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No46 2 /2017

KERSTI KALJULAID More transparency, less bureaucracy Personalised medicine – the Holy Grail of healthcare

Estonia’s EU Presidency – unity through balance

Building trust towards e-solutions

Tallinn Design House

Explore Estonian islands and manors

Katja Novitskova shows Earth potential

Photo by Rasmus Jurkatam

cover Kersti Kaljulaid photo by Atko Januson

Estonia’s focus is on delivering concrete results for European citizens The second half of 2017 is here and Estonia has begun its Presidency of the Council of the European Union. During the period, significant effort will be dedicated to achieving consensus amongst the member states of the EU. It’s a time where, for 24 hours a day, our focus will be on joint European interests and goals. Estonia has been preparing for its Presidency with a sense of mission for the last five years. As we began preparations in 2012, the Eurozone was in a crisis that shook the common currency, although we came out of it stronger than before. Three years later the migration crisis broke out, and last year the UK voted to exit the European Union. This means that the political environment of the EU remains challenging.

executive publisher Positive Projects Pärnu mnt 69, 10134 Tallinn, Estonia editor Reet Grosberg translations Ingrid Hübscher language editor

In the case of all of Estonia’s priorities – an open and innovative European economy, a safe and secure Europe, a digital Europe and the free movement of data, an inclusive and sustainable Europe – the main emphasis is on their impact on people’s daily lives. We aim for a simple and clear business environment; for equal opportunities on the labour market and the balance between work and home life; for safety and security, which have become increasingly significant; for the management of the migration crisis and the reform of the common European asylum system, and for the strengthening of border controls. Our focus is also on our eastern neighbours and bringing them closer to the European Union. In addition, Estonia has a positive image factor – the digital society which runs horizontally through each focus area and directly impacts everyday life. This includes topics such as the digital single market, free movement of data, e-privacy and data protection rules, and abolishing geoblocking, We have made our programme as clear, simple and understandable as possible, without creating an endless list. As the old Estonian saying goes – speak less, do more. The Presidency of the Council of the European Union will be the most complex international task in Estonia’s history. But it will also be a time for every one of us to consider what depends on us, and what we can do to make life better and more secure – something so important for both Estonia and the entire European Union.

Daniel Warren design & layout Positive Design

It promises to be an interesting and busy period and we are happy to share this time with you. This presidency is about all of us and we will do our job as well as we can and perhaps even a little bit better.

Matti Maasikas Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs

Estonian Investment Agency supports companies investing and expanding in Estonia. World-class human capital, unique digital capabilities and a competitive business environment make Estonia a smart, agile location for businesses with global ambitions.






News & events

Trust towards e-solutions is built through time and practical experience

Exporting health, digitally

16 President Kersti Kaljulaid: ‘Estonia offers more transparency and less bureaucracy!’ As Estonia took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1st, the President of the Republic says in an interview with Life in Estonia that despite the fact that Estonia is a relatively well-off country, everyone needs to work harder to promote its urban environment, general greenness, and lack of hierarchies.

One of the key areas of the Estonian Presidency is digital Europe and the free movement of data. Estonia has already witnessed the transformative effect of digitalisation on society. Many are now calling the Estonian Presidency ‘the digital Presidency’ because of the ambition to realise the benefits of a digital society for the rest of Europe. Estonian Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, Urve Palo, explains what steps Estonia will take to achieve this goal.

28 ‘Every guest from Singapore tells me – I wish I had come to Estonia sooner!’

23 e-Residency joins forces with the UN to empower entrepreneurs in the developing world As internet access increases rapidly around the world, Estonia is ensuring that access to entrepreneurship online is also available to everyone through e-Residency – a programme which is now being used by the UN to improve access to e-commerce and entrepreneurship in developing countries.

Years of experience has taught Sonny Aswani, entrepreneur and Honorary Consul to Estonia in Singapore, that it is pivotal to create the opportunity for Southeast Asian investors and governmental officials to just come and visit Estonia, to become aware that this country exists. He claims that each and every time he brings visitors to Estonia, they are filled with regret about not having come here sooner.


Estonians have taken the initiative to develop a research based e-health system that makes everyday life in Estonia very convenient for every citizen – why keep good digital solutions only for oneself if there is the possibility of making a better solution for other Europeans.

36 Estonian Biobank – the Holy Grail of health care In autumn, the Estonian Genome Center will become one of the first biobanks in the world to give personalised feedback to donors who have given blood and health information. It is a huge leap in Estonia’s ambitious plan to be the first state in the world to make personalised medicine accessible to everyone.

26 16 44






Top 10 gadgets developed in Estonian universities


Manor hotels in Estonia

Katja Novitskova – the most in-demand artist today

Estonia’s history of German and Swedish rule has left the country with a wealth of manor houses and an increasing number have been renovated and converted into luxury hotels. Here you can wine, dine, enjoy spa treatments and sleep like an aristocrat. Get acquainted with just some of the many converted manor hotels in Estonia.

The best universities in Estonia have not only produced many smart people, but also smart products and useful tools. Get acquainted with ten useful tools or products that have been developed so far.

44 Iconic movie set turned into a design showroom A modern urban quarter is taking shape at the site of the former Rotermann bread factory, the eerie ruins of which the brilliant Russian movie director Andrei Tarkovski chose to be the perfect setting for his post-apocalyptic cult film ‘Stalker’ in the 1970s. Instead of the former movie set, the newly renovated buildings recently saw the opening of an elegant showroom – Tallinn Design House.

Katja Novitskova’s art deals with the technical revolution of our era – she considers the world through human-made technological potential. Last year she was ranked as one of the top 50 most interesting artists in Europe. This autumn, Katja Novitskova’s exhibitions will be open at New York City Hall Park, in Venice at Palazzo Malipiero, and at the contemporary art exhibition ARS’17 in Kiasma, Helsinki. Take the chance to visit them for a unique experience!

62 Estonian islets, each one a pearl Estonia has been blessed with more than a thousand islands and islets. Life in Estonia gives an overview of some of Estonia’s small islands that can be reached by organised transport. There are other islets in Estonia where docking is possible but they can only be reached with private boats.

76 Celebrate with us all around the world The international programme, celebrating both the first Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU and Estonia’s centenary, presents the best examples of our culture, science, entrepreneurship, and digital innovation. Take a look at the events that will reach more than 30 countries around the world.

80 Thirteen fun facts you might not know about Estonia

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50 5

Say tere! to Essential Estonian!



Photo by Tõnu Tunnel

Mait Müntel, co-founder of Lingvist

If you’re travelling in Estonia and don’t know a word of Estonian, never fear. English is widely spoken, with the country coming in 7th in global English proficiency rankings. However, if you want to experience the real heart of Estonia, you should go local and learn some Estonian.

With Estonia’s 100th birthday just around the corner, language learning startup Lingvist wanted not only to give Estonia a present but also make a gift for everyone else to enjoy too. The high-tech company, which uses artificial intelligence to make learning faster and more efficient, released a compact course of 100 essential phrases in Estonian that’s available through their app. The course may start off with the basics of ‘Hi’, ‘Bye’ and ‘Thank you’, but it quickly takes off into enlightening cultural territory. ‘We didn’t want to create an average introductory Estonian course,’ says Hanna-Leana Taoubi, Lingvist’s Chief Linguistic Officer, who makes an appearance as the voice demonstrating the pronunciation in the course. ‘Instead, we wanted to make it fun and contextual – to talk about things Estonians really talk about. Not all of the phrases in the course are incredibly practical, but saying something like ‘Vanaema kudus mulle villased sokid’ [My grandma knitted woolen socks for me] will help break the ice and make friends with the otherwise poker-faced Estonians.’ Lingvist co-founder Mait Müntel was working at CERN as part of the Higgs boson discovery team when he had the idea to use the same machine learning algorithms they used to find

the boson to teach himself French. Müntel’s practical hobby quickly escalated, and now Lingvist is a team of 40 developing an app with nearly a million language learners from all over the world. ‘Essential Estonian is our gift to Estonia for its 100th birthday. Part of the gift is making Estonia as accessible as possible — we would like to give Estonia’s birthday guests the opportunity to already tune themselves to the country and culture before arriving here so they can feel at home here too,’ says Müntel. Check out the Essential Estonian course and learn what makes Estonia a place to get closer to. We challenge you to complete the course and get acquainted with Estonia in just one afternoon! For that we wish you ‘Jõudu!’ which loosely translates to ‘May the force be with you!’. For centuries people in Estonia have, when seeing someone working on a challenge, wished them a hearty ‘Jõudu!’ in the hopes that the recipient will persevere. It is met with a ‘Tarvis!’ (‘Much needed!’) Essential Estonian is available via Lingvist’s iOS and Android apps, and at LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


21 – 22 September Tallinn

Due to the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the year 2017 will bring unprecedentedly large and important events to Estonia. Take a look at some of them.

The ability to tap into labour migration plays an important role in countries’ economic competitiveness in the 21st century, a way to foster knowledge transfer, innovation and economic growth. Increasingly, mobile migrant workers are important channels through whom the regional economy not only flourishes, but is able to extend its influence globally. This means that the failure to access the global talent pool could undermine regions, countries, if not the entire EU’s economic and competitive position in the world. Migration is here to stay and many migrants are economically active. In 2015, the number of international migrants worldwide was the

highest ever recorded, having reached 244 million with 72% of them of working age. Immigration contributes to the wealth of receiving countries. The IMF found in 2016 that a 1% increase in the share of migrants in the adult population can raise GDP per capita by up to 2% in the longer term. Moreover, these gains translate to average income increases per capita of both the bottom 90 % and the top 10 % earners of the receiving country. Migrants make great innovators and entrepreneurs. While immigrant-owned businesses, shops and restaurants have for a long time lined the streets of metropolises, many iconic companies of the new economy have been founded by migrants as well, e.g. Google, Intel, Yahoo, YouTube and eBay. In fact, between 1995- 2005, 52% of all high-tech companies started in Silicon Valley had at least one immigrant founder.

The EU in the global race for talents By Ave Lauren



Out of all forms of labour migration, the international mobility of highly-skilled individuals in particular has been receiving more and more attention around the world. While countries like Canada and Australia have been doing this for years, many European countries are only now beginning to acknowledge the need to attract and facilitate the mobility of skilled workers from all over the world to be able to compete in the new economy. ‘The private sector has a lot to gain from skilled labour migration,’ stresses Karoli Hindriks, the founder and CEO of Jobbatical. ‘Many Estonian and European companies are trying to compete with Silicon Valley, but we lack one of the key advantages that companies there have – namely the access to Silicon Valley’s diverse talent pool. Many of whom are often migrants. In fact, according to the Silicon Valley Index, in 2016 nearly 74% of all computer and mathematical workers aged 25 to 44 were foreign-born. We do not have that here in Europe. Instead, nearly all countries in Europe are falling short of vital workers – Empirica estimated that in 2017 approx. 410 000 workers were missing from the ICT sector in Europe and the demand is growing each year. This is holding back general economic growth. Let’s take the example of high-tech ICT jobs. According to economist Enrico Moretti, because of a multiplier effect, each new high-tech job creates five additional jobs. In other words, if 2 000 skilled ICT workers were to move to Estonia, it could lead to the creation of an additional 10 000 jobs.’ Estonia has decided to address this issue during the Presidency of the Council of the

European Union. The Estonian EU Presidency Conference on Migration, entitled ‘The EU in the Global Race for Talents: Challenges and Solutions in Strengthening the EU’s Competitiveness’, will take place at Tallinn University on 21 – 22 September 2017. This two-day conference will address the connections between immigration and economic development, review the measures in place at supranational, national and regional levels to devise strategies to enhance European competitiveness over the next decades and close the gaps in European labour markets. Topics addressed throughout the conference will include, but are not limited to the following: • • • • •

What are the connections between labour migration and economic development? What factors limit positive economic effects of migration? Where do skilled workers go and why? How can the private sector facilitate talent mobility? What should be the role of the EU and national ‘ governments in the global race for talents?

ness Index and Estonia’s own trailblazers in the field of talent mobility, Karoli Hindriks and Sten Tamkivi, the second day offers participants with an opportunity to discuss these issues in workshops. The three workshop strands, dealing with issues related to attracting and retaining students, employees and startup founders, are organised by the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Enterprise Estonia, Startup Estonia, Deloitte, Archimedes Estonia, Tallinn University alongside the Ministry of the Interior and EMN. The involvement of the private sector and skilled migrants themselves is particularly important as they are often excluded from these debates, yet they are the directly impacted by policy decisions in the field of talent migration. This conference, held in the framework of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, offers a unique opportunity to bring everyone to the table to encourage an exchange of ideas between key stakeholders in this field and devise plans to move forward. Now is the time for both public and private entities to make retaining and attracting human capital their priority.

The conference brings together stakeholders from different EU Member States, the European Commission, the European Parliament, European Migration Network (EMN), intergovernmental organisations, the private sector and the general public. If the first day is comprised of more traditional panel discussions with speakers from the European Commission and OECD to the people behind INSEAD’s Global Talent Competitive-

More information about the conference and registration can be found at



24 – 25 October Tallinn

International MANUFUTURE conference Tallinn University of Technology is the host of MANUFUTURE 2017

The international leadership conference will bring together almost 600 leading figures of industry and academia as well as politicians from all over Europe with the aim of envisaging the future of European industry and setting priority technological development directions for 2020-2022. This key production sector event in Europe, which focuses on the strategic importance of industry and production for the economy, takes place every second year. Estonia has already organised a successful event on industry development twice: Industry 4.0 in Practice, and this year as part of MANUFUTURE. At the Industry 4.0 conference in 2015, the focus was on introducing the coming of the fourth industrial revolution which will bring a leap in productivity due to the computerization of production and the horizontal integration of IT solutions. Key speakers from the public and private sector talked about how the fourth industrial revolution impacts the Estonian economy and industrial sectors and considered what might give a competitive edge. The conference in 2016, introducing the principles of industry 4.0, focused more on practical solutions and collaboration opportunities. The audience was presented with best-practice cases and examples from leading companies such as Festo, ABB and Siemens. ICT companies Nortal, Tieto, Codeborne, NAS and the telecom company Telia gave an overview of their experiences in implementing Industry 4.0 and demonstrated how to take the principles of industry 4.0 forward together.



MANUFUTURE 2017 “Moving up the Value Chain” will focus on three main topics: energy and resource efficient production; new technologies which speed up industrial development; digital manufacturing and fourth industrial revolution. Manufuture is not merely a conference, but a broader development platform, which aims to develop recommendations on how to re-industrialize the European economy and to guarantee that European industry remains competitive in the global market. Industry and its development are pivotal for guaranteeing sustainable economic growth and employment in Europe. In recent years, the industrial sector has experienced difficulties due to the loss of jobs and the decline in production volumes. The Manufuture platform researches and evaluates sectoral studies and developments in Europe, in order to compare it to competitors all over the world and to develop recommendations for national and European level policy makers. Currently, industrial development directions for the year 2030 are being developed in Europe. According to Tauno Otto, Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia is contributing in this field through the Manufuture technology platform. Manufuture 2030 – a roadmap for European industry – is being created and this will analyse big trends and make recommendations for the European Commission in setting strategic directions.

The conference project of MANUFUTURE in Estonia is led by the Tallinn University of Technology. Among the speakers are Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE; Hando Sutter, Chairman of the Management Board of Eesti Energia; Oliver Väärtnõu, Chairman of the Management Board and Head of Information Security Systems Department, Cybernetica; Dr Peter Dröll, Head of Innovation Union and European Research Area in the European Commission’s Research and Innovation Department; Helena Almqvist, Managing Director at Protex Balti AS and Kay Matzner, International Research and Project Manager with the Munich-based Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG). The event is organised in cooperation with the Ministry of Economics and Communications, Ministry of Education and Research, Embassy of the Republic of Germany in Estonia, the German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce, Estonian Union of Electronic Industry, Federation of Estonian Engineering Industry, Telia, and Enterprise Estonia. The conference is organised by DIMECC, EFFRA, IMECC, Innovate UK, Manufuture EU, European Commission and the Estonian Union of Information Technology and Telecommunications. The event will also include a networking and partners expo.

More information on our homepage: and on Facebook:

The mission of the Manufuture Estonia platform is to create an industrial strategy based on scientific research and innovation, in order to speed up industrial development, guarantee the creation of high added value jobs, and to triumph in the knowledge-based economy of the future. The main objectives of the platform are added value production (for example management technologies, new business models and quality), technology transfer (pilot projects, knowledge networks and rapid prototyping) and acquiring knowledge and competence (product development, industrial solutions and competencies). 2017 marks a breakthrough for Estonia – it is a great step that we have made it to the EU Digital Innovation Hubs with the project SmartIC Robotics – Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) in Estonia. Therefore, the fact that MANUFUTURE 2017 takes places in Estonia is also significant.



