the rise and fall
of estonia


The Rise and Fall of Estonia is a production by directors Tiit Ojasoo and Ene-Liis Semper. Together they have created large-scale shows already before. "Ruja", a rock-opera, and "Unified Estonia", a convention of a fictitious political movement for 7200 viewers, were not only completely sold out, but also theatre events, which won the major theatre prizes in Estonia. "The Rise and Fall of Estonia" is not a rock-opera. It's not a punk statement. It's a symphony. And it's about Estonia.

Together with actors from NO99 they've created over the years four productions, which more or less deal with Estonia and its state of mind.

"Oil!" (2006) was a mixture of cabaret and political theatre, of reality-show and reality. It was about eternal wish of Estonians to live like normal people live. And that means: to have a wealthy life and a normal bank loan. "Hot Estonian Guys" (2007), a international bestseller, which participated in 12 festivals, incl Wiener Festwochen, was about future. Demographic collapse, which is a problem for Europeans, is a capital sentence for Estonians. In all probability we will just die out. Sooner or later. And most likely: sooner. Actors in traditional Estonian clothing were playing between irony and despair, between sauna and postmodern world.

"How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare" (2009), a production, which has been shown all around Europe, incl Wiener Festwochen and Odéon Theatre in Paris, is about art and artists. But moreover: it's about the question, how is something, which produces nothing, valued in a society. Is art for fools or for all? If it cannot be used in a normal way by normal people, then why do they take the taxpayer's taxes? Improvisations, abstract figures and politicians.

"Unified Estonia" (2010) was a fictitious political movement created by NO99 Theatre that a large portion of the public treated as a real political force. Its convention, held for more than 7200 people, was one of the largest theatre events in modern European theatre history. NO99 Theatre announced at a press conference on 24 March 2010 that a political movement has been established, which reflects the negative and populist traits of all the larger parties in their behaviour, rhetoric, programme, campaigns, and so on, and which will have its convention on May 7th. During the 44 days between the press conference and the convention, the public paid a great deal of attention to Unified Estonia. Editorials, opinion columns, analyses and news write-ups appeared every week in the major newspapers and news portals, the leaders of the movement were invited to appear on television and radio shows, members of parliament, politicians, opinion-makers, intellectuals, columnists, and so on publicly expressed their opinion. Theatre was real. Reality was a theatre.

"The Rise and Fall of Estonia" is the last production in this row. We have been preparing for this show for seven years. Everything we have ever wanted to say about Estonia will be sayed here. It's about having an Idea and losing it. About having a Glory and losing it. It's about history and present day, about our strengths and weaknesses. It's about us.

