bitcoin app programming. If the pilot succeeds it might be universal in all of Estonian high schools very soon. Oh my god! This country is so far ahead! That’s amazing!!


Fernando Francisco, Vice President and the head of the Tallinn office, and Marcin Kleczynski, the company’s founder and CEO.

If Estonia were a Company, it would be Malwarebytes By Holger Roonemaa / Photos by Martin Rauam

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I INNOVATION

Malwarebytes recently opened a brand new office in Tallinn.

One of the hottest cybersecurity companies on the market, Malwarebytes reminds us in many ways of Estonia and its business history. It is small compared with its competitors (380 employees); it has shown unbelievable growth (100 per cent in 2015); is dynamic and can make strategic decisions in the blink of an eye as well as choosing its own way for growth and development. Consider Estonia by comparison – it is small compared with most other EU countries and other states (its ‘competitors’), it has shown some of the fastest growth in the EU in recent years, it is dynamic and a quick decision maker due to its small size and e-services facilities, and has resisted the temptation of lucrative state loans. Malwarebytes recently opened a brand new office in Tallinn, where it runs its technical support, mobile team and backend operations. The office sits in a newly built office premises in central Tallinn where employees can enjoy a panoramic view in all directions. From one side, the office looks onto the legendary Linnahall, built for the 1980 Olympics and facing onto the Gulf of Finland. In the meeting rooms at Malwarebytes, people can gather inspiration for their brainstorms by gazing at the Oleviste church tower in the Old Town – a church that is considered to have been the world’s tallest building some time in the 16th century. ‘We want our employees to feel really good,’ explains Fernando Francisco, Vice President and the head of the Tallinn office. As a matter of fact, Malwarebytes’ four offices worldwide (Silicon Valley and Clearwater, Florida in the USA, Cork, Republic of Ireland and now Tallinn) are

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brand new. It was Francisco who first worked out the plan to open an office in Estonia back in 2012. Back then he was living nearby in Helsinki, Finland, but he realized that it was more cost effective to open a branch in Estonia instead of in Finland. ‘At the same time we didn’t have to worry about compromising quality, because there was already a great level of talent in Estonia,’ says Francisco. Now that Malwarebytes has found their new premises in central Tallinn, it is preparing to start hiring. Currently there are around 25 people working in the Tallinn office but there is room for 60 in total. The technical support team in Tallinn offers support in five languages. Furthermore, the mobile team works in the Tallinn office, while the backend operations team is currently forming. The most prominent position available at the Tallinn office is the director of engineering, plus the company is already looking for some Ruby on Rails (a popular web application framework) engineers. ‘We are currently building the team, so that in the near future we have the ability to build even more new products at the Tallinn office,’ says Francisco, who goes on to state that there are already two or three products on the roadmap without being in a position to disclose further information. When hiring, Malwarebytes first narrows its focus on the Estonian job market. The company is prepared to offer a 10 per cent higher than


The company’s founder and CEO Marcin Kleczynski at the opening of the new Tallinn office.

average wage, because it doesn’t see any point in letting a good employee escape just because of a few hundred euros. Francisco says that during Malwarebytes’ so-far four-year stint in Tallinn (before opening the current office it had a smaller one), only one employee has left the company, and even that was because the employee moved away from Estonia altogether. ‘If we don’t find required talent in Estonia, we start looking for it in the wider region,’ he says. Currently there are a little over 20 people working in the Tallinn office, but they come from a total of 10 different nations. ‘We’ve hired quite a few people from St Petersburg. Luckily we have very good recruiting agencies who help organize all the moving procedures, starting from living permits and going to finding a rental apartment,’ Francisco relates. Francisco expects the office to be working at full steam some time in 2017. This means hiring an additional 40 people more than they employ today. Meanwhile, the company continues the amazing growth it has showed over recent years. In 2015 Malwarebytes showed 100 per cent growth and hit the 500 million downloads mark. This past January, it announced a US$50 million investment from Fidelity Management and Research Company. Fidelity’s previous investments include the likes of Uber, Snapchat, Airbnb and SpaceX. The other common characteristic is the dynamic approach to strategic decisions that being small gives you. It is no secret that in Estonia,

important decisions take only a few months from forming an idea to implementing it in the parliament or elsewhere. In other words – there’s a ‘startup mindset’ running right the way through the country. ‘The good thing about Malwarebytes is that we are still a flat company. We have the right communication tools; everyone can reach a VP or CEO comfortably,’ says Francisco. He continues to state that as the company has decided to grow on its own terms and has only needed to raise money twice so far, it is very easy to make quick decisions. ‘Big boats take a long time to shift directions. We are a small, fast boat,’ he says. He goes on to describe how quickly the company can react to new threats. The procedures include the detection of new threats (such as ransomware), keeping an eye on it to identify the threat level, then giving the green light to the advance technical team who work on their own terms and offer the best countermeasures against the threat, and then going on to develop the product. This is what separates Malwarebytes from the old giants. Marcin Kleczynski started the company back when he was a teenager to sort out problems on his mother’s computer. He found help on an online forum and his first products proved to be a real success for the home-user. When you make around 600 000 dollars a year as a teenager it’s not bad, is it? But now, as Francisco puts it, ‘Malwarebytes is transitioning from being primarily a B2C company towards being a B2B company’. The Tallinn office will most probably play a significant role in it.

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I SCIENCE

DNA

was he

d ou

t of

50m

l blo

od.

Getting Personal with

Personalised Medicine

Text and photos by Marju Himma

Each square on the panel of a genotyping chip marks the information of one person’s DNA.

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You can call it personalised medicine, genomic medicine, stratified medicine or precision medicine, or other terms – but whatever you call it, the name is personal. The final aims are a more precise approach to a patient, better results, and long-lasting treatment. ‘My eHealth’ is a patient’s digital health information portal which gets almost a million requests every month (let’s remind ourselves that the Estonian population is just 1.3 million!). The patient’s portal was launched in 2009, and since then 17 per cent of the population has visited ‘My eHealth’ – which is a remarkable rate. ‘My eHealth’ is part of a health information system that is an inseparable part and backbone of a personalised or precise medicine. Estonians simply term it eHealth; everybody understands that this means the system incorporating Electronic Health Records, Digital Registration, Digital Image, and Digital Prescriptions. But let’s return to the two significant facts noted above: the million requests on eHealth and 17 per cent of the population. Why do people have such a keen interest on their health records? ‘The idea behind eHealth is that no matter where you are located your health records and visits to different doctors are safely accessible,’ says Peeter Ross, professor Tallinn University of Technology, radiologist and an expert at the Estonian eHealth Foundation. eHealth is widely used by healthcare workers to access patients’ health information, eg. the attending doctor or nurse gets quick access to patient’s complete health information all over Estonia. This in turn decreases the number of unnecessary appointments, eg. prescription refills, duplicate lab tests and screenings, effectively using the patient as a courier to make inquiries about getting an appointment with a specialist etc. Granted, this increases the efficiency of healthcare system and raises the quality of medical service, but what is personalised for the patient about that? ‘It means that the doctor no longer makes the decision only based on what the patient is saying or showing at the appointment. eHealth gives us a more complete picture of the patient’s precise health based on a variety of health records,’ explains Peeter Ross. And that is more accurate and personalised than just a single and fleeting visit to the doctor. Medical workers are just one group of users, however. eHealth is ‘tailored’ to function quite personally for the patient. Peeter Ross reveals one possible reason for this: curiosity. ‘People come to see what the price of their personal health care is.’ These sorts of individual calculation were made accessible for the patient in the first half of 2016, which aroused the ‘curiosity’ levels significantly – the percentage of users rose from 10 per cent to 17 per cent. Personal eHealth can be compared with personal banking. ‘People don’t use electronic banking just for seeing their account balance. They want to have more than that – make money transfers, sign contracts, get loans, and use other banking services,’ Peeter Ross says by way of example. It is a similar case with eHealth. For example you can fill in an application for a drivers’ licence health certificate and then pop by your family doctor to give blood test. It saves both the patient’s and doctor’s time.

Steven Smit, the Head of the Biobank Lab at the Estonian Genome Center, shows samples of DNA contained in cryovessels. Each vessel contains 720 goblets in six levels. In total one vessel contains 120,000 storage straws of DNA.

Doctors: medicine has always tried to be personal! Doctors tend to get irritated when the topic of personalised medicine comes on the agenda. They say that they have always looked at and treated every patient as an individual person. Therefore it is only fair to ask what makes personalised medicine personal, isn’t it? ‘Personalised medicine doesn’t take away anything that we have practiced so far,’ explains Peeter Ross, practicing radiologist. Last year the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs in cooperation with the University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology and the main hospitals conducted an analysis on eHealth services, which also included the defining personalised medicine to a wider scale and scope. Compared with traditional medical practice, personalised or precision medicine has two additional components. One of these is perhaps already widely-known – The Estonian Genome Centre of the University of Tartu and personal genome-wide data. We will come back to that later on. But the second inseparable component of personalised medicine is information and communications technology (ICT). Currently there are two hot topics on the ICT-related side of personalised medicine: ‘digital decision support system’ and ‘crowd diagnosing’. The digital decision support system (DDSS) compares genome-wide data with the phenotypic, or simply patients’, medical data. The objective is to find patterns of connections and parallel the findings with lifestyle and health habits. Based on this data analysis DDSS is able to make recommendations to the attending doctor and denote to possible obstacles in treatment – breast cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, for example. DDSS should be able to model recommendations based on genotypic and phenotypic data of similar previouslytreated patients.

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I SCIENCE Per each person 10-14 straws of DNA, 7 straws of plasma and two straws of blood cells is stored.

are slow metabolisers and the required drug-dosing between these two groups may be up to a 100-fold difference. For ultra-rapid metabolisers, the standard drug dose would simply be eliminated from the body long before it has had a chance to have an effect. Slow metabolisers, on the other hand, bear the risk of drug induced side effects. Since to a great extent this variation is based on genetic differences in drug metabolism enzymes, drug transporters, or drug targets, it can be approached personally based on polymorphisms in related genes. For this reason the researchers at the EGCUT are studying the genetics of drug response to see which genes are related to which response. This, in turn, can be implemented in the medical system in the near future. Lili Milani gives an example from the US, where five hospitals are already implementing pharmacogenomics for at least five gene types which can metabolise up to 90 per cent of the standard drugs prescribed today.

Crowd diagnosing, an application of DDSS, enables us to create advice or alerts based on prior evidence-based knowledge in order to analyse large volumes of data gathered from other patients in existing medical databases. For instance in the case of breast cancer patient´s genome, data is compared with genome data of patients with similar diseases and applied treatment. It can be characterised as gathering patterns and creating models from the whole population in order to personally approach one patient. Peeter Ross is a radiologist and in his everyday work personalised medicine means more standardised and precise descriptions of diseases. Take a tumour as an example. An Estonian radiologist may describe the size of the tumour comparing it with ‘a chestnut’. A Finnish doctor, at the same time, would say that the tumour is the ‘size of an egg’. The implementation of ICT in order to standardise and analyse the descriptions of X-ray images would help to make more precise health care decisions, not to mention the possibility of sharing digitally X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or other images with other doctors involved in the treatment of the patient.

Personalised medicine in our genes Did you know that for more than 90 per cent of commonly-prescribed drugs, the desired effect is only achieved in 30-50 per cent of the population? 20 to 50 per cent of those individuals diagnosed with depression respond to the standard dose of antidepressant, for example. ‘But there is about one third of patients who do not respond to the treatment at all,’ says Lili Milani, Senior Researcher at the Estonian Genome Center of the University of Tartu (EGCUT). Depression is a very heterogeneous diagnosis – the causes of the disease are manifold and vary from person to person. As for the drug response, one of the factors is undoubtedly genetics, states Milani. She explains that the genes that encode the enzymes which are supposed to metabolise, ie. activate or eliminate the drugs from the body, are particularly polymorphic. Therefore some people metabolise the drug quickly or even ultra-rapidly. At the other end of the scale there are people who

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The EGCUT suggests that in Estonia, everyone aged 35 to 65 should be offered the opportunity to get genotyped – ie. have their personal gene chip. So far, 52 000 Estonians have donated their blood to create the Estonian Biobank. The data generated in the biobank enables us to use individual genomic variation obtained from genetic analysis and computational methods to predict and prevent diseases, and to optimize drug treatment.