3 – 9 November Tallinn and Tartu

Photo by Johannes Arro

European Space Week – making the future of European space in Estonia

The space industry is changing rapidly and space is considered a part of the ICT sector. Space technologies are playing a major role in global digitalization. Highly competitive applications for the Internet of Things and remote sensing depend on new satellite constellations. Space companies are more focused on software development to build new applications for end users and searching for novel business models. The space sector therefore offers many opportunities for the European private and public sectors. Digitalisation and an open and innovative European economy are some of the priorities of the Estonian Presidency of the European Council, which share a connection with the changing space sector. During the Estonian Presidency in the second half of 2017, Estonia will help to find new ways of managing space data, developing new applications for space and guiding space policy to bring space closer to Europeans. The European Space Week, taking place in Tallinn and Tartu from 3 – 9 November, will be one of the largest events during the presidency. The Space Week consists of more than



10 different events which can be divided into three main categories: ideas & startups, policymaking and entrepreneurs, and finance. Garage48 SpaceTech 2017 will be the first event of the space week. During the 48-hour hackathon, participants will be able to develop new products or services connected to Earth observation, positioning, social media and hardware. Estonia will also host the EU-ESA Informal Space Ministerial meeting to discuss the future of Earth Observation and big data, which will be the main event for space policymaking. The Awards Ceremony of the Copernicus Masters & European Satellite Navigation Competition will be the gala event of the week where the most promising new application ideas for Galileo and Copernicus will be awarded. The week will end with the Satellite Masters Conference and Horizon 2020 Info Day, which will focus on financing space businesses and projects. The upcoming European Space Week is a great opportunity for the Estonian ICT sector to make connections in the space sector. In

addition, during the week a business incubation centre of the European Space Agency will be opened in Estonia to support the growth of technology companies. With the European Space Week, Estonia will make a major contribution to the European space sector and set a new standard for the upcoming presidencies. Among others, European Space Agency Director General Jan Wörner will visit Estonia during the week. The European Space Week will be organized by the Estonian presidency together with the European Commission, Anwendungszentrum Oberpfaffenhofen and many other partners form Europe.

More information:

26 – 28 October Tallinn

Eastern Partnership Business Forum Eastern Partnership Business Forum to bring over 400 potential business partners to Estonia

Kersti Kaljulaid will also deliver the opening address at the event together with European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Johannes Hahn.

the areas in which the greatest potential for cooperation can be found – from e-solutions and e-commerce to logistics as well as innovation both in industry and in finance.

From 2 – 28 October, the Eastern Partnership Business Forum will take place in Tallinn, bringing together over 400 entrepreneurs and decision-makers from the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries interested in developing commercial opportunities with Estonia and other EU member states. The focus of the Forum will be on innovation and the digital society.

According to Ambassador Jaan Reinhold, Estonian special envoy for the Eastern Partnership and director of the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership, this event presents a unique occasion for Estonia. ‘Estonian entrepreneurs interested in expanding their business to the Eastern Partnership countries will have a unique opportunity to obtain reliable information, while also developing new business contacts,’ he said.

Representatives of the Eastern Partnership countries – that is, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine – will participate in relevant, high-level panel discussions while also join in site visits to Estonian companies.

The honorary patron of the Business Forum is Kersti Kaljulaid, President of the Republic of Estonia. ‘There are constant challenges to the stability of our continent. This is why the Eastern Partnership is more important than ever. It brings our closest partners closer to us and helps strengthen our Union’s overall stability and prosperity,’ stated the President.

The goal of the Eastern Partnership Business Forum is to develop transparent cross-border economic relations and business cooperation among EU and EaP countries, with special attention to the needs of small- and medium-sized enterprises. The Forum will focus on

The main organizers of the Forum are the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership, Enterprise Estonia, and East Invest, with the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the European Investment Bank serving as Forum partners.

More information:

Photo by Aron Urb

The Eastern Partnership Business Forum is organised under the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU



20 – 22 November Tallinn

Photo by Rasmus Jurkatam

Startup Nations Summit



Photo by Kaupo Kalda

Startup Nations Summit will take place at the Tallinn Creative Hub

The flagship event for policymakers and start-ups across the globe is coming to Tallinn this year!

Cutting-edge technologies go together with innovative policies. The world seems to be moving at an ever-increasing pace and policymakers around the world are constantly facing challenges regarding the use of new and emerging innovative solutions. This is why the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU has teamed up with the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) to show policymakers from 60+ countries what the digital society experience is all about. Estonia has an active and fast developing ecosystem of technological enterprises and a flexible e-solutions oriented public sector. We might be small in size but we are truly global in our mindset.

governmental delegations will take part in. We invite them to step into the shoes of a startup for a day and test their policy with their peer delegates as well as other startups. The result will be a validated and implementable policy. All of this will be done through an innovative format called a “regulatory sandbox”, which helps create a dialogue between regulators and enterprises.

Prepare yourself for an intense 3-day summit. The summit brings in policymakers and startups from around the world to develop and test ways of achieving consistent high-impact entrepreneurship and encourage entrepreneurial growth worldwide. The conference presents practical case studies on how a number of governments have already been able to innovate at an accelerated pace and thus give a helping hand to entrepreneurs.   The Startup Track will show entrepreneurs how scaling can work, how to lobby, as well as give lots of opportunities to network with the policymakers. The summit will also present a fascinating ‘Policy Hack’ feature that several

Nearly half of the summit attendees will be the interested parties and entrepreneurs of the European startup ecosystem. So start looking forward to November where we will push the envelope of entrepreneurship!

By the end of the conference, we will have tested out applicable solutions to develop technological entrepreneurship. This contributes to the use of new technologies, which is the right step towards more modern policy creation.

The Startup Nations Summit is co-hosted by the Global Entrepreneurship Network and Estonia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU as well as supported by the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the European Commission, Startup Estonia, EIT Digital, Dell and the Kauffman Foundation. More information:



President Kersti Kaljulaid: ‘Estonia offers more transparency and less bureaucracy!’ Photo by Atko Januson

By Ede Schank Tamkivi



As Estonia took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1st, the President of the Republic says in an interview with Life in Estonia that despite the fact that Estonia is a relatively well-off country, everyone needs to work harder to promote its urban environment, general greenness, and lack of hierarchies.

‘ Estonia has a competitive advantage because our society is digital ’ When you became President in October 2016, you said you were eager to hear ‘what people have to say’, and indeed, you have been going to places and meeting and speaking to a good proportion of the people. What has been the most surprising thing to hear/see? I always feel great gratitude if I manage to touch upon a nerve that really matters to the people who might feel that not enough attention has been paid to their issues, which tend to be not so beautiful. Social cohesion issues, questions that relate to handicapped people or to people who have somehow faced violence in society etc. We are a relatively well-off country and we have to help those who have had a bad draw in this life, be it through their personal history in the family or a handicap. We seriously need to think how we could help those people better and I’m trying to focus minds on this. I’ve also noticed that people working in the Estonian public sector ask me to come and talk to them about general public sector management issues. And this is something that I really like to do. Seems a bit like management consultancy, and indeed, it is.

educational services and the general protection a government provides to its citizens and habitants. It’s more and more of a personal choice, not necessarily related to where you live. Estonia has a competitive advantage because our society is digital. Our citizens can relate to the state from afar. And yet – I’ve also asked this question from our public sector leaders –, let’s imagine that the private sector is not demanding the workforce to be in Estonia as there are lots of jobs where you can follow what is going on on the screen. If you wish, you can check the temperature and humidity of a food warehouse from the Mediterranean. I’ve asked the public sector: are you ready if those people who have these monitoring jobs are needed by both the public and the private sector? If you do not offer the possibility to work from the Mediterranean, you are simply losing out. You cannot hire these people because they simply want their geographical freedom. And if it’s possible to check on the potatoes and cabbages from a distance, it also has to be possible to check the border from a distance. Are you ready for it? When will you be ready? These are the questions we need to discuss – in Estonia, in Europe, and globally.

So it makes sense that the public sector will follow the private? In your opening speech for the Latitude 59 Conference this spring you reflected on the future of remote work and how in 20 years time countries will be competing for talent just like big companies do these days. What is it that Estonia has to offer that other c ountries would find hard to compete with and how should we better take advantage of this opportunity? I also touched upon this at the Brussels Forum and in GLOBSEC. I seriously believe that we need to start thinking more ahead instead of trying to adapt the current social model to the changes we know today. If we all agree that industrial job market is changing – or altogether disappearing – we need to adapt as states. And indeed, instead of discussing who gets the Starbucks taxes, we should consider the option that most people do not need to physically be in Estonia. Or they are in Estonia but work for five different countries at the same time in different sectors and, in addition, reap some rewards from allowing other people to use their property somewhere? Who gets the taxes? My understanding is that it needs to be a contract between a sovereign state and its citizens or the people who want to use this state as their security provider – they do not necessarily need to be citizens. To provide them with a safe dock where they pay their taxes and where they expect to get social and

Not necessarily. Since the public sector normally offers slightly lower salaries, it can, of course, jump the boat and do it quicker. But a problem would arise if they are slower. Then they would lose out on the job market. But I don’t see it as a competition. It’s rather a trend in the society which we don’t fully understand but we know is happening. And we should try to think a little bit ahead of the curve. If we don’t, we’ll lose out to some other country that is allowing a lot more flexibility in the social system. If you ignore it, you’ll actually lose tax revenue as well because people simply opt out of the system at the age when they are already earning decent salaries but do not yet have so many demands on the social security systems. Right now it’s only the pension system that penalizes opting out and then opting back in. You’ll lose if you say that you have to work our way or we don’t want your taxes. ‘Our way’ being 5 days a week, 12 months a year for 30 years, then retiring. This no longer matches the understanding of what worklife is. It will solve a lot of problems, like balancing work and family because you simply have a lot more flexibility in the system. But it will create new problems if we do not adapt. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Photo by Atko Januson

‘ We just need to teach our populations to be cyber-hygienic ’

You also mentioned that in 20 years’ time, Räpina – a small town in South-Eastern Estonia – will be a place where people will want to live. Yes, this comes directly from the fact that it does no longer matter where we live. Therefore you’ll choose calm, green, nice places. The late economics professor, Andres Arrak, who just recently passed away, has said that Estonians are very rich in the sense that they can walk around their house. Not too many people in Europe really can. This will be a real asset quite soon when people no longer need to gather in towns. Yes, there are the people who are afraid of frogs and insects as they are already of the second or third generation used to urban infrastructure so they wouldn’t seek anything elsewhere. But particularly in Estonia, as well as elsewhere in the Nordic region, we have many people who would never come to densely populated urban areas if they could afford to live somewhere else. So indeed, I believe that in 20 years time lots more people will use this freedom.

Why should, say, an Indian entrepreneur go for Estonian e-Residency instead of registering his company in any of the well-known tax havens and open an account in Estonian bank instead of a Swiss one? I always emphasize that this is no tax haven. On the contrary: it’s the most transparent regime so far as declaring your income and paying your taxes is concerned. Because in digital society things move from one computer system to another and cross-checking is really easy, so one cannot tell different things to different parts of the Estonian state. It’s simply not possible. Our e-Residency offers a transparent way to do business, based in the EU, without taking any of the reputational risks, while being fully operational in the rest of Europe because you’ll already be registered in the EU. Of course, you’ll still have to abide by all the rules and regulations which relate to, let’s say, consumer protection or licensing issues. But this is normal: we need to make sure that the services and goods provided to people are of good quality and are safe. Having less bureaucracy and more transparency is something which enterprises also value. Less bureaucracy is in itself a very democratic value, because, as we know, big businesses have their own way of managing big bureaucracies, but it’s the small people and small businesses who cannot manage that.



As Estonia is undertaking the task of EU Council Presidency for the first time ever, how can we help/soften and overcome the EU’s challenges and not just fill in the spot but actually make a difference among the bigger countries? We already have made a big difference by being small, flexible and not having any hierarchies at all. We did not hesitate to take over half a year earlier (because of Brexit – ed.). We knew we could do it and we can. We obviously stand out in and our partners expect us to take care of all things digital. It’s interesting to see how digital issues, horizontal in different policy areas, have come to our table. There is, of course, the question of the Fifth Freedom – digital freedom – and there are special directives which we hope to promote as well. But in all other policy areas we also see these elements come up. We have a reputation of understanding society differently. We also have a reputation for already having a generation living in the internet, therefore we get slightly better at cyber-hygiene. While dealing with all of those digital issues during our Presidency, it’s extremely important to deliver the message that while every society will be digital, it will still be a different society. Estonian society is digital in one particular way and Finnish in another because the state is culture and this culture will be preserved while becoming digital. It’s not about seeking unification or harmonization in any way; every country will go its own way. And this is where we encourage the

‘ Besides the digital EU, we also have a much higher overarching aim: breaking the ice of negativity about the EU ’

countries to adopt the view that we know – that in cyberspace there are also risks and there are crooks but we don’t want to abandon that space and lose out just as we do not abandon our streets. We do not want governments to be unable to use the technological space just because there are risks. We just need to teach our populations to be cyber-hygienic. I feel for people who are not used to the internet environment because it’s very different from when we started to use the internet. The highest risk was a virus for which you had forgotten to download Kaspersky or some other anti-virus system. Now it’s the Internet of Things (IoT) which other people need to join, it’s a totally different issue. So we need to be sensitive about the problems and the questions people ask, but based on our digital experience, we may have a little more insight on how to answer those questions.

Using the term cyber-hygiene definitely sounds a lot less harsh than cyber-security and is already a big step forward in educating people. I was actually astonished when I started to read all the briefs about cyber-security. They are very military in their wording and they have to be because a lot of the understanding we have about cyber-hygiene comes from the military sphere. Those risks are related to critical infrastructure that needs to be protected as we protect our society and our state’s

integrity. But we need to translate all this into civil spillovers, and here the EU will be very well positioned to do so. We will provide our experience. We do drive on highways but we take precautions; similarly, we use the internet but need to be cautious. Besides the digital EU, we also have a much higher overarching aim: breaking the ice of negativity about the EU. First of all, we ourselves are an example of coherent government communication about the EU. We never said that Brussels is very good from one view point but really bothering us from another. Therefore the popularity of the EU has not suffered. We believe that it’s time that we looked at the hard facts about the EU, all 27 countries together. We see that the EU has not failed us, neither in values nor in technical aspects. The Euro-area went into crises, came out stronger, despite the fact that there are still some things that need to be done. The same applies to Schengen: we are quickly building the opportunities to check who is in and who is out, solving the problems with which the Schengen-area was born. There is now a clear political window of opportunity to solve those issues for which there previously was no democratic demand. We can see that during those crises the EU has not withdrawn but it has advanced. We can also see that when it has really been critical to decide quickly – be it the sanctions against Russia because of Crimean annexation or Article 50 – the EU has reacted very quickly and adequately. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


‘ We have said that we joined the EU for security and prosperity, and not for subsidies ’

The same applies to all of our freedoms and values. They have not had to withdraw during the crises. Let’s say this loud and clear and. While we are talking Brexit, we also need to talk about what the EU has enabled governments to do. We need to be very honest about what the EU does and what it does not do because of all the redistributional aspects. The member state governments need to take responsibility. This is something that I would personally very much like to see at the next conference of think tanks discussing the EU – instead of saying that the EU is in crises, in disarray, they would look at the hard facts showing that the EU has not failed. It’s largely a communicational issue, partially also the EU bodies themselves might have been making more promises than they have been able to deliver considering their mandate, like creating jobs through cohesion policy. The EU is an enabler and the principle of solidarity is the most important, but so is the principle of subsidiarity – they should not overpromise what Brussels can do.

Maybe one of the reasons why the EU is still so popular among Estonians is the fact that in this budget period we are still one of the gaining members? That is not true. If you look around in Europe among the net receivers, the picture is not unified about what people or even the governments think about Brussels. So it does not matter: it’s not about the money, it’s definitely about the values. About the safe and prosperous environment that the EU has been providing Estonians with. We have also been very honest about it. We have said that we joined the EU for security and prosperity, and not for subsidies. This was never among the messages delivered to the people.

You started your career in academia but opted out of it, yet keeping strong ties to your Alma Mater via its board seat. How do we turn the tide in the ‘brain drain’ and make Estonian universities appealing locations for research? We are actually very much attracting the academic talent. Interestingly enough we are teaching much more of that talent than we ever have. It’s amazing what’s going on in Tartu University, for example. It is an attractive place to work because the technology in the laboratories is relatively new and good. It’s not without the help of the foreign lecturers and scientists with which Tartu University has risen considerably in the rankings over the past few years. Similarly, if we look at the recent Human Development Report, it says that we are losing workforce in the low-paid, low-skilled portion of society. Those who come here are actually well educated and come for the jobs in high-added value sectors. This is actually a very good sign. We have an attractive environment and I believe that is because of our urban environment, general greenness of our country, the space we have, and the ever-lowering rates of bureaucracy.



If everything is so great, shouldn’t we just sit back, relax and not work so hard? Of course we should work harder. Our everyday job is to relentlessly promote what we have here, and indeed, the EU Council Presidency will again focus attention on what Estonia has to offer. I’m sure that similar to the period when we joined the Euro-area, the number of tourists from other European countries went up rapidly. Also, to promote our economic cohesion with our neighbours. I like the saying that previously it was the language that connected us with Finns, now it’s the only thing that separates us, because economies, infrastructure, everything is connected anyway. But we also need connections to Central Europe – Rail Baltic, energy connections to European markets. All of those we still need to develop.