Where do I come from?
let me tell you where I come from
I come from a small town in Eastern Europe
where the stench of dry toilets is suffocating
I come from behind the woodpile
from under the water
from under ground
from the fifth storey of a concrete panel apartment building
where grandmother never allowed the window to be opened.
I come from a country
where there is no religion
and where fighting for something
is a sign of your weakness.
I come from a land
where the sun is a rare diamond
an incredible gold coin
that is examined in the light and tested by biting it
and where people before death
drag themselves into the forest with the last of their strength
and lie down on the hard root of a spruce tree.
I come from a land
where people say “God is up on high, the emperor is far away”
they have always said so and say so always
because the word of God always arrives there as nothing but a crummy murmur
as the tears of an orphan
that rinse the land so much so that the roads become muddy quagmires.
and the emperor’s order in that land
has never brought anything but trouble.
I come from a land
where authority is known instead of truth
fear instead of freedom
and instead of longing
petit bourgeois listlessness.
I come from a land
that nobody has ever visited
I know that very well
because when the snow puts a lid on my country in the winter
there is never a single scratch on that snow
only the footprints of nomads and wandering hordes
but they
never remain for long
I come from a land
that nobody knows
I know that very well
because I read all of Kundera’s books
Estonia is never mentioned in them even once
Kafka, Camus, Goethe do not write about me either
- not a single word
even Thomas Mann does not write about me
the old prick
Pessoa does not write poetry about me
Not Rilke, Blake or Rimbaud.
I wonder, when Sylvia Plath stuck her head in a gas oven
could her last thought have been:
“But I haven’t even been to Estonia yet?”
we are not in Tony Blair’s memoirs
I checked the index of that book
our rightful place is there – in the index
but Estonia is not there
Blair mentions even Luxemburg only twice
but Luxemburg is smaller than Estonia
it is three times smaller than Estonia
do you have any idea how long it took
for us to find this kind of country?
We are not even in those cheap one-euro atlases
that you can buy in petrol stations
how can I get back home from here, damn it
when it isn’t even on the map?
I come from a country
where children eat sorrel
they devour it with great relish
and their eyes glow in the dim shadows of the spruce trees
like the eyes of wild animals
you don’t know what kind of eyes they are
your eyes are moist and dark
exchanged on boulevards, past one another
drifting through each other
your eyes have not seen burned-down houses and streets with potholes
and Baltic herring,
those cold little fish,
whose wide-open red eyes glare at the March sky
your eyes have not devoured the Chiquita banana
that was given to the child as a birthday present
and your eyes have not implored implored implored
your eyes have not read Tuglas and Suits and Liiv
and Under, Õnnepalu, Kross
if we say to you “work and make an effort, then love will ensue”
you will not understand us
if we say to you that only a madman argues with the emperor
you will not understand us
because flummery and corporal punishment are not offered at Schönbrunn Palace
and that’s for the best
you’d go as loopy as we already are:
a people that suffers every single day
in the rain, wind and mud
and 700 years of slavery
and at the hands of crusaders and Finnish tourists
and at the hands of endless work and hating one another
and at the hands of ruskies, vodkalkies, rouble heads
and in darkness
where the only white thing
the only bearer of transcendence in the nights of this city
is streetcars
brightly lighted, empty streetcars
that float through the darkness
swaying as they round curves and cleaving the night air
and splitting this dead century
in this spooky little country
where Foucault and Derrida are also read
and where people understand
if somebody should happen to say
“la vie est tres chere a l'Europe!”
but nobody says that there
we are educated and intelligent
we don’t stuff wads of money in the legs of our socks
like those Cameroon negros of yours do
like those Turkish kebab vendors do
don’t you really learn from history?
don’t be surprised then if one day
you stand on the ruins of the empire
holding Louis Vuitton bags and with original Swiss watches on your wrists
and weep:
barbarians barbarians barbarians
we are not those barbarians
we are not your tears
we keep our money in our breast pocket or in our bank account altogether
and we hate Eastern Europeans
exactly like you do
hey, you!
we shout at them
and you see, at those Moslems there
at that Islam there
“roll up your tents and pack them up onto the lorry!”
but they won’t go
they have it good here
they have it good here but times are tough for me
because yesterday here in this beautiful city
where even Starbucks coffee
costs more than my grandmother’s black-and-white cow
I saw a demonstration.
Hundreds of young people shouted
that they are against capitalism.
Their hands rose
Their legs marched
and around their legs
were Hugo Boss
and Levis
and one particularly fat girl
had the front of her shirt covered with badges
she demanded the limitation of nuclear weapons
and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan
and more rights for women
and freer sex
and the end of police violence
her eyes were sad
and searching
I looked around as well
what had become of them then?
those cops who have received special training
who storm into the ranks of the demonstrators
knock down that fat girl
for which a whole unit is needed
and a tank
and then they start ripping those badges off her chest.
but those cops weren’t anywhere to be found
it was only me
and that very expensive coffee
and I slurped whipped cream off the top
and I thought:
go to hell, you Western young people
have you any idea what capitalism is?
have you any idea what a crisis is?
let me tell you what a crisis is
a crisis is when
your mother comes from Finland in ‘89
and says that the country was beautiful
but her most lasting impression was from the supermarket cash register conveyor belt
you buy goods
you place them on the conveyor belt
and it takes them to the cash register itself
she was 35 already
and she was a professor
but she had never heard about a cash register conveyor belt before
the books that she read did not write about things like that
Kundera didn’t write about it
nor did Kafka, Goethe or Camus
when I start to think
what do they write about in the first place?
a crisis is when
your father saves for four years
and then buys an armchair
and a large mirror
and a package of buttermilk
a crisis is when
your grandmother keeps a bag of bread crusts on top of the cupboard
because you never know
when you might have to leave again
that’s a crisis
so go to hell, you Western young people
spoiled children
who know nothing about life.

But, well – don’t worry
our young people are even more up shit’s creek.
They say that Estonians are like Mac –
there are few of us
we’re different from the mainstream
and original products.
Maybe that’s how it really is.
Mac is beautiful after all
and everyone in the world knows
how beautiful Estonian women are
when they give blowjobs in Hamburg for euros
or when they pluck chickens in Dublin.
But don’t forget the differences.
Don’t forget
that Mac is stylish and clean,
and don’t forget
that Mac never gets jammed up
and that Mac doesn’t have viruses
and that Mac is easily compatible with everything in the world
at the same time as we screw ourselves in the ear
and we think that that is communication
but the main thing is
don’t forget
that Mac is a project that produces profit

but here I am now
in the heart of Europe
I heard
that there were supposed to be more Estonians here
Tuglas and Laikmaa
and Suits, Triik and Bernard Kangro
and Pärt, Under, Neeme Järvi
and a whole shitload of Estonians from the war era
all those Estonians who had to come here
because what other choice did they have
nobody came to them from here
we telephoned, sure
but the lines were always busy
I am here
but there isn’t anybody anymore
the deserts are large
and everything is a desert
the deserts are large
and everything is a desert
and it stinks here
it stinks here like behind a dry toilet
this stench only grows and grows
and suffocates everything
this stench sticks to your clothes
and you can never get rid of it anymore
I know that well
because I come from a country
where that stench is all that there is left.