I was consumed with concern after having read two books published in 2016, one of which was only recently translated into Estonian: firstly, Sir Richard Shirreff’s War with Russia, and immediately after that Leo Kunnas’s diptychon Sõda 2023 Taavet and Sõda 2023 Koljat.
I am writing this review of the Estonian edition of this book in Tbilisi and just yesterday I read a BBC article about the export of Islamic extremism to Sweden. Why do I mention this? The article said that one of the reasons behind the formation of ghetto-like migrant districts and the spread of radical Islam is chronic underfinancing and undermanning of the police. This is also one of the recurring arguments in Tania Kambouri’s book. Many reforms for increasing the efficiency of police work she suggests were implemented in Georgia during President Mikheil Saakashvili’s tenure—for example, carrying body cameras and creating a modern working environment. There is certainly much in this book that would ring a bell with the police officers of the Republic of Estonia.
Despite the very good relationship between Estonia and Finland, cracks occasionally appear in their communication. Naturally, I do not mean the fields of culture, trade or everyday contacts, but politics.
Publishing Nikolai Reek’s (1890–1942) works on military science in the series on the history of Estonian thought is a worthwhile project since it is the first time that a professional member of the armed forces writing about military subjects has been placed on the same level as other Estonian thinkers. This book will therefore hopefully help more people to understand that being a serviceman is about more than just shooting and digging ditches—which are still necessary—and that the position is also a serious science, depending on one’s rank and specific duties.
“I could never have imagined that it is possible to have someone killed for 100 dollars in Baghdad ten years after Saddam Hussein was overthrown,” admitted an Iraqi to a correspondent of The Independent. Chaos and the constant inability to do something about it is the focus of The Rise of Islamic State.
The sovereign debt crisis has already been discussed in Europe for quite some time, at least since 2009. Radically restricting government spending—austerity—is seen as the only solution for regaining the trust of the markets. Such a method (or “cure”) is a windfall for the ideological circles in Europe and North America that have been talking since the 1970s about the inevitability of restricting state expenditure and cutting back on “welfare state” policies (which has been difficult to do in democratic conditions).
In his new book Black Earth, Timothy Snyder, the Yale history professor familiar to the Estonian reader thanks to his books Bloodlands and The Red Prince, turns his attention to the Holocaust—a subject that is still hot in Estonia and elsewhere, and which some have been trying to erase from history.
According to the romanticised approach popular in Estonia, Finland fought their Eastern neighbour in 1939 and did not allow their state to be subjugated. This then decided the country’s destiny. Finlandisation followed later but this was a trifling matter compared to what happened in Estonia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Even so, some Finnish historians consider finlandisation to have been a surrender.1 We in Estonia never tire of analysing our surrender either, but while we focus on the actions of the state that surrendered, it may slip our minds that there was also a subjugator that started it all. As the subjugator disappeared from the scene of history, both subjugated states were freed; one of them may be compared to an inmate in a maximum security prison, the other to one in an open prison. The difference between the two was great, but neither of them was free. A quarter of a century later, the subjugator is back—the Finnish president deemed it necessary to mention in his new year speech that Finland is part of the West, while we in Estonia sometimes find it difficult to understand our Northern neighbour. This context ensures that this book by the Finnish historian Seikko Eskola is unexpectedly topical today, since the methods used to make Finland surrender 75 years ago have also made a comeback.
When describing Russia, people tend to quote the Russians themselves—“You will not grasp her with your mind, or cover with a common label”. This might indeed be the case for those who do not know Russia, Russian history or culture too well. It is especially true for Western researchers and observers, who Lauri Mälksoo says understand Russian society a lot less than Russians understand Western society. Lauri Mälksoo is a scholar of Russian language, society, legal history and people, and as such he has undertaken an in-depth historical analysis which concludes in a quite convincing generalisation explaining why Russia is the way it is and acts the way it does.