You mentioned Rail Baltic, a railway connecting the Baltics to Central Europe, as a thing that is surely going to happen. Shouldn’t we wait with this project until a new technology, like the Hyperloop, comes along? Hyperloop will not be used for transporting goods. First of all, we don’t even know if this technology is workable at all. I still haven’t seen a monkey go in one end and come out the other, still healthy, happy and doing well. This is something we do not actually have yet. But what we do have is clogged highways, we have sea transport where not all environmental costs are internalized into the transport cost and time-wise it is not as reliable as roads and railways are. We don’t want to lay more asphalt on the continent in order to make the highways more efficient in car transportation. I’m sure there will be more taxes which will try to push cargo onto the railways. So I’m quite certain that the cargo transfer through Rail Baltic will be on a really high level. If there is an infrastructure option, people tend to use it.

Having worked for the European Court of Auditors, based in Luxembourg, where your primary role was to check if the budget of the EU has been implemented correctly, in that EU funds have been spent legally and with sound management. Now, as the President of the Republic of Estonia, you have to be more of an inspiring leader as well as a ‘moral compass’. How difficult has it been to bridge those two different roles? It’s not that different at all because an auditor is a supportive function for better management and frankly speaking, the Estonian President is also very much a supportive function for better management of the country. What you need to do is to ask the right questions and point out the right trends. So I have not found that I have had to change my attitude much.

continues on p. 22

Photo by Atko Januson

Busy buzzy bees As of July this year, the staff of the Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia are not the only busy bees in the Palace of Kadriorg as the Rose Garden of the palace is now equipped with 3 beehives. The bees are Carniolan honey bees, simply known as Carnies, the second most popular breed among beekeepers after the Italian bee. Carnies are native to the province of Carniola (or Krain or Kranjska) that is located in present-day Slovenia. ‘Carniolan bees are very gentle, so marked being this trait that they have been designated as the “Ladies’ bees”’, noted American biologist Ralph Benton back in 1908, after the bees were introduced to the US. ‘They are strong fliers and handle themselves well in sudden wind or rainstorms, making them very adaptable for the higher altitudes. They are also good searchers for honey, finding and storing honey when other bees fail to do so.

Carniolans are among the largest of honey bees and are a dusty grey in appearance. They are good queen cell builders, and so produce large well-developed queens.’ Although the beehives are located on the northern side of the Palace’s Rose Garden, they do not actually produce honey off the roses. Since bees can fly as far as 3 kilometres from their hives, they are far more attracted to blossoming trees like willows, maples and lindens in the spring, or the blooms of dandelion, white clover, raspberry and fireweed. The Office of Kadriorg is expecting the first harvest at the end of this summer. ‘Bearing in mind that each hive needs around 100 kg of honey to self-sustain, we could expect around 25-30 kg of honey per hive’, said Piret Pert, the head of the Public Relations Department of the Office. The honey will be used as a gift for the guests of the President.



As the President, you must have some personal goals that you are working towards...

If you had asked Toomas Hendrik Ilves ten and a half years ago what his legacy was going to be, he would not have been able to give you the correct answer. So I leave it to the other people and the latest stages to think what I have managed to contribute to this country. All I can say now is that I’m contributing in earnest from the beginning until the end of my period in this office.

I cannot say that I have set any particular objectives to achieve. I see where there are issues in the society and I try to help solve them. On the other hand, I do not have an executive role here so they cannot be goals as such. The only goals or principles that I have are the same ones I already mentioned at my inauguration, and I mean this: whenever there is a discussion about the security of our state, our freedoms or when I sense that those who are weaker are not treated well in society I will never fail to speak up; and I will abide by these principles for all of those five years.

Photo by Atko Januson

If in 20 years time people look back at the Kaljulaid Presidency, by what would you like to be remembered?



Photo by Rasmus Jurkatam

e-Residency joins forces with the UN to empower entrepreneurs in the developing world By Daniela Godoy / Head of Internationalisation at e-Residency LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Photo by Rasmus Jurkatam

Estonia’s e-Residency programme is now being used by the UN to improve access to e-commerce and entrepreneurship in developing countries.

unable to benefit from that growth – often just because of where they live. People in developing countries, women and other marginalised groups currently have the greatest challenges accessing e-commerce.

In 2000, Estonia became the first country to declare that internet access is a human right, a notion that was then backed by the UN and other countries around the world in various forms. As internet access increases rapidly around the world, Estonia is now leading again by ensuring that access to entrepreneurship online is also available to everyone through e-Residency.

In many circumstances, the financial and administrative barriers to establishing and managing a business may be too high, their business may not be trusted online or they may have difficulty accessing all the tools they need, such as international payment providers.

In recognition of the enormous potential of e-Residency to empower entrepreneurs who are currently held back by their location and circumstances, e-Residency has partnered with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to launch a groundbreaking new initiative called eTrade For All. The goal of eTrade for All is to help unlock global growth by supporting developing countries as they empower their citizens to access e-commerce and entrepreneurship. The programme is supported by Jack Ma, the Founder and Chairperson of the Alibaba Group, which owns China’s largest online retailer . Jack Ma worked as a teacher before starting his first online business and didn’t acquire his first computer until the age of 33. He’s on a mission to spread the benefits of e-commerce and entrepreneurship to more people around the world so has joined UNCTAD as a Special Advisor. Jack Ma predicts that 90% of all business will be online in the next 30 years. At present, however, a large proportion of the world’s population is

Alibaba founder Jack Ma is now a Special Advisor to UNCTAD e-Residency enrollment has been organised by Ankit Bahl and the Estonian Embassy in New Delhi. Riho Kruuv, Estonian Ambassador to India Sakshi Gupta from Delhi, India, is now applying for e-Residency of Estonia



This is why Estonia’s e-Residency programme is crucial to helping unleash the world’s entrepreneurial potential. It means aspiring entrepreneurs can apply for a secure digital identity issued by the government of Estonia and then use it to establish and manage an EU company online with minimal bureaucracy. Such is the potential of this initiative to transform the world for the better that the G20 has now recommended that all its members actively support e-Trade For All and its key policy areas. One of the first examples of e-Residency’s work as a partner in e-Trade For All is now underway in Delhi, India where women are being helped to start their online businesses through e-Residency of Estonia. The Indian Institute of Technology Delhi has launched an initiative called Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment (WEE), which is supported by the Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology. At present, women in developing countries are the least likely to benefit from internet access so WEE is helping the participants develop their business ideas and then turn them into a reality through e-Residency.

Photo by Maido Parv

Riho Kruuv, Estonian Ambassador to India, explains that Estonia and WEE have a shared objective of empowering women entrepreneurs and helping them scale to international markets. ‘By eliminating physical borders, we can provide new opportunities that the digital world offers to people no matter where they were born,’ says Ambassador Kruuv. ‘By doing this, they will also become active players in the growth of their own country.’ Among the participants in the programme is Sakshi Gupta from Delhi who has always dreamt of running her own business, but says she lacked the knowledge and confidence until she discovered the WEE initiative. ‘The mentors are not just providing accurate guidance, but they also keep boosting our morale to achieve something big in life,’ says Gupta. ‘So, I would say that WEE is a life changer for me.’ As people in India increasingly live further apart from their elderly relatives, Sakshi saw the opportunity to establish an online business that could help them connect. She is building Zingobox so that young people can send a personalised box of gifts to older relatives, which is tailored to the time of year and each holiday season. Gupta proudly describes herself as a startup geek so already knew of Estonia as an advanced digital society and the birthplace of Skype, but never imagined she could be digitally part of the country herself until she joined the WEE programme. ‘In spite of the fact that I have not visited the country, the e-Residency programme is giving me an amazing opportunity. Being an e-resident, I

can now easily access the digital benefits of a country that I have never visited.’ Speaking at the launch of the new eTrade For All platform in Geneva, e-Residency Programme Director Kaspar Korjus explained that e-Residency is not just a project for Estonia, but for the world, and is already empowering entrepreneurs in 138 countries. ‘Small businesses shouldn’t need to wait to integrate themselves into global trade.Why not support these entrepreneurs while at the same time helping entire countries overcome infrastructure deficiencies? says Korjus. ‘With an a-Residency platform already internationalised and in place, entire regions can immediately be empowered. Businesses, financial companies, governments and organisations in every part of the world can integrate themselves into this platform for the benefit of their own citizens and clients.’ By providing more people with the opportunity to start a business online, e-Residency wouldn’t just empower individual entrepreneurs to succeed, but also help their families, communities and countries benefit too. The Republic of Estonia has now begun its centenary celebrations, which will lead up to the 100 year anniversary of its founding in 2018. Estonians at home and around the world are being encouraged to offer their own ‘gift’ to the country to mark the occasion. At the same time, e-Residency – the opportunity for anyone, anywhere to succeed as an entrepreneur – will continue to be Estonia’s gift to the world.

You can find out more about e-Trade For All at or visit the new e-Residency website at LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Trust towards e-solutions is built through time and practical experience

Estonia is holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union over the second half of 2017. This means that Estonia is responsible for defining the Council’s positions while taking into account the interests of all member states and remaining neutral at the same time.  One of the key areas of the Estonian Presidency is digital Europe and the free movement of data. Estonia has already witnessed the transformative effect of digitalisation on society. Many are now calling the Estonian Presidency ‘the digital Presidency’ because of the ambition to realise the benefits of a digital society for the rest of Europe.

Indeed, this January marked the 15th anniversary of the first ID card in Estonia. The ID card is a really versatile tool. It is a citizen’s national health insurance card and, at the same time, a document which can be used for identity verification in electronic services and in everyday life. The key success factors for the ID card have been security as well as the convenience it provides. So by making the card convenient and secure to use, we are able to save time daily. Statistics even show that by using the ID card to sign documents, an individual in Estonia saves at least 5 business days each year.

Photos by Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU

Life in Estonia asked Estonian Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, Urve Palo, what steps Estonia will take to achieve this goal.

The electronic ID card celebrated its 15th birthday this January – how has this influenced Estonia thus far? Where to now?



‘ Statistics even show that by using the ID card to sign documents, an individual in Estonia saves at least 5 business days each year ’

Looking at how small Estonia is in size and in population, we still have the most digital signatures given in the European Union. So thus far, 96% of our population has a valid identity card and we can trust our e-solutions. Trust towards e-solutions is built through time and practical experience. We have seen how e-solutions have made lives easier and more convenient, so we will keep trying to nurture innovation in order to improve the quality of life in Estonia even further. So during our Presidency of the Council of the EU, we try to bring this attitude to the table and influence the European Union as a whole.

What does Estonia want to achieve in terms of technology and digitisation during the presidency? We aim to take steps to advance Europe to be one of the leading forces of digitisation in the world. As we have made a lot of progress in terms of integrating ICT in our public sector, we want to share our vision and practice with the other members of the EU. While the push for digitisation is going to be strong during our presidency, it always has to go hand-in-hand with cyber security. We have already been able to sign the 5G declaration with all of the member states, a huge step towards creating a digital single market in the EU.

without it is probably unimaginable. So having a true digital single market in the EU would really give us the framework for success and the EU would care even less which countries our respective citizens choose to live in. Estonia’s aim is to establish a single market where digital solutions provide the best possible enablers to create a favourable environment for entrepreneurship and for the deployment of new technologies in the EU. To be more precise, the term ‘digital’ in front of the single market we know today, comes first and foremost from the concept of free movement of data. We believe that unlocking the potential which lies in the free movement of data, is the right move for the EU to stay globally competitive and actually even increase our competiveness.

There has been a lot of buzz regarding the free movement of data. Why is it necessary and what would change in our everyday lives?

Estonia wants to solidify the word ‘digital’ in front of the single market – why?

The free movement of data provides a visionary framework for accessing, sharing and (re)using data not only between public authorities and private companies but across all member states’ borders. The free movement of data should be the fifth freedom next to the already established freedoms of European citizens. Data is a powerful enabler of the freedoms of the single market we know today.                        The functioning of the digital single market is reliant on the free movement of data amongst the member states. We are inevitably moving towards a more digital society, so we need to open our borders up for data to flow freely across nations. For example, it would only make sense for an EU citizen to be able to buy prescription medications, which have been handed out in their own country, in other EU states as well. Another good example is the driver’s license – Estonians don’t need to carry theirs with them, because the police have the ability to check their right to drive from governmental databases on the basis of the ID card. We have a vision that all EU citizens should benefit from the same model and this should apply across borders amongst the member states.

Bringing the EU’s single market up-to-date by adding the digital component, is a discussion that will shape the future of the entire EU. The US and China already have digital single markets for their citizens, which include approximately 500 million people, who are enjoying the benefits of the digital single market. This seems so logical and obvious for them that life

Let’s focus on the regulations and safety precautions that we need to protect our citizen’s privacy and rights and at the same time lift barriers that hinder economic growth. The less needless restrictions we have, the more can be done in the whole of the EU and this paves the way for effortless innovation.

Thus we have set our main focus on strengthening the unity of the European Union. We are trying to achieve this by bringing attention to topics which include an open and innovative economy, the promotion and development of a digital Europe, including the free movement of data, European security and an inclusive and sustainable Europe. As we have set ‘balance’ to be the keyword of our presidency, we try to bring in equilibrium between nature and IT. The end goal of all of our actions is and always will be the best possible well-being of European citizens.



‘Every guest from Singapore tells me – I wish I had come to Estonia sooner!’ Photo by Margus Johanson

By Ann-Marii Nergi



Sonny Aswani, entrepreneur and Honorary Consul to Estonia in Singapore, claims that each and every time he brings visitors to Estonia, they are filled with regret. Regret about not having come here sooner.

Undoubtedly, the most successful and passionate advocate for Estonia in Singapore is an entrepreneur with Asian roots – Sonny Aswani, Managing Director in Estonia of the international Tolaram Group, who for ten years has also been active as Estonia’s Honorary Consul in Singapore. He is a perfect example of how to create awareness about a small country like Estonia amongst the leaders of the busiest economic hub in the world. Sonny has skin in the game – he has been doing business here since the early 1990s and speaks out of his personal experience each time he utters praise for Estonia. Organizing dozens of visits between Singapore and Estonia, bringing together politicians, entrepreneurs and cultural circles from both countries, has started to bear fruit. A recommendation Sonny made years ago was put into practice almost a year back when the Southeast Asian representation of Enterprise Estonia was opened. The businessman confirms that the first successful steps have been taken. ‘About a month ago, the Prime Minister of Singapore mentioned in a speech that Singapore has a lot to learn from Estonia. Estonia was on the cover pages of newspapers. I consider this to be a huge acknowledgement and something that will spur interest in more people to discover Estonia,’ says Sonny Aswani.

have not had a single visit here without guests saying in the end: ”Sonny, I wish we would have come here sooner!” They are totally inspired.’ Aswani admits that Estonians don’t need someone to explain to them that they need to get their foot in in Singapore (‘if you make it there, the markets of neighbouring countries open almost automatically’), but businesses in Singapore do not have Estonia on their radar; instead they tend to look to the big markets in neighbouring countries such as Malaysia or Indonesia. ‘Let me give you an example. In Estonia, the chequebook has never been in use; from the early 1990s transactions have been electronic. It is not like in the USA where even today people write cheques. Then people think that in Singapore you can surely do everything online. But this is not the case! Chequebooks are still in use there too! Each time I return from Estonia, I feel how my effectiveness slows down,’ says Sonny Aswani with a sparkle in his eyes. He also gives an example of queueing in one country and the lack of this in the other. ‘It is really easy to get your driving license changed in Estonia, there is hardly any bureaucracy. In Singapore you have to go and queue in person. Actually you have to queue for most things there.’

Years of experience has taught him that it is pivotal to first create the opportunity for Southeast Asian investors and governmental officials to just come and visit Estonia, to become aware that this country exists. ‘I

Sonny Aswani

Managing Director of Tolaram Group in Estonia since 1995. Tolaram’s businesses in Estonia include Horizon Pulp & Paper (HPP), Horizon Tissue, real estate projects and other activities. With the acquisition and re-launch of Kehra Pulp and Paper factory in 1995, Estonian pulp and sack kraft industry was revived. Founder of Tolaram Foundation, a non-profit entity for helping the less fortunate. Appointed as Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia to Singapore in 2008 to present and has significantly contributed to the relations between the two countries in business, culture, education and other fields.

‘ Each time I return from Estonia, I feel how my effectiveness slows down ’

Since 1997, two Estonian prime ministers, Tiit Vähi and Andrus Ansip, have made official visits to Singapore, as well as Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Minister of Economic Affairs Juhan Parts. Sonny Aswani, born in 1963, holds a Master of Arts (Management Science) from the University of Kent at Canterbury. He has received several awards, including the Overall Winner of Invest in Estonia (1997), Foreign Investor of the Year (2001), and the Medal of Honour of the Estonian Heritage Protection Society for restoring historical Pagari residential house in Tallinn Old Town. Sonny Aswani was awarded the White Cross Medal from the President of Estonia in 2001.



