Skip to main content


Social Democrats are solid as a rock
Published Postimees 17 February 2014

When I raised the issue of Russian language education to a young man I know, he took his glasses off, paused for a second, then he started to rant. He was talking so fast in English I couldn't take it all in.

“If Russians want to live in Estonia they should learn our language and there could be no compromise”

This was the gist of what he said. I haven't heard anybody shout like that about politics since the 1990s.

Education funding has been in the news a lot lately. But of the three issues, the mergers of schools, the drying up for funding to private schools, and funding to the Russian language Vene Lyceum, it is clearly the third that causes most passion.

So it was that the deputy mayor responsible for education, Mihhail Kõlvart, faced a vote of no confidence in the City council last week.

He was always going to win. The Centre party have an absolute majority, and what they say, goes.

The attempt to impeach him was led by the two right-wing parties IRL and Reform Party. Whereas they seemed firm in their resolve to fight corruption and stand up for Estonian culture and language, my party, the Social Democrats, said one thing one day, and then another a few days later.

Just a week before the vote the Social Democrats announced they were not going to join the vote of no confidence.

Within days Riigikogu member, and head of the Tallinn party, Rainer Vakra announced that he was sure that the majority of the faction would support the vote. Then the faction announced that it was for the Russian Lyceum, but against Kõlvart himself.

It seemed like we were floating in the wind. Well it didn't go down that.

Let me tell you what really happened.

I sit in Tallinn city council, two weeks ago we met up with Kõlvart. At that meeting he said decisions on education were political and he would have done things differently. He denied all responsibility for bad actions, but he was careful not to mention the mayor, Edgar Savisaar. The fact this meeting took place and what was said is no secret.

Kõlvart then announced a couple of days later to the press, that education was his remit and he, not Savisaar, was responsible for everything. This much you may know.

Here's what you don't know, two days before the vote, the party met with Kõlvart again.

This time it was not just the city council faction, or the party leadership, the entire active party membership, everybody and anybody who was interested, were there. There were a few well known people at that meeting; three Riigikogu members, but most were just ordinary party members, both ethnic and Russian-speaking Estonians, who were just interested in the issues. They were angry they had been lied to.

We all sat down in a room too small to hold 40 people and drilled Kõlvart for close to an hour.

To be fair to Kõlvart, it was brave of him to show up. I can't imagine Savisaar putting up with such an interrogation.

“How much money was going into the Lyceum precisely?”

“How many students are there, how many students will there be?”

“What were the subjects they were studying?”

“Why is the Lyceum outside the school system?”

“Can you prove the money is going for the intended purpose and not for something else?

“You don't need us, so why are you here?”

After he left, we discussed the issues for another couple of hours, then we took a vote. Readers will understand social democrat members are not fanatically anti-Russian, but still we draw the line at Kõlvart's shenanigans. It was an an almost unanimous decision. Kõlvart wasn't exactly lying but he was not telling the whole truth. We didn't even believe that the money for the Lyceum was really being used for that purpose.

We voted to support the vote of no confidence. It was in this way, and for these reasons that our faction voted the way it did last Thursday.

This was a decision from the bottom up not from the top down. A decision made by ordinary party members and therefore by ordinary Estonians.

We were taking a risk making this decision because the Russian press could spin it that the social democrats are against Russians.

Whilst the Reform Party ad IRL, would get the glory from Estonian nationalists for taking this action. And it was all kind of pointless. Kõlvart was always going to win in the end.

I am even taking a risk writing this article because up until now, I've avoided writing from a party line, even after I got involved in politics myself.

But it was the right decision, a democratic decision, made by a democratic party. It was also a decision made by looking at the evidence and looking at the man behind it. I am pretty sure that Kõlvart did not discuss things with the IRL and Reform party membership.

The IRL have made a huge deal out of fighting the nationalist cause. They even got the central city administrative council (the borough level administrative council that approve planning permissions, school long term planning, etc) to endorse the no confidence vote, contrary to its remit.

But if the IRL really are “keeping an eye on things” where the hell were they!?”

When it came time to vote, half of the IRL faction were missing.

Either they were angry at Reform for stealing the glory, or it was lack of discipline by the leadership, or just plain apathy. It wouldn't have made any difference to the final vote, but it does show the IRL are not what they seem.



We were there, and we voted against Kõlvart for all the right reasons. Social democrats are not floating in the wind, we were steady as a rock, and the rock was the party membership. I know, I was there.

Popular posts from this blog

Black men, Estonian women: the truth By Abdul Turay Published Postimees 11 November 2009 Well that got your attention; the headline I mean. Any story on this subject, the technical term is miscegenation, is bound to get punters. The yellow media, women's magazines and reality TV shows are obsessed with the subject. Not a month goes by without some publication writing about it. Anne and Style, for example, recently ran a long feature about mixed couples. Most of these stories are muddle-headed and wrong. There's paranoia in this country that there is an army of dark-skinned men form Turkey, the tropics, some place south, who are going to make off with the nation's women. It's never going to happen. I'll explain why in a minute. Seriously, I think there are more important things to think about and worry about. I worry about feeding my family. I worry about other people being able to feed their families, so I write about politics and economics. But the p
Paradise Lost By Abdul Turay 11 August 2009 Finally the Estonian immigration authorities have done something of which they can be proud . They are getting rid of a very nasty man. Anyone who follows current affairs in Estonia may  vaguely have heard of Craig Cobb, a bearded, 57 year old, extreme right-wing American who for the past few years has made Estonia his home. He hoped to make this country the centre for his one man campaign to promote so-called white nationalism. Tallinn is host to Cobb's Podblanc site, where mostly Russian skinhead thugs post videos of themselves committing acts of brutal violence against men, women, and even small children from ethnic minorities in Russia. Those of us who have been coming to Estonia for some years, either as visitors, investors, or as more permanent guests, have been sadden to see some of the more unsavoury characters from our part of the world show up here. Cobb is of course the worse example of this phenomenon. It&
A note for New Tallinners Russian Translation below.  Dear New Tallinners Whether you are here for work or study; welcome to Tallinn, I hope that you have a successful, productive and fun time in our beautiful city. Tallinn has come a long way in the last 20 years. It is hard to believe this city was once grey and Soviet. It can be bewildering at times being in a new city in a new country, when all the information you need is in another language. Did you know that you can help to make it better? Did you know you have access to legal services? What do you know about the sports, leisure and cultural activities going on in Tallinn? The local elections for the City council take place this October 15. Did you know that you can vote?   Everybody registered to live in Tallinn can vote? Voting will give you say in how the city is run? It gives you power? I hope to serve you as your local candidate. How someone like me ended up in Estonian politics, is too long a story to g