The most common limitation – money The data collected at the biobank has been further improved by incorporating data from the nation-wide health database of the Estonian National Health Information System and other more specific registries. These extensive health records and molecular profiling data of the biobank participants are used to calculate disease risk and the associated likely drug response. Since both databases are continually improving, estimates of the disease risks and probable drug response must be re-calculated regularly. Asking Lili Milani whether every new-born should have their DNA sequenced, her answer is a firm ‘yes’! Every child should get its genotypes analysed. Of course it raises the ethical question of sequencing the whole genome of the child. What if the child later in life does not want to be aware of its genetic risks? Lili Milani proposes a solution – it would be wise to look for mutations in certain known disease-causing genes in order to avoid situations, where the child ends up in the intensive care and only then the doctors turn to EGCUT for genetic testing. This is actually a real-life situation Lili Milani describes: 18-month-old child is in intensive care in critical condition. The doctor has ordered for genetic testing from EGCUT and is impatiently calling for results. But it takes at least two weeks from sample delivery to final report. The whole genome sequencing costs about 1 000 Euros. At the same time testing for precise mutation for example certain cancer type may cost up to 5 000 Euros. ‘But this is relatively cheap if we compare it to the cost of treatment or the risk of maltreatment in case,’ states Hele Everaus, hematology-oncology professor at the University of Tartu. She has studied cancer treatment for 30 years. ‘Back then they were already very hopeful of finding cancer cure in the near future,’ says Everaus. In reality there are treatments, but they are effective on only 40 per cent of the cancer types.


Consequently the current cancer treatment is partly ineffective and also expensive. Oncologists tend to say that there is no lung or colon cancer, there are tumours of different genetic profile in specific micro ecosystem affected by cigarette smoke and food consumption, for example. Molecular profiling of cancer means that the gene test is made on tumour cells. ‘The developing mechanisms of the cancer are somehow universal, but we don’t know microenvironment the cancer develops in,’ explains Hele Everaus. For example the lung cancer can be caused by 200 different genetic mutations and their combinations, adds Lili Milani. The challenge is to find out the gene leading to the development of the cancer. If we look at the cancer treatment from the point of view of pharmacogenomics and precision medicine, in oncology it means precisely saving lives. It means the optimum treatment according to a patient’s medical history, physiological status and on the tumour’s genetic peculiarities. Prof. Hele Everaus describes how, depending on the country, the genetic testing in question may cost around 4 000 to 5 000 Euros. But the test gives us the certainty that the selected treatment may well work. ‘But compared with cancer therapy that may cost up to 100 000 Euros, it is a significantly lower amount of expenses, especially if the drug is inefficient or there are adverse drug responses for that precise cancer,’ says Everaus. She hopes that the research and development will turn more and more into concrete diagnostics in order to discover tumours in very early stages of development. The scientists are moving towards finding novel potential biomarkers for early stage detection of cancer.

Using ‘junk-DNA’ in cancer diagnostics Based on the nature of tumour where cells are growing rapidly, causing increased cell death rate compare to normal tissues, the genomic DNA from dead tumour cells is released to patient blood system. This ‘junk-DNA’, also known as cell-free DNA (cfDNA), carries specific mutations which already have diagnostic value in the early phase of recurred tumour after treatment. The cfDNA based screening of relapsed tumour has great potential in healthcare.

by the fact that age at the first birth is increasing both in Estonia (currently 26.5 years) and in Europe more generally (28.7). ‘Although menopause is usually considered the time point that marks the loss of female fertility, in reality, fertility starts to decrease decades before and subfertility can manifest, in fact 10 years earlier,’ she adds. Women who experience early (before the age of 45) or premature (before the age of 40) menopause are therefore at risk of earlier reproductive senescence in their thirties, which combined with the fact that age at first childbirth is increasing can result in age-related infertility. For this reason, markers that could predict age at menopause have been extensively sought for, but all currently used hormonal or ultrasound markers reflecting ovarian function have several shortcomings. Age at menopause also has a strong genetic component, which is illustrated by the fact that mother’s age at menopause is one of the best predictors for daughter’s menopausal age. The knowledge on the genetic variants affecting menopausal age was the basis for developing the Fertify test, which uses polygenic risk scores for predicting the risk of early menopause and concomitant earlier decrease in fertility. Genetic risk profiling has several advantages over conventional markers, such as robustness, stability and usability in young women who do not show remarkable changes in hormone dynamics or have no information on their mother’s menopausal age. ‘Genetic risk profiling for reproductive aging can be used to offer women personalised evidence-based advice for family planning, and therefore is most beneficial for women in their early twenties,’ Triin Laisk-Podar brings as an example of personalised medicine in reproductive medicine. Estonia is currently in a position to be one of the first countries in the world to start the implementation of personalised medicine on a national scale. Implementing personal genetic information together with automated decision support systems will help physicians greatly and have a huge impact on disease prediction, prevention and treatment. Personalised medicine should be viewed just as a new, additional instrument available for the physicians. This article was supported by the European Union Regional Development Fund through Estonian Research Council.

Scientist in Competence Centre on Health Technologies (CCHT) in Tartu are developing a cfDNA based analytical tool to evaluate the precise percentage of tumour mutations among patient cfDNA. The precise laboratory method is a missing link between the usage of cfDNA in molecular screening and cost-effective healthcare. Current researchintensive methods for cfDNA analysis are not quantitative if certain mutations need to be tracked after surgery. Though the fact that cfDNA can be used as a potential biomarker for cancer screening and diagnostics by the researchers at CCHT, the same research group’s main field of research is reproductive medicine. There are a lot of possibilities for personalised medicine practices in the fertility studies. Triin Laisk-Podar is a researcher at the CCHT and Women’s Clinic of the University of Tartu. She tells us that assessing female fertility and predicting reproductive aging is a new challenge in the current situation, where more and more women are postponing motherhood, evidenced

This is the biobank of Estonian Genome Centre at the University of Tartu. Each cryovessel stainless steel – freeze-thaw vessel for cryopreservation – contains DNA samples of approx. 8500 people.

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Raintree Estonia, based in Tartu, produces management software for medical companies in the United States. The software is already used by over 40 000 licensed doctors and medical employees, thereby offering more effective treatment to millions of patients.

Raintree Estonia Producing Medical Software Solutions for US Doctors

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Raintree Systems Inc. was born in a garage of a residential house in California back in 1983, when the 16-year-old high school student Richard Welty created a program for a doctor he knew, with which the latter was able to issue medical bills. Raintree now likes to reflect on the fact that this all happened in the same year, 1983, as Microsoft released a word-processing program called Multi-Tool Word, soon to be re-named Microsoft Word. So while Microsoft was busy giving away free demonstration copies in PC World magazine, Richard Welty was busy writing a software program for a local medical office. Although only 16 years old, he already saw the need for a software solution to simplify the increasingly complex field of patient scheduling, medical records and medical billing. The name ‘Raintree Systems’ is a tribute to Welty’s father and their family’s landscaping business. At the end of the 1990s an Estonian IT-entrepreneur Tan Silliksaar was looking for work in southern California and happened to meet Welty. As their collaboration proved to work well, they soon began to hire new programmers from Estonia and, in summer 2002, established a company called Vihmapuu (a direct rendering of Raintree into Estonian - ed.) in Estonia. In autumn 2007, the company name was changed to Raintree Estonia and the project-based sub-contractor in the city of Tartu grew into the main development centre of Raintree Systems Inc. Today, Raintree Estonia and Raintree Systems Inc. have merged into one company situated on two continents where decisions are made on both sides of the ocean via matrix management. Together, they are making the work of US doctors and other medical employers faster, easier and more user-friendly, whilst ensuring that the medical record of each patient is handled in a systematic and secure way.

Raintree has produced medical software for the US market for 14 years already, and the company emphasizes that their constantly growing team is made up of the most creative and brightest brains of the university town. According to board member Priit Pärgmäe, Raintree Estonia has long been an attractive employer for programmers. ‘It is exciting and varied work, with business trips to California, a comfortable and ergonomic office space and flexible schedules which enable to manage both studies and family life with ease,’ says Pärgmäe. Indeed, the work schedule differs greatly from your average company – staff are expected to arrive at lunch time and in the evenings the last employees leave around 8-9pm as a new day dawns in their home market, the USA. A couple of years ago, Estonian business daily Äripäev ranked Raintree on a par with no less than the best-known Estonian technology company, Skype, in the top list of family- and employerfriendly companies, the two sharing 6-7th place in the ranking. ‘Every year there is a conference for Raintree customers, with hundreds of participants and also ten engineers from Estonia. The conference includes training sessions, brainstorming and the exchange of ideas between customers and Raintree employees,’ adds Pärgmäe. In the same way Raintree colleagues from India have visited Estonia on business placements lasting several months. The Raintree collective is divided into eight teams, who work daily in the name of developing the software of Raintree and making it competitive in the ever-changing IT sector. For example, testers have the

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task of working together with programmers to investigate and test new functions and improvements which are added to the software, in order to find out how they work and whether they meet customer expectations. The team of agents is working on developing the piece of software which was created over 30 years ago by Welty himself. The team of business logics creates new solutions which improve Raintree systems. Raintree Systems’ mission is to solve the real-world problems of the businesses and individuals working, managing and running medical offices in a specialized field of medicine. Raintree Systems has developed the most comprehensive Practice Management (PM) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software for specialized medical practices. There are thousands of software options for Practice Management (PM) and Electronic Medical Records (EMR), but the vast majority of these focus on general medical practices and large enterprise hospital systems, but Raintree has purposely chosen to focus their software on medical fields that are overlooked and under-served by the large PM and EMR software developers. Raintree has over 500 customers in the USA and in Canada. This includes over 40 000 licensed users who are treating millions of patients. This means that whereas in the Estonian eHealth system data base there can be a maximum of 1.3 million clients (ie. our entire population), this figure is equal to one hospital network client base in the USA. Clients include small one doctor practices and large hospitals with more than 500 clinics and medical chains. In addition, Raintree has adapted its system for the special needs of five to six fields. The largest market is physiotherapy; out of the ten largest physiotherapy chains, six use Raintree software. Other fields include bariatrics (the branch of medicine that deals with the study and treatment of obesity), pediatrics, oncology, rheumatology, behavioral & mental health, and billing services/revenue cycle management. Priit Pärgmäe emphasises that Raintree is not your ‘average’ software to suit everyone. ‘The Raintree platform is meant for clients who know precisely what they want or have the vision where they want to go to with their software,’ he explains. ‘That is why there are very large clients with Raintree who can save greatly on the expandable software as well as medium-size and small customers who by having a vision can use Raintree to make their work more effective,’ he goes on. Some solutions offered by Raintree include patient registry and the development of a workable reception calendar at a medical facility, electronic health records, digital prescriptions, patient portal and the management of insurance contracts as well as bookkeeping.

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Teligent, a US-based pharmaceutical company marketing topical and injectable products, has been expanding rapidly after raising US$143 million on Wall Street in December 2014. Next they acquired a business in Canada, which pushed them towards the need to put boots on the ground across the Atlantic, since many of their suppliers were in Europe.

Teligent’s CEO Jason Grenfell-Gardner had to make a difficult decision. ‘How are we going to grow our business, manage the supply-chain, logistics and relationships between the suppliers and the North American markets. We had to find a base in Europe,’ says Grenfell-Gardner. Their consultants proposed the usual headquarters hotspots like Ireland, the UK, Switzerland, and the Netherlands; however, Jason suggested them to look at Estonia. At first they said: ‘Where?’ Then they said: ‘That sounds really exotic.’ But when they crunched the numbers and looked what the structure is to support the business, it made a lot of sense.

What were the main reasons that made you choose Estonia instead of other locations? Firstly, the simplicity of how we can run our business here. Four of our management team members are now e-residents of Estonia, and it makes it easy to do things. Secondly, obviously the structure relating to corporate tax is helpful as it allow us to continue to reinvest in our business across all our different operations. And thirdly, the quality of people we know and can find. It all made sense to pick Estonia.


Jason Grenfell-Gardner, CEO of Teligent back in Estonia after a 13-year break to open an office and pharmaceutical lab here.

Teligent Chooses Estonia as their Beachhead to the EU However, you were acquainted with Estonia before. What is your connection to the country? I started my journey into the pharmaceutical world in Estonia. I was a managing partner at Trigon Capital, responsible for the corporate finance team. We were doing a lot of mergers and acquisitions at that time. One of our funds had a controlling stake in a Lithuanian pharmaceutical company called Sanitas. Typical for that time, at the age of 24, I became a board member of Sanitas. It was a fascinating experience because the company was transitioning from the Soviet concept of good manufacturing practices to European concepts and practices, which were really quite different. The company was making all kinds of things, and that probably put in me this recognition that I really like making stuff. Spreadsheets are great, digital stuff is fun and the newest app is awesome, but making physical things that actually impact people’s lives is very, very rewarding.

Currently you are building a lab in Tehnopol by Tallinn University of Technology. How is that going? It is an exciting process – the energy you feel at Tehnopol, and the commitment to really building something new. That sort of spirit is

infectious. Currently we have two people supporting our business here; however, we are looking to eventually hire six to eight more people to work in the lab. And I am very pleased that there are highly skilled chemists to employ in Tallinn. What jobs are there for good chemists today in Estonia? There is the food industry, but beyond that there are not a lot of exciting and interesting new things that require chemistry skills to work. We hope to make a difference with Teligent. All in all, we are looking at our journey in Estonia in terms of building blocks of skills. We will start with a supply chain, logistics and all the standard operating procedures and the regulatory procedures required to help Canada and the US. Then we will add our new lab and science capabilities.

