Thursday, 22 June 2017

Estonian National Museum Opens Largest Folk Costume Exhibition of all Time

On June 22, the Estonian National Museum will open Estonia's largest national costume exhibition. 150 folk costume sets will be on display from all Estonian parishes that reflect the diversity of national costumes geographically and throughout the year. The exhibition is divided into four thematic spaces - summer, winter, spring and autumn.

One hundred years ago, the Estonian National Museum managed to collect the richness of unlimited wealth, patterns, traditions and fashion in peasant clothing. But only now, in a new museum building, can they exhibit this richness in its entirety.

Alongside the exhibition, the museum offers information on folk costumes and their culture of worship in the form of numerous books, catalogs, instructional materials and workshops.

For more information, please click here: Eesti Rahva Muuseum / Estonian National Museum


New book! Eesti rahvariiete ajalugu is considered to be the most comprehensive book written about the history of Estonian folk costumes. It can be purchased from the museum's online giftshop for 70€. ERM: Eesti rahvariiete ajalugu

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Video: Estonian Presidency of the Council of EU 'This is Estonia'

Estonia will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time from July 2017 to the end of December 2017.

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union changes every six months. Estonia will be taking the baton of the Presidency over from Malta to hand it over to Bulgaria six months later. Three consecutive holders of the Presidency agree which areas to focus on more at the European level. This ensures that important topics remain in the centre of attention for 18 consecutive months. Estonia forms a Presidency trio with Bulgaria and Austria.

In the Council of the European Union, 28 Member States make decisions on policies affecting the welfare and security of more than 500 million EU citizens. The role of the presidency is to seek common ground among the different opinions of Member States, and guide the Member States towards agreements - to be an honest broker acting for the common benefit of the whole. The presidency will also communicate to the media and the international public, the process of reaching common positions as well as the substantive topics and issues discussed. The presidency is responsible for organising the sessions of the Council of the European Union and the duties of working groups – to prepare agendas and chair meetings. The presidency presents and supports agreements between Member States in negotiations with the European Commission and the European Parliament. In the last stage of the negotiations, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament adopt decisions that are binding to all Member States and shape the day-to-day life of 500 million European citizens. Estonia, within the presidency, will have to address some 500 different issues.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Estonia to open the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg

It's great to see Estonia going from strength to strength with its e-governance and technological innovation. Estonia’s pilot project – the world’s first data embassy – could set an example for the rest of the world. writes about the history behind the project. and how Estonia has emerged as a digital society. 

In the last 20 years, Estonia has developed into what the World Development report, compiled by the World Bank, last year called “closest to a digital society”. However, being digital and therefore dependent on information and communication technology also creates challenges. One of them is the question of how to secure all the data that could become vulnerable in the case of a cyber or indeed a real military attack.

For example, when Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it had to determine who its rightful citizens were.   Approximately 80,000 people had fled the country during the last world war and there was the problem of how to return land and property to those whose assets were confiscated during the Soviet occupation. In order to establish this paper records and archives were used. However, in the digital society the country no longer stores this information on paper, raising the question of continuity or as in the case of Estonia today, digital continuity.

The country had its first experience with cyber-conflict back in 2007, when attacks originating from Russia managed to take fifty-eight Estonian websites offline at once, including those of the government, most newspapers and many banks. Although no information was lost during this event, Estonia had been backing up important data outside of its borders even before the attack, storing it in Estonian embassies across the world. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 brought the question of continuity back to the forefront of public discussions in Estonia and the government’s Cloud Policy stated that, “to ensure service functionality and data continuity, capabilities needed to be developed outside of the country’s borders.” So even if a crisis develops, digital authentication and authorisation services would remain operational. To achieve this aim Estonia considered two options: a physical embassy for data in a friendly foreign country or a virtual embassy for data in a privately owned public cloud.

“One of the most important tasks of any country is to ensure continuity both on a state level as well as in terms of public services. The Estonian digital and information society is already so highly sophisticated that it is no longer possible to move back to a paper era. Therefore, we have to do our utmost to ensure cyber security, including maintaining the digital continuity,” Siim Sikkut, the government’s ICT policy adviser, noted. “We have back-up data storage facilities in Estonia, but in order to be prepared for any occasion, if, for example, the state suffers a large-scale cyber-attack, natural disaster or a conventional attack on a datacentre – we need back-up sites outside our borders,” he added.

