By João Lopes Marques (Eesti keel)
That was a strange morning. Spring was stupidly late. Allow me to add the unusual hangover from the wedding party the night before. As if it wasn't enough, in five minutes I received two SMS whose content was nearly coincident... Spooky. That was particularly concerning since they came from two different (foreign) persons who don’t know each other: “Hey! Did you know about the kebab place called ‘Istanbul’? We are a real European capital now!”
"We?" Well, more than Tallinn becoming finally a long-waited European capital city, I got immediately excited by the word “kebab”. K-e-b-a-b! I love kebab, as long as the yogurt dressing is excellent and the salad (especially the Anatolian medium-sized tomatoes) is premium. Only this could justify my irrational impulse: to put on my black shoes and pass by Teater väljak in order to try one of this amazing wrapped-and-grilled sandwiches.
Took me a couple of minutes to remark on how bad shape I was in. Stomach and head and stomach aches, plus other uninteresting stuff (details), as a result of too many vodka shots with Sasha (yes, I admit I played with fire). “No way… Instead I should behave and stay home recovering the whole day”, I said mentally while jumping into my confident red sofa. Funny: looking at such a vivid colour recalled me Kemal Ataturk and his magnificent Mausoleum in Ankara. I still remember I visited it the day I tasted one of the best kebabs ever, in early May of 2004, if memories don't betray me now.
However, such double SMS content had the power to colonise my time. First, my firm and old conviction that Turkey should enter European Union as soon as possible — forget Nicolas Sarkozy and his hawkish advisers, French Islamophobia is not the best example). Then, something related to cosmopolitan capitals: “They are absolutely right, kebab is essential so that Tallinn becomes a real European capital”, I wondered. “Sooner or later it had to land in Estonia, and it will be much more valueable if it happens before 2011…”
K-e-b-a-b: hmmm... my mouth started watering again, another good evidence of my fast recovery. It allowed me to trigger deeper thoughts like, for instance, if Estonia is really prepared to digest this kebab. In a metaphoric sense, of course: how will Estonians react the day not one but a dozen of kebab restaurants (and kiosks, and snack-bars) start mushrooming in Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu? Will kebab taste the same or the meat will be rotten? How Estonia and Estonians would behave in a scenario of massive influx of Southeastern European immigrants?
"One example!", as the Turkish love to say: how would Estonia react if Georgia was taken by — and guess who — an alien occupant? Would the Ilves-Ansip duo issue residence permits to all the post-Soviet Caucasians brothers seeking for asylum in the Baltic oasis?
Oops, this moment my imaginary-yet-delicious kebab turned a bit sour (is it the yougurt?). Sometimes I even believe that independent Estonia has just experienced the good side of globalisation. The ubiquitous credit crunch is perhaps the very only exception. “Definitely, they day salaries rise hoards of European immigrants will flee here”, I fantasise.
I mustn't be that wrong: demographics is the cornerstone of the Universal History: sooner or later, successful Estonia will be more than a tiny country were Finnish, stag party-goers, freelance mavericks, Skype multinational employees and blondes’ boyfriends end up.
“Gosh, by the day it arrives they will have to find a formula to integrate all the Russians”, my confused brain adds. Or “optimistic”, instead: after the stages of 1) wait-and-see-period, 2) passive-and-tolerated-capitalistic-integration and 3) post-Bronze-Soldier-populist-reassurance-of-identity-paranoia, ultimate step is around the corner: 4) kebab-plus-tutti-quanti). Yes, it will take another decade, but darker skins will inexorably debark in the Southern shores of the Gulf of Finland.
Nobody can stop the tide with their fingers — let alone a EU full member. So far Estonia has been in denial, but kebab is maybe the magic word (remember that even blood-driven Germany had to review her old-fashioned Ratzelian geopolitical thesis). K-e-b-a-b: a handful of five humble letters to wake up the society while preserving national face: from now on all non-Estonians can be assimilated under the very solid (and consistent) doctrine dubbed the “kebab umbrella”.
Corollary? This is not rocket science: just integrating the best and most hard-working people who pass by here, this charming and charismatic piece of land can become stronger and more competitive. Evolve. More than stubborness, it would be a political waste. Besides being a millennar crossroads, post-Soviet Estonia is a much more multicultural country than most natives want to assume. Can be tough, but kucky you: present and future globalisation is about that.