I have been visiting Estonia for many years. Since the late 90’s.
I have a house there and (now) a Russian-speaking wife.
I think I have a unique perspective that locals don’t have.
A bloke recently asked me:
What did you like/prefer then? (in pre-EU Estonia) Apart from being one of few foreigners in the country at the time.
Here is my reply:
There were always more foreigners around than you might think, but still relatively few.
I first went in 98 in pre-EU days, and went quite often with bits of business and later with dating. It had this kinda wild west feel about it as Russia still does today.
Nobody was suing anyone when they fell over a crack in the pavement. People took responsibility for their own actions and didn’t expect a nanny state to wet nurse them. I found it quite refreshing. How the UK was in the 70s in some respects.
It was self regulating (as we were in the 70s) but also amusingly lawless. You could buy anything. Expats might just about remember the black market by the railway station. You could buy Kalashnikovs there (if you wanted to). I used to trade British cigarettes for old Russian medals and military stuff to sell on (usually to the US).
Hardly any language between us, but we got by. I still know blokes today I met back then on that market.
Yes, some people were poor, especially those who lived out Lasnamae way. But guess what? Life for those people hasn’t really changed under the EU. Lasnamae, Narva and all the “Russian” bits all look the same as the government do not invest there. Money is only poured into Tallinn and everywhere else has to make its own way.
It used to be a fabulous place with cheap stuff, beautiful women, much freedom, relatively unregulated banking and business, and no noticeable anti-Russian sentiment – and it worked just great as it was. A free, proud and independent state. A great place to be and spend time in.
2004 they joined the EU. 2006 they got a US bred president. 2011 they joined the Euro. Then they had EU regulation, US interference and the place changed. Then they were mostly pretending to be a Swedish suburb.
Everyone borrowed EU money, the place boomed then crashed. Yes the internet got fast and the roads smooth, but there were downsides. Prices went up a lot, McDonald’s were everywhere, women gained weight (thankfully, many are still slim and beautiful) , hemlines and heel height dropped (economists know about this marker) nationalism and anti-Russian feelings increased, and today it is an American client state within the EU.
Now, everyone lives on credit and it is little different to anywhere else in the eastern European EU. It has become homogenised. I haven’t been for a while, I am surprised if most of the expats haven’t moved on by now. It isn’t what it was.
Is it better now? In some respects, and for some people, yes. But for many others they feel the government has abandoned them. And it has, if they are in a “Russian” bit of Estonia. Like Narva especially.
Now, the place is full of US military “countering Russian aggression” (that doesn’t exist). Toomas Hendrik Ilves (prez) is a US bitch, while he is there it wont change. Might as well have Victoria Nuland as president.
But everyone drives an Audi now on credit, so life is good, yes?
30% of people there are Russian, but Russia is “bad”. A crisis waiting to happen, no? It will end up another country America has fucked up.
Cuba is next to enjoy some capitalism. Soon people there will also have McDonald’s and credit they don’t understand for cars they cant pay for ……..
But they will have a newish Audi and a Visa card, but own nothing, so life is good. Just like Estonia.
I still have a place there, we used to use it as a dacha. But now I rent it out and manage it from afar. The raison d’être to visit has gone. I can enjoy the odd few days there now, but no more……