Sonny explains that so-called “chequebooks” (physical ones as well as symbols of stagnation) are not prevalent because of people being scared of changes, but it is the financial sector in Singapore which employs masses of banking people who are not willing to lose jobs. ‘For example, two young Estonians have founded the startup Smartly, which wants to disrupt the wealth fund managers sector. But Singapore is the paradise of wealth managers! Yet they do nothing special – the job of about 70,000 managers could be easily done by an app,’ says the entrepreneur. Sonny himself has invested in Smartly, hence his words are backed up by his own funds. He has invested in about ten startups, among them also the Estonian Investly and Monese. According to him about a dozen Estonian startups, especially those in FinTech, have global potential. ‘Our own company has a P2P loan platform, where Estonians have created the IT-solutions. TransferWise is about to open an office in Singapore. Jobbatical is already there.’ Sonny counts some of the Estonian success stories. He adds that there are a growing number of companies from Southeast Asia who are interested in what Estonia has to offer. E-government, e-school, the apps which make daily activities much easier and the booming FinTech sector are the key words that Estonia’s Honorary Consul uses to praise Estonia and get other countries interested. He mentions that there are at least two hundred Estonian e-residents in Singapore already and some of them have also created companies in Estonia. He believes this number will start to grow rapidly as word spreads with positive experiences.


Sonny also believes there is great potential for Estonia to become an organic country. ‘Several organic products could be exported from Estonia to Singapore, be it cosmetics, superfoods or just food products like cottage cheese, kohuke snacks or other.’

‘Globally, 2.5 billon people are unbanked and 73% are in ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations). We live in a 650 million person region, where only 6% of money transfers by foreign workers are digital,’ says Siim Säinas, Managing Director of TransferFriend. TransferFriend was founded in late 2013 with the mission to provide the world’s best money transfer experience designed for this region. They have reduced transfer costs by up to 85% and saved time for customers using cutting edge mobile and financial technology. ‘We accept and deliver cash with attentive customer service in people’s native language. Most importantly, we care for people to make better financial decisions to break the cycle of poverty.’

There is no sign of Sonny Aswani growing tired of decades of work promoting Estonia. He is the first to claim: ‘I believe in Estonia!’

The visit of the Minister of Entrepreneurship, Ms. Liisa Oviir, with a business delegation of 30 companies from Estonia marked the opening of the Enterprise Estonia Singapore office in September 2016. This is the 15th office abroad for Enterprise Estonia, which increases our presence in high-growth Asian markets. The first year has proved that there are very good business interests from both sides, even more than we initially expected. One might expect that due to the large geographical distance the business links would be weak and difficult to manage, but the reality is quite the opposite. Estonia’s innovative and unique products and services find their way to the hearts of people in Singapore and the region. Bolefloor curvy edged wooden floors, Tahe Outdoor’s fantastic kayaks and canoes, Saku Brewery beverages, Chaga Health organic products as well as numerous IT solutions are a good example of the success Estonian companies have had in the market.



It is also great to see the interest of Estonian startups towards South East Asia as well as local investors’ interest in finding highly successful Estonian startups to fund. To support this, the former Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas is bringing a delegation of large Estonian IT companies in September 2017 to Singapore and Malaysia.

TransferFriend is a fast growing team of Estonians and talented locals, experienced in data, technology and finance, which is based in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Estonia.

K12 Technologies (eKool) According to the PISA tests organised by the OECD, Estonia provides the best education in Europe.

Indrek Pällo
 Chief Representative Officer
 Enterprise Estonia Singapore

Most schools in Estonia use an online platform called eKool (e-school). Owing to its wide usage and the fact that the platform enables the carrying out of most necessary school administration functions as well as communication with families, the e-school platform has made a significant impact in raising the educational level in Estonia. The platform has an impact on learning outcomes as, in comparison to paper-based administration, eKool saves up to 45 minutes per day on administration as well as offering the opportunity to keep parents informed about their children’s progress.

Selection of Estonian startups in Southeast Asia ‘Thanks to these indicators, there is great interest in eKool all over the world. To date, there are over 2.5 million end users (students, teachers, parents) of the various products of the eKool Group K12 Technologies,’ says Rain Tamm, CEO of K12 Technologies. ‘Southeast Asia is one target region where we work systematically. Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand are countries where we have introduced our product and where schools are either already using the e-school product or are finding out more about it in order to make a decision. We are still relatively new in the region and as schools tend to be quite slow in implementing new products and since, as a rule, it often takes more than a year from initial contact to wider usage, we are only expecting real results in a couple of years.’ In Estonia, the e-school system started to be used in most schools only five years after the product was introduced to the first schools.

Catapult Catapult is an investment platform based on blockchain technology, which enables companies to bring in capital and gives investors the opportunity to invest in small companies and startups. The platform includes companies and investors from all over the world. In a couple of years, Catapult will make it possible to trade with investments made on hundreds of Southeast Asian joint funding- and investment platforms, with the main emphasis on the markets of Malaysia and Singapore.

Funderbeam The Catapult model is somewhat similar to Funderbeam, founded by Estonians, which already functions in Europe as the world’s first

marketplace for liquid on-demand trading of investments. You can buy or sell trading tokens, starting from €1. Funderbeam is now expanding to Asia-Pacific as the recent investment of 2 million dollars came from the company Mistletoe Inc., led by Japanese entrepreneur and investor Taizo Son. Funderbeam was founded by Kaidi Ruusalepp, Urmas Peiker and Villu Arak – all with different backgrounds in banking and communications.

Unreal Estate Unreal Estate is a joint property investment platform, which enables people to make investments in real estate with a little bit of capital and to profit from the continuous rental income and the growth in real estate prices. The platform activities are mainly focused on Singapore investors who wish to invest money in Southeast Asian developing countries. As the founders come from Estonia and the local real estate market is familiar, they have set as their goal investments in Baltic real estate with the support of local and Southeast Asian investors.

Jobbatical Jobbatical matches business, technology and creative professionals with companies hiring talent around the world. Founder and CEO Karoli Hindriks, one of the most brilliant startuppers in Estonia, has gathered an international team to build Jobbatical across the world. Just last year Jobbatical announced raising a funding round worth 2 million dollars. The round was led by New York-based venture capital firm Union Square Ventures. London-based VC LocalGlobe also participated, along with existing investor Smartcap. Jobbatical’s fastest-growing destination is Southeast Asia, with many job seekers on its platform coming to the region to work mainly

for startups and social enterprises. That’s why the startup already opened a regional office in Singapore, to oversee its growth in the region.

Change Change is a digital bank, a mobile wallet platform, based in Singapore. A so-called new era bank without offices which, in addition to general banking services, brings together third party finance technology companies. The Change platform brings together the best service providers in the field, for example the national payments via TransferWise or investments via Smartly. ‘In order to create a successful startup, you have to offer a service which is not offered by anyone else or a service which is ten times better than the existing offers. In Southeast Asia we are miles ahead of competition,’ claims Kristjan Kangro, CEO of Change.

Smartly Smartly is also an Estonian company based in Singapore or as they call themselves: the fastest growing robo-advisor in Singapore. Based on risk analysis, their smart algorithms will go to work and recommend a personalised globally diversified portfolio of ETFs. Being the first automated platform, they use bank-level security for money and data. They will go live at any moment now.

Investly Set up in 2014 in Tallinn, Investly is an Estonian peer-to-peer invoice finance platform offering its services to small and medium-sized businesses. ‘Investly helps redesign the way SMEs are financed. In my view, Investly has the potential to expand to new markets through technical integration and innovation,’ says Sonny Aswani, one of the investors. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Exporting health, digitally

Ain Aaviksoo



Photo by Atko Januson

By Marju Himma-Kadakas

‘ What makes the Estonian Genome Center exceptional is that they also collect the donors’ health data years after the DNA sample was given ’

Pretend you are Dutch and get into a severe car accident in France. Doctors in the hospital need to get an overview of your medical history – previous diseases, medicine prescribed for you. What if you are not able to give that information? During this ordeal, all of this data is in the computer of your family physician in Copenhagen, but it cannot help you in the time of need. Or take Estonian EU officials traveling to Brussels, unable to buy an important medication prescribed for them. For Estonians it is even worse – medical prescriptions are digital and are easily accessible in every pharmacy in Estonia. All you need is your ID-card. But you cannot access the prescription drug elsewhere in Europe. For the latter reason, Estonians have taken an initiative to develop a research based e-health system that makes everyday life in Estonia very convenient for every citizen – why keep good digital solutions only for oneself if there is the possibility of making a better solution for other Europeans. And also for Estonians all over Europe. Having a digital medical history or getting a prescription drug from any pharmacy is the tip of the iceberg for the Estonian initiative of a personal medicine platform currently, which is in development.

Science backs digital health Estonia has 17 years of history with the Estonian Genome Center, a science-based institution for genome research at the University of Tartu, holding genetic samples of five per cent of the Estonian adult population. This genetic information has been analysed, is kept digitally, and is also linked with different databases of the National Health Information System, hospital records, family physicians’ records, etc. ‘For research projects it is working brilliantly,’ says Ain Aaviksoo, Vice-Chancellor of the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs. The researchers of the Estonian Biobank are publishing on a weekly basis in distinguished science journals: Nature and Science among others. How does an article in a top science journal help public health? ‘This was the first part of personalised medicine in Estonia. And I can say that not

many countries have reached this far,’ Aaviksoo replies. These 17 years of scientific research have paved the way for putting this into clinical practice. Starting from July 2017, the hospitals, healthcare providers, and other researchers started implementing personal medicine utilities in two areas of personalised medicine: precision prevention for breast cancer and precision prevention of cardiovascular diseases. This is based on genome information, not just screenings. Let’s explain this with the example of breast cancer. There is a range of age for women who are screened for breast cancer. If we add genetic information, then the age limits become wider and the cancer can be detected at an early stage. ‘And it also becomes cost effective later in life,’ Aaviksoo notes. This is an example of what the implementation of personalized medicine means: it changes the communication and relationship between healthcare workers and patients, it changes the clinical work-flow, and it also changes IT infrastructure. This is where IT experts became involved. Erkki Leego is a leading partner and expert at Leego Hansson IT management and consulting company that also helps the Estonian Genome Center store and secure the data. Biobanks are nothing extraordinary in the world. But what makes the Estonian Genome Center exceptional is that they also collect the donors’ health data years after the DNA sample was given. This is possible without the person coming to the centre – the data is taken from the donors’ e-health databases, with the consent of the donor, of course. Erkki Leego is the IT manager behind the system of how the data is provided for scientific use and how the security of the data is guaranteed. On one hand, the genome and any other health information is never personalised for scientific use, which enables precise predictions based on large scale data analysis. On the other hand, the donors get personalised feedback on their genetic predispositions for diseases and drug intolerance, based on genetic testing and various health information located in different databases. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Erkki Leego and Ain Aaviksoo confirm that no other country in the world has been able to come this far. ‘Because they have to build up the system based on scientific research and understanding, and then they can start implementing. We are ahead with this first phase,’ describes Ain Aaviksoo. The e-health system, therefore, is a collaborative project between the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Genome Center, and private enterprises. And it is largely funded by the government – why? What is the benefit for the public sector? ‘We are aiming to hit two marks. First, we aim to offer Estonian citizens news, more precise and better quality services,’ Aaviksoo explains. ‘Also, by giving this incentive to the market, we give opportunities for companies to develop products that support this kind of new model of medicine in Estonia, but also in other countries.’ For the state the benefit lies in better public health, which in turn means a decrease in healthcare costs for society, and from the entrepreneurial perspective it gives Estonia a good export article. This e-health platform is science-based, tested on a very model society, and proof of concept, in other words: ready to use. Erkki Leego explains the digital decision support system (DDSS) that enables the comparison of genome-wide data with the phenotypic or, simply, patients’ medical data. A year ago this was only on a testing platform, but since this summer the DDSS has become a tool for medical workers and has been utilised by doctors in order to model recommendations based on genotypic and phenotypic data of similar, previously treated patients.

Help needed: NB! Global companies The companies, who should be on the alert, are large IT companies who are able to mine and analyse big data. It is an opportunity to develop tools that can provide this sort of information. But this is also a chance for biotechnology companies that offer personalised tests and diagnostics. Therefore, the Estonian e-health platform is like a smartphone: its functions rely on applications. ‘That’s why we are expecting solutions from wide-range companies,’ adds Aaviksoo. If asked from Erkki Leego, why has he as an IT entrepreneur involved himself in e-health development, he is brief: ‘I like to be part of this unique solution that no other country in the world has, while other countries are far-far away from solutions that we have today.’ While the genome information is usually standardised and therefore usable for analysis, the issue of using a patient’s medical history or epicrisis data may be more difficult. The epicrisis of a patient is usually written partly in a native language. For example, you may find a doctor’s description of a patients visit: ‘complains of stomach ache, possible bowel inflammation’. For data analysis a more standardised description is necessary. Fortunately, for these sorts of diseases or chronic illnesses an international coding system is available and that is already standardised data that the computer can make sense of. It enables the comparison of the genome data with data from different databases, e.g. the history of medical prescriptions or a patient’s medical history database. The whole picture, or as it is said in personal medicine – a precise picture of a patient – will develop in this data comparison.

Photo by Jaanus Ree

‘ The Estonian e-health platform is like a smartphone: its functions rely on applications ’



The process of standardisation is already happening and it is called data normalisation. It also makes use of language technologies, precisely standardising data from native languages to international codes of diseases or pharmaceuticals. This demands a cooperation of different companies with a global reach. Many of those global and international companies have already reached the e-health platform development and are contributing and also benefiting from the Estonian health innovation ecosystem. Over 70 partners of R&D companies, universities, startups, health and wellness service providers, user communities and patient organisations have joined Connected Health, a countrywide partnership between health-related stakeholders. Among others, biotech companies like Bayer, Synlab and GlaxoSmithKline Estonia; IT companies like Nortal, Health Circle and StatFinn. And all of this is bound together with the public sector, ministries responsible for healthcare, entrepreneurship and national health.

Who owns the data? People visiting Estonia, especially from the US, often ask who owns the data of the Estonian Genome Center or e-health systems? It is an absolutely appropriate question, considering the delicate health information the data contains. Moreover, the question is who can access and use the data and can this be an issue of privacy violation? Ain Aaviksoo says that ten years from now, both in Europe and United States, the health system will use decentralised patient controlled management of data. That still does not give a satisfactory answer to the previous questions.

‘We have a system where everybody can see and have access to their data,’ Aaviksoo explains. It means that everybody can see who and how their data is used. Increasingly, the patient can control who sees their data and give consent for what else can be done with their data. ‘This principle is a unique starting point, which is absolutely necessary to link different fragments of healthcare.’ This still leaves the question of data ownership. So who owns the data? The owner of the data controls the data and therefore the owner is the patient. Coming back to the issue of how a Dutch person or an Estonian could benefit from an e-health system in their home country as well as elsewhere in EU. The Netherlands is already making arrangements to introduce e-health solutions, benefitting from Estonian knowledge on the matter. Finland has connected their e-health databases with Estonian databases through X-road, which enables Finns to also buy medicine on digital prescriptions from Estonia and vice versa; Estonian and Finnish administrations have established systems that enable the exchange of health certificates and other state registered digital documents on the demand of citizens. Therefore, the e-health platform is already proven to work across borders. How could other countries benefit from it – this is one of the topics at the high-level conference on e-health ‘Health in the Digital Society. Digital Society for Health’ that will be held in Tallinn on 16 – 18 October. The conference is part of the agendas discussed for the period of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU. It addresses topics such as how digital technologies and the wider use of health data change our lives and methods of healthcare.

‘ Patients can control who sees their data and give consent for what else can be done with their data ’



Estonian Biobank – the Holy Grail of health care By Mihkel Kärmas

Photo by Lauri Kulpsoo

In autumn, the Estonian Genome Center will become one of the first biobanks in the world to give personalized feedback to donors who have given blood and health information. It is a huge leap in Estonia’s ambitious plan to be the first state in the world to make personalized medicine accessible to everyone.



‘I was very concerned because weight is a big risk factor of diabetes, but in fact it turned out that in my case, the risk is still relatively low,’ laughs Andres Metspalu, Director of the Estonian Genome Center. The 66-year old slightly chubby academic is the initiator and the face of the Estonian Genome Project and, like most of his 50 staff members, he tested the system first on himself. ‘I don’t have to quit my job, I just had to swap one medication,’ he says summing up his personal genetic analysis results. Personalized medicine based on genetic information which is accessible to everyone has been hailed as the Holy Grail of modern healthcare. This autumn, Estonia will be able to provide the first 50 000 Estonians who participated in the genetic tests with personal responses if they so wish. Professor Andres Metspalu and The Estonian Genome Center based at the University of Tartu have been central to the large-scale national project which has been running for some years already.

