mardi 27 décembre 2011

Mart Laar and his Freedom Fighters

I read the news about Mart Laar's new initiative. He proposes that our Parliament recognized men who fought in the German Army (mostly mobilized into the 20th Waffen-SS division) against the Red Army as "freedom fighters". Well, without delving into the intricacies of the history of a small borderline country, I just wonder why our former Prime Minister and actual Defence Minister did such a thing and why he did it now. Somewhat cynically I find two possible explanations: either he rushed to save his Pro Patria party damaged by serious scandals, or... to save Vladimir Putin and his party harassed by growing popular discontent and mass demonstrations. In such a situation it would be useful to cry wolf, although Estonia is more a mouse than a wolf. We have a saying: "When hungry, the Devil can eat even flies".

samedi 24 décembre 2011

From Story to Science

In the beginning was not just the Word, but the Story. Many stories. A story is something where events, facts are not necessarily connected. After A not only B, but also C, D, E, etc. can happen. Bill can marry Alice, but also Jill, Eve or Melanie. At first our understanding of the natural world was not different, our knowledge of Nature was expressed as a story, Nature story or Natural History. It was an account of an enormous multitude of events loosely interconnected. Step by step, science began to diminish the number of such events, introducing more types of logical connection between them. The great idea of early scientists and philosophers was to establish a rule of rules, a "mathesis universalis", a set of equations or formulas that would permit to calculate everything from everything else, to predict every event from every other event. This was still the belief of Laplace. Now we know that the world we live in is not Laplacean but rather Bohrean. Freedom, banished from the world by Laplace, is still there. Freedom, non-necessity is necessary. Stories cannot be abolished either, stories are still there, history is still there. But we understand better the difference between what is strictly interconnected and what is not, between logistics and story. It is interesting that such a difference between stories and logistics has been discussed by theologians already in Middle Ages. Did God create everything by necessity, is the creation a necessary outcome of his essence, his divinity or of his free will? Catholic theology has inclined to the first view, Islamic theology to the second one. I have read that some fundamentalist Islamic scholars have demanded that e.g. in chemistry textbooks the explanations mention the will of God. God willing, the result of burning hydrogen is water... Here, the world we live in is still a story  being continuously written by Allah, a story that he can write otherwise that follows no other rules than his free will. Is it a reaction to the beginnings of the scientific world view, to the emerging vision of the world as a mathesis, logistics that was developing in the Islamic world long before the golden age of Western scholasticism and the Renaissance? Is the conception of the world ruled by God's will giving people more feeling of security, more comfort than the conception of the world as a logical system with much less space for God's will or God himself? I don't know.

vendredi 16 décembre 2011

Президент и русский язык

Наш президент опять меня и не только меня неприятно удивил. На этот раз своими заявлениями о русском языке как языке оккупантов в интервью швейцарской газете Der Bund. Уже излюбленный нашей пропагандой термин "оккупация" некорректен: аннексия Советским Союзом Эстонии началась коротким периодом оккупации, но потом, когда эстонские граждане стали гражданами СССР со всеми их обязанностями и правами (пусть сих прав было маловато), это было уже аннексией. Две большие разницы. Все юристы, в том числе некоторые члены нашего Государственного суда, в личных беседах с такими определениями согласились, хотя не столь многие хотят выражать своё мнение публично. Но история русского языка в Эстонии не начинается аннексией 1940 года. Русский язык стал официальным языком наряду с немецким в наших краях после Северной Войны, приведшей к включению Северной Прибалтики в состав Русской империи как Эстляндской и Лифляндской губерний. Русский язык стал в 1880 годах единственным языком делопроизводства, а также и обучения в казенных школах, и владение им дало многим эстонцам возможность учиться, найти работу и сделать карьеру в других регионах империи. Моя мама и мой дед учились в русских школах. Все государственные деятели и большинство интеллигенции получили образование в императорском Юрьевском университете в Тарту или в других учебных заведениях России. Все наши высшие офицеры, руководившие эстонскими соединениями в войне за независимость в 1918 - 1920 годах, были выпускниками имперских военных училищ, в том числе и Императорской Военной Академии. В России жили и работали сотни тысяч эстонцев, Санкт-Петербург был сто лет тому назад вторым городом по численности проживающих там эстонцев. Само собой разумеется, что это привело к большому числу смешанных браков и к тесным контактам в области культуры. Для примера могу привести дружбу между эстонским поэтом Хенриком Виснапуу и русским поэтом Сергеем Есениным. Многие эстонские военные и политики лучше владели русским нежели эстонским языком. Конец такому взаимному обогащению культур положила большевистская революция и сталинский террор. До 1940 года в Эстонии к русским, русскому языку и культуре относились с интересом и уважением. Такое отношение пошло на убыль в советское время, но и тогда отношения между интеллигенцией сохранились и иногда даже укрепились. Я открыл для себя волшебную силу поэзии благодаря Лермонтову и Пушкину, могу сказать, что стал писателем благодаря знанию русского языка, позволившему мне еще будучи школьником зачитываться  русской классической литературой. Эта великая литература и ее язык остаются частью моей личности, моего я, и если я о чем-то сожалею, то о том, что не владею в совершенстве русским языком и мне нелегко писать литературные тексты по-русски. Но кое-что я все-таки написал и надеюсь написать и в будущем.  

dimanche 11 décembre 2011

Crusade Preachers à rebours

A friend sent me the URL of a page of the Memri TV: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/3217.htm. I looked and suddenly realized that it's similar to what happened in Europe a thousand years ago. Fiery preachers calling people to a holy war against the infidels and, of course, the Jews. But the two civilizations have changed sides: the West is the sybaritic, sophisticated and nonchalant one, similar to what the Near East was a thousand years ago, The Near East is similar to what Europe was: uneducated desperately poor people, easy prey to fanatical preachers and cynical politicians. The child preachers... Another similarity. Will there be a children's Crusade too? My hope is that the West will be a bit more vigilant than the easy-going Muslim rulers a thousand years ago who didn't care too much when they heard of some barbarian rabble landing somewhere far from the centres of the civilized world. They were absorbed in their intrigues, in poetry, music and love. As we in Europe...

mardi 6 décembre 2011

Arab Spring and Russian Elections

There are some similarities between the Middle Eastern countries, now shaken by uprisings and revolutions, and Russia, where the ruling party is clearly losing some popular support. Many liberals in the West were (and some still are) enthusiastic about what they call the "Arab Spring". But this enthusiasm is going sour after the victory of the Islamists in several Arab countries. It is becoming clear that there will be no sensible improvement in human rights in Egypt, Libya and quite probably even in Tunisia or Marocco. Now, after the relatively poor showing of the Yedinaya Rossiya in Russia, some people are again seeing a chance of liberal opposition gaining strength there with the perspective of Russia changing from an autocratic to a fully democratic nation. I think this is an illusion. If Putin and his clan loses power, it will not be the liberals but the Communists and Nationalists who will gain power. And this is neither in the interests of the West nor in the interests of liberally minded people in Russia. We can compare Putin with the Austrian chancellors Dollfuss and Schuschnigg whose rule was more autocratic than democratic, but still infinitely more liberal and humane than the rule of Hitler who rose to power in a nearly democratic way... I find similar ideas in an essay by George Friedman from the website of the Stratfor Institute I warmly recommend:

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20111205-egypt-and-idealist-realist-debate-us-foreign-policy