One of the two options to achieve the digital continuity – the cloud technology – was tested in late 2014, when Estonia embarked on a research project with Microsoft to see whether a public/private cloud computing partnership model could function. However, Sikkut said that this was not enough. “The cloud technology provides a good opportunity, but the state also wants to maintain the full control and jurisdiction of their data and systems. For this reason the private cloud services are not exactly suitable for us,” he said. “Therefore, we started to develop and enhance the data embassy concept, just like Estonian embassies abroad, these are our sovereign embassies in foreign data centres.”

During the last few years Estonia has held talks with a number of countries and has now succeeded with one of the smallest countries in the European Union.  The first data embassy will be based in a high-security data centre in Betzdorf, a commune in eastern Luxembourg. “The Luxembourg site will store the copies of the most critical and confidential data,” Sikkut explained, adding that the first data embassy should become operational by the end of this year, or at the latest, at the start of 2018. “Once the first one is running, we will analyse and evaluate whether we need to enhance our capabilities. It is highly likely that we will set up additional data embassies, but that all depends on the cost and our experience,” he said.

The two countries are expected to sign a mutual agreement this summer, but it is already clear that the Estonian data embassy will have the same protection and immunity as the traditional embassies. “Luxembourg has been a very good partner. In essence, we are creating a new precedent in terms of international law and practice, a kind of innovation.  Luxembourg has been keen to think along with and contribute to the creation of the new concept. The ‘physical’ embassies are our sovereign territory under the Vienna Convention. Now we want to bring the same concept to the cyber world and data centres, Sikkut explained. This effectively means that officials from the host country will be barred from accessing the data.

Estonia’s pilot project could, again, set an example to the rest of the world.

Source: Estonia to open the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Estonia ranked fifth in the world and first in Europe in cybersecurity

According to the Global Cybersecurity Index 2017 conducted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Estonia ranked fifth in world and first in Europe in cybersecurity. This is an excellent result placing Estonia ahead of its Nordic neighbours. Norway ranked 11th in the index, Finland 16th and Sweden 17th. In total the ranking included 195 countries.

The full report can be found here: Global Cybersecurity Index 2017

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Tamm remains the most common surname in Estonia

According to Statistics Estonia's Population Register the most common surname in Estonia as of January 2017 is Tamm (oak). Nearly 5,300 people in Estonia have this surname.  Other common surnames include Saar (found especially in Viljandi, Rapla and Lääne) Sepp (Saaremaa) and Kukk (Põlva).

Estonians typically derive their surnames from various trees, plants, animals, landforms and occupations.

My surname Lestal, which means 'flounder' (fish) is quite rare. As of 1 January 2017 only 16 men and 17 women in Estonia have this surname. They are mainly concentrated in Tartu county which is where my family originate. 

To do a name search and find data on your surname, please click here: Estonian surnames

Estonian Embassy Considered One of Washington DC's Most Beautiful Embassies

Travel website The Culture Trip recently published a list of the most beautiful embassies in Washington DC. Estonia appeared on the list alongside its Nordic neighbours Finland and Sweden. This morning Toomas Hendrik Ilves tweeted - 'I thought so when I picked it out, bought and renovated it 23 years ago.' Mr Ilves is obviously a man of good taste!

The Estonian Embassy
2131 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC

This house on Embassy Row was originally built for a doctor in 1905, and later was home to the Peruvuian Embassy, until Estonia bought it in 1994. The neoclassical style architecture makes it one of the standout buildings on Embassy Row.

To read The Culture Trip article, please click here: Washington, DC's Most Beautiful Embassies

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

In memory of the victims of the June 14, 1941 Soviet deportations in Estonia

Estonians across the globe will gather to light candles tonight in remembrance of the victims of the first mass deportation in the Baltic States. On the night of the 13th June 1941, the Red Army in Soviet-occupied Estonia rounded up 9603 innocent civilians and sent them to desolate and underdeveloped parts of Russia.  Of the victims, 3512 were men, 3024 women and 3067 children. The men were sent to prison camps in Siberia and the women were forced to work in hard labour camps. May we never forget this Soviet atrocity that tore families apart ruined a generation  of Estonians. There probably isn't a single Estonian family who did not lose somebody as a result of Stalin's deportations.