The Estonian Genome Center is open to all researchers The ambitious plan of the researchers of a small nation (Estonia has 1.3 million inhabitants) to thoroughly collect, record and decode the genetic information of Estonians began back in 1999 and the journey has at times resembled a rollercoaster ride. In 2000, the most pioneering legislation on human genome research was passed in Estonia, establishing the rules of the game. The Estonian Genome Center was first founded with private capital and, in order to raise awareness, celebrities were contracted and an episode focusing on genetic research was even pushed into a popular Estonian television series. Due to funding difficulties, the big experiment was close to being shut down in 2004, but in the end, the project was overtaken by the state through the University of Tartu and funded jointly by three ministries. By the end of 2010, the desired 50 000 samples had been collected. It is worth mentioning that, in contrast to other biobanks, data in Estonia was

not collected only from people suffering from illness, but from a cross-section of the entire society, the youngest donor being 18 years old and the oldest donor 104. Each participant donated 30-40 ml of blood and filled out a questionnaire of 300 questions, mapping everything ranging from the reasons for the death of ancestors to dietary and exercise habits. ‘I did not think it would take so much time and turn out to be so complicated. But though it took more time, the end product is better than we initially hoped for,’ says Metspalu. The donors comprise 5% of the entire population of Estonia, making it the second largest share after Iceland. However, the Icelandic biobank belongs to private capital, whereas the Estonian model is in principle accessible to all researchers. At first, they concentrated on academic research. The data of Estonian donors took part in hundreds of collaboration projects all over the world, investigating the impact of genes starting from coffee consumption to mental abilities, ending with schizophrenia and other complex and hereditary diseases. The scientists of the Estonian Genome Center are the most internationally published Estonian scientists – in 2016 alone, their team published 86 articles in prominent scientific journals like Nature, Science, Nature Genetics, The Lancet, and New England Journal of Medicine. A rising star and the author of more than 200 scientific articles is Tõnu Esko, Deputy Director of the Estonian Genome Center, who in just eight years has become one of the most prominent researchers in his field. Out of the four Estonians listed in the world’s most prominent science ranking of Thomson Reuters (ISI Highly Cited), the 32-year-old Esko is the youngest. Of course, Andres Metspalu is also among the four. ‘In 2007, we had almost no idea why we are so tall or so smart, but now we have hundreds of dots as starting points. It is major progress and a really interesting journey,’ says Esko who, among other things, has researched the genetic peculiarities of Estonians, and the markers connected to height and intelligence. Thanks to his own ancestral genes, Esko, with his nearly 2 meters in height ranks among the one per cent of the tallest people in Estonia.

‘ The data of Estonian donors took part in hundreds of collaboration projects all over the world ’

Andres Metspalu who is in the list of highly cited researchers of the world, is the initiator and the face of the Estonian Genome Project.

Tõnu Esko has studied, among other things, the genetic characteristics of Estonians, identified nations that are genetically the closest to Estonians and described genomes linked to human body length and mental abilities.



‘Every one of those 50 000 genetic donors has made a significant contribution to global scientific discoveries – in order to find which gene versions are linked to which illnesses,’ adds Lili Milani, Senior Researcher at the Estonian Genome Center and another young rising star. The working group headed by the 35-year old Milani deals with pharmacogenetics, researching, for example, how well a certain drug works on a patient with certain genes or how, in reverse, it can damage someone with certain genes. ‘Antidepressants, painkillers, medication for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases are all linked to certain genes and now we can give very specific recommendations,’ explains Milani.

Feedback Now, after years of scientific research, it is time to return the favour to specific donors. ‘They were societal pioneers, who 17 years ago agreed to become genetic donors without really knowing what would come of it. Hoping that it would pay off somehow,’ Metspalu is grateful. In May, personal gene cards for 52 458 donors were completed and now they have the opportunity to ask – what specific things can be seen about them? Metspalu says they will start in a conservative way, providing information only about problems which can clearly be identified and where a person can influence something with their behaviour. Information can be provided about hereditary heart diseases, second type diabetes, glau-

Blood of 600 Estonians helps to develop the cure for aging BioAge Labs is a Bioinformatics startup in Berkeley that is in search of candidates for drugs that might inhibit aging. For this they need biomarkers predicting biological aging; this is where the blood of 600 Estonians and the Estonian Genome Center (EGUT) enter the game. BioAge ordered an analysis from researchers at EGUT who analysed blood plasma of elderly gene donors. As a result, they now have over 20 biomarkers that predict mortality. Using innovative machine learning, BioAge analyses this data to predict aging and develop different anti-aging drugs. For further R&D, BioAge Labs recently raised $10.9M in a round of funding – this is how a scientifically backed idea attracts venture capital.



coma, breast cancer and hereditary bad cholesterol risks, but also about the tendency to overeat or become addicted to smoking. The suitability of certain medications will also be tested and as a result there could be a recommendation to change doses or substitute the treatment. Senior scientists Krista Fischer and Reedik Mägi are leading the analytical workgroups providing the bioinformatic and statistical basis of the feedback. Still this is a delicate subject and Estonians find themselves in the role of pioneers. For example, should you tell someone that they are highly likely to develop a serious illness? The Estonian Genome Center ran research indicating that 80% of donors would want to have information even when it’s negative. ‘Those who do not want to know have the absolute right not to know. But when they come here and we tell them, it will not be possible to forget,’ says Metspalu, at the same time adding that fortunately the frequency of serious hereditary diseases is actually very low, about 1-3%. Esko claims it is a misconception that genes determine everything up to the exact time of death. The environment is equally important. ‘You may have great genes to be healthy but if you only eat junk, you will not be,’ he gives a simple example. In practice it means that if the genetic analysis shows that from a certain age a person has the 70% risk of getting diabetes, then by losing weight and watching what you eat can take this risk down to 20%. In other words, if you know the specifics, you can change your lifestyle.

Although the Estonian Genome Center does not answer questions that would, for example, reveal whether your partner has been unfaithful and that you are not the father of your child, you can receive feedback on genetic carriers, i.e. when a child is healthy but in the event that certain factors come together they fall into risk of illness. ‘People can be carriers of such alleles, where one chromosome out of two has mutated and if they marry someone with a mutation in the same gene, there is a high risk of 25% that they will give birth to a sick child,’ explains Metspalu. In addition, information is given about hereditary height and the tendency to go bald. According to Metspalu, in the future doctors will use genetic cards as tools like X-rays or tomography but with an important difference – in contrast to an X-ray, genes can predict what will happen. Those in the know will compare genetic cards to a book that will be printed in the future, which will be based on how problematic combinations are recognised. ‘When we have already done the genetic card, we have 700 000 different genetic markers which we can research. So in a year we can return to the book and see how much we can understand,’ explains Milani.

Genome Center as an investment and engine of economic growth Approximately 12 million euros have been spent on the Estonian Genome Center project. In addition, there are research grants raising the annual budget to between 3-4 million euros. The biggest benefit, in addition to scientific results, will be in the form of declining healthcare costs. Simply put, if risks can be foreseen, people will not be ill and not as much will be spent on treatment. ‘People go to work and produce something and pay tax. This is what brings benefits. We need to look at such projects and medicine not as costs but as an investment and an engine of economic growth. Not to mention that people will be happier when they are healthier,’ says Metspalu. This brings us full circle to the beginning of the story. There is a collaborative project between the Estonian Genome Center, University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, Ministry of Social Affairs and many other counterparts to develop a personalised medicine platform for the entire population. To put it simply, there are plans to create genetic cards for everyone who wishes to have one and to create an e-health solution by 2020 which could be used by GPs in making treatment decisions. Estonia is the first country in the world with a real plan as well as the capacity to develop a national personalised medicine solution. And this has been called the Holy Grail of modern healthcare.

Photo by Lauri Kulpsoo

Lili Milani has implemented new methods in the core facility of the Estonian Genome Center that are not only used for research purposes but also to diagnose serious genetic diseases.



Top 10 gadgets developed in Estonian universities By Silver Tambur, Estonian World



The best universities in Estonia have not only produced many smart people, but also smart products and useful tools The University of Tartu is now among the top two per cent of the world’s universities, and the highest ranked in the Baltic states. Similarly, the Tallinn University of Technology, whose alumni include world-class startup entrepreneurs, has ranked among the 500 best universities in the world. The University of Life Sciences is one of top 100 universities in the world in the field of agriculture and forestry, as ranked by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). Estonian World brings you ten useful tools or products that have been developed so far in these three universities, in no particular order.

Subsequently, the ME-3 bacteria caught the interest of manufacturers of leaven, food and food supplements in Estonia, Finland, Denmark, France, Italy, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, India, Taiwan and China. The European patent permits the bacteria to be used in the food industry in 15 European countries. Follow up patent application for additional properties is pending in 11 other countries. The bacterium strain is the subject of research and development projects in several countries, for example, in Italy, Brazil, France, Spain, India and Hungary, and is also studied as part of several European cooperation projects. For their work on the bacteria, the UT research team have been awarded several prestigious prizes and research awards.

First, it should enable to refine the chimney gas from carbon dioxide so effectively that major energy producers and consumers would not emit the greenhouse gases in the environment anymore. ‘This would allow even our oil shale consumption to become somewhat greener,’ Timo Kikas, a professor at the university, says. The second output would be the separation of essential substances from the algal biomass, such as omega fatty acids, which are used as a dietary supplement as well as raw material in the beauty and pharmaceutical industry. The third added benefit is the algal oil, out of which one could be able to produce biodiesel, for example. ‘Biodiesel is essentially used in most of today’s diesel engines without any special modification,’ Kikas explains. And finally, it is possible to still use residual algal biomass to produce biogas, which in turn could be easily used to fuel power stations and thus partially replace fossil fuels with the renewable energy. The university’s photobioreactor is a simple structure in which the use of light and the control is carried out as efficiently as possible. The machine, thanks to its design, is also very easily scalable to industrial size, which allows for a shelf stacked reactors. It is also possible to remotely monitor the reactor, enabling the entire algal park distance control.

Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 In 1995, University of Tartu research teams, led by professors Marika Mikelsaar and Mihkel Zilmer, discovered the lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 bacteria, which can rightfully be called the first Estonian probiotic lactic acid bacteria. Moreover, they are unique in the whole world because of their combination of antimicrobial and antioxidative effects. They protect human health by attacking harmful microbes and contribute to our physical well-being in several ways as well. The ME-3 made its wider public appearance in 2003, when a product line bearing the trademark Hellus was brought into the Estonian market by the dairy producer Tere. The product line included yoghurts, sweet cottage cheese blends and kefir (buttermilk) enriched with the beneficial bacteria.

Smart Glass Photobioreactor The Estonian University of Life Sciences has patented a photobioreactor that utilises a light source to cultivate phototropic microalgae. The latter uses photosynthesis to generate biomass from light and carbon dioxide. The photobioreactor allows much higher growth rates and purity levels than anywhere in nature or habitats similar to nature because within its artificial environment, the conditions are carefully controlled. The researchers at the university hope the cultivation of microalgae will ultimately result in many practical outcomes.

The scientists at the University of Tartu created a glass surface that can be rendered opaque at the flick of a button, allowing it to be used as window shades. The secret of the creation lies in a special spray-on gel, which after encountering the glass surface forms a five to ten micrometre coat. Upon encountering an electric field, the gel changes its optical properties. The glass can be used in the construction of office buildings and shopping malls. Currently, it has already found a limited use at the roundshaped Tallinn TV tower. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


The u-CAT’s locomotion principle is similar to sea turtles. Independently driven four flippers make the robot highly manoeuvrable – it can swim forward and backward, up and down and turn on spot in all directions. Manoeuvrability is a desirable feature when inspecting confined spaces such as shipwrecks. The robot carries an onboard camera and the video footage can be later used to reconstruct the underwater site.

The Robot Fish The EU funded European research project, based at the Tallinn University of Technology, built an electronic version of lateral line sensing on an underwater fish robot called FILOSE (Robotic FIsh LOcomotion and SEnsing). All fish have this sensing organ, but until this robot, it had no technological counterpart on man-made underwater vehicles. Unlike any other animal, the fish have a special sense that allows them to determine the speed and direction of currents, helps them hover in place and even swim upstream. Known as lateral line sensing, it also helps fish find the underwater ‘sweet spots’ to catch food that may be tumbling down the river.

Underwater robots are nowadays mostly exploited in the oil and gas industry and in defence. These robots are too big and also too expensive to be used for diving inside wrecks. Shipwrecks are currently explored by divers, but this is an expensive and time-consuming procedure and often too dangerous for the divers to undertake. The u-CAT is designed with the purpose of offering an affordable alternative to human divers.

Researchers of the University of Tartu Institute of Technology were responsible for designing the robotics and energy systems of the self-erecting house and building the body of the house. In its packed form the house is a six metres long and 2.4 metres wide box, which weighs 6,000 kilograms and fits on the trailer of a large truck. In a typical mission scenario, the construction can house two people for at least two weeks. The building has all the necessary rooms and its design resembles a classical home: sleeping area, kitchen, bathroom, toilet and work rooms. The Mars house is also well-suited to use on Earth in disaster areas or in extreme conditions during research work.

The u-CAT is specifically designed to meet the end-user requirements. Conventional underwater robots use propellers for locomotion. U-CAT’s fin propulsors can drive the robot in all directions without disturbing water and beating up silt from the bottom, which would decrease visibility inside the shipwreck.

Kidney Phantom Around the world, underwater vehicles have been deployed for several decades to track pollution, inspect ships hulls for damage, and for surveillance. But their big drawback is limited battery life. FILOSE’s purpose was to find a way to allow vehicles to travel more efficiently through the water like a fish, saving time and battery life. The fish robot took four years to build. The engineers made it to mimic the geometry and shape of a rainbow trout; about 50 cm long. To create artificial lateral line sensing, the team developed tiny electronic sensors to monitor pressure differences in the water flowing around it. The aim was to understand how fish detect and exploit flow features, and of developing efficient underwater robots based on biological principles.

The Robot Turtle The underwater robot called u-CAT, a highly manoeuvrable robot turtle, was designed by the scientists from the Centre for Biorobotics of the Tallinn University of Technology, with a purpose to penetrate shipwrecks.



The precise hand-to-eye coordination displayed by physicians in the field of interventional radiology and urology take years of continuous practice to master and it is currently widely accepted for new trainees to immediately start training on real patients to achieve such expertise.

The Mars House In 2013, five countries – Estonia, France, Austria, Belgium and the Czech Republic – collaborated to build the Mars house in the framework of the international project, called Self-Deployable Habitat for Extreme Environments (SHEE). The goal of the project was to develop an autonomous capsule from carbon-fibre and aluminium that can self-deploy in places where traditional construction methods are out of the question due to lack of infrastructure, tools, or the safety risks and costs involved. It is very likely that it will be used in future space related experiments.

The three Estonian scientists from the Tallinn University of Technology believe that although practicing on patients is to be expected eventually, costly mistakes made by inexperienced operators can be minimised by training on high fidelity simulation models. Hence, they developed an affordable yet detailed 3D-replica of a human kidney suitable for such simulation training to allow learning without compromising patient safety. The kidney phantom and the tissue mimicking materials surrounding it are made from a variety of in-house developed gelatin mixtures that closely imitate human tissue consistency and elastic properties. To offer likelife simulation conditions, the kidney phantom is suspended in muscle tissue-mimicking gelatin covered by peelable opaque artificial skin layer. The 3D-shape of the kidney phantom is made using reconstructed real patients’ computed tomography reference images.

Intervention Technique for Driving Instructors An intervention technique developed by the psychologists and healthcare scientists of the University of Tartu aims to reduce the impulsive behaviour of beginner drivers in traffic. The idea is to teach people to be conscious of the dangers of making spur-of-the-moment decisions, such as making a dangerous manoeuvre which often has severe consequences. The intervention technique, which has been used by driving instructors of the Mercedes Benz Driving Academy in the US and Canada, involves training with the focus on the future driver’s character traits that may cause excessive risk behaviour in traffic.

The Lainergy device first absorbs energy from ocean waves; the linear motion power is then transmitted to a flywheel connected to a pair of generators, providing power absorption and temporary energy storage for power smoothing. This technology was adapted for a vessel that could be placed in any open waters, and stationed using a system of anchors. The resulting device offers many advantages, such as the option to move the device at any time, due to the lack of permanent tethering to the seafloor. Robots With a help from the Tallinn University of Technology and the University of Tartu, two Estonian entrepreneurs found a way to produce a robot in Estonia that rather than just moving its arms, actually changes its body shape.

The Wave Energy Converter Two students from the Tallinn University of Technology, Nikon Vidjajev and Jan Terentjev, have created a wave energy converter with a power output comparable to an offshore wind turbine, but tapping a different energy source.

ESTCube Satellite

An estimated 0.1% of the energy in the world’s oceans could be capable of supplying the earth’s energy needs five times over. Wave power is renewable, green, pollution-free and environmentally invisible. The key challenge to unlock this opportunity is to develop a device that is not only durable and effective, but also cost efficient. So far, wave energy converters have been too large and costly compared with their energy output, which has prevented commercial applications.

Meanwhile, the ESTCube team is currently working on the orbiting of the renewed ESTCube-2 in 2018, and launching of ESTCube-3 to the Moon’s orbit in future.

