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Estonian report Estonian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-08-26 05:19:38
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Spirituality in Estonia - the world's 'least religious' country

When Estonians were recently asked whether religion played an important part in their life, only 20% said yes. It suggests the Baltic country is, statistically, the least religious country in the world. The windy streets of Tallinn offer a misleading picture of Estonia's religiosity. Spires decorate the old town, bells ring out on Sundays and song emanates from churches as visitors walk in and out.

A closer look reveals that many of these visitors are tourists. When I went to the city's large Lutheran Dome Church one Sunday almost all of the 70 congregants turned out to have travelled from the Netherlands. A handful of people standing at the back - 15 at the most - were the sum total of regular Estonian church-goers. As the dean of the church, Arho Tuhkru, explains, it is not a new problem: "People believe, but they do not want to belong to the Church.”We do not have such a tradition where the whole family comes to the church."

Although the Lutheran Church is the largest in Estonia, it accounts for only 13% of the population, Rev Tuhkru says. There is, however, a more telling statistic: fewer than one in five Estonians say any religion plays an important part in their lives. It is a trend visible at every level in society. Even in schools religion does not feature on the curriculum in its own right. Instead, in history lessons, young Estonians learn about the waves of invasion led by the Germans and Danes who brought Christianity to the country. It came to be seen as the faith of the colonisers, one rejected by the majority.

"I think one of the main reasons why we can today speak about Estonia as a secular society is that the national and religious identity does not overlap," says Ringo Ringvee, an adviser at Estonia's department of religious affairs. Another problem is language. Many Estonians did not understand the foreign missionaries who came to preach to them. "The Lutherans spoke German," explains Mr Ringvee. "The Russian Orthodox came in the 19th Century and until the early 20th Century they were still speaking Russian."  With the establishment of an Estonian Orthodox Church in the 1920s (its leaders look to the patriarch in Constantinople rather than in Moscow) services were soon held in Estonian, yet by 1940 the Soviet Union had invaded and annexed Estonia.


Growth to Slow Due to Euro-Debt Crisis

Estonia will reduce its growth forecast for next year due to the euro-area’s sovereign-debt crisis, Finance Minister Juergen Ligi said. Ligi, speaking at a news conference in Tallinn today, didn’t elaborate. The Finance Ministry is due to publish its updated forecast in the middle of September, Katrin Reimann, a ministry spokeswoman, said in a phone interview today.

The $19 billion economy, which has grown at the fastest pace in the European Union in the past two quarters, may expand 4 percent this year and next, according to the ministry’s latest forecast released in April. “Our economy will quite clearly suffer because of Europe’s debt crisis, even though it will reach us with a delay,” Ligi said. “We are extremely interested in an end to this crisis so that the financial markets would calm down and that countries could finance their deficits and service debts under normal conditions.”

Swedbank AB, the largest Baltic lender, yesterday raised its forecast for Estonia’s GDP growth this year to 6.7 percent from 4.5 percent. The bank forecast the expansion to slow to 4.2 percent in 2012 as Europe’s debt crisis worsens and the global economy weakens, damping export orders.


Savi Denies Obfuscation in Veerpalu Case

Toomas Savi, the former president of the Estonian Ski Association, dismissed suggestions that he wanted to cover up positive doping results in the case of Andrus Veerpalu, the disgraced Olympic skier.

Savi's denial came on Wednesday, the day after the International Ski Federation (FIS) upheld charges that Veerpalu, Estonia's two-time Olympic cross-country ski champion, tested positive for a banned growth hormone.

At issue was Savi's conversation earlier this year with FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis, in which Savi was reported as having emphasized that Veerpalu's career was effectively ended by a knee injury, not doping.

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