So you are literally using Estonia as your jurisdictional harbor in the EU? Well, it is just that. It’s our longer-term beachhead to the EU. The EU countries have a mutual recognition agreement around regulatory processes, which means that we could build our portfolio of European pharmaceutical products through our team here in Estonia. We are starting out slowly and taking small steps, but it is really exciting to imagine where this might go.

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Peter Daetwyler, Kaili Vohnje, Robert Bécsy and Ralph Daetwyler at the celebrations of Daetwyler's 20th anniversary in Estonia

Tallinn – Daetwyler’s First Choice Location for 20 Years By Ann-Marii Nergi

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For more than two decades, Tallinn has been a key competence centre for welding of machine beds and other technically-demanding and complicated steel structures. MDC Max Daetwyler Eesti AS is a subsidiary of Daetwyler Industries from Bleienbach, Switzerland, and has been active in Estonia since 1995 – so last year Daetwyler celebrated its 20th anniversary here! What was once a small operation founded over 20 years ago with a staff of five is now a modern and well-equipped company in Tallinn with nearly 100 employees. In 2014 alone, Daetwyler invested more than 3.6 million Euros in equipment, infrastructure and construction of new production facilities as well as the renovation of existing buildings in Estonia. The company, whose sales currently amount to 8 million Euros, produces parts and machinery for the automotive industry, wastewater and sea water treatment plants, the printing industry, wind energy and other areas of the energy sector, as well as agriculture. Ninety-nine per cent of its produced goods are exported. As a service provider, Daetwyler takes great pride in welding together complex machine bodies and workpieces measuring up to 12 tonnes in weight and 10 metres in length. MDC Max Daetwyler Eesti itself is responsible for machine construction from the beginning to the end by offering various manufacturing processes such as welding, stress relief, sandblasting, priming, mechanical machining, coating, assembly, and if required, electrical assembly with control cabinets produced in-house, as well as measuring and recording. One of the core areas of expertise for Daetwyler is the manufacturing of complex steel structures, in particular machine beds weighing up to 30 tonnes.

Daetwyler’s representative in Estonia, member of the board Robert Bécsy, emphasizes that the company offers everything from a single source – from initial consultation to the finished workpiece. ‘Today, MDC Max Daetwyler Eesti operates as a complete value chain just like its parent company. We have a strong command over the entire value chain, from the cutting of the materials to welding, stressfree annealing, sand blasting, priming, coating, mechanical machining, measuring and logging – and all at our own plant,’ says Bécsy.  Final processing is usually made at Daetwyler Industries in Switzerland, where the large machine beds can be milled or grinded to ‘µm’ precision. ‘Just as a legend of Tallinn says that the city must never be completed in order to avoid a flood by the sea spirit next door, Daetwyler Estonia is always in motion. It is a great challenge for our employees, but makes the job at Daetwyler all the more fascinating and varied, ’ Bécsy goes on. The history of the Daetwyler Group dates back to 1943, when 27-yearold Max Daetwyler founded the company with a focus on aircraft maintenance and overhaul. For many years, the parts were developed and manufactured for civil and military aviation, lasting up until 1970. As a tribute to Daetwyler’s aviation roots and the continued affection for aviation by the Daetwyler family, the company founded a small aviationmuseum in Bleienbach last year, where you can find the whole aviation history of Daetwyler including vintage aeroplane engines, photos, and stories of how the founder, Max Daetwyler contributed to Swiss Aviation. Although Daetwyler is no longer in the aviation business, it is still close to their hearts. All of the Daetwyler family men hold a pilot’s licence and fly actively when they get the chance.

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Dual vocational training as a topic close to the heart ‘Like most post-Soviet states, Estonia unfortunately faced the problem of a shortage of highly skilled workers. Although the vocational schools are exemplarily equipped with tools and machining centres, there is a lack of the practical training expected by companies today. To close this gap, Max Daetwyler Eesti has formed a group with other leading industrial companies which, in cooperation with the Estonian Government, intend to introduce the dual system of vocational training for welding technicians, CNC machine operators and mechatronics engineers. Every beginning is difficult, but it seems that the ice has been finally broken – it is only getting better,’ says Robert Bécsy, Member of the Board of Daetwyler Eesti. He emphasizes that on one hand it gives them opportunity to employ good and qualified staff, and on the other hand it helps to improve the overall standard of vocational training in Estonia as well as the level of skilled workforce, as practical experience acquired in an actual metal plant helps to avoid one-sided theoretical training. ‘Our aim is not to find cheap labour, but rather to give people the chance to play a part of the principles, working culture and skills that the international machinery industry can offer,’ says Bécsy. ‘Companies invest in innovative equipment and workers’ training, but unfortunately this is executable only for the bigger and stronger. The state should take a more active role in it and appreciate vocational education much more.’

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In the company’s later years, Daetwyler expanded into new industries Including the high-quality gravure printing industry where they introduced many game changing technologies. As Daetwyler transformed itself into a world-class producer of machines and consumables for the graphic arts industry, it soon opened an office in the United States. In 2002 MDC Daetwyler Co. Ltd started production sites in China, and later in India. Daetwyler is a great example of a company run by different generations of the same family. Nowadays, the third generation of the Daetwyler family is a part of managing the business as Ralph Daetwyler, the grandson of Max Daetwyler. After running the USA division for a number of years, he is now CEO over the whole global group. Incidentally, he is also Honorary Consul of Estonia in the state of North Carolina. His father, Peter Daetwyler is still active and very much involved as the chairman of the board and mentor to the young team, inheriting the task of carrying on the family tradition. Both of them visited the company’s Estonian branch last year during the celebration of its 20th anniversary here.

Why did a company already with subsidiaries in Switzerland, China, India and in the United States take the decision to expand to Estonia in 1995? According to Peter Daetwyler, son of the company’s founder Max Daetwyler, it was the first President of newly-independent Estonia, Lennart Meri, who – due to his connections – was able to bring to the world’s attention the opportunities available in Estonia. ‘Moreover, my father had always been an ardent supporter of the Baltic states and followed closely the developments in Estonia as early as the Second World War and afterwards; he hated communism and always emphasized the injustice done to the Baltic states,’ says Peter Daetwyler. In 1994, Max Daetwyler was looking for a production location in the Baltics. Thanks to his good connections with the representatives of the Swiss-Baltic Chamber of Commerce in Tallinn, he first looked around in the vicinity. The area’s proximity to the port, airport and infrastructure capital were reason enough to settle in Tallinn. Max Daetwyler initially moved the operations to the premises of the largest Estonian shipyard, the Baltic Ship Repairs and then moved to the present location in 1999, where the office building and dormitories for the workers were built onto an existing factory building. At that time, the area was a desolate field. Today it is a thriving industrial area with numerous logistics and industrial companies.

Lennart Meri, the first President of newly-independent Estonia, in Switzerland in 1995.


Corner France:

It’s All about Passion and Love

By Robyn Laider

Bertrand Senut, CEO of Corner France

Corner France started out three years ago to do exactly what their name implies: bring a little corner of France here, for every Estonian to enjoy.

visited Estonia many times every year. As I really am a very passionate wine lover, I couldn’t help but notice the wine assortments when I was coming here.’

Corner France are as unique in their offerings as they are in their backstory. A company which can truly claim to be founded through love and passion: a passion for wines, and a love for Estonia, together with the Estonian wife and child that, so far as the company’s founder is concerned, completed Estonia’s raison d’être.

‘Estonians were more accustomed to drinking beer at that time, and the wine offerings here 10 years ago had basically just started. So I said ok, it’s good, but maybe there is something missing. I then quit my previous job in France and I launched this company three years ago in both France and Estonia: in France to look for the wines, and in Estonia to get the wine directly to the clients,’ he goes on. ‘In launching the company I received a lot of support from Business France – a government agency which is promoting French companies. Their help and expertise made the whole process much smoother,’ Bertrand says.

Corner France’s founding and development in the Estonian market is a success story worthy of inspiring any business, foreign or otherwise. The Estonian roots of co-founder Bertrand Senut’s wife meant that the CEO had been visiting Estonia quite frequently, an experience which set him on the path to start his company. Every visit Bertrand made to Estonia gave him a higher level of familiarity with the Estonian market for wines. ‘Next year will be my tenth year of coming to Estonia,’ he says. ‘Corner France was started from personal reasons – I was working in France and

From the very beginning Corner France made it their mission to stand out from their competitors by being very clear and unique in what they offer their clientele. Providing products only from independent French wine producers, their company offers a prestige that no other has yet been able to match. The wines that can be purchased through Corner France are those which you are generally only able to buy by the glass at the many restaurants or cafés that line the streets of Paris or other French towns.

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The very real distinction possessed by their wines, such as Château La Jorine and Les Sauterelles, have helped Corner France gain entry, not only to the shelves of Kaubamaja [a major and prestigious department store in Tallinn – ed.], but also in a number of restaurants in Tallinn that are already famed for their wine catalogues. The latter include ‘Salt’, ‘Leib, Resto & Aed’, and ‘Ribe’, all of which is only helping to strengthen and grow the reputation of Corner France to even greater heights. ‘Nowadays we are starting to look for organic wines, and all these specialties and independent producers that you don’t find on the market but which are really innovative, young and eager to export,’ relates Bertrand about his future plans. Corner France also combines this focus on independent producers with a commitment to bring over all shades of wine – not just a white or red – from as many areas of France and with as many different strains of grape species as possible. As well as constantly keeping their eyes on which areas are over – or under – represented in the market. Bertrand explains that a lot of his knowledge and passion comes from simply being French: ‘Wines are in our roots or our blood!’ He also says that wine has always been a focus in his life, but that he is also quickly becoming a well-educated Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) on the topic, and to that end has recently completed another advanced course with the WSET Paris Wine School.

The benefits of e-Residency Like many other business owners, Bertrand connects a portion of his success to Estonia’s e-Residency program, which he says makes every aspect of running his business easier. ‘Contrary to the case in France, here [in Estonia] they are thinking of how to make business easier. And for us, for example, we have to declare wines to the alcohol registry.

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Whereas before, in France, you had to submit everything by paper, what items come from where, ingredients, etc. Here we do it online. On the portal, I sign in and in 24 hours I have my registration and everything. It helps a lot … You are recognized by your number, everything is really simple that way, it’s easier with the bank, with all kinds of administrative tasks. I could even be in France and do it.” In addition to e-services, Bertrand specifically gives credit to Estonians themselves in terms of being ready for a service like Corner France. It’s not only the language skills of Estonians that make Estonia a tempting location for foreign business-people, it’s their wanderlust and desire to understand the world at large, inside and outside of their own country. ‘An Estonian told me once that as Estonia is a small country, Estonians feel the need to see all that the world has to offer. They need first to learn languages, and then they need to travel to see what happens outside of their borders. And I think it’s true. Basically they are coming back and they are bringing back the things they discovered on their trips – be it a Prosecco in Italy or a wine in France, and they are adapting and providing. What is really amazing to me in Estonia, is the choice of wines from everywhere in the world. In France you have the choice between French wines and French wines, Bordeaux or Burgundy or Champagne. Here you have New Zealand, South Africa, Chile etc. and so French wines have plenty of competitors.’ For wine lovers who want to get a taste of the action, Corner France is available at Kaubamaja, selected supermarkets, and featured restaurants. Corner France products are easily recognizable by their ‘selected by Corner France’ bottle labels. Corner France has unveiled also an online wine-club Le Bon Vin www.bonvin.ee  where they showcase a monthly selection of three wines available at an introductory price, where people can discover and purchase wines directly from the cask, not available anywhere else.


Louis Zezeran: Stand-up Comedy Importer Supreme By Robyn Laider Even if you’ve only just arrived here in Estonia, you’re more than likely to have already come across a poster, seen an image at Tallinn Airport, or just noticed through your peripheral vision one of the many other creative representations of Louis Zezeran – founder, integral force, and one of the best-known personalities behind Comedy Estonia.

