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149856.  Wed Feb 21, 2007 9:10 am Reply with quote

A very interesting country, now often referred to as "The Baltic Tiger" due to Europe's highest rate of economic growth in recent years.

Estonian, a tongue-breaking Finno-Ugric language, has 14 case endings; two different infinitives, yet just one word for "he" and "she"; no future tense, and, to cap it all, something called "the partitive plural". This is not to mention ubiquitous double vowels and consonants, as if the alphabet itself suffers from chronic stutter.

Possible QI question: which European country has no future?

149863.  Wed Feb 21, 2007 9:22 am Reply with quote

Lovely piece from JumpingJack (this is John, Vitali):

Estonians will never be great in number, but we can be great through our spirit.
JAKOB HURT (1839-1907) Estonian folklorist.

The Estonian unit of currency is the kroon, or EEK for short – as in 100 EEK, 500 EEK notes.

The capital of Estonia is Tallinn. It means “Danish Castle” in Estonian.

Famous living Estonians include Erki Nool, the Olympic World Champion Decathlonist; Lembit Opik, Liberal democrat MP for Montgomeryshire; Enn Reitel, perhaps the most successful voice-over man in British advertising; the serious composer Arvo Part, and the rock band Jaaaar.

Jaaaar really does have four ‘a’s in a row. As with Part, these should all have umlauts over them. Jaaaar means ‘Ice Edge’ in Estonian.

Famous deceased Estonians include the man who discovered that people come from eggs. Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876),the father of modern embryology, was born on the family estate at Piep, Estonia. He was the first to discover the mammalian ovum, and thus show that all mammals, including humans, develop from eggs. His work provided the basic argument for Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, though Baer himself was against the idea that all animal life had a common ancestor. Today, his picture graces the 2EEK note.

Since 2000, Estonia has won more Olympic medals per head of population than any other country in the world. Erki Nool, the Decathlon Gold medallist in Sydney, 2000, for example, as well as the Estonian ski team that took a gold, silver and bronze in Salt Lake City, 2001, beating the Swedes.

Almost half of Estonia is covered by forests. These contain wolves,wild boars, elk, bears, mink, coypu, raccoons, beavers, flying squirrels and lynxes.

There are more than 1,450 lakes and 1,500 islands in Estonia.

The largest lake in Estonia, Lake Peipsi, is the fifth largest lake in Europe.
It is 1,370 sqm (3,550 sqkm) in extent. On April 5th, 1242, The Battle of the Ice took place on the frozen waters of Lake Peipsi at which Alexander Nevsky defeated the German Teutonic Knights.

The fourth largest island in Estonia is Vormsi. The main village is called Hullo.

Until the 1920’s, the inhabitants of Vormsi peeled potatoes with their fingernails. They were too poor to buy tools. The only means of transport was bulls, but these were all eaten during World War I. They slept four families to a barn, and tried to make a living by exporting wood to the mainland, but most of it was stolen en route. The locals drowned their sorrows in the extensive choice of bars –thirteen of them between 2,000 inhabitants. By 1943, after 700 years of penury, and further hacked off by the behaviour of the Red Army followed by the Nazis, the Vormians had had enough and everyone left but for 20 people. By 2001, only two of them remained alive.

Modern Estonia has the highest standard of living of any of the former Soviet republics.

Estonia has been independent for barely more than 30 years of the last 800. Between the wars from 1920-1938, and since the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

Historically, Estonia has been shamefully treated by the Danes, Swedes, Germans, Russians, and acts of God. Since 1200 AD, most Estonians have been someone else’s slave.

In 1343, a tenth of the population of Estonia was killed by the Germans, reducing the number of inhabitants to 130,000 - approximtely a tenth of the size of the population today.

By 1582, more than 240 years later, further depredations by Danes, Swedes, Germans and Russians had reduced the population to only 100,000.

In 1695-7, famine swept the country, killing 20% of the population.