The solution has already won numerous innovation awards across Europe and companies from the UK, Indonesia, the Netherlands and Malta have expressed interest to buy 200 of the devices. Locations with the most potential for wave power include the western seaboard of Europe, the northern coast of the UK, and the Pacific coastlines of North and South America, Southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

The University of Tartu working group has researched people’s behaviour in traffic since 2001. To evaluate people’s risk behaviour, several nurses, doctoral candidates and master’s students collected biosamples in driving schools of Tallinn and Tartu, hence the contribution of students to the research on traffic behaviour was also very significant.

Wave power is distinct from the diurnal flux of tidal power and the steady gyre of ocean currents. Although, there have been attempts to use the wave-power generation since at least 1890, it is not currently a widely employed commercial technology. Vidjajev and Terentjev, who have now also founded a company called Lainergy, attempt to change this with a device called NextWave.

Estonia’s first satellite also took images of such excellent quality that the Tartu-based researchers are getting their first orders from the space industry. Accordingly, in January 2017, the first custom-made space camera, using the Estonian technology, was mounted to the students’ satellite of the European Space Agency.

Estonia conducted its first space mission in April 2013, when a tiny one-kilogramme (twopound) satellite, called ESTCube-1, was rocketed off to orbit the Earth from the European Space Agency’s launch site in French Guyana. ESTCube travelled 680 kilometres from Earth, where it tested solar sail technology, which the scientists believe may allow space travellers one day to move faster and across greater distance Around 100 students and scientists contributed to creation of the satellite, which was nearly six years in the making. Developed in cooperation with the University of Tartu, the Tartu Observatory and other research institutions, the project yielded 29 bachelor’s and 19 master’s dissertations, five doctoral theses, four startups, and was the basis of 17 research articles, as well as 53 presentations.

The story began in 2009 when the Estonian entrepreneur, Heikki Haldre, got less and less time to go for fashion shopping and became a more avid online shopper. The problem he found, though, was that it wasn’t that easy to find a perfectly fitted shirt or suit when buying online – an issue made more complicated by the fact that the meaning of small and large size can be light years apart in different countries and continents. Hence he and cofounder Paul Pallin came up with an idea to invent a new solution – to find out perfect fit by creating and using specially modified robots which can change their body shape. With development from Maarja Kruusmaa, a professor of biorobotics at the Tallinn University of Technology, the laboratory of intelligent materials and systems at the University of Tartu, and Europe’s largest body scanning and anthropometry research company, Human Solutions GmbH in Germany, a new kind of robot was born – named ‘Fitbot’ by entrepreneurs. In 2015, Rakuten, a Japanese ecommerce and internet company, acquired a 100% stake in the company. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Iconic movie set turned into a design showroom Tallinn Design House Anu Lõhmus TALLINN DESIGN HOUSE

A modern urban quarter is taking shape at the site of the former Rotermann bread factory, the eerie ruins of which the brilliant Russian movie director Andrei Tarkovski chose to be the perfect setting for his post-apocalyptic cult film ‘Stalker’ in the 1970s. Instead of the former movie set, the newly renovated buildings recently saw the opening of an elegant showroom – Tallinn Design House.



Martin Saar CRAFTORY

The emotional architectural landscape created in the historical industrial surroundings of Rotermanni Quarter is a great lead-in to the design store and showroom – Tallinn Design House. As you step into the hall surrounded by old limestone, modern concrete and large glass surfaces, you find yourself in the midst of the best collections of Estonian designer brands. The initial impact is tranquil, thought-through, convincing. The eye catches a glimpse of ceramics, furniture, lighting, jewellery and books. There is the finest and most complete presentation of Estonian fashion brands. This light-filled space is the visible appearance of an initiative led by Anu Lõhmus, Head of the Tallinn Creative Incubator.

The basis A few words on history. We come from a society that used to contrast creativity and enterprise. By the turn of the millennium, the former arts support structure in Estonia had completely disappeared and creative fields found themselves in a total vacuum. Gradually the first support structures for creative industries were created here, taking their inspiration from global incubator networks. In the Creative Incubator founded

in 2006, they began to reinvent the understanding of the potential and economic value of creativity. Anu Lõhmus had always been active in the world of entrepreneurship. She united a number of experienced entrepreneurs from various fields. Today, there are approximately thirty mentors involved in the mentoring and training programme of the Creative Incubator, sharing their advice and business know-how with start-ups and young designer brands. The aim is to help the young entrepreneurs achieve their business goals through an individual development programme by looking for and sharing contacts, creating support networks and broadening their horizons and connections. The diverse group of Incubator graduates includes, for instance, the screen motion graphics studio TOLM, which keeps picking up more and more design awards; the Estonian team of the accounting portal RMP whose services are used daily by the majority of Estonian entrepreneurs; developers of the language learning app Lingvist; creators of healthand beauty products; designers and creators of web services, and also the successful leather goods factory Craftory, whose minimalistic design language has freshened the canons of Estonian applied arts classics. Faced with the need for a space for promotional purposes, the showroom for unique Estonian design brands – Tallinn Design House – opened its doors in May. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Katrin Kuldma AMANJEDA

The style and the selection In selecting the design brands, it was decided to opt for designs which are unlikely to become mass consumer goods. The showroom prefers products as serial models born from unique design ideas and product collections that express vision, the designer’s professional touch of form and material with a focus on special types of clients. In making the selection, attention is paid to the designer’s/maker’s approach to the discipline they represent as well as their creative choices. ‘We welcome designers who have a high sense of self-awareness, a sense of style and whose creations emanate the kind of Nordic clarity that is in our nature. The brands represented by us must offer



product families with clear visual and functional common characteristics. The design brands with attractive backstories presented at Tallinn Design House come from diligent small producers who are able to fulfil their contracts in required volumes and who are focused on export. TDH considers it important that the quality and presentation of products support the brand image and create a sense of trust and recognition in our visitors. The designers and products are chosen by independent experts in the field – designer Ruth-Helene Melioranski, art historian Kai Lobjakas and fashion marketing specialist and the founder of the Fashion Cinema, Helen Saluveer,’ says Anu Lõhmus.

The brands One immediately notices clear shapes and carefully selected materials at the TDH showroom. The large bright space is spiced up with colourful ceramics and special design furniture pieces – Jaanus Orgusaar’s wavy shelves, armchairs by Borg, concrete sinks by Hyperborea, cosy lights by 4Room and contemporary lighting by Mari Lights. The selection of fashion brands also includes those most well-known and loved by the Estonian clientele, for example one of the most established fashion brands Ivo Nikkolo as well as the exclusive fashion lines of Amanjeda by Katrin Kuldma, couture collections by Kristina Viirpalu, KVCouture, and the luxurious collections of Pohjanheimo. Tallinn Design House is proud to present unique home accessories from Monika Järg, popular textile patterns from Mare Kelpmann, cool kitchenware of Valhalla Living, multifunctional light objects of SU valgus and many others.

The list of brands to be proud of continues with beautifully handcrafted super . personal wooden glasses by Framed by Karl, masculine leather items by Craftory and high quality porcelain dishes by Liisu Arro. Birgit Skolimowski and Anneli Tammik are a few samples of the fine jewellery design of Estonia. The limited series by Lummus is a successful collaborative project of jewellery designers and an Estonian historical jewellery factory. A broad selection of home decoration products is also on offer and Anu Lõhmus refers to the meeting room in a quiet corner of the showroom as an example: ‘The meeting room was designed by our designers and producers – the wavy floorboards come from Bolefloor, the rustic table with glass legs from Oriens, the chairs and clothes hanger from Toivo Raidmets, the lighting from Tõnis Vellama, the cupboards from Mööblimeister and presentation technology from Valge Klaar. In addition, the sound is muted by Okka panels made of pine needles, which also come with a moving story.’ This list goes on and on; you can find more information on





Birgit Skolimowski JEWELLERY

The scenery The mission of TDH is more than just a design shop but specifically designed as a cross-marketing and sales platform that provides designers with the necessary toolbox for presenting and selling their brand in a multi-brand environment. An intrinsic principle of TDH’s operations is for each maker to have a well-thought-out presentation of their respective brand. Tallinn Design House arranges joint projects and events and maximizes common PR activities, sales shows, hotspots or displays, workshops and exhibits. By coordinating international joint activities, TDH hosts leaders and intermediaries in design, bloggers and retailers from other countries. Tallinn Design House is active on the Estonian cultural scene, activities are coordinated with local cultural festivals like large international music and film festivals – Tallinn Music Week, Jazzkaar, Dark Nights Film Festival, and Design Festival, which is led by the Estonian Union of Designers




Markus Marks and Kairit Kuuskor BOLD TUESDAY

The future At this point, it seems inevitable to ask what the purpose of local small production and sustainable, couture-based consumer design is. Anu Lõhmus gives a convincing reply: ‘We have the opportunity to offer an alternative to the satiated world.’ In addition to this beautiful purpose and products that stand the test of time, Tallinn Design House is open to all alike thinkers – all design and fashion followers from Estonia and elsewhere are invited to exchange ideas and organise events in this inspirational environment in Rotermanni Quarter.




Katja Novitskova – the most in-demand artist today

Everybody knows that the first question an Estonian will ask you when introducing his/ her country is: ‘Do you know Arvo Pärt?’ Pärt has indeed become one of the cultural symbols of Estonia, but perhaps in the not so distant future we may also ask: ‘Do you know Katja Novitskova?’

By Kaarin Kivirähk

‘Oh, of course Katja Novitskova! I met her in Tartu back in the days when she wasn’t famous yet!’ is the response I get from many people in Estonia upon mentioning Katja. ‘I remember Katja from Amsterdam. I happened to see one of her exhibitions there, but I just now realised it’s the same famous Katja Novitskova,’ say others. This is a typical phenomenon of a small country – everyone knows everyone and, whether you are Arvo Pärt or Katja Novitskova, people remember you from sports day in school, from the ice cream queue at the summer resort, or from a house party at the university town Tartu.

Photo by Mark Raidpere

continues on p. 59



Photos by Eleri Ever

Earth Potential City Hall Park,
New York 2017

E.coli E.coli is one of the strongest viruses affecting humans, and it is also used for genetic research


Earth Potential City Hall Park,
New York 2017

Elegans Titan

Squid Love Earth

C.Elegans is a primitive round worm that is the first species whose neural network has been fully digitised for research. Titan is the largest moon of Saturn

Squid are both highly intelligent and highly mysterious. Unlike other ancient creatures, they have advanced emotional and mental capacities. They are also commonly used in research


Photos by Eleri Ever Lizard Earth The body design properties of lizard legs are copied in various advanced engineering applications


Earth Potential City Hall Park,
New York 2017

Embryo Embryos are often used in genetic research


Photos by Eleri Ever Hydra Venus The Hydra is the only known animal that is considered to be ‘immortal’, and its biology is the major source of interest and information in anti-aging research


If Only You Could See What I've Seen With Your Eyes Venice Biennale 2017



Photos by Anu Vahtra

Photos by Anu Vahtra

If Only You Could See What I've Seen With Your Eyes Venice Biennale 2017


Photo by Kristina Ollek

Opening of the Estonian pavillion in Venice

The most in-demand artist today These days, people call Katja Novitskova ‘the comet in the local arts sky’ and ‘the world artist from Lasnamäe’. Those are just some of the titles the Estonian press has used to refer to Novitskova since she skyrocketed into the international arts scene in recent years. There is no other Estonian artist whose exhibition at the Venice Biennale has attracted so much attention from international arts press. The Estonian exhibition made it to many must-see lists, including Huffington Post, Cura Magazine, Artforum, Artnews, and Dazed magazine. The extraordinary interest in Novitskova is demonstrated by the fact that the minute she was chosen as the Estonian representative at the 57th Venice Arts Biennale, one of the most read international arts portals – Artnet News – translated the Estonian press release into English, probably with the help of Google Translate, including a Facebook photo of Katja Novitskova together with curator Kati Ilves and the catbomb, which Ilves had posted to her friends. Katja Novitskova grew up in Lasnamäe, a Tallinn suburb with Soviet block housing which is home to the majority of the Russian-speaking

population in the capital. She went to an Estonian Russian-language school and from there to study at the Department of Semiotics at the University of Tartu. Later Novitskova studied graphic design in Amsterdam and, after graduating from there, began her career as an independent artist. In 2011, she published the book Post Internet Survival Guide 2010, which became part of art history as a manifesto of post-internet art. In 2017, the book has become almost impossible to find – its price starting from approximately 900 Euro on Amazon. The artist herself is represented by two galleries: Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler in Berlin and Greene Naftali in New York. Her works have been exhibited at various reputable arts shows, for example the Berlin Biennale in 2016 or New York MoMA and the 57th Venice Biennale. Last year she was ranked as one of the top 50 most interesting artists in Europe. Until November, Katja Novitskova’s sculpture exhibition ‘Earth Potential’ will be open at New York City Hall Park. Her Estonian Pavilion exhibit ‘If Only You Could See What I’ve Seen with Your Eyes’ will be open until 26 November in Venice at Palazzo Malipiero. Katja Novitskova’s work is also exhibited at the contemporary art exhibition ARS’17 in Kiasma, Helsinki. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


KATJA NOVITSKOVA Photo by LutzLeitmann

Born in 1984, in Tallinn, Estonia, Katja Novitskova now lives and works in Amsterdam and Berlin. In 2017, she represents Estonia in the Venice Biennale, and recent solo exhibitions include Greene Naftali, New York (2016); Kunstverein Hamburg, Hamburg (2016); Kunsthalle Lisbon (2015); Mottahedan Projects, Dubai (2014), and CCS Bard, Annandale-on-Hudson (2012). Recent group exhibitions include Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany (2016); Okayama Art Summit, Okayama, Japan (2016); Bremen Art Prize, Kunsthalle Bremen (2016); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2016); 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2016); De Hallen Haarlem, Haarlem, Netherlands (2016); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015); Le Museé d’art contemporain de Lyon (2015); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2015); Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo (2014); and Fridericianum, Kassel (2013).

Pets of machinery Katja Novitskova’s art deals with the technical revolution of our era. Just like many artists before her – starting with futurists in the early years of the 20th century, who adored machines and the rapidly developing industry, to the concrete poetry of Raul Meel in the middle of the 20th century – Novitskova also considers the world through human-made technological potential. But what is this potential in an era when the future is now and science-fiction scripts have become reality? Novitskova’s two most recent exhibitions – Earth Potential and If Only You Could See... – tell a story through pictures which have not been taken by the human eye. The technology has become so powerful that often machines experience the world in our stead. They do so in discovering new planets and new micro-organisms. On the Internet we can watch currents around the world in real-time, web cameras record jungle life 24/7. And for whom have those millions of images circulating online been made? For machines with endless receiving potential! Novitskova asks whether the role of an artist or human beings are at all important in this context. Google Maps help us to orientate ourselves in an unknown city. The Internet and phones create relationships where physical contact is no longer necessary, and without a car it has become impossible to get to places. In the catalogue of the Estonian Pavilion at Venice Biennale, the curator and arts critic Toke Lykkeberg writes about the paradox which has been noted by many other thinkers: the more machines learn, the more people forget. People are becoming pets of machines, perhaps it has already happened? Such a spooky realisation has led critics to call



Novitskova’s exhibitions a sci-fi horror in an art hall. The Venice Biennale exhibit is presented like a time capsule, the last print of the current world in the distant future when the wonderful town of Venice has drowned and the world as we know it today no longer exists. New York’s Earth Potential creates a link to countless American sci-fi movies where the end of the world often begins on Manhattan. After the Venice Biennale, the Swiss curator Karim Crippa wrote in the reputable arts magazine Cura that works on the theme of the end of the world and the superpower of robots often make him want to have some drinks with friends and talk about something especially ‘shallow like my mother’s Instagram or Brigitte Macron’s wardrobe’. But after seeing Novitskova’s If Only You Could See... exhibition he enjoyed thinking through all the gooey feelings the exhibition had provoked. Perhaps one of the strengths of Katja Novitskova’s art is that it is communicative. The works create a sense of recognition, whether they be the artist’s signature cut-out photoprints on metal, usually used in advertising; graphics and arrow shapes in the aesthetics of PowerPoint; or ultramodern baby cots with added sci-fi accessories. It is easy to relate to such known images and they include an ironic sense of humour. More importantly – they influence daily experiences. Just try not to think about Katja Novitskova next time someone uses arrow shapes in their PowerPoint presentation or you meet a cut-out cardboard figure at the cinema. It may now be appropriate to ask your companion: ‘By the way, do you know Katja Novitskova?’


EARTH POTENTIAL expands Novitskova’s ongoing investigation into today’s media-saturated culture and continues her interest in the relationship between technology, scientific research, and the physical world. Novitskova is part of a growing network of artists whose primary concern is the impact of digital culture on society.