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Louis Zezeran at the launching event of the 'Work in Estonia’ programme

As part of a developing company that has grown in leaps and bounds in the past few years, Louis is a busy man – but in getting the opportunity to chat with him, he proves to be a warm, intelligent and endearing person, who is as funny and full of wit in person as he is on stage. So it’s no wonder that he’s gotten several gigs around Estonia (and elsewhere), including most notably (besides Comedy Estonia) as the ‘Work in Estonia Guy’, perhaps his best-known guise to the wider world. This is in addition to his recent role during this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, as the face and voice of the media coverage for Azerbaijan’s Samra! Sitting down with Louis to find out how Comedy Estonia became the biggest player on the Estonian comedy scene, he is enthusiastic as he laughs throughout his story. Though he hails from outside Newcastle, in New South Wales, Australia, he’s been an active part of the Swedish, Finnish and Estonian comedy scenes for longer than many may have guessed. Originally arriving in Estonia as a backpacker over a decade ago, Louis spent many years living between here and various other Nordic countries while working in the IT field. Estonia had already made its way into his heart though, ‘because it was one of the first places we came to, we spent more time here, so we spent some weeks in Tallinn, and some days in Pärnu and I think I just kind of liked it from the beginning. I like living here,’ he says. This IT background of his raises an important question though – how does someone make what appears to be a huge leap, from techie to front stage? Delving a little deeper, Louis admits that at least a little credit should go to his first IT bosses back in Australia: ‘I got a first class honours degree in computer science from the University of Newcastle and I then worked for a few years as an IT consultant in Sydney. During that time I was

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mainly involved in IT training, as I guess my boss quickly worked out I was better at talking than sitting down doing projects!’ It wasn’t as simple as just that though. After working in ‘his’ field for a few years, some friends invited him to their student theatre production. ‘I had literally never been to the theatre before in my life. So I went and I enjoyed the show and it was their final night and I had nothing to do so I stayed around, helped them pack up and partied with them. I enjoyed being around these people, they were unlike anyone I’d met before, fun, emotional, outgoing, artistic. I started to work on a show myself … I figured if I could run an IT project I could run a theatre one,’ Louis explains. After about three months of that, Louis had quit his full time job and was just producing theatre and doing IT jobs on the side, and it is clear through the passionate and emphatic way he talks about this experience that he owes a lot of credit to this phase in his life. ‘I enjoyed the influence those people gave me and I gave some stability to them in return. I became the lead of publicity for the group [and] many of the ideas I got then we went on to use in the early days of Comedy Estonia,’ he explains. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Louis was pretty easily sold when he found an innovative way to combine his entrepreneurial edge, his comedic and theatre background, and his love for Estonia. ‘I started to run a comedy club in Stockholm, Sweden and that went well for a couple of months and because I already had an association with Estonia, a [American] chap called Eric Seufert reached out to me. We started to talk, and then went “why don’t we do a comedy show, let’s do a comedy show in Estonia!” and it grew from that inspiration. We didn’t know what to expect, we didn’t know how it would come out.’


The very first set of shows the pair put on were open-mic nights (where newcomers can try out stand-up alongside more experienced acts) in Tartu’s Eduard Vilde Inn & Cafe. After lining up Joe Eagan, a Canadian headliner Louis had known from his days in Sweden, and committing to three shows, Louis chuckles as he recalls that they guessed that maybe 40 people would attend. So it was quite a surprise when, as it turned out, over 150 people showed up for the opening, with dozens more streaming in as the night went on. Their Tartu story still rings true today, more than six years later, which is without doubt a good sign for any type of organization. When I personally went to check out one of their open-mic nights at Protest Bar in Tallinn there must have been well over 100 people there by the time I arrived. Comedy Estonia has showcased international acts from day one, and they have been putting some extra power behind this recently, with a very well-received [Sgt. Larvelle Jones from the Police Academy movies] Michael Winslow show in March, a six-city-tour of the Baltics with British superstar Jimmy Carr that started on 15 May, and have just announced a show featuring the musical comedy genius of Bill Bailey, taking place on 2 October this year. One of the best aspects of Comedy Estonia though, and perhaps the main reason they are still bringing in such huge audience numbers, is that they are true to their brand name. Comedy Estonia is primarily for Estonian audiences, rather than ‘expats’, and Louis tells me that: ‘I have always been quite proud that our shows have not fallen into the trap of being simply expat hangouts. Yes there are inevitably quite a few non-Estonians in the audience, but still the vast majority are Estonians at these shows.’ It seems a little daunting to me in how an outsider – both from the country and its language, could enjoy the success Comedy Estonia has had, so Louis elaborates for me a little more. ‘From the beginning, I have had very good employees who know the Estonian culture and tell me what I need to know, and so we do the right things based on the Estonian approach. While Comedy Estonia is run by an expat, or a foreigner if you like, I believe that our marketing and what we’ve done has been directed by Estonians, and towards Estonian sensibilities … I rely greatly on my employees, and I think that any foreign businessman has to do that, ie. to rely on good, trusted local people to tell them what they don’t know themselves.’ But what of the humour content itself, how does that go over in Estonia? Stand-up has but one golden rule: the coarser the joke, the better should it be. Estonians tend to like black humour and sarcasm in particular. Louis knows that if an Estonian audience doesn’t like the joke they won’t heckle. They just remain stoically quiet. And this icy silence is perhaps way worse than being heckled. But then again, if they laugh, it comes from the heart.

Louis also appreciatively points out how open Estonians are to other languages, and in fact the problem was never that he was English-speaking, as the majority of the regular comedians are Estonians, but that it was Estonians’ own self-scepticism which was coming to the fore: ‘I feel like I spent the first three years of comedy Estonia having everyone go: “You can’t do stand up in Estonian, it won’t work” and I’m like “why? It works in Finnish, it isn’t a grammatical issue, there is no technical issue … can you have a conversation in the language? – Yes? Then you can do stand up in that language!”’ It surely looks as though Estonia is starting to come round to Louis’ point of view as well. The recent ETV televised showing of their ‘‘Tõuske püsti!’ (Eng: ‘Stand up!’) comedy special just this last New Year was so well received that they were able to use it as a launch pad for an impressive 13-show, solo tour for up-and-coming young Estonian comedian Sander Õigus. According to Louis, all of this ties into his future plans for the company. When I ask him for more details, he tells me his goal is to keep developing local Estonian comedians: ‘I really believe in these guys, I think we’ve got a really great crew. And I really think they are going to be the next generation of entertainers in the public spotlight.’ He also fully believes in the businesses’ cultural mandate: a commitment to nurturing the stand-up comedy scene and making genuine, sustainable, long-term growth. ‘To me, we are growing slowly and steadily because we want to still be around in 10 or 15 years. We’re not trying to be some flash in the pan, something that comes and goes and gets forgotten about. So we think very long term,’ he explains. It’s not all ‘talk’ either, they’ve already diversified quite a bit. In addition to this, Louis is also active in bringing stand-up to the other two Baltic states with Comedy Latvia and a partnership with Humoro Klubas in Lithuania, as well as another concern in Finland, and a number of other outlets as well. They even produce their own speciality beer for the shows, called Heckle! and brewed by Estonian craft beer company Lehe, and the team produce a number of fantastic podcasts and a great online radio show with Tartu Radio too. All of which is done in an effort to increase the personal development of each and every comedian, as well as Louis himself. As Louis says, Comedy Estonia aims to ‘Chase respect, not popularity’ – in his opinion the former will lead to the latter, but not necessarily the other way around. I, for one, can truly say that I think Comedy Estonia, and Louis, have thoroughly earned both monikers. To highlight this fact they also selflessly focus on keeping ticket prices as low as possible – in fact this is one of Comedy Estonia’s mandates, also helped by the fact much of the audience consists of young professionals and students. In short, they want people to immediately be able to say: ‘Yes! I’m going to go to a show!’ rather than having to pick and choose based on price. So I urge everyone to take the opportunity to check them out. You can follow the schedule of shows on their website at www.comedyestonia. com or their Facebook page, where they frequently post information on upcoming or regular shows.

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Alice Kask: An Artist who Physically Shakes up the Viewer By Eero Epner

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PORTFOLIO_ALICE KASK

Drinker

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190 x 170

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Oli on canvas, 2015

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Untitled

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Oli on canvas, 2014


Untitled

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180 x 160

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Oli on canvas, 2015

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Crawler

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Oli on canvas, 2008


Untitled

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150 x 250

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Oli on canvas, 2009

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Painter

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Oli on canvas, 2008


Mirror I

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Oli on canvas, 2011

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Knees

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Oil on plywood, 2015


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Cable

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Acrylic on paper, 2015

Oli on canvas, 2008

When we began to compile the catalogue of Alice Kask’s works, we shared the feeling that we could ask for an opinion on her paintings from the most diverse range of people. This is exactly what happened. ‘Kask’s use of colour, which seems to be on “save mode’’, and her certain zen-like asceticism is delicious and unprecedented top class in the context of Estonian art,’ an older generation artist, a former hyper-realist and a current abstractionist, wrote to us. ‘Kask’s images stay with you, you cannot leave them,’ answered a younger-generation female art critic. ‘The painting, from some ontological point of view, is just as imperfect as the body. Just as uncomfortable as a spacesuit created from impregnated canvas,’ explained a radical avant-gardist approaching middle age, who sometimes likes to dress up as Lolita... ‘This painting came to our office by itself when M bought it after G went bankrupt,’ begins an acclaimed art collector and former owner of a budget retail chain, to describe his connection with one of Alice Kask’s paintings. Kask’s paintings have a universal appeal – they touch people who on the surface seem to have nothing in common with each other. They have different ages and a diverging social background, dissimilar artistic principles (should they be artists themselves), a different worldview and experiences of art which are poles apart. Such universal impact is rare, especially in Estonian painting which, as a result of living during the same era, has enriched the artistic sphere with various principles, starting with the still popular pre-war romantic impressionism and ending with the cool colour-palette of more contemporary works.

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Acrylic, chalk and graphite on paper, 2014-2015

Yet representatives of these different principles all care deeply about Kask’s paintings. Why is that? ‘The impact of Kask’s paintings cannot be put into words,’ claimed a noted philosopher (who specializes in Nietzsche), when I interviewed him for the Kask catalogue. The catalogue will be released this summer when Kask’s first (semi-)retrospective exhibition will open at the Museum of Estonian Contemporary Art, the former industrial building which until comparatively recently was occupied by squatters and which has now been turned into a platform of contemporary art. The philosopher told me quietly that, although words are his specialty, Kask’s paintings lie beyond the constraints of just words in a way which leaves him feeling the way he did as a child after table-tennis practice – physically shaken! This seems to be one of the important explanations for the universal appeal of Kask’s paintings: they have a physical impact. Paintings don’t often have a physical impact. Sometimes they bring forth a certain emotion, sometimes an intellectual dialogue with a claim made by the painting, sometimes confusion. Creating a physical reaction seems to lie outside the immediate remit of what a painting impacts on us. This even seems to counteract the painting itself, as a painting is obviously flat like a sheet of paper and must therefore model physical reality into an ‘effect of reality’. A painting cannot really be ‘physical’ and must therefore translate the physical aspect into a space created with two-dimensional colours (or indeed without colour). A painting cannot be corporeal as such; hence viewers do not experience paintings so much through their bodies as through emotions and concepts.

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Yet Kask’s paintings do still have a major physical impact. Why is that? Truth be told I really don’t know! The simplest explanation seems to be Kask’s painting style: she depicts the human body in its anatomic reality, and physical objects in their material essence. The space around bodies and objects is abstract, unfathomable, anonymous, forming a neutral background for the bodies and objects taking centre stage. Having made bodies and objects into a central event of her paintings, Kask does not go on to dramatize them. She does not create any explosive situations for them. Nothing too ‘exciting’ happens to the bodies and objects, quite the contrary – I clearly recall her painting of two footballers from whom the artist has taken the original dramatically charged context and just left two tense bodies which seemed to look strangely twisted without the ball. Yes, twisted. I think that the physical impact of Kask’s paintings is not only due to the fact that she paints bodies and with anatomic accuracy, but that she creates a certain twist, a tension, in the bodies and objects. This physical tension is always slow, frozen – a complex pose, a leg in an unnatural position, a cramp which reaches tissue. It is because of these frozen dynamics, capturing the body in the most tense moment of movement, creates a sense in the viewer (or at least in me) that the tension is also permeating one’s own body. I know a cultural anthropologist who came out of the cinema in full sweat after watching a film about the late Muhammad Ali because he felt as if he himself had received all the punches to Ali’s body in the cinema seat! In fact he had been a boxer for years and hence he knew the movements, knew the feeling of a boxing glove hitting your diaphragm. We are not so familiar with the body dynamics of Kask. But we feel as if what is going on in her paintings could happen to us any moment now.


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The physicality of Kask’s works receives an additional dimension from the way she paints. She paints large; standing in front of her paintings feels like standing in front of a human-size question mark. From up close one can clearly distinguish the impact of the slightly square brush, the spreading trajectory of laconic layers of paint, the vibrating and darkly pulsating movements. It brings to mind what the author Siri Hustvedt has said: ‘I have often thought of paintings as ghosts, the spectres of a living body, because in them we feel and see not only the rigours of thought, but the marks left by a person’s physical gestures – strokes, dabs, smudges. In effect, painting is the still memory of that human motion.’ In an era when the sense of culture has changed from text to audiovisual, at times when we are surrounded by more visual images than ever before, it is appropriate to enquire about the special status of painting in this flood of images. Whereas painting used to hold the visual monopoly and even twenty years ago retained its dignity after the increasing popularity of film- and photo art and the collapse of the monopoly due to defining itself as ‘elitist’, painting today has become just another visual way of expressing the world among many other approaches. Alice Kask’s art gives a value in itself to painting in two ways: First we gain nothing from making a fetish of a single piece of her work. We have to look at her works in their entirety. Since graduating from art school, Kask has worked in a conceptually-similar way. Such unwavering continuity and true thoroughness are not only rare in this over-visualized world which is constantly looking to be re-set, but also rare in painting itself. As part of the capitalist product machine, painters too tend to create single totems which are aimed

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Chalk and graphite on paper, 2015

at satisfying the continuously changing expectations of the market. The excess of topics, which Michel Houellebecq in his novel ‘La Carte et le Territoire’ (The Map and the Territory) calls the problem haunting contemporary art, is not a problem of Kask. She does not look for new themes. She does not seek out new territories. Therefore she feels like an artist from an era where artists ‘always used to paint the same way, use the same method, same technique in order to transform the objects of the physical world into visual objects. They were appraised as painters more highly when it felt that their way of seeing the world was complete, that it could have been adapted to all existing objects and situations,’ as described by Houellebecq. The second way in which Kask’s paintings differ from the overflow of images is their lack of desire to be theatrical. A large part of images surrounding us tell us about daily dramas, conflicts and catastrophes: birthdays, the child’s goal in football training, someone’s funny fall, someone’s selfie in front of an important cultural object. The aim of visual drama is to create certain emotions in people, which in turn may be used to manipulate. After all, the entire success of Facebook is based on the simple fact that if given a chance to share images of one’s daily dramas with the world, people will take it. Alice Kask’s art has nothing of such dramatisation of the everyday. Neither is there irony, that most common tool of relating to the world. Kask’s art does not offer us the opportunity to be satisfied with what we have. Her paintings rather tend to create a sense of bewilderment, a constant puzzle which grabs you, enchants you and physically disturbs you. Her paintings penetrate that place where we still retain the desire to experience the world for the first time.

