When both Sides Are Equally Unhappy
21 February, 2013
When both Sides Are Equally Unhappy
Interview with His Excellency  Mr. Priit Turk, Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia

Mr. Priit Turk is probably the youngest ambassadors accredited in Georgia. According to the stereotype, ambassadors should be somewhat grey-haired, reserved and knowledgeable, which comes with certain age. Mr.Turk has worked in diplomacy for years. However, it is his first ambassadorial post in Tbilisi and we congratulate him on this assignment. He arrived one month prior to the parliamentary elections and confesses that it has been an interesting
period work-wise. Let’s see how it feels generally to arrive from the Nordic country in the South Caucasus with a completely different temperature, nature and political background. Mr. Ambassador confirms support of Estonia for Georgia’s integration in NATO and EU.

G.J: You arrived when Georgia was facing a new challenge – cohabitation. How would you comment on it?
P.T: I agree that it is not an easy thing, but you will manage it, I am sure. You, Georgians as a nation, are much more emotional and passionate than we are in the North and maybe this cohabitation is so difficult for you because of that. However, it has happened in other countries and it will happen here too. It is a a new stage in your democratic development but I am positive. Estonian layout is different; it is more like the one you will have after the constitutional changes – less power to the President.
G.J: What were your first impressions?
P.T: My impressions were good. We were welcome here. Of course, it was a very busy time, but my family adjusted here very well. I have been to lots of countries worldwide and I felt very comfortable here; not at home, as it is really different, but very well. It is fascinating how almost every Estonian family has a story about Georgia. Some Estonians have been living in Abkhazia, and so on and so forth. People are very kind and very hospitable compared to us, as we Estonians are more reserved.
G.J: What do you like as a person and as a diplomat in Georgia?
P.T: As a parent, I have to say that Georgians are very warm with children in the street, with others’ children too; you give a lot of attention to them, caress them, etc. You are very expressive. That’s very sweet actually. It was something I expected as I had visited Georgia shortly before taking my post, but still. I like your nature. I think God has been very generous to you, as you have everything – seaside, high mountains, etc. I like your food very much. It is a fascinating place. The more I travel, the more I am surprised how many differences there are in this small country. Your high mountains remind me of Alps and Central Europe. As for human nature, you stand apart, even from other Caucasusian people, I think. I also cover Armenia as an ambassador. As a diplomat, I think that the recent events have been more complicated than I thought. The Friday event (in front of the National Library, where the President was to deliver a speech), showed that it is important to stay in the room and talk. We were unpleasently surprised. No violence can be tolerated. Maybe the Interior Minister was not expecting this as well, but it was unfortunate that the President was not allowed to make a speech at the parliament; or as they say, his speech at the parliament was postponed. We of course cannot tolerate violence despite whatever the emotional people feel, even if they were unjustly imprisoned and punished. We must always keep order. But the positive thing was that by the end of the week, both sides started to negotiate. Our message is the following: there is a very small step toward the violence; that’s why it’s so crucial to talk to each other and find the ways of compromise – that’s the only right way to take. Unfortunately, it harms the country’s image a lot. You cannot imagine how many questions I received regarding that event. I have served in the UN for two years and there are almost all countries and the opinions are so dramatically different that sometimes it really seems impossible to talk to each other, but that is the idea of parliament of the world – countries meet and talk in order to have less wars and disasters. There is a saying that the best compromise is when both sides are equally unhappy. I know that you have a painful history, but Estonian history is similar. Georgians are very talented people and they can express themselves verbally,find appropiate solutions that way and not go to the streets.
G.J: Do you agree that freedom is something that is often misunderstood or overestimated?
P.T: Yes, I completely agree with that. During the Soviet times, there were a lot of social guarantees and people enjoyed more commodities than now, but they were suppressed and it could not last too long. Even in the period of freedom, being the member of EU, there are a lot of rules you have to obey and for Estonia it was difficult from the beginning to adjust to them. But the crucial thing is that often people make big mistake by comparing the EU with the Soviet Union. You have to obey rules not only in EU; reforms are requied for separate countries as well. You do not have to be a mature and democratic society to become a EU member; just the contrary - if you enjoy wellbeing and you are an attractive country, then the EU needs you. So, the crucial difference is the following: it needs your sovereignty and not your slavery.
G.J: Do you like Georgian cuisine and does your wife cook anything from its repertory?
P.T: Last week, we made the chicken called Shkmeruli (Georgian dish). It was not as good as we tasted in a restaurant, but still, my kids liked it. We asked Georgians, read the cookbook and we did it. Actually, my wife is a vegetarian; we were told that it’s very difficult to be vegetarian in Georgia. But I discovered that it’s wrong. There is a wide range of different dishes, including vegetables.
Heavy dishes are not a new thing for us Estonians. However, you have a variety of vegetables too, maybe not so much fish and sea food as we do, but I think, your cuisine is very rich and I have been enjoying all its dishes. If you go to the countryside and go to a small restaurant, usually the food is very tasty. As for the wines, they are good too. Estonia is not the wine country but we also have our fruit wine. The main difference between our cuisines is bread – we have a rye bread and one Estonian lady is making it in Tbilisi and whenever we become nostalgic, we go and buy it. In Estonia, we also have white bread, but normally, the traditional rye bread is black. Rye is one of our cereals from which we make bread and vodka. I am not nationalistic in this regard – I like different cuisines. And I don’t have nostalgia so far; Actually, I enjoy it.
G.J: What about the Georgian culture – are you already familiar with any part of it?
P.T: Not so much, due to the active political events. But I am a big fan of opera and theatre in general and I have helped organize the event - Georgian opera companies, including Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi operas troupes, will go on tour to Estonia and for the first time, will take part in the Sarema Opera Festival in summer along with other operas. Every year, different operas come on tour to Estonia. Last year, it was a Russian opera week and this time, Georgian opera is on the program, including Tbilisi Ballet company. The festival exists for about ten years. Now, we are making a Georgian-Estonian co-production of “Tangerines”, the film that will be released at the end of the year.
G.J: How do you spend your free time?
P.T: I like skiing and hiking. We take our kids Tobias and Villem to Gudauri ski-resort; we like it, it’s beautiful.
G.J: What do you think about the event called “the Ambassador of the Year” that is organized by Georgian Journal?
P.T: I think it’s a good initiative.
G.J: What would you say in the end?
P.T: I want to express our support and love for Georgia. You cannot imagine how many Estonians were worried during the August war of 2008 and how consolidated they were to collect various items and send them to Georgia. These are the warm feelings that we have had for many years and still continue.

P.S. Estonia celebrates its 95th anniversary of Independence on 24 February. Congratulations!

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