An incidental observation completely unrelated to any of the subjects I normally write on. When scrolling down a popular blog of a passionate Riga photographer, my eyes stopped on the visitor statistics. I don’t even try to compare mine with it, please don’t get me wrong—figures there are far beyond my imagination. What caught my attention was the patchwork of what I describe as neighbourhood, or neighbour behaviour. That’s just as fascinating as Eurovision voting, where countries (as if countries can vote) give their top points to the best song in their neighbourhood—a combination of arts and politics. I am taking this photographic blog as a laboratory-clean pattern, because it is easy to perceive, no language constraints, no ideological, historical, behavioural barriers—just click and look—and it has been around for a substantial number of years to make sure the cloud of potential visitors has been evenly informed and given a chance to visit.
Now how are the neighbours “voting” in this little contest? In descending order:
Germany: 12,605, or roughly 1 of every 6,300 people in the country.
Russia: 6,653, or 21,000.
Norway: 6,516, or 1 of every 770.
Sweden: 6,314, or 1 of every 1,500.
Lithuania: 5,927, or 1 or 500.
Poland: 5,229, or 1 of 7,300.
Finland: 5,189, or 1 of 1,000.
Estonia: 4,860, or 1 of 200.
Denmark: 2,744, or 1 or 2,000.
Belarus: no data available, obviously lower than Austria’s 1,208, no further scpeculations.
On this basis, here is the new ranking:
Obviously, Germany, Russia and, to a certain extent, Poland—all three at the lower end—are special cases as these countries are far too large geographically and population-wise compared to the rest of the region with only some limited parts adjacent to the Baltic Sea area and, therefore, only partly belonging to the neighbourhood.
Apart from the giants, the map is rather homogenous with all differences plain as day. It seems easy to explain how come Estonia is so much more interested in Riga photography, or say more broadly, Riga, Latvia, Latvians. The difference between Estonia and Lithuania makes one seek an explanation in Estonia’s globally acclaimed IT sophistication. Who knows, maybe the Estonians indeed feel at least somewhat more related to Riga and Latvia. Why not? If you are looking for any two neighbouring countries sharing centuries of identical history, sharing political patterns (and yet being different in the outcome of the most recent 20 years of regained independence…), don’t look any further. Lithuania? Very close too. But the historical stretches of sharing the destiny are 800 years against 200 years in favour of Estonia.
Why Norway is so much ahead of the other Nordics (or in this case Scandinavian rather than Nordics) requires more imagination. I don’t have any intelligible explanation. Some would perhaps claim that a high number of visits are produced by Latvian emigrants in Norway, which I think is a gross overestimation of their numbers and influence. Some other would perhaps name closeness or cultural relatedness. Umm, I’m not so sure about this, particularly after what I heard the other day in a brief interview Latvijas Radio’s Krustpunkti made with a Latvian blue collar in Norway. “Yeah, I wanna go home so badly, ‘cuz everything’s so different here from what I’m used to at home,” he said. “I want back to socialise the way we do it in Latvia.” I’m not criticising, pasarg dievs. All I am saying is that there are probably many different ways “we do it in Latvia”, and maybe some of those are not so very much different from the ways people do it other places, for instance, in the not otherwise so far away Norway. Well, anyway…Norway is even ahead of Finland, which seems to be very much on its place in this ranking.
Finland. Being just as isolated and provincial, colonised and subdued throughout its history until exactly the same time in 1917-1918, when the rest of the Eastern Baltics became independent, Finland has always known little about Latvia. Having Estonia between them, receiving all attention, affection and love from both, neither Finland, nor Latvia has ever bothered getting more familiar with each other. Being critical of its (natural, but I hope temporary) ignorance and Estonia-centredness when it comes to the Baltics, I adore Finland. In Finland, I clearly see the best pattern for Latvia to follow. Latvia must learn from Finland in hugely many ways. Well, I let myself drift away from the subject. I watch the Finns growing more interested in Latvia and particularly Riga that has become a very popular destination with both Finnair and airBaltic making several flights a day between the two countries.
Yes, Finland is ahead of the very self-assured Sweden, which may seem a bit more remote (and it all is your fault if you by any chance are hearing me say ‘arrogant’) than one could expect. But then again, being far more internationalised compared to its somewhat more provincial neighbours (sorry!!), Sweden has a world to think about. Against this background, Sweden’s position in this ranking should look much more flattering to Riga ;-) Sweden and the Swedes are cool and it’s our true luck to have such a tremendously enlightened and industrious society in our close neighbourhood. Luck because we didn’t do anything to help Sweden become the leader of the most competitive and socially equal region in the whole world, but we do expect Sweden and the region to help us out of our post-totalitarian (intellectual and spiritual) misery, don’t we?
Denmark? No excuse! Ow, sorry, what did I say? I meant “very different again” with all the reasons thereto. Come on, be fair, Denmark is after all not that far from the score of Sweden (even though it doesn’t have the whole world on its shoulders…). Although the Danes may at times seem giddy and impulsive to some people who know very little about them (and sometimes also to those who think they know a bit more), their knowledge of the North European (Nordic, Nordic-Baltic, Baltic Sea) region is very steady. Not that they know steadily little about it, or that steadily few of them know that Finland, for instance, is a Nordic country. One could perhaps say that the Danes are as steadily interested in their closest Scandinavian relatives as they are steadily disinterested and feel foreign in the rest of the region. I guess this explains Denmark’s weak voting in favour of the Latvian capital. They’ve most definitely heard of Riga but they are rather uncertain if Riga’s not too much of the East to their taste. Do I hear not very open-minded? Shame on you, of course they are! After all, they do visit that photographic Riga blog, don’t they?
That’s it. That’s where Riga and Latvia appears to be on the neighbourhood’s map judging from a visitor stat of a photographic blog. A remark.