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Olga Temnikova – National Treasure By Ede Schank Tamkivi / Photos by Stan Ryszkiewicz, Business-M.eu

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‘Art tends to be a national phenomenon,’ claims Olga Temnikova, by far the most internationally-exposed person on Estonian art scene. ‘Once you’ve made it at the national level, you’re likely to make it elsewhere,’ she says. As if to prove this statement, Olga was presented with the Federation of European Art Galleries Association award for inspiration and innovation (FEAGA Award) this June.

In the parlance of startup people – and a gallery is definitely a startup in its own right – Olga is the cofounder and CEO of one of the most successful private galleries in Estonia, Temnikova & Kasela. The names obviously derive from both founders, complementing each other’s individual skill sets: Olga bringing in her deep knowledge of art and impeccable manners to charm potential customers, while her business partner Indrek Kasela adds his entrepreneurial skills. Having recently celebrated their 5th anniversary, Temnikova & Kasela have had numerous exhibitions in their gallery in Tallinn and elsewhere, but more importantly, they operate as promoters of Estonian art and artists all around the world. You can always walk into the gallery, located in a Stalinist-era building just across the street from the Tallinn Central Market, and currently displaying paintings on digital prints and silkscreens on canvas by Latvian artist Inga Meldere, but it’s unlikely you will meet Olga in person. You have to call her first and it might take a few days or even weeks to sync your calendars since she’s most likely to be at some trendy art fair in Hong Kong, attending an opening in Paris or organizing an exhibition by an up and coming artist at a posh New York gallery. Being a fastrider on the roller coaster of the international art scene might seem like a glamorous lifestyle for those who look at it from outside, but to make our artists visible

on international scale actually means a lot of hard work. ‘As I’ve witnessed on many occasions, in both New York and Moscow, that she takes this task very seriously,’ says former correspondent to the National Public Broadcasting in New York and Moscow and good friend of Olga’s, Neeme Raud. ‘She will cut no corners to participate in the world class fairs and exhibitions. While others are resting from the long night out the night before, she will be in her booth as work always comes first.’ Neeme also points out that making it to the Art section of the New York Times in a fair that has hundreds of participants, is a big deal.

Art for art’s sake! ‘Temnikova & Kasela are showcasing one of the stranger solo projects at the fair,’ New York Times art critics Ken Johnson and Martha Schwenderer wrote of Kris Lemsalu’s performance at Frieze Art Fair a year ago. ‘A comment on luxury and exotic animal parts, the project gains in visual weirdness by the sight of the artist’s long red-blond hair flowing out from the head-end of the turtle shell,’ the article continues. A short paragraph like that can have a major impact on a single artist as well as the country he or she represents. Getting people to talk about you is a huge deal in a big city like New York, a city that boasts more artists than there

are even the lawyers which the Big Apple is so notorious for. There are more artists today than there ever were throughout the entire Renaissance period. It’s a self-sustaining ecosystem, nurtured by enormous amounts of synthetic money created by our neoliberal system that perpetuates inequality and keeps making new highs on art auctions, as Olga puts it. Kris Lemsalu, naturally, found a buyer for all her pieces. This June she’s listed for the Liste Art Fair in Basel, Switzerland, the trendy and intellectual version of the main fair ArtBasel, one of the biggest art events in Europe and ‘almost impossible to enter’. In Estonia, she was also selected to be one of only five artists to be on the ‘state payroll’ until 2018. This may seem as if Estonia is showering money on its talent, while actually we are just mirroring what is happening on a bigger scale in Europe in general (with a slight reverse, Olga would claim). She recalls a recent conference voicing the concerns of the ever-growing number of artists who some of the European states have stopped funding on the scale they used to. The post-capitalist/apocalyptic situation in Europe is undoubtedly raising the right question: how do you make a living while also making something meaningful to make an impact on other people’s lives. ‘It’s a huge challenge to be an artist in the 21st century – everything has already been done and you have to be aware of that but be able to move past that point,’ Olga declares.

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It’s not just the artists who have to be on top of things – first and foremost it’s the job of the gallery owner to constantly push the limits and challenge the artist. But once Olga has fixed her razor sharp gaze on an artist, she will take care of her almost as much as a lioness does with her cub. ‘The first time I met Olga must have been about 10 years ago, when I was in the process of completing my BA studies, at the Young Artist’s Prize ceremony at ArtDepoo,’ remembers sculptor Edith Karlson, now one of the artists represented by Temnikova & Kasela. Edith remembers being completely baffled because she had never seen a person in white gloves touching paintings as if they were something really precious. ‘You could tell she really considered them to be treasures. And this is what she does: make people appreciate art and look at the artefacts as treasures. Olga can do things I could never do. She will work towards her goal no matter what and she’s doing the job the artists cannot or wouldn’t choose to do – talking about money, setting the price etc. Thanks to her, many artists (in Estonia) can ask for a fairer rate of pay.’ This is obviously about so much more than just the money. It’s primarily about the connections,

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the networks, the knowhow: ‘If you want to help your artists on to the next level, you have to keep yourself updated,’ is Olga’s motto. That means reading a lot, and the texts tend to be rather ‘thick’ since modern art is intertwined with modern philosophy. In fact when not in a conversation with someone, Olga digs into her constant companion, an iPad. Edith seconds that: ‘While I was an artist-inresidence in New York, she took me along to the Frieze Fair and I could see up close how she works. The moment she opens her eyes in the morning, she already has her iPad in her hands and she’s checking up on Who’s Who about the person she will have to talk to the following day. This is obviously not a job for those who are prone to a sense of false shame. She’s a true fan and a professional.’ Edith got to know the true mercurial character of Olga when they were officially introduced before the opening event of Temnikova & Kasela. ‘Olga approached me as she normally does: talking really fast about some cool performance she wanted me to do but I did not really grasp at all what she expected of me. Indrek and Olga are very similar in this respect – they both think and act extremely fast. Their energy levels are completely different from mine. I

hardly ever understand what they want from me as my brain simply works on another level’. Edith goes on: ‘The very same day that we had been officially introduced, she told me she needed to go shopping for jeans and asked me to come along. So I go to the store with her and she suddenly tells me: “Edith, I’ll buy a pair for you too!” I normally hate shopping for jeans and trying on new clothes but she made me go into the fitting room and try the jeans on and ended up buying identical jeans for me and herself. I was completely in awe as to why someone I hardly knew would buy me a pair of jeans, but she insisted: “Because you are helping me!”’ Her hard work has not been in vain, since there’s been a ‘shower of gold’ – as Kasela terms it – recently. At the end of last year, she was awarded the Order of Merit by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and the title of ‘Cultural Locomotive’ by Estonian daily Postimees for her work on promoting Estonian art. She also recently narrowly lost the title of ‘Cultural Sun’, awarded by National Public Broadcasting culture channel OP, to the current rector of the Academy of Arts, Mart Kalm. ‘Come on, he deserves this title much more than I do,’ Olga speaks in support of her former professor.


I then share a story of my own: Professor Marju Lauristin notoriously told everyone she interviewed for Tartu University Media department that if a person likes to interact with people, they should go work in a store as a salesperson! ‘But that’s exactly what I am – a salesperson!’ Olga happily exclaims. On a more serious note, she explains: ‘I don’t have clients, I have customers. And it’s my job to help them make their choices among the multitude out there. I’m in this 24/7 but how does a collector make up his or her mind?’ Neeme Raud completely agrees with those people who always turn to Olga when they need a second opinion on art. ‘Thanks to her advice I myself have obtained a few photographs – as I’ve decided to only put up photographs on my walls.’

A journalist lost is a gallery-owner found Olga studied graphic design at both BA and MA-levels at the Estonian Academy of Arts and sometimes feels the urge of returning to academia. Then she brings herself back down to earth by acknowledging that all that hard work would mostly be useful for the network she already has anyway. Olga also started working towards a masters degree in painting but never completed it. Having already started a successful career as a painter and having had a few personal exhibitions, she had to admit her dad had been right. Her father had wanted her to become a dentist but she did not do well enough at chemistry finals. Vladimir Temnikov, a former metrologistengineer at the Soviet machine factory Dvigatel and a professional model ship maker, had raised her by himself from the age 11 and really wanted Olga to learn something practical. So obviously he was not too keen on the idea of his only daughter going to study painting at Estonian Academy of Arts either. Graphic design was obviously a nice compromise. But that’s not all. Olga is full of surprises and announces that after graduating from high school she actually wanted to become a journalist because, as she says, she loves to interact with people.

In that respect, Neeme is an exception to the rule. Olga points out that while internationally, art collectors tend to be men, in Estonia, it’s mostly the women who buy art. ‘Women have a more systematic approach,’ Olga observes. ‘And men will not buy art without discussing it with their spouses first,’ she says. Being Estonians, we are obviously always concerned of how to ‘become more European’ and how to bring more of that international atmosphere here. ‘The greater part of the world will only partake in the Estonian art scene via pdf-s,’ Olga bluntly admits but adds that things are not too different in Paris or London since there is just too much going on and it’s not physically possible to be everywhere. It’s obviously easier to take our artists to big international fairs to an audience that’s already there rather than vice versa. But doing things the easy way is evidently not Olga’s cup of tea. Asking Olga if there is anything big left for her to get done, she admits that she would love to play a part in organizing one of the big nomadic events like Manifesta, the European biennial of contemporary art, responding to the new social, cultural and political reality that emerged in the aftermath of the Cold War. This would cost 3-4 million Euros and the hosting city would have to support it. This year’s event will be hosted by Zürich but for some reason, I’m sure, Olga will make it happen in Tallinn soon enough.

Kadri Laas, Project Manager at Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center: The Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center (ECADC) has operated since 2012 and ever since then we have had close connections with Temnikova & Kasela, which is the only gallery that both represents artists and is internationally active. There are a few other galleries in Estonia that sell to foreign clients and collectors, but they do not represent any artists. They have also tried taking part in international fairs but have not succeeded like the Temnikova & Kasela gallery has. ECADC has supported participation in international fairs with the funds allocated by the European Regional Development Fund for the past four years. Supporting Temnikova & Kasela aims at developing exports and it has well deserved the purpose. In those four years they have participated in twenty foreign fairs which have resulted in ten Estonian artists gaining access to international markets. Until the fall of 2015 Temnikova & Kasela was literally the only gallery in Estonia to operate outside the country and therefore Estonian art export numbers mirror their sales (Vaal Gallery participated in Art Market Budapest in October 2015 and Okapi Gallery will take part in Art Vilnius this June). In its fifth year of existence Temnikova & Kasela has reached the top – gaining access to A-level fairs like Frieze New York and Liste Basel. Thanks to these events alone we can claim that Estonian art has been seen by at least half a million people. Unfortunately we do not have the exact numbers, since we are still in the process of creating the Art Market Index for Estonia, but we can assume that the ratio of Estonian art being sold at international fairs vs domestic collectors is around 30:70. There are undoubtedly markets where some artists are more preferred than the others, but this all boils down to the deep understanding of the delicate details of each individual event and artist, which Olga masters just beautifully.

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Every summer the global Järvi music dynasty retreats to the Estonian seaside town of Pärnu – to spend time together at the old family country estate and to pass on their musical legacy, through the Järvi Academy, as part of Pärnu Music Festival. The three celebrated conductors – Neeme, Paavo and Kristjan, each have their personal style and trademarks but they also share a strong common musical heritage and rootedness in Estonia in spite of the globe-spanning careers.