22 June – 9 November 2017 City Hall Park

The large cut-out sculptures, six to eight feet in diameter, consist of images of the Earth and other planets sourced from the Internet that are composites of various datasets produced via satellite imaging. In several works, a second layer is then affixed, depicting enlarged other-worldly animals and organisms that are used in biotechnology and genetic research. These include, the hydra, which is considered to be the only known ‘immortal animal’, and is used as a source for anti-aging research, and the primitive round worm, the first species whose neural network has been digitized for scientific inquiry. Similarly, the squid is studied for its advanced emotional and mental capacities, while lizard legs are copied in various innovative engineering applications.

By transforming the online image from the rectangular format of a digital screen and displaying it as a sculpture in physical space, Novitskova expands the idea of what photography and images can be today. While three-dimensional, the flatness of the works replicates the experience of viewing images online, furthering the pointed confusion between image and imagination. ‘Novitskova’s work responds to our current, overwhelming photo-based culture, one that is created by the rapid circulation of images, their manipulation, and the advancements in image-technology,’ says Enderby. ‘Her sculptures not only invite audiences to consider the ways in which the seemingly dichotomous realms of the real and the virtual intersect, but how the role of photography has changed today.’ Lit up dramatically at night, the space will be re-imagined as an extraterrestrial landscape, referencing Hollywood’s use of New York City as a site for sci-fi movies.

Photos by Eleri Ever

‘From the micro to the macro, Novitskova brings to life a world that was once invisible but now, due to advances in satellite cameras and electronic microscopes, can be pictured

in great detail,’ says Public Art Fund Adjunct Curator Emma Enderby who is also curating the ‘Earth Potential’. ‘These images are also of living forms that are used in the scientific community to synthetically change the future of our planet. With this, Novitskova invites the viewer to reflect on the ways in which we see our world and how we perceive the potential of the Earth.’



Estonian islets, each one a pearl By Svea Aavik

Estonians have a popular choir song ‘I’m sailing on the sea and looking for my island…’ Such a yearning for one’s own island seems to hit many of us in the summer, the cleansing winds of the sea offering relief from our daily worries. It seems we are a people, each one an island to his or herself. Hence islands and visiting them is somewhat of a symbolic summer pilgrimage, albeit a subconscious one. Not many people want to visit islands in winter and there are even fewer people who live on them throughout the year. However, despite

the hardships, the population of small islands has actually grown in recent years. The inhabitants of those small spots of land who are always there to give a warm welcome to guests, deserve our gratitude. Life in Estonia gives an overview of some of Estonia’s small islands that can be reached by organised transport. There are other islets in Estonia where docking is possible but they can only be reached with private boats.

The islands of Aegna and Naissaar, in the vicinity of Tallinn, have seen better and worse days, especially when it comes to military activity. The signs of military usage are still found all over the islands, both of which were under military control during the Czarist days and Soviet occupation. There is no other island in the world with railway lines such as those found on Naissaar.



Naissaar (in German Nargen, in Swedish Nargö) separates the Gulf of Tallinn from the rest of the Gulf of Finland. The island has become popular due to a relatively new concert location – Omari Küün – and the renowned Nargen Festival which takes place there, initiated by Tõnu Kaljuste, one of the most beloved conductors in Estonia.

In the good old days, the population of Naissaar (which can be translated as women’s island −ed.) reached 450. Small yachts and boats were built on the island, ships used to pick up a pilot from Naissaar and it was mostly women who were in charge of this task. From 1944-1994, the island was closed to regular citizens. Today the year-round population on the island is about ten people and in summer over thirty people. Approximately 25 000 tourists visit the island each year, coming to enjoy its culture, nature and military history. The island can be reached by the boat Monica from Kalasadam and the steamer Katariina, which leaves from Lennusadam.

Photos by Mart Vares

A world-famous former inhabitant of Naissaar was the optician, astronomer and inventor Bernard Schmidt. In 1930 he developed an optical system, the so-called Schmidt camera, which captures flawless images from large areas of the sky. The system became famous fifteen years later when it was taken into use at the Mount Palomar observatory in the USA. The small planet – “1743 Schmidt” – was named in honour of Bernard Schmidt.

Schmidt’s life was also the inspiration for the novel Vastutuulelaev (‘Sailing Against the Wind’ −ed.) by the renowned Estonian author Jaan Kross. The book has also been published in Finnish, Swedish, French and English.

Aegna is located to the east of Naissaar. With its sandy beaches, it has become a summer resort with only a few permanent residents. Aegna is located 1.5 km across the sea from the Viimsi peninsula. The island can be reached with the boat Vesta from Kalasadam. There is a working harbour cafe and bike rental on the island. One very interesting site on the island are the 12 mysterious circles of fist-sized cobblestones – eople in the old days used to call it the City of Jerusalem. There are beautiful hiking trails on the island where visitors can view nature and various military objects. The highest point on the island is 13 metres above sea level. In the 16th century, the area around the island was under the control of pirates – in 1577, Swedish pirates not only managed to steal the property of the islanders but also the islanders themselves. They were overthrown only a hundred years later. The island, which belonged to the City of Tallinn until 1689, became the property of Sweden and then of Czarist Russia. The first military object – the artillery battery – was established on the island in 1728. With an area of 3 sq km, the island had seven farms in the beginning of the last century. In 1912, all residents were evacuated from the island and new military objects were built before and after the war. The independent Republic of Estonia established a central command unit on Aegna and restored Czarist buildings. The narrow railway built for military use still exists. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Prangli (in German Wrangelsholm, in Swedish Wrangö) is located in the Gulf of Finland, northeast from the Viimsi peninsula. The island was first mentioned in 1387 as Rango. Prangli is the only island in northern Estonia with its own historical population, traditions and hospitality. It’s an idyllic spot with beautiful sandy beaches, mossy pine forests and colourful fishing villages. There is a ferry connection to the island from the Leppneeme harbour.

Estonians do ‘prangling’ at school. What is it? It is a mental math application and online competing platform developed by the former director of Prangli Primary School – Kalev Põldsaar. The highest point on the island – Kullamägi – reaches 10 metres above sea level. Legend has it that some pirate gold is buried there. There are many boulders on the island.

The island of Prangli rose from the sea about 3 500 years ago. The area covers 6.44 sq km. The eastern side of the island is covered in pine forest. The dunes rise up to 9 metres above sea level. Just like many other islands on the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland, Prangli used to be populated by coastal Swedes. Later Estonian and Finnish fishermen and seal hunters settled there. Today, approximately a hundred people live on the island. Prangli Primary School started activities back in 1869.

There is a memorial to the steamship Eestirand on the island. Tragically, its last journey ended here, albeit a happy end for many. The steamship was part of the fleet which transported mobilised soldiers from Estonia to Kronstadt in 1941. With approximately 3 500 men on board, the ship was attacked by the Luftwaffe near the island of Keri and, after receiving two hits, the captain grounded the ship near Prangli. 44 people were killed, around 200 men jumped overboard (most of them drowning) but 2 762 men reached Prangli and later returned to the mainland.

Vormsi Between the mainland and Estonia’s second largest island – Hiiumaa – lies Vormsi (in Swedish Ormsö, in German Worms); also an island initially inhabited by Swedes. Its name translates as “the island of snakes”. Vormsi is an island with a very ragged coastline and diverse beaches. The open sea washes onto the pebbly shores in the north – the water is colder there and gets deep quickly. The southern beaches are shallower but, just like the coastline in the east, full of reeds. Sandy beaches can only be found near the villages of Hullo and Rumpo. Vormsi is also part of the biosphere protection network – Natura 2000. Vormsi inhabitants live an authentic natural lifestyle, having preserved the cultural traditions of coastal Swedes. Although the original Swedish inhabitants of Vormsi left the island a long time ago, their heritage is still preserved. Vormsi houses a farm museum on coastal Swedish culture, St Olaf’s Church dating back to 13th century, and a cemetery with special circular crosses. The island has many nice accommodations, tenting places and interesting hiking trails. Vormsi can be reached with the ferry from Rohuküla harbour. In winter when the sea is properly frozen, you can reach the island by car via the ice road.



Vilsandi ‘It’s not the forest behind this forest, but the sea…’ Every Estonian knows that the author of this song is Jaan Tätte – singer, writer and actor who lives on Vilsandi, a small island of 9 sq km situated to the west of Saaremaa. Across the sea, the distance between the Papissaare harbour on Saaremaa and the Vikati harbour on Vilsandi island is 10 km. When the water is shallow, one can just wade through the sea from Saaremaa to Vilsandi. Only 2-3 people live on the island in winter. In summertime the population grows twenty-fold. One of the newest sights on the island is the restored former house of the lighthouse guard. It has been renovated into a sustainable low-energy building, which with sustainable technical equipment still provides all modern conveniences. Much of the island is now part of Vilsandi National Park, which grew from the Vaika bird reserve founded in 1910. It is a highly sensitive ecosystem due to the use of the surrounding islets by many migratory birds as a breeding and nesting ground. Hunting is absolutely prohibited. Vilsandi has been listed among the highest category of international bird reserves.

Abruka With an area of 8.78 sq km, Abruka is situated 6 km from the Roomassaare harbour on Saaremaa. The first records of inhabitation on the island date back to the Middle Ages, when the bishops of the Saare-Lääne county established a horse-breeding manor there. A permanent settlement on the island can be traced back to the 18th century. The maximum number on inhabitants on the island has been 150. 10 or less people live there in the winter. The most famous people to come from Abruka are the twin writers Jüri and Ülo Tuulik. Abruka’s largest neighbouring islands are Vahase (which can be reached on foot through the water and which is home to only one person), Kasselaid and Linnusitamaa.

The so-called rear lighthouse with a metal frame, built in 1923, is situated on the Limbi Nina. The front lighthouse, built in 1931, is 36 metres in height. Abruka is home to the 92-hectare botanical-zoological reserve – the broadleaf forest, which is very voluptuous and rare for its geographical location. From 1878-1880, the so-called ‘deer garden’ was established on the island and 13 deer were brought there from Kuramaa. Deer can also be spotted on the island today. The pleasant host is the island guard Rein Lember, whose interesting stories told by the bonfire are guaranteed to stay with you for a while.



Kihnu The traditional culture and lifestyle of Kihnu island is on the UNESCO world heritage list. Even today you can see women wearing traditional striped skirts on the island and those women have kept the skill of making the costumes themselves. Another common sight on the island are the traditional sidecar motorcycles. But why is there a fish box instead of the sidecar? The answer is to fish on ice during the winter. There are about 500 permanent residents on the island. There is an active primary school, museum and Orthodox church. Kihnu people live quite a traditional lifestyle. For example, a traditional Kihnu wedding lasts three days. Filmmaker Meelis Muhu has made a film about a great marriage proposal and Kihnu wedding. Several inter-



esting documentaries about the islanders come from Mark Soosaar. The best-known film is probably ‘Kihnu naine’ (Kihnu Woman – ed.), which has also won several international awards. There are various events on Kihnu in the summer. Thanks to the enthusiasm of young musicians, there are instrument courses for children, where they are taught accordion and violin only by ear, without notation. There are various accommodations on Kihnu, several shops and dining places. The island can be reached from Pärnu by the boat ‘Kihnu Virve’. In cold winters, the ice may be so thick that an ice road is opened from Munalaid to Kihnu.

Photo by Stina Kase

Manija (or Manõja in the Kihnu dialect) is less than a kilometre across the sea from the Munalaiu harbour near Pärnu. It is an exciting spot for traditional culture and to enjoy the rare flora of the coastal meadows with nearly 100 different plant species per square metre. During migration time you can spot the diverse coastal birds of the Nordic. The naval maps of the Gulf of Livland mentioned the island first in 1560 as Holm Manne, later also as Manniland and, since the Soviet occupation, under the name Manilaid. People from Kihnu have jokingly called the island their back-up island. As 70 Kihnu families were without land, Manija island was divided into 22 fishing farms in 1933. The first household on the island – the Manija Farm with the living quarters of the first meadow guard – still exists, dating back to 1864. Manija is also listed as part of UNESCO cultural heritage. The nearly 30 inhabitants of the island have created the Manõja Cultural Society, which in collaboration with the Kihnu Cultural Institute founded their own museum on the island. This was largely thanks to the renowned documentary filmmaker Mark Soosaar who has settled on the island and who, in addition to collecting traditional material, is in charge of organising various events including film nights. Newer traditions include children’s nature camps and the annual summer congregation of islanders called Manõja Päe – which is filled with great games and a dance festival. The island can be reached via the boat ‘Mann’ from Munalaiu harbour daily, until the sea freezes over; one to three times per week all year round by the ferry ‘Kihnu Virve’, named after the famous Kihnu songstress (who actually grew up on Manija island and only went to Kihnu when her children became school age). LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Muhu Because it is linked to Estonia’s largest island Saaremaa via a causeway, Muhu island is not officially considered to be an island at all. But you should not mix up Muhu islanders with people from Saaremaa – that would be considered offensive! And you should not just cross the island in order to reach Saaremaa, but stop and explore this exciting piece of land. With its 1887 inhabitants, the island is a separate county. It has its own primary school, several folk art ensembles and its total size with the surrounding islets is 207.9 sq km. There is a daily ferry connection to Muhu from the Virtsu harbour. Animal lovers can visit the Nautse village to see ostriches, kangaroos, zebras and other exotic birds and animals. The Muhu St Catherine’s Church in Liiva dates back to the times when Muhu was part of the Order of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. The church was built in the 13th century in the early Gothic style. As a result of the 19th century conversion movement, there are many Orthodox people on Muhu. The most famous person to come from Muhu is probably the writer Juhan Smuul, whose farm museum can be visited in Koguva village. The entire village with its old buildings and the village street is an impressive sight. Jazz lovers also know Villu Veski and his annual summer festival Juu Jääb which he himself calls the smallest festival in the world. This party of jazz virtuosos in the bright summer night and in the midst of beautiful nature is something so unique that words fail to describe it – you need to experience it for yourself.



Muhu traditional patterns are famous all over Estonia mostly due to their colourful colour palette and wonderful ornaments.

Ruhnu 1500 islands and islets have linked themselves to the Republic of Estonia, including our furthest island Ruhnu, which is in fact nearer to Latvia. And Latvians, who do not have a single island, have since ancient times been interested in this powerful piece of land filled with sand dunes and a fairy tale forest. When after the declaration of the Republic of Estonia in 1918, the Ruhnu inhabitants were given the choice of joining either Latvia or Estonia, they decided on the latter. Why? Because Estonian waters have more seals. This was the decision made by the former Ruhnu islanders – the Swedish seal hunters, fishermen and farmers who had lived on the island for 700 years – at a general gathering where each farm was given one vote. World War II changed the course of Ruhnu’s history. Almost all Swedes left in fear of the Soviet army in 1944, planning to return after the end of the war. Such hopes were dashed. The Soviets took over the island and it was only the summer visitors, mostly artists, who maintained the deserted buildings. The island had 300 inhabitants in the good old days. Today they total about 40. There are less than 10 pupils in the primary school and many young people study elsewhere. Ruhnu has several guesthouses offering traditional island delights. The island can be reached by the boat Runö, which leaves from the Roomassaare harbour on Saaremaa and from Munalaiu harbour in Pärnu. In winter the only connection to the rest of the world is with a small plane. The old and the new church stand next to each other on Ruhnu. The construction of the older, wooden church began in 1643; it is the oldest known wooden construction on Estonian territory. According to a legend, the Ruhnu church was too small and a bigger one was needed. Traditionally, it was the horse who led the way to the spot where a church should be built. This is what the locals did – they stood in front of the old church and let the horse free. The first spot that the horse came to a standstill was supposed to be the spot for the new church. Surprising everyone, the horse stopped only a few metres away from the old church. Hence the new church was built there in 1912.

Some years ago Ruhnu was called the bear island. A bear suddenly appeared on the island having travelled there on blocks of ice. For a while the animal kept islanders in fear. His big footprints were found on the beaches, some sheep lost their heads... Several hunters with hunting dogs arrived on the island but the bear outsmarted them each time. Then one day it became clear that the animal had left the island, the swimmer had left for better hunting grounds. But it is still a legendary symbol today.



Manor hotels in Estonia Estonia’s history of German and Swedish rule has left the country with a wealth of manor houses and an increasing number have been renovated and converted into luxury hotels. Here you can wine, dine, enjoy spa treatments and sleep like an aristocrat. Below are just some of the many converted manor hotels in Estonia.

Pädaste Manor Saare county, Pädaste village

This luxurious manor is located on the small island of Muhu, well known for its nature and traditional heritage. The facade of the mansion and the lawn is framed by two rows of imposing rubble stone buildings. Today the mansion is home to a SPA hotel and the Alexander restaurant, which is considered one of the best restaurants in the north-eastern region of Europe. The centuries-old Pädaste Manor on the island of Muhu is the only five-star hotel outside of Tallinn in Estonia. Pädaste offers 24 differently decorated rooms for its guests: starting with cosy rooms in the coach house and ending with stately rooms in the manor house. Although doing nothing in Pädaste is an agreeable and long-awaited leisure to many, there are choices for those interested in some activity, be it a cycling trip along the coast, a boat trip in the sunset or a picnic on the Island of Love.



