March 9, 2010

Summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is dedicated to the memory of two Estonian intellectuals, translators and authors – Enn Soosaar and Linnart Mäll – who passed away in February.

This issue of Diplomaatia is dedicated to the memory of two Estonian intellectuals, translators and authors – Enn Soosaar and Linnart Mäll – who passed away in February.

Summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is dedicated to the memory of two Estonian intellectuals, translators and authors – Enn Soosaar and Linnart Mäll – who passed away in February.
The opening article, by the historian Marek Tamm, analyses the role of translation in Estonian culture. “This article is based on a simple thesis: Estonian culture is born of translation and through translation and it will last for as long as translation lasts. Our language became a written language in the course of translating the Bible; our literature grew from the soil provided by adaptations and translations; our language reform was carried out using translated literature.”
Tamm looks at the history of translation into Estonian in the 20th century, describing the boom years at the dawn of century, the frost under Soviet occupation, the revival in the 1960s, stagnation in the 1970s and the start of a new chapter after independence was restored.
According to Tamm, Estonian culture cannot do without translations and translators. “In the course of 100 years we have developed a specific type of translator-intellectual that is found in only a few other cultures,” he states.
Member of the Estonian Parliament, Andres Herkel, recalls the heritage of Linnart Mäll – Estonia’s leading orientalist and translator of basic texts from Sanskrit, Old Chinese, and Tibetan. He stresses the importance of Mäll’s translations, which not only communicate the essence of the original texts, but have also enriched the Estonian vocabulary with many words that are now used far beyond the specific field of oriental studies.
He describes Linnart Mäll’s dissident past, his complicated character and his role as the founder of the Organisation of Unrepresented Nations, the idea for which came from the Tibetan government in exile, but was brought to life by the national movements in the Baltic states. Herkel also describes how Linnart Mäll’s views on China, Taiwan and Tibet made him a critic of Estonia’s official foreign policy: Mäll found it hard to accept that the Estonian government did not formally receive the Dalai Lama during his two visits to Estonia. The Dalai Lama is likely to pay another visit to Estonia next year. According to Herkel, the question that Estonia faces remains the same: “if Estonia stresses value-based foreign policy in questions that concern Russia, then we have to stress it also in questions that concern China. And the president and prime minister cannot now declare the fragile international status of Estonia to be a justification for turning down the Dalai Lama.”
Another Member of Parliament, Mart Nutt, describes Linnart Mäll’s personality and admits that, as one of the most straightforward people in Estonia, he was not easy to deal with. But he was honest: “Linnart refused to get used to the Soviet system, for which he paid with his sluggish academic career. But not with his soul.”
Journalist Raul Rebane writes about Enn Soosaar – a translator, columnist and leading intellectual. According to Rebane, Soosaar was first and foremost a politician and statesman: “I am absolutely convinced that during the last few decades, politics, life in Estonia and Estonia’s fate were Enn’s major interests and passions,” he writes. Confined to a wheelchair, Soosaar became an informal advisor to many of Estonia’s leading politicians. “The most important lesson that Enn Soosaar brought to the people who visited him was the realisation that whatever you do, whatever job you hold, if when you make a decision your first concern is not the future of Estonia, you will make a mistake sooner or later.”
Jounalist Priit Simson and journalist turned civil servant Erkki Bahovski discuss the level and characteristics of the foreign policy debate in Estonia. Bahovski comes to the conclusion that, up to a point, the mediocre quality of public discussion is due to Estonia’s small size and cannot be helped. Simson is less forgiving, demanding that instead of merely analysing situations, Estonian experts should think more strategically and be more prescriptive.
On another topic, Egemen Bagis, the Turkish minister for EU affairs and chief negotiator with the EU, explains in an interview with Diplomaatia the current status of the process of Turkish accession to the EU and the main obstacles Turkey faces on that road.

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