Estonia’s Greatest Musical Family – the Järvis

Photo by Franck Ferville

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Photo by Simon van Boxtel

Photo by Julia Baier

By Maris Hellrand

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Photo by Mait Jüriado

The Patriarch Neeme Järvi was already a celebrated conductor when he emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1980 with his wife, daughter and two young sons, just a few weeks ahead of Arvo Pärt who ended up at the same hotel in Vienna. Pärt’s ‘Credo’ had premiered in Tallinn under Järvi’s baton in 1979, resulting in official disfavour by the Soviet authorities. Since then, Neeme Järvi has become one of most respected maestros, world-renowned for his spontaneity, creativity and freedom of expression. With his intuitive style Järvi often changes his interpretation from one concert to another. A prolific recording artist, he has amassed a discography of nearly 500 recordings, probably the largest of any living conductor. Järvi has been a keen promoter of Estonian music throughout his career, both through performances and recordings. Over his long and successful career Neeme has worked with the most prestigious orchestras including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Wiener Symphoniker, as well as the major orchestras in the USA including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras. He also continues to have regular relationships with the NHK in Japan, Shanghai and Singapore Symphony orchestras as well as the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Göteborg Symphoniker and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. He is currently Artistic Director of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, as well as holding the title of Music Director Emeritus with both the Residentie Orkest and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Neeme Järvi has recorded with Chandos for over thirty years. Highlights of his extensive discography include critically acclaimed complete orchestral cycles of Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Richard Strauss, Mahler, Dvorák, Glazunov, Grieg, Sibelius, Nielsen and Brahms. Järvi has also championed many Estonian composers, including Rudolf Tobias, Artur Kapp, Eduard Tubin and Arvo Pärt.

Celebrating his 80th birthday next summer, he remains a ‘man of 100 projects’, with more recordings to his name than any living conductor – all fuelled by his desire to ferret out little-known repertoire to which he can add his sparkle. It’s also thanks to his boundless enthusiasm for passing on his passion that two other Järvis wield the baton – his sons Paavo and Kristjan – while their sister Maarika is an accomplished flautist.

‘Järvi is still a genius of the push and pull of symphonic momentum. It was completely compelling, as though he had never left the stage in the last three decades.’ (The Herald, February 2015)

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The Classic The Grammy-awarded Paavo Järvi’s international conducting career has lasted 30 years up to now. He has just finished his last season at the helm of Orchestre de Paris and taken up the baton as chief conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. Paavo Järvi’s accolades include Artistic Director of Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Bremen, Conductor Laureate of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Music Director Laureate of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Advisor of the Pärnu Music Festival and Järvi Academy and Artistic Advisor to the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. The next few seasons with NHK will see a focus on Richard Strauss. Paavo Järvi considers the NHK SO to be one of the best orchestras in Asia, if not the best: ‘I have been conducting in Japan since twenty years and this fanatism and respect that they have for classical music is extraordinary – there’s nothing like it in the whole world. Not even in Germany. They have a special love for classical music. Those who have found you always will come to your concerts.’ The latest Estonian adventure of Paavo Järvi is the creation of the Estonian Festival Orchestra (EFO), based on the Pärnu Music Festival which the Järvi family has been running for many years. The Järvi Academy, which takes place in Pärnu in July, brings some of the best musicians from all orchestras conducted by Paavo Järvi to the Estonian summer capital and creates a very special vibe. It is also a great opportunity for young Estonian musicians to learn from acclaimed colleagues and build networks for their careers. Now Paavo Järvi wants to take the festival orchestra beyond this once-a-year format and bring it together for tours during the festival season as well. The celebration of Estonia’s 100th jubilee in 2018 offers a great backdrop for this adventure as it also aims to present Estonian culture worldwide. And what can be more suitable for this celebration than music?

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‘Paavo Järvi has just released a new recording with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and it has almost become an “historical” high point. With his Estonian musical family roots he has taken the sound and thought world of the Baltic Sea as if, so to speak, it is his mother’s milk.’ (Udo Badelt, Kulturradio RBB, January 2016)

Photo by Ventre Photos

Photo by Jean Christ

ophe Uhl

Paavo Järvi has described the Pärnu Festival Orchestra as one of the best he has ever conducted: ‘The quality doesn’t just stem from the really high level of all players, who work in the most renowned orchestras of the world, they all share a mission – they want to play here. I felt it was a pity to have this orchestra play just once a year and not to be able to offer this quality outside of Estonia. I think it’s a shame that in spite of the great amount of talent of Estonian musicians we have seen so few true international breakthroughs. I see in the EFO the potential to break through this glass ceiling.’ Concert halls in Vienna, Luxembourg, Brussels, Berlin and Amsterdam have already shown interest in hosting Paavo Järvi’s new orchestra which is to be represented by Järvi’s own agency HarrisonParrott.


‘It’s kind of a hybrid between a rock band, chamber orchestra, and big band, and has the mentality that music is non-genre-oriented, that all music is actually an evolution: it started from the days of clapping and singing, which are still very inherent in our physiology and sensibility as human beings, but at the same time it has developed to incorporate such a fantastic scope of different types of music nowadays, from Renaissance to rock to hip-hop and you name it,’ says Kristjan.

Photo by Peter Rigau d

He is constantly gaining more global awareness for the strength, knowledge and possibilities of Estonia and the whole Nordic region, with his Baltic Sea Philharmonic. All developments, concepts and projects he is creating as an entrepreneur actually reflect his Estonian roots. Kristjan concludes: ‘I want to create a harmonious oasis, where we can feel calm and quiet. I’m looking for a light that enlightens our existence not only in this world, but in the whole universe. We have to understand that nobody will survive. Nobody. That means we have to make the most of our time here. Do the best that we can imagine. Then it’s much easier to create the harmony. I can’t find a better justification for my being on this planet.’

‘Kristjan Järvi has earned a reputation as one of the canniest, and most innovative, programmers on the classical scene’. (Reuters) ‘Curating and conducting his original, genre-fusing projects with individual approach and style, his concerts have been proclaimed a “life-enhancing experience”.’ (Herald Scotland)

A recent concert of Kristjan Järvi’s Baltic Sea Philharmonic in Tallinn was described as a ‘one-man-show of a rock star wearing a sweater and stretch jeans’ – Kristjan’s conducting style is all but classical: ‘The orchestra between his hands feels like an instrument … or a woman, with whom he is heading towards climax. Järvi himself and the BSP exude an erotic excitement that led to an inevitable explosion in the Estonia concert hall,’ wrote a critic in Estonian daily Postimees. Kristjan also uses the trade-mark conducting manner of his father – just a slight twitch of his shoulders is enough for the orchestra to take the cue. An entrepreneur by nature and a passionate educator, Kristjan Järvi leads both the oldest Radio Orchestra in Europe and the newest Youth Orchestra. He realises his pioneering ideas with his four ensembles: as Music Director of the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Gstaad Festival Orchestra, as Founder-Conductor of his New Yorkbased classical-hip-hop-jazz group Absolute Ensemble, and as Founder and Music Director of the Baltic Sea (Youth) Philharmonic, the cornerstone of the Baltic Sea Music Education System. As a recording artist Kristjan Järvi has more than 60 albums to his credit, from Hollywood soundtracks such as ‘Cloud Atlas’ and award-winning albums on Sony and Chandos, to his eponymous series on renowned French label Naïve Classique: the ‘Kristjan Järvi Sound Project.’

Photo by Mart Sepp

Photo by Ventre Photos

The Rebel

Kristjan continues to work with some of today’s brightest creative minds, from film directors Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, to composers and artists Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Tan Dun, Hauschka, Dhafer Youssef, Anoushka Shankar and Esa-Pekka Salonen, with whom he started his career as Assistant Conductor at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Kristjan’s primary focus has turned towards his new conceptual concert shows ‘The Kristjan Järvi Sound Experience’.

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Ellerhein – A Flower that Blossoms Every Spring

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Estonia is a land with a strong choral tradition and Estonians just love to sing. The first all-Estonian Song Festival took place 147 years ago, in 1869. Today, the Song Celebration is an enormous open-air choir concert held at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, with the participation of hundreds of choirs and tens of thousands of singers. The number of participants can in fact reach as many as 30 000! In 2003, UNESCO declared Estonia’s Song and Dance Celebration tradition a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Pan-European choral singing research carried out in 2015 reveals that there are approximately a whopping 37 million choir singers in Europe, which comprises 4.5 per cent of the entire population. The share of choir singers varies greatly from country to country and, surprisingly enough, Estonia ranks in the middle: approximately 4.6 per cent of our population sings in a choir in comparison with Switzerland where the corresponding figure is 11 per cent. Yet there is something unique about the Estonian choir movement – our choirs and singers are quite young. Whereas in other countries choir members are mostly middle-aged people or older, in Estonia it is children’s- and youth choirs that dominate (c. 65 per cent of the total). A beautiful blossom among youth choirs is the girls’ choir called Ellerhein, which is also the Estonian name for the bird’s-eye primrose which symbolises youth, spring, purity and uniqueness. Each year, Ellerhein celebrate their birthday with a grand spring concert which this year took place for the 65th time. Life in Estonia talked to head conductor Ingrid Kõrvits about the activities of the choir and enquired about the secret behind the success of one of the oldest, yet paradoxically most youthful, choirs in Estonia.

This year Ellerhein celebrated its 65th year of activity. What’s behind the name? Ellerhein is in fact a choral studio which includes three girls’ choirs – Preparation Choir (ages 7-11), Children’s Choir (ages 11-14) and Girls’ Choir (ages 14-19). A music- and rhythm group for pre-school children is also part of the studio. The choir was founded in 1951 by the legendary music teacher and conductor Heino Kaljuste (1925-1989), who was the person behind the introduction of the Kodály music reading system (a methodology of child music education developed by Hungarian musicologist Zoltán Kodály – ed.) into Estonian schools. Ellerhein has used this method effectively down to the present in its learning repertoire. As Ellerhein is a youth collective for school-age girls, it is natural that each spring some singers graduate and new singers join. Therefore, the singers are changing in each choir of the choral studio every year: the Preparation Choir sends its oldest singers to the Children’s Choir and the Children’s Choir in turn to the Girls’ Choir.

You became the head conductor in 2012. What was your relationship with Ellerhein before that? In a sense I have been involved with this choir all my life. My mother, Anneli Mäeots, had been the conductor of the Children’s Choir for over forty years. Since I was a little kid I came to rehearsals with her. I started to sing in Ellerhein at the age of nine and straight after graduating from school and the choir, I began assisting my mother at the Ellerhein Children’s Choir. In January 2011, Tiia-Ester Loitme, the longstanding chief conductor of the choral studio, asked me, if I would like to take over the role of chief conductor from autumn 2012. I said ‘yes’ immediately…

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The legendary choir conductor and music teacher Tiia-Ester Loitme was the chief conductor of Ellerhein for twenty-five years. During this time, the choir won much international acclaim and, in 2004, received the Grammy in the best choral performance category for Jean Sibelius’ ‘Cantatas‘, released by Virgin Classics (in collaboration with ERSO, RAM, and conductor Paavo Järvi). Were the shoes you had to step into frighteningly big? The shoes were indeed big, but not frighteningly so. Of course I thought long and hard about it and felt an enormous sense of responsibility. I consider myself to be quite demanding and persistent in my work as well as in achieving results. At the same time, I appreciate humour and we have a lot of fun at our rehearsals. I believe that the example you set as a teacher or conductor to young people is very important. Hence it is a great responsibility to me in everything I do or say, the values I hold true, how I shape the music, and so on.

Lets talk a bit about the repertoire. How many original works does Ellerhein perform? Is that a goal in itself? The question of repertoire is very important. The main share of Ellerhein’s repertoire has always been classical and contemporary choral music. New works have an important place in our repertoire: Ellerhein was the first performer of many works by Estonian composers including Veljo Tormis, Urmas Sisask, Tõnu Kõrvits, Peeter Vähi, Märt Matis Lill, Pärt Uusberg and others. The choice of repertoire could always be bigger though. In comparison to mixed choirs, much less is written for women’s and girls’ choirs. However quality music for girls’ choirs is also out there.

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Your husband Tõnu Kõrvits is one of the most interesting and successful composers of the middle Estonian generation. Has Tõnu also written something specially for Ellerhein? Tõnu has composed for Ellerhein on two occasions – ‘Laul päikesele’ (Song to the Sun) for Ellerhein’s 50th anniversary in 2002, and ‘Nõmme haikud’ (Haikus of Nõmme) in 2011. The latter we will start recording in autumn.

When we think about world-renowned Estonian composers, we cannot get away from the living classics, Veljo Tormis and Arvo Pärt. When Tormis wrote his choral cycles based on the folk songs of Finno-Ugric peoples, they amazed audiences with their innovative sound language. Estonian choirs performing those works abroad always received standing ovations. For five years running Arvo Pärt has been the most performed living composer in the world… The music of both composers has always been in the repertoire of Ellerhein. Tormis has written various cycles for women’s choirs, so his repertoire is sufficient. In 2010, the choir released a record of his works. Two pieces by Arvo Pärt have been in our permanent repertoire as well: ‘Peace upon you, Jerusalem’ and ‘Zwei Beter’. At the Pärt Days, which took place in Tallinn in 2015, Ellerhein performed three works – ‘Cecilia, vergine romana’, ‘In principio’ and ‘Da pacem, Domine’ – together with Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (ERSO), National Male Choir (RAM), and the youth choir of the Tallinn Music School, all conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste.


