• 30 out of the 101 seats in the Estonian parliament will be occupied by female candidates after last week’s general election. This matches the average political representation of women in the EU.

    Even though the sitting Prime Minister Kaja Kallas earned a record-breaking 31,800 votes, just 13 out of the 37 seats won by her Reform party will be taken by women.

    Still, 30 female deputies is the highest number of women ever to be elected to the parliament in Tallinn. Progress to gender equality follows a slow and winding road, even though, this time, there appeared to be more public calls to the electorate to cast their votes in favour of a female candidate.

    Three things are needed to make an Estonian, according to the old saying. You need to build a house, plant a tree and finish the Tartu cross-country ski marathon.

    Most probably, I will never build a house. I have planted a few trees. But for sure I can tick off the marathon box, having multiple times finished the classic 63-kilometre cross-country race, named after the southern Estonian city close to where it takes place.

    The excitement starts building every year in late autumn when the days here are sombre, dark and wet. That’s when checking the 10-day weather forecast becomes a bit of an addiction. Is the temperature going to fall below zero? Is there any hint there will be some snow? A few degrees this way or that can make the difference between the ugliest and most depressing time of year and its opposite — a snowy, beautiful winter.

    The weather is becoming more unstable. Cold and snowy temperatures change abruptly to a warm and rainy climate, destroying the ski track in a matter of days. This means it becomes more difficult to enjoy winter sports. I take every snowy winter, and every snowy weekend as the last there might be. A few weekends ago, I forced myself to do a 19-kilometre lap, even though I was suffering from a nasty cold. This was because the forecast correctly said that the next weekend there would be no more snow.

    I’m a fan of a diminishing sport. The number of people registering themselves at the ski marathon is declining. You can’t be sure if the winter will actually allow you to prepare for the tough effort or if the marathon will even take place.

    Cross-country skiing has been part of Estonia’s national identity for decades. It is something that has allowed us to feel “nordic”, which is something the nation also yearns for in terms of quality of life. But soon we’ll need to find a new characteristic to define what makes a “proper Estonian”.

    Rising interest rates are expected to push up average mortgage payments in Estonia by up to 45% this year, taking hundreds of euros out of families’ pockets each month.

    For Estonians, home ownership is sacred as this comparative map of European home ownerships shows. This attitude has been reinforced by years of sub-zero interest rates and booming real estate prices, which have fuelled fears of missing out on the opportunity to buy property at an affordable price.

    With inflation at record highs and utility costs skyrocketing, people remember the 2008 financial crisis, when many lost their homes, are coming back.

    It’s in The New York Times, it’s in The Wall Street Journal, it’s in Western European media. And it’s not going away. I’m talking about an outdated but persistent shorthand by which each of the Baltic countries is referred to as a “former Soviet republic” regardless of whether the article is about economics, digital leaps, tourism or Russia’s ongoing war of aggression. 

    Hence why this tweet by the Estonian politician Eerik-Niiles Kross – a sarcastic tutorial on how to describe other countries around the world – went viral earlier this month.

    Here in Estonia we try to take it in good humour, but it actually demonstrates the shallowness of many large media and their editors. To be clear: the “former Soviet republics” never agreed to be part of the Soviet Union. They were violently forced into it. What we are or do now has little or nothing to do with our Soviet legacy.