Kau Manor Harju county, Triigi village

Kau Manor, which was originally constructed as long ago as 1241, was taken over by its new owners in 2006. Renovation work was inspired by the colourful history of the manor, and the imagination employed makes it stand out from other manors in Estonia. Just half an hour’s drive from Tallinn, the manor is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The manor today is home to a 19-room

boutique hotel, the awarded Kaheksa Jalga (Eight Feet) restaurant, a wine cellar, a cigar room, a library, and a private sauna with an indoor pool. Its ballroom and other smaller salons make ideal venues for special events. Kau Manor won the 2016 World Boutique Hotel Award in the category of the World’s Most Inspired Design Hotel. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Sagadi Manor Hotel Lääne-Viru county, Sagadi village

The beautiful Sagadi manor complex is often called the most manorial manor in Estonia. The manor has harmonious buildings with white arcades surrounding a large central square, a gorgeous 18th century manor house and a pond that symbolises the eternal love of a lord of the manor. Sagadi is located in Lahemaa National Park, only an hour’s drive from Tallinn. The location has access to nature paths, the seashore, picturesque villages and other manors. Altogether, up to 100 guests can be accommodated in the different manor houses. The manor can accommodate bigger parties and receptions, but can also give privacy to those seeking peace and silence in the countryside.



Padise Manor Harju county, Padise village

Just 50 kilometres from the capital in a beautiful spot snuggled between forests and fields lies Padise Manor, which dates back to the 18th century. The manor was owned by the famous von Ramm family. The now almost fully renovated Padise Manor is set amid a naturally beautiful location with an ancient hill fortress and historical convent, and offers a cosy hotel with 13 guest rooms and an a la carte restaurant renowned for its cuisine. The manor is also a popular venue for a number of celebrated chamber concerts.

Vihula Manor Country Club and Spa Lääne-Viru county, Vihula village

Located in the picturesque Lahemaa National Park in North Estonia, only an hour’s drive from Tallinn, the elegant 16th century manor offers perfect repose away from hectic urban life and is a very nice place to stop on a business trip, hold a family celebration or relax on your holiday. Vihula Manor Holiday Village welcomes visitors with its prestigious La Boheme restaurant and an on-site eco spa. The village is open to the guests of Vihula manor but also to anyone looking to enjoy a walk and a cup of coffee in a romantic village setting. Vihula Manor provides luxurious and romantic accommodation in various historical manor buildings, each having its own charm and individuality.



Suites of Alatskivi Castle Tartu county, Alatskivi This Neo-Gothic castle dating back to the 17th century lies in the midst of southern Estonian forests, nearby the large Lake Peipsi. Today, the manor is mainly known for its exhibition featuring the everyday life of landlords and servants. Accommodation for up to eight people is available on the second floor while the most luxurious suite, the Tower Room, is located in the corner tower. Two of the rooms, the Chambermaid Room and Governess Room, can be combined into one family room.

Mäetaguse Manor Hotel & Spa Ida-Viru county, Mäetaguse A former stable and coach house of the 18th-century, Mäetaguse manor has been turned into a three-star manor hotel with Scandinavian style interior. Visitors of the hotel can also enjoy the adjacent pool house with saunas and spa treatments. For daytime activities, guests are welcome to use the shooting range, lit ski and hiking tracks, rent Nordic pole walking sticks, bicycles and ATVs. The hotel’s Pool House has a spa and saunas (Finnish, steam, infra-red and private saunas).



Vihterpalu Manor Hotel Harju county, Vihterpalu village Vihterpalu Manor is one of the most stunning Late Classicist manors in Estonia, as well as a state protected architectural monument. The history of the manor reaches back to the 1400s. The manor complex is dotted around a leafy park boasting old fir trees along the tall banks of Vihterpalu River. Fully renovated, the manor house has been transformed into a luxurious conference centre and hotel. The cuisine of Vihterpalu Manor is known for its marvellous taste experiences and high quality service.

Saka Manor Hotel Ida-Viru county, Saka village Saka Manor is a small and romantic manor complex in the midst of gorgeous nature, located on the edge of the unique Ontika limestone cliff. In addition to the hotel building and the manor, visitors can enjoy a mini-SPA, a pool area, and an a la carte restaurant. Meretorn (Sea Tower) is located on the edge of the bank and has six seminar and conference rooms; you can organise meetings or relax in a sauna. In addition to the hotel, you can stay in an apartment-style room in a separate terrace-house, park your caravan, or spend the night in a tent. A marked hiking track, a tennis court, a campfire site, and a village swing will help you to spend your free time in nature. LI F E I N ESTON IA N o 4 6


Celebrate with us all around the world The international programme, celebrating both the first Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU and Estonia’s centenary, allows the presentation of the best examples of our culture, science, entrepreneurship, and digital innovation, in cooperation with our international partners and will reach more than 30 countries around the world. Here is an overview of the events taking place in the second half of 2017. More information at and 8 – 16 September 2017 Paris

Estonian jewellery design exhibition ‘Offset’ at the Paris Design Week 2017 As jewellery art has recently emerged as one of the most distinctive areas of the Estonian design landscape, it is a perfect time to introduce Estonian jewellery designers in Paris. Participating designers: Sille Luiga, Merlin Meremaa, Maarja Niinemägi, Darja Popolitova, Kairi Sirendi, and Tanel Veenre.

12 – 25 September 2017 Gallery @ oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, London

‘Size Doesn’t Matter’ design exhibition ‘Size Doesn’t Matter’ will coincide with The London Design Festival, and shows how much progress has been made by Estonian designers, even though Estonia is a small country. The aim of the exhibition is to showcase a wave of design talent that has created high-quality small-production-run products, and new innovative industrial products.

13 – 14 September 2017 Milan and Turin

Tõnu Kõrvits’s music at the MITO Settembre Musica festival The MITO SettembreMusica festival is hosted each year in autumn in two major cities of Italy, Milan and Turin, featuring 160 concerts of classical music with international soloist and ensembles from all over the world. This year the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is invited together with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra to perform Tõnu Kõrvits’s composition Moorland Elegies.



14 September – 12 November 2017 BOZAR, Brussels

6 – 8 October 2017 Berlin Kontzerhaus

Archeology of a screen – Estonian case-study

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by NO 99

This exhibition puts artists together with technology, in a perfect example of what can be done with the latest advances, and some classic human creativity. There are exhibition consists of two parts: a historical part that looks at artists working in Estonia and Moscow in the 1960s and ‘70s, containing an interactive installation by Jüri Sobolev, and a contemporary part which puts the focus on artists working on similar interests, but using the technological advances of recent years. The exhibition is curated by Kumu Art Museum.

“Ein Sommernachtstraum” is the luxurious chef-d’oeuvre of Felix Mendelssohn-Baltholdy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a play by Shakespeare about the vertiginous inconsistency of love and desire. But fueled by the pursuit of the sublime, Ene-Liis Semper’s and Tiit Ojasoo’s production goes bravely beyond the plot. The possibilities of contemporary technology enable man to express the inner world of emotions with hitherto impossible grandiosity.

3 October 2017 – 25 February 2018 Helsinki

The Bridge: Greetings from two republics Using photos and video materials, and suggesting intriguing new angles, the Estonian-Finnish joint exhibition The Bridge tells a story of both republics since they gained independence a century ago.

6 – 8 October 2017 Turku

Estonian representation at the Turku Book Fair The Turku Book Fair will feature a whole host of Estonian authors as part of an international programme. Presentations and discussions will take place on the book fair’s main stages in the Turku Fair Centre, and in a special Estonian area. On the evening of the opening day, the Kadri Voorand Quartet will perform in Café Tiljan.

4 October 2017 Ghent

7 Tears concert 7 Tears presents a concert series by Belgian musicians, bringing together the music of John Dowland and Tõnu Kõrvits, and the visuals of Mark Raidpere.

6 – 22 October 2017 Luxembourg

Estonia in focus at the CinEast International Film Festival The festival is dedicated to film production in the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.



Konrad MägiKonrad Mägi

9 October 2017 – 8 January 2018 Rome

17 – 26 November 2017 Tampere and Helsinki

Konrad Mägi exhibition

Estonian National Opera tour of Finland

The first foreign overview exhibition of the oeuvre of the outstanding Estonian landscape painter Konrad Mägi (1878-1925). The exhibition looks at Konrad Mägi’s deeply-personal relationship with nature, and its depiction in his work as a hallowed, all-encompassing mystery. Mägi’s powerful visionary landscapes can be seen in more than 60 paintings and drawings from different collections.

19 October 2017 – 5 April 2018 Musical Instruments Museum Brussels

ALIVE! A story of Estonian traditional music instruments

The Estonian National Opera tours Finland to celebrate the Estonian Presidency. Most of the concerts take place in Helsinki and Tampere. The collective has long had a great reputation in Estonia, and now brings classics like Delibes’ Coppelia and Verdi’s La Traviata to a wide audience, along with new projects like the Concert for Babies, a special event that plans to introduce the youngest of audience-members to a child-friendly version of classical music in an experience which parents and youngsters alike are sure to love.

23 November 2017 – 10 January 2018 BOZAR, Brussels

BEL:EST – a laboratory for the city of Europe

Folk music is at the heart of Estonian culture, both in tradition and in modern times. NALIVE! seeks to demonstrate the modern appeal of the folk genre, while still revealing its roots.

Young Estonian and Belgian architects work together to propose an improved version of Brussels – the city of Europe.

Estonian fiddler and singer Maarja Nuut will be performing at the opening of the exhibition. Often called a magical and fairy-like artist, she elegantly mixes the deep roots of Estonian folklore with contemporary electronics.

7 December 2017 – 22 January 2018 Cité de la Mode et du Design design centre Paris

Estonian design exhibition The programme includes various events, such as an Estonian design pop-up shop and the exhibition ‘Size Doesn’t Matter’, an architectural installation by Salto Architects, an Estonian-themed photo exhibition by French photographer Raphaël Gianelli-Merian and Jaan Kaplinski’s poetry evening, a presentation by designer Reet Aus who is encouraging upcycling, as well as music events and Estonian animations for both adults and children.



December 2017 Helsinki

June 2017 – June 2018 Various EU capital cities

Virtual reality conference

(R)estart reality: Digital street art

The events of the Estonian Presidency’s international programme are not just about culture. There are also events on the calendar that showcase the progress Estonia is making in the digital world, while reaching out to other EU states’ top talents. One such event is the virtual reality conference taking place in Helsinki, which looks at the many things that unite Estonian virtual reality developers with those in other countries, and looks to bridge the gap where it comes to differences in approach. Estonia is gaining a good reputation for the creation of virtual reality software, and this conference brings people together for networking, while also providing informative talks and workshops for delegates, to push the virtual reality industry forward.

100 years of Estonian history means a lot of interesting characters that can be brought to life. (R)estart Reality, a series of installations by Edward von Lõngus, promises to do that. Street art, together with digital technology, will combine to bring people from the past into the present day, through moving images that the public can interact with using smartphones and tablets. It’s a show that incorporates augmented reality into a fun history lesson, and brings the ‘wow’ factor to cities all over the EU, while showing members of the public the kinds of people they can meet in Estonia. If you’re in Paris, London and a variety of other cities, you might see nature-loving Lembit, or digital nomads Tiit and Miina, or a whole host of other interesting figures pop up in front of your very eyes.

Throughout 2017 and 2018 Various EU member states

‘Trad.Attack! All around Europe tour

September 2017 – July 2018 Various EU locations

Estonian band Trad.Attack! are something different: taking as their starting point old recordings from archives around Estonia, the trio craft elegant pop-folk music and grooves you can dance to. Trad.Attack!’s first album Ah! saw the group travel as far as China on tour, building a sizeable fanbase thanks to their accessible tunes and a friendly manner at concerts. Taking long-vanished village voices, the band build a full, often surprising, sound of their own.

Jazzpresent to Europe Jazzpresent to Europe, a collaboration between the Estonian Jazz Union and Jazzkaar festival, takes the best of Estonian jazz to Belgium, the UK, France, Germany and Finland showing to a new audience the incredible talents in this small country. If you like your music vital, vibrant and fresh, open up this Jazzpresent to Europe for yourself.

The All Around Europe tour will take Trad. Attack! to various EU member states between 1 July 2017 and 31 December 2018, promoting their new album Shimmer Gold, which takes their signature sound in a bold new direction.



If you were to play connectthe-dots with a map, Estonia would be the link between Scandinavia, Central and Eastern Europe. After learning of its hidden charms, you might find it impossible not to pay a visit. Luckily you can land right in the heart of Tallinn by plane, ship, coach or train.



Photo by Roman Neiman

Thirteen fun facts you might not know about Estonia 1.


Land of capitals

Fairy tale forests

While Tallinn is the official capital of Estonia, several other towns are ‘capitals’ in their own right: Tartu, the second biggest town, is the long-standing capital of culture, Pärnu of summer, Otepää of winter, Kuressaare of weddings, Jõgeva of frost, Kärdla of sun, and Türi of flowers and spring.

Estonians have a tree-hugging streak, and rightly so – roughly 50% of the country is covered by forest, inhabited by all kinds of fauna including lynxes, wolves, brown bears, foxes, rabbits and deer. Over 380 species of birds can also been seen throughout the year.




Most meteorites

Estonia is a digital society; the first country to implement online voting in 2005, and virtually all tax returns are filed electronically. Citizens can sign legal documents remotely with their ID cards and anyone in the world can apply to be an e-resident. And yes, it’s true – there is 4G coverage even in the middle of the woods.

Estonia has the highest amount of meteorite craters per land area in the world, the most spectacular of which is the Kaali crater field on the island of Saaremaa. The largest crater, measuring 110 m across and 22 m deep, was an ancient sacrificial site. According to Lennart Meri, an Estonian writer, film director and statesman who served as the second President of Estonia from 1992 to 2001, due to this crater Saaremaa was the mythical and mystical end of the world or the island Ultima Thule – ‘a place where the Sun went asleep‘.

Photo by Stina Kase



Singing nation

Visitors welcome

With the largest collection of folk songs in the world, 133 000 recorded tunes, Estonia has aptly been called the ‘singing nation‘. The lyrical tradition culminates every five years in the Estonian Song and Dance Festival, a gathering of up to 200 000 performers and spectators.

With 1.3 million residents and more than 2 million foreign visitors each year, Estonia is one country where annual tourists exceed the local population. However, this still leaves plenty of peace and quiet, especially deep in nature.




Extreme swinging

Wife carrying champions

Meals for cosmonauts

As a child, you’ve surely dreamt of swinging so high that you go sailing over the top of the swing set. Estonians have turned this fantasy into a sport called ‘kiiking’ (kiik is Estonian for swing). It involves strapping yourself upright onto an enormous swing and vigorously pumping your whole body with the goal of rotating 360 degrees. Your inner child will love it.

Estonians have a knack for peculiar sports, including wife carrying. Though wife carrying originates from Finland, Estonian couples won the World Championships for 11 consecutive years, from 1998 to 2008. To what do they attribute their success? Perhaps to the popular ‘Estonian Carry’ technique, in which the woman clings to the man’s back, upside down. It’s a favourite among competitors worldwide!

Estonia contributed its part to the international Space Race by producing the first food intended for space travel at a factory in Põltsamaa in 1962, a year after Yuri Gagarin became the first man in orbit and seven years before Apollo 11 would land on the moon. Põltsamaa’s production of cosmonaut meals has ended, but Estonia’s involvement with space has not – in 2013, the country’s first satellite, the ESTCube was sent into orbit.





Ecological leader

Highways on ice

The concept for World Cleanup Day was born in 2008 in none other than Estonia, when 50 000 volunteers did their part to keep local scenery pristine by collecting litter. Around 16 million people in 113 countries have now participated. The biggest ‘positive civic action‘ in the world is scheduled for September 8th, 2018 when World Cleanup Day plans to involve 150 countries in a full day of cleaning around the globe. Other Estonian innovators like HoseWear, Derelict Furniture and fashion designer Reet Aus upcycle materials like old firehoses and wood scraps into stylish, environmentally-conscious creations.

During the winter, cars can travel across 25 km of frozen sea to the island of Hiiumaa on the longest ice road in Europe. A total of seven official ice roads give motorists the unique opportunity to drive to coastal islands otherwise only accessible by boat.

11. Europe’s most famous oak Of all the trees in Estonia, a towering oak in the village of Orissaare, Saaremaa is undoubtedly the most famous. It was voted European Tree of the Year in 2015 and stands right in the middle of a football field. Legend has it that during Soviet times, two tractors tried to remove it but were no match for the mighty oak.



13. European sauna marathon Europe’s largest sauna marathon takes place in Otepää. Teams from around the world race between about 20 different saunas to be crowned the winners. When they’re not busy plunging into a freezing ice hole, competitors can enjoy the wintry sights of South Estonia.

too much stress? Let Estonia’s pure nature relieve it. See more at

join the first digital borderless nation.

Since 2014, tens of thousands of people from over 130 countries have become Estonian e-residents – members of the new digital nation. Apply online at

Life in Estonia. Fall 2017  
Life in Estonia. Fall 2017