Timothy Fitzpatrick, Associate Professor, Choral Music/Vocal Education Department of Music, College of Fine & Performing Arts, Western, Washington University The Ellerhein Girls’ Choir is one example of many outstanding Estonian choral groups that were born in a culture with a rich singing tradition. Thanks to colleague, Ingrid Kõrvits, artistic director of Ellerhein, I had the rare privilege to observe and guest-conduct them during my sabbatical year in Estonia in 2014. I learned so much about teaching music literacy, developing a beautiful choral tone, and understanding vocal pedagogy. Estonia’s system of formal music training is one of the most advanced in the world. I remember singing tenor with Estonian high school students during a choral conducting competition. Their sight reading skills were as good or even better than mine! I have witnessed this high level of musicianship with Ellerhein Girls’ Choir too. I am so excited to be able to host them in Bellingham, Washington, this July when they tour the United States. Estonia, my other homeland!

Ellerhein Girls’ Choir has a very busy concert schedule. What have been your most interesting challenges and pieces of music? Yes, indeed. Ellerhein gives about 20 concerts a year and we have been fortunate to have participated in many interesting projects together with professional orchestras and choirs like ERSO and RAM and collaborated with famous conductors – such like the late maestro Eri Klas, Paavo Järvi, Tõnu Kaljuste, Andres Mustonen, Olari Elts, Nikolai Aleksejev, Mikko Franck and many others. Our programs have included grand works ranging from Bach’s ‘St Matthew Passion’ and Berlioz’ ‘Requiem’ to works by Arvo Pärt and Peeter Vähi. One of the more exciting projects in June this year were the performances of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” to Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s music in collaboration with NO-theatre, ERSO and conductor Olari Elts. In three subsequent years, Ellerhein has participated in MustonenFest concerts: Krzysztof Penderecki’s ‘Credo’ performance in 2013; ‘In memoriam John Tavener’ in 2014; and performances of Bach’s ‘St Matthew Passion’ and the medieval lithurgical drama ‘Ludus Danielis’ in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel in 2015. It is a very demanding repertoire for such young amateur singers but the choir really succeeded in its part. The reception in Israel was superb, people were giving us a standing ovation.

Each year Ellerhein takes part in a competition or festival. Why are competitions so essential for choirs? Participating in a concert is a motivation and the best thing to motivate a choir is a competition. It provides a goal, something to aim for in order to maintain and increase the standard. You may think that you have a great choir but without seeing and listening to other choirs,

without broadening your horizons and testing yourself, this remains just a hypothesis. Secondly, festivals and competitions offer an opportunity to travel abroad. Travelling is one of the values which attracts people, especially young people, to choirs.

This summer the choir will travel across the ocean… In July 2016, we have a three-week tour in the USA. We will visit three states – Washington, Montana and California. We will participate in two festivals – Drayton Harbor Music Festival and Missoula International Choral Festival. We will also visit our friendship choir – San Francisco Girls’ Choir and meet with Timothy Fitzpatrick, who was a visiting conductor of Ellerhein in 2014. I am sure it will be a very exciting and educational trip.

Ellerhein has a week-long summer camp each year where you learn new repertoire and just socialize and find friends for life. The Girls’ Choir has many traditions which have developed throughout decades. This is especially visible in our summer camps in Karepa – the admission of new singers into the choir, the evening events like certain magic rituals for the girls in their last year in the choir, candlelight evenings, soloist concerts, plays, etc., as well as the traditional concert at the Karepa community centre. This is where we get the feeling that Ellerhein is not just about the singing. There are clearly developed friendships and a strong connection between the girls of the same year. There is a lot of fun. Also just in rehearsal situations, but especially during trips and camps. The camps and trips are the times where we get to know each other better, find friends and soulmates, because we stay together for longer periods. The choir is like a big organism which lives and breathes in one rhythm.

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Estonia – the World’s First Organic Country! By Marika Makarova

Lonely Planet, the largest travel guidebook  publisher in the world, has ranked Estonia as the number one best value destination for 2016. The guide recommends going into the forest as a worthwhile experience. And Estonia has a lot of forest to offer. All of it organic!

Whereas the tiny country of Bhutan, nestling in the Himalayas, aims to become the happiest country in the world, equally tiny Estonia, on the shores of the Baltic Sea, is going for the title of most organic country. Indeed, there is potential – plenty of fresh air, forests, land and sea. We have tranquillity and space, untouched nature and a variety of clean, raw materials close at hand. On the other hand, we are a smart IT-country with our e-state, e-Residency and startup culture. These two sides – natural and innovative – could prove to be a match made in heaven. Organic is the green way of thinking and living, caring for nature and people, considering the balance of the environment, giving up what pollutes and destroys. It is a long-term and responsible attitude, in order to leave the next generations with a dignified life and a clean natural environment to enjoy.

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Organic Estonia in numbers •

Estonian land area covers 45 339 sq km; of this 51% is forest.

The share of forestland ranks Estonia in 5th position in Europe after Finland, Sweden, Slovenia and Latvia.

Most of our forests are pine forests (33.1%), birch forests (31.3%) and spruce forests (16.2%).

The most forested areas are to be found on the island of Hiiumaa – 72.4% of the island is covered in forest. Also the counties of Ida-Virumaa in eastern Estonia (60.4%), Valgamaa in southern Estonia (57.7%) and the island Saaremaa (57.6%) have a higher than average amount of forest.

With its 16.3% of organic arable land, Estonia ranks in 3rd place in the European Union and 5th place in the world. In terms of hectares, it holds 18th place in the European Union and 36th place in the world (data from 2013).

Whereas in 2004, organic arable land in Estonia consisted of 5.7% of the total, this had risen to 16.3% by 2013.

Nearly 50% of Estonian sheep and cattle are raised on the principles of organic farming (according to data from 2013).

The share of organic enterprises rose by 32%, from 2006 to 2013.

By the end of 2013, there were 1 553 companies listed on the Registry of Organic Agriculture.

Smart and organic state The idea of Organic Estonia won the grant of the Development Idea competition organised by the Estonian Development Fund in 2015. Life in Estonia was curious to find out from one of the authors, entrepreneur Siim Kabrits, how the idea of Organic Estonia was born and what it contains. ‘Organic Estonia refers to a state which values clean food and a free natural state of being. Half of the Estonian territory is covered in forest, which, as our forests are all naturally grown. Hence the produce of our forests is actually already organic. Organic Estonia is also in tune with the global trend of appreciating a sustainable and environmentally aware organic way of thinking,’ says Kabrits who grew up in the middle of the wilds of South Estonia, which explains his love of the woods. ‘As Estonians we have managed to preserve the know-how of our forefathers, our rich traditional culture. On a grassroots level our way of thinking and our values are organic anyway. The organic way of life benefits everyone, it offers the best chance for a successful future, the key to ensuring the health and wellbeing of generations to come.

It is Estonia’s trump card to show that as a small country we do things differently – in a caring and sustainable manner.’ Kabrits, the Sales Director of Berry Group which provides Nordic forest and garden berries to European, Asian and North-American food- and pharmaceutical industry travels extensively, especially in Asia. ‘The fact that it takes half an hour to drive from Tallinn city centre to the forest to pick is total science fiction for most countries. Whereas we check the air temperature in the morning news, in Asia they ask how clean the air is.’ The right kind of decisions on the national and individual level will help maintain the valuable things in Estonia which have disappeared in many countries or which countries are really struggling to restore. ‘We began a very long process last year. As residents of Organic Estonia we can tell our story all over the world, turn our smallness into a strength, emphasize the importance of sustaining a clean natural environment in all political future decision-making and take advantage of the unique opportunity to market Estonian agricultural and forest products as organic products in the world. All Estonians will benefit from this,’ claims Kabrits.

www.organicestonia.ee

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Four Pillars of Organic Estonia The idea of Organic Estonia stands on four pillars: forest, food, cosmetics and tourism.

#1 Forest One of the world’s tallest pine trees, at a towering 46.6 metres, grows in the Ootsipalu valley in southern Estonia. Just a hundred metres away from it the tallest tree in Estonia – a 48.6 metre common spruce – can be found. Would such giants be alive at the age of 140–160 years, if our forests were polluted? Probably not... We have real forests, and not parks, in Estonia. It is illegal to fertilize or spray forests and we have no tradition of growing GMO cultures. In exceptional cases, toxic substances may be used in reforestation works. At the initiative of Organic Estonia, Estonian state forests have been declared organic forests and entered into the Organic Agriculture Registry of the Ministry of Rural Affairs since spring of this year. Estonian state forests are organic forests, where economic activity is carried out on the basis of the same principles as on organic agricultural land. ‘We live in the middle of the woods’, goes a popular Estonian ballad. And this is indeed the case. Fifty one percent of Estonian land is covered in forest, 40 per cent of which belongs to the state and 60 per cent is in private hands.

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‘One of the goals of Organic Estonia has been reached,’ says Kabrits. ‘For the next step we want private forests to be declared organic, too. For this we need to collaborate with the state and to create a simple and efficient, non-bureaucratic system to help register and monitor private forests. This may materialize as early as this autumn, although Organic Estonia has set itself the goal of turning 51 per cent of all the Estonian land into organic land by 2017.’ Estonian people are real gatherers – they love to go picking mushrooms and berries and other natural ‘gifts’ – everything from herbs and tree sap and pine kernels to nuts and needles – in the woods. This really surprises many visitors to Estonia – what do you mean you go to the forest to pick berries and not to the store? Now this pleasant pastime, which reduces stress and offers healing for body and soul has another benefit, which is the knowledge that the produce is certified organic. These are largely ‘superfoods’ too, as in harsh Nordic climate conditions only the bravest and most adaptable species can survive. In summer there is about 4-5 hours of darkness in Estonia whereas in the winter the proportion of daylight approximately the same. In summer, temperatures may rise to +35˚C, and in winter they can drop to -35˚C. The growing period for plants is extremely short – only three to four months. This forces plants to really pull themselves together, so to speak! Our forests are a real paradise of superfoods and as such are nature’s own medicine cabinet!


#2 Food If we consider that our state forests are organic and add to it the private forests which also operate on organic principles, we can easily deduce that Estonia is covered in organic forest. If we add the 16 per cent of organic agricultural land to the 51 per cent of organic forest, we can reach the conclusion that most of Estonia is in fact organic! In terms of the share of organic agricultural land we are already third in Europe and fifth in the entire world. ‘Although there are people who think that organic agriculture means working the land and raising cattle in the way peasants did in the 18th century, organic agriculture is in fact very innovative. A small country has limited agricultural land – there is nowhere to expand, which means that we need to be very smart, effective and innovative in our approach,’ says Kabrits. ‘For example we can use drones to monitor fields. There is a company in Estonia that has developed drones with sensors which are capable of detecting areas of damage created by plant disease or pests. Thanks to this, it is possible to act in time and with moderate measures, without using pesticides on the whole field just to be sure. One sensor is able to monitor 10 000 hectares per day.’

One of the authors of the idea of Organic Estonia, Siim Kabrits praises those of our farmers who are behind the innovative thinking. He also has good things to say about our food industry. Estonian Spirit OÜ Moe Fine Liquor Plant – the second longest-established vodka producer in the world – has the necessary certification to produce organic alcoholic beverages. Saaremaa Dairy produces organic cheese ‘Öko Saaremaa’, and Berry Group Ltd. offers different frozen wild berries from Estonian forests. These are just some examples out of many. Small producers are even more active. The production of organic honey has more than doubled in a year. Nopri Dairy Farm collects birch- and maple sap in spring, and then bottles and freezes it in order to offer this valuable product all year long. Chaga Ltd. produces freeze-dried pine buds and spruce tip powder. One of the first organic producers in Estonia – Pajumäe Family Farm – offers organic yoghurts, curd and cheese in addition to milk. At the initiative of Organic Estonia, restaurants, organic farmers and providers of innovative logistic services met in May in order to think about and work towards a joint goal – to open 100 organic cafes and restaurants in Estonia for the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Republic of Estonia in 2018.

