Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tallinn re-discovers an old tradition

Dimly remembered from my fourth year Latin is the idea in Virgil that a nation should "choose foreign leaders". 

It is surprising how often nations do in fact choose foreign leaders, the positive and negative examples are legion: of course there is Hitler, an Austrian, who led Germany, Eamonn De Valera, a half Sicilian New Yorker, who led Ireland and Napoleon, the scion of a Corsican speaking family, who led France. Winston Churchill was half American, and most royal houses trace their origins to each other and not necessarily to the countries that they reigned over.

In the Baltic there has been a civic tradition of foreign participation. The first Mayor of Riga was George Armitstead, who came from a family of British Merchants. 

Now we have a successor, Abdul Turay- whose family originated in Guinea, became prominent in Sierra Leone and later came to the UK. Abdul had already added another step in his family's journey, by marrying an Estonian wife, but now he is set to be elected as a Councillor of the City of Tallinn, when the results are ratified later this week. He is not the first foreigner to be successful in Estonian civic affairs, nor, considering Pushkin's Ethiopian grandfather, Hannibal, was Governor of Tallinn under Peter the Great, is he the first man of African heritage.

He is however the first foreigner to be democratically elected to the City.

It is quite an achievement, let's hope he lives up to the hopes that Virgil (and others) will place in him.

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