January 5, 2009

English summary

In the opening article of this issue of Diplomaatia, Peep Pillak, a historian, describes the early years of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which celebrated its 90th anniversary this November. The first public session of the Estonian Provisional Government took place in the morning of November 11, 1918, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs actually began its operations on November 14, which is traditionally considered to be the birth date of the ministry. It was on November 14 when a letter was sent to

In the opening article of this issue of Diplomaatia, Peep Pillak, a historian, describes the early years of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which celebrated its 90th anniversary this November. The first public session of the Estonian Provisional Government took place in the morning of November 11, 1918, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs actually began its operations on November 14, which is traditionally considered to be the birth date of the ministry. It was on November 14 when a letter was sent to

English summary

In the opening article of this issue of Diplomaatia, Peep Pillak, a historian, describes the early years of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which celebrated its 90th anniversary this November. The first public session of the Estonian Provisional Government took place in the morning of November 11, 1918, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs actually began its operations on November 14, which is traditionally considered to be the birth date of the ministry. It was on November 14 when a letter was sent to
the British and French consuls in Helsinki, asking for help and weapons in order to prevent the German forces that were occupying Estonia from transporting food and property out of the country. In 1918, all the Estonian ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, started out in a similar setting: in a house that is still standing in the Town Hall Square in Tallinn, there was one desk for every ministry and one person sitting behind every desk – this person was the highest-ranking and the only official of the respective ministry.
Matti Maasikas, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explores the role of diplomats as such, focusing on the example of the life and fate of Aleksander Warma. Warma was one of the most outstanding diplomats of Estonia before the Second World War. He was appointed Estonian Ambassador to Finland and sent there shortly before the beginning of the Winter War. Sadly, Warma could never return to his homeland. Maasikas asks whether and to what extent a diplomat should follow official guidelines or his own personal convictions in his work, whether official and personal approaches actually contradict each other and whether a diplomat, who is an official and a citizen of his country at the same time, could suffer from a conflict of loyalties.
Eeva Eek-Pajuste, a historian and a veteran diplomat, describes the gathering of memories about the re-establishment of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the beginning of the 1990s. People have been working for seven years – since the autumn of 2001 -to gather memories and this year the collected memories from more than 80 authors were finally published in two volumes and on almost 900 pages under the title of “Teine tulemine” (“The Second Coming”). “In these two volumes, every author has his own story to tell. Yet every story tells us about its author, revealing something about the storyteller,” says Eek-Pajuste. “We learn a lot of information about the early years of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and about the re-establishment of Estonia’s representations abroad. However, we probably learn the most about the storytellers.”
Ringo Ringvee, a theologian, examines the changing role of religion in Europe and in Russia. Ringvee claims that Europe is characterised by secularisation. “When speaking about religion, it is hard not to agree with Grace Davie, who has said that Europe is an exception compared to the rest of the world, where religion has had and still has a major role to play on both social and individual levels,” maintains Ringvee. He claims that we, the Europeans, tend to take our own views for granted. This also applies to the separation of religion and politics at least in Europe, if not in the whole world. In today’s Europe, however, there are minorities, the identity of which is closely connected with religious traditions, which also have a political dimension. So, in this respect, Europe is in a new situation.
Konstantin Eggert, Editor-in-Chief of the Moscow Bureau of the BBC Russian Service, explores the legacy of the recently departed Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexius II. “The Patriarch was not a politician, but he was a very influential person in Russia. The main reason for this was probably the fact that since 1990, he led the only institution in Russian society that represented historical continuity and that built a bridge across various tragic periods in the history of Russia,” claims Eggert. Led by Alexius II, the Church managed to restore congregational and monastic traditions, religious education and charity activities.
Igor Taro, a journalist, analyses the Russian media before, during and after the August war between Russia and Georgia. Taro concludes that the mainstream media channels were used for information warfare by Russia. He identifies three typical features of anti-Georgian information warfare in the Russian media, which are not characteristic of independent media coverage of conflicts: first, news reporting by eyewitnesses on the ground; second, biased and one-sided reportage of events; and third, information supplied from anonymous sources, giving us every reason to believe that security services may have been pushing through news reports for political reasons.
In the book review section, Erkki Bahovski, a columnist, introduces the latest novel “Puhdistus” (“The Purge”) by Sofi Oksanen, who recently won the prestigious Finlandia Prize.

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