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#3 Cosmetics The Estonian natural cosmetics industry is still young, but the homebased preparation of natural beauty products has a long history as our ancestors were well informed about and made use of the exceptional power of herbs. Research into the properties and effects of the more than three hundred herbs growing in Estonia continues. The same can be said about the production of natural cosmetics, which makes use of essential oils extracted from natural herbs only, avoids the use of genetically processed or animal-tested ingredients and uses only human- and environmentally friendly preservatives. The term and content of natural, and especially organic, cosmetics still needs to be exactly defined at the European Union level. Currently there is a unified standard which sets criteria for natural- and organic cosmetics only in the development phase of the product. But there are various organic labels in existence already: NaTrue, Ecocert, Cosmebio, BDIH, etc. As certification is a complex and expensive process; there is no production of top level organic cosmetics in Estonia where at least 95 per cent of the ingredients extracted from nature or made of natural substances would be gathered from monitored organic lands in the wild. If the future Estonian eco-state starts to support the process, the number of organic cosmetics producers is bound to increase. However, there are local producers such as GoodKaarma, Domina Elegans, Nurme, TurBliss, Lumi and others, who use certified organic ingredients in their cosmetics. There are also cosmetics producers whose creams, lotions and soaps include natural and local tinctures, honey and wax, beeswax, sea mud and bog turf, such as Joik, Tilk!, Sõsar, Ingli pai, Ehe ilu. In addition there is a unique research, development and production centre in Estonia – the knowledge-based health- and natural products competence centre at the Estonian University of Life Sciences in Polli, near Viljandi. The activities of the centre include the development of plant-based cosmetics products and research into bioactive compounds from garden ingredients for the product development of functional beverages, foodstuffs, household products, natural cosmetics and natural plant protection.

#4 Tourism ‘When I tell my Asian clients about clean nature and fresh air, they do not get what I am talking about – they do not have either. For them it is almost science fiction. When they visit Estonia they are in shock when they see that they can pick blueberries themselves in the forest and eat them,’ laughs Kabrits. ‘These are irreplaceable experiences and emotions which Estonia can offer its visitors,’ he goes on. Tourism gourmands who yearn for everything organic want to experience other things than the life and activities centred around Tallinn. Workaholics from a London bank, Shanghai skyscraper or the New York Stock Exchange want to recharge their batteries, restore their energy in calm and peace, to breathe in fresh air and to enjoy tasty organic food. Swimming in a bog lake, hiking in the wilderness, picking and eating forest produce in the autumn, skating on smooth river ice in the winter, smoked saunas and many other Nordic-style experiences are ‘exotic’ things they cannot even dream about. This is the uniqueness which Estonia has to attract visitors who are into everything organic. We have over 20 accommodation providers which have received the international environmental label Green Key. It was in 2001 that Estonia joined this system, created in Denmark in 1994. At least half of the ingredients on the breakfast menu of a Green Key accommodation provider must be local. All crockery must be reusable and over-packaging is avoided. Water is used sustainably, toilets ideally use rain water, for example, and vehicles used have low CO2 emissions. Furthermore the Estonian Eco-tourism Association and the NGO Estonian Rural Tourism have created a local organic tourism quality label

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TIPS & RECOMMENDATIONS One for the road If you are travelling around Estonia in your car, on your bike, or just with your backpack, grab a snack to take with!

Savoury treats Sprout cake – handmade sprouted wheat “pancakes” from the company Idutoit contain honey, cocoa beans, dried fruits, coconut oil and chips instead of sugar or flour. Raw snack – an exciting strawberry-beetroot snack with raisins and peppermint, a pumpkinapple snack with rosmarin, or a tomato snack with chilli, basil and marjoram from the company Loodusvägi. Raw buckwheat crisps – a healthy and gluten-free treat made of buckwheat flour, olive oil and seasalt by company RemedyWay. Vinnukas – organic biltong calf with three different flavours: traditional, garlic or spicy.

Sweet bites called EHE – the Natural Way. Almost fifty tourism farms and excursion providers have the quality label and offer environmentally-friendly and sustainable tourism services and genuine experiences which also preserve our historical heritage. Trips can be taken down the Sauna Route, Food Route and Onion Route. Visitors can enjoy the Barrel Fair in Avinurme, the Rye Festival in Sangaste, the Pickle Festival in Tahkuranna, the Day of Airing the Traditional Dress in Valga, the Tuulekala Festival in Hiiumaa and the onion and fish fair in Lüübnitsa, the Dandelion Festival in Kihlepa. Enjoy a night of ancient fires, skiing trips and other excursions from sunset to sunrise or even a sauna bus party.

Let’s think big ‘Let’s think big. Let’s show the world that we care about nature, the environment and future generations. Let’s announce in 2018 – when the Republic of Estonia will celebrate its 100th anniversary and hold the presidency of the European Union – an Organic Year in Estonia,’ says Kabrits enthusiastically. Apparently one of the best things he has been asked is when the project is likely to end. As a reply he always says it is an idea, not a project which lasts until the Estonian state lasts. He also experiences how support from society for the idea of Organic Estonia grows every week. ‘People realise that it is not just a single undertaking, but the normal way of being, living and thinking. Of course we have a lot of work to do but together we are moving towards our goal every day. Let’s do it together! Let’s show the world how little Estonia can do great organic things!’

Chuuu – energy spheres in raw cocoa-, liqorice- or apple flavour made of raw buckwheat grain and honey from company RemedyWay. Berry chips – dried chips in eight different flavours including bilberry, blackcurrant and quince-pumpkin made of crushed berries by Taarapõllu Farm. Sweetie (Kompu) – sweets made with raw cane sugar with currant, apple and cranberry flavour from the company Loodusvägi. Bitesize (Ampstükk) – seven sugar-free energy bars including flavours such as mint-plumamaranth, apple-cinnamon-oats, buckthornfig-date by the company Amoor.

Beverages Birch sap – gathered from the springtime forests of southern Estonia and available in natural and fermented form or mixed with blackcurrant-, cranberry- or apple juice by Nopri Farm. Eco smoothie – the first 100% organic fruit based smoothies in strawberry-banana, appleblueberry-cranberry and mango-orange-passionfruit flavour by company Loodusvägi.

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Our organic ambassadors ‘The idea of Organic Estonia is really related to e-Residency – a cool idea, a clear goal, an international reach and benefit to Estonian entrepreneurs. Estonia stands out to people abroad with its digital society and clean nature. Organic Estonia is precisely the program which turns our main strengths into products and makes it easily digestible to anyone in the world!’

Test yourself: how ‘organic’ are you? If most of these statements apply to you, you are an organic person:

Kaspar Korjus / Programme Director of e-Residency

‘Organic Estonia means an increased vibrancy of the economy, the rapid growth of export, transfer from intensive agriculture to organic farming, permacultures as a way of thinking, a massive improvement in the mental and physical health of people, and above all faith. By this I do not mean religion, but faith in the possibility of a different kind of world. It is our best chance to be truly useful to ourselves and the rest of the world. And Organic Estonia is not only possible, but also necessary and unavoidable.’

* * * * *

I am a person who needs fresh air, land and the forest and I can appreciate those things. I care that Estonia has a lot of unspoiled natural environment, and I want decisions about the future to be made in a way which preserves this. When I shop I think about the consumption value of the product. If possible I prefer organic produce and I would like the selection of organic produce to be substantially wider. I understand that if more people would prefer organic produce, there would be more organic produce produced at a cheaper price, which would in turn help to preserve nature. * Global consumption has gone crazy and it worries me. * I think there are many people in Estonia who recognize the pseudoneeds created to attract consumers and they do not go along with it. * I understand that the sum of behaviour of many consumers is a huge power which can change things.

Roy Strider / author, promoter of organic state

‘The only way to improve the quality of the environment and food is to become an organic country and bring everyone into this process.’ Karmen Pedaru / model

‘As a food professional I travel around the world every week, and have done for the last eleven years. There are just a few places in the world where I haven’t visited. I would like my Estonia to be clean, fresh and healthy. I wish Estonian children to be able to grow up in the clean environment, that forests can grow naturally, fields, greenhouses and farms for birds and animals were free of dangerous chemicals. I would like Estonia to be know worldwide for this. That is my Organic Estonia. Liis Tuur / 16 years of global experience in the largest Scandinavian Group, Orkla

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Believe it or not Elemental Elixir is an immune-system boosting and confidence-balancing medicinal tonic dating back to the ancient times of Estonia and Livonia, its main ingredient being the chaga mushroom – a king of medicinal mushrooms. It also includes aloe vera, honey, pine growths and Achillea all derived from Estonian nature. This elixir offers great help against tiredness, stress and insomnia and many have claimed to have conquered cancer with the help of this potion. See more here: www.chagahealth.eu.


Our organic ambassadors

La Muu Estonia’s first organic ice-cream with an exciting selection of flavours and stories. Rhubarb ice-cream will make you weak at the knees, cherry ice-cream lead to a sweet kiss, coconut icecream could fall on your head, kama icecream may ead to a small sutra, pistachio ice cream should be eaten quick; blueberry-lavender ice cream will paint your mouth blue. In addition Vegans will love the mango sorbet which will bring out the sun, banana ice-cream which needs to be peeled, and so on.

Exotic soaps of Estonia Soaps are made by Estonian organic soap producers – GoodKaarma, Nurme and Maarja, to name a few. They are handmade, using the cold processing method and full of exciting local ingredients like holy spring water of the Pühtitsa nunnery, goat milk, sea mud, birch leaves, pine tar, beer, oats, juniper needle oil and juniper berries, honey and beeswax.

‘Organic Estonia could become one Estonian narrative – our story, our idea. I really like the thought that a small country like Estonia can be clean and unspoiled. We should grow only clean, chemical-free food; our fields, forests and waters should be free of pollution. I believe we would be trendsetters in the world and Organic Estonia can become a brand for Estonia, a value which will raise our profile in the world. But more important is that the idea should become a mission for ourselves in order to respect our country in an ethical and sustainable way and to keep Estonia clean for future generations.’ Rasmus Rask / entrepreneur, creator and manager of the first Estonian organic icecream LaMuu

‘What I love about Estonia is that the green forests are just 5–10 minute car drive away from the city centre and the food does not necessarily need to carry an organic label to be clean. Let’s keep that so! Karoli Hindriks / entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Jobbatical

‘Listen to this new, naturally beautiful and clean sound – the sound of the piano of Organic Estonia…’ Indrek Laul / pianist, owner of Estonia piano factory

‘A new Estonian awakening: Organic Estonia is an energetic and future-oriented initiative – Estonia as an organic country is just the kind of paradigm-changing input into our centuries old nature-loving and humanly friendly lifestyle and to the Green Spirit, high-level nature and growth culture. This initiative will help our small nation come through the global pre-catastrophic pollution of the cultural and mental environment with smaller losses and to create a knowledge-based, sustainable, safe, wealthy life. To preserve what has been created, to preserve everything beautiful, to have our souls aim for the eternal and to keep the cycle of life broadening! The products can be found: Tallinn airport, organic shops Biomarket and Bio4You, Kaubamaja, Stockmann, natural cosmetics store Mimesis.

Rein Einasto / Professor Emeritus of Tallinn University of Technology

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estonishing Estonian souvenirs to take home

Nordic Honey gift set – three organically certified honeys from Estonian nature. Creamy Dreamy honey tastes like white chocolate and feels like light cappuccino foam. Spring Is In the Air honey is the first honey of the year with an elegant yet sweet flavour. Late Harvest honey has the rich taste of the end of the Nordic summer.

Kama chocolate – the special grain mixture kama is traditional Estonian food and chocolate made of kama is Estonian “national chocolate”. The first Estonian organic sweets and -muesli producer, the small family company in southern Estonia called Karl’s and Linda’s Sweets offers traditional handmade milk chocolate with kama flour as well as dark chocolate with kama flour and raisins. Chaga Health box – a box with four packages, two having either freeze-dried lingonberries or bilberries and two either chaga, chagamix, spruce tip or pine bud powder in it. All harvested from Estonian forests and produced by Chaga Ltd., comprised of doctors, medical experts and specialists in the field of nature.

TurBliss Gold line with 24K gold – created by three women, this is a peat cosmetics brand. Their Bioactive Peat Mask with 24K Gold and Illuminating Peat Water with 24K Gold both contain balneological peat from wild Estonian nature.

Sõsar Mud collection – healing mud known as peloid from the Gulf of Haapsalu has been used in Estonian folk medicine for long. Misty Sea Mud Mask for face and Misty Sea Body Mask contain 100% peloid, Wild Man Mud Soap has in addition other ingredients in it. And Sõsar, meaning sister, are three young ladies who care for nature as they would for their own sister.

Nurme felted soaps – 100% natural handmade soaps in a yellow, orange, pink, green or black felt coat that is made of wool roving from sheep of island Saaremaa. Wetting and rubbing the coated soap against the skin results in a nice lather. An empty felt pouch, surrounding the soap, can be afterwards used as a sponge.

Joik Berry gift box – the story of Joik, meaning the ancient singing style of Nordic Sami people, began from love for scented candles. In the gift box one finds Wild Berry Sorbet soywax candle smelling like berry dessert, Shimmering Raspberry Body Lotion giving skin a delicate glow, and a colourful two-layered hand made soap Wild Forest Berries.

Lumi Intensive Hand Cream – the entire Lumi line that has cleansing products, day and night creams, masks, body and hand care is based on hemp seed oil made of the hemp grown in Estonia. The products are developed in collaboration with Estonian universities and produced in the laboratory of Tartu Biotechnology Park.

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LIFE IN ESTONIA #42

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2016 SUMMER


You were born 100 years too late to explore earth & 100 years too early to explore space.

YOU WERE BORN TO EXPLORE THE DIGITAL WORLD.


Life in Estonia. Summer 2016