In the 18th century, one traveller reported “Estonian men go cheaper than niggers in the American colonies, a manservant can be bought for 30 roubles, a maidservant for ten roubles, and a child for four roubles”.

In the 1700’s the Russians rolled into Estonia, burning everything in their path, and sparing only Tallinn, which Peter the Great happened to like. The General in charge of the invasion was proudly able to report to his Tsar: “There is nothing left to destroy; not a cock crows from Lake Peipsi to the Gulf of Riga”.

In 1710, the plague struck Tallinn, killing 70% of the inhabitants.

In World War II, Estonia lost a further 20% of its population thanks to the Germans. Much of it was deported to Siberia.

The birth rate in modern Estonia is so low that primary schools are having to close.

In 2001, Estonia won the Eurovision Song Contest. The joint-winner, Dave Benton(50) is not Estonian. He is Dutch. And black. After his win, he said: "I would have sung ‘La Cucaracha’ if they wanted me to". Dave comes from Aruba in the Dutch Antilles, but he qualified because he is married to an Estonian. His singing partner was a young 100% Estonian, Tanel Padar (20). They have since split, citing irreconcilable artistic differences.

The 2002 Eurovision Song Contest took place in Tallinn. It was hosted by two Estonians, one of whom is the mezzo-soprano Anneli Peebo; the venue was Saku Suurhall, the largest concert hall in the Baltic States; the interval music was composed by Tiit Kakes, a member of a fiddle band called Dago. Hoever, Estonia's actual competition entry was sung by Sahlene, a Swede. She came third.

s: BES
s: IoS 5.5.02/JHW
s: EBR
s: UPB
s: John Preston TST 26.5.02
s: IoS 5.5.02
s: EIA

Last edited by JumpingJack on Tue Oct 17, 2006 9:08 pm; edited 1 time in total

149897.  Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:18 am Reply with quote

While 'tis very true that Estonian has no future tense in the normal sense, it's not unique in this.

We can sidestep the semantic issue of what a future tense is, since to some ways of thinking English doesn't have a future tense ("I will go" is actually a use of the present tense with an auxiliary). German is similar, as are a number of other European languages.

But as noted, in Estonian you can't even do this - the present tense is what there is. The differentiation in time is often made clear by context, and can be made clearer by the use of a different case form for the object of the sentence (genitive rather than accusative or partitive I think, but the book which would confirm that isn't to hand just now).

Anyways, Finnish is just the same - unsurprising, since it's closely related to Estonian. Colloquial spoken Finnish gets around the issue by using tulla (to come) as an auxiliary verb, but the written language also lacks a future tense.

149903.  Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:28 am Reply with quote

Welsh doesn't have a future tense either, though we've got round this by using auxiliary verbs.

The hymn "Canaf yn y bore" can equally mean "I sing in the morning" or "I shall sing in the morning", and there is no way to distinguish which is meant.

In the spoken language, we would say "Rydw i'n canu yn y bore" for the present tense and "Mi wna i ganu yn y bore" or "Mi fyddai'n canu yn y bore" for the future.

Not, of course, that this has anything to do with Estonia, whose capital, by the way, I was utterly captivated with during a cruise to Baltic cities last summer (30th wedding anniversary prezzie from Mr and Mrs Gaazy to each other).

150200.  Thu Feb 22, 2007 6:43 am Reply with quote

The harshest swear word in Estonian language is "koorratt" - "devil".
When drunk or angry, Estonians routinely insert Russian four-letter words in their speech.

153548.  Sun Mar 04, 2007 4:15 pm Reply with quote

"Estonia has become the first country [in the world] to allow voters in general elections to cast their ballots online." /Guardian, 03.03.07/

Will also copy this to "Elections".

155288.  Fri Mar 09, 2007 8:23 am Reply with quote

Just posted in GI E-Questions: Estonia is the birthplace of Skype.

Also, latest figures on the world's first Internet general elections see above): over 30,000 voters in Estonia cast their votes on the web!


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