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JAGS pupils explore Tallinn

Over the Half Term break, JAGS pupils studying Russian embarked on a fantastic trip to Tallinn, Estonia.

To find out more about what they got up to, read the daily diary below from Alice (Year 12).

Thank you to our wonderful MFL Department for organising the trip!

  • Day 1

On the first day of the trip, we took a very artistic approach, exploring Estonian history primarily through its portrayal in paintings. We started with a visit to Peter the Great’s Kadriorg Palace, where we saw different artistic depictions of mythology, nature, and traditional life, including some works by notable artists such as Angelika Kauffmann, Ivan Aivazovsky and Ivan Shishkin.
Evelin, our guide, taught us about the history of German landlords in Estonia, until the end of the First World War, and the history of conflict between Peter the Great and Sweden.

We then had some time to explore the palace ourselves before moving on to the Peter the Great House Museum. The museum was a very cosy space where we learned even more about Tsar’s visits to Tallinn, and the construction of the palace itself. We paid a quick visit to the Presidential Palace before our next stop at the Kumu Art Museum.

The Kumu Museum was really interesting – we were able to see and discuss works of Soviet propaganda and later political commentary on both key figures (like Lenin) and ideas (like Bolshevism itself). We had an engaging conversation as a group about Stalin and his use of art as propaganda, but we also managed to discuss topics like the role of women in the Soviet Union, which ties into the A level Russian syllabus.

In the afternoon, we had some free time to explore a shopping centre and buy souvenirs, an opportunity to relax after the previous day’s travelling. That evening, we explored the Museum of Occupations and Freedom where we learnt about Soviet deportations from Estonia to Siberia and the inhumane conditions suffered by many during transport and their exile. The museum also contained a model Soviet-style flat and a working Soviet sparkling water machine which we tried, along with an entertaining wall of jokes from the time about the regime.

  • Day 2

The next day began with a visit to the Tallinn Secondary School of Science, where a team of students led us on a tour of their school. Afterwards, we divided into small groups to meet students from the school and discuss Estonia’s history – my favourite event was the Baltic Chain: a peaceful protest in 1989, when ~2 million people joined hands from Tallinn to Vilnius.

Our next activity was a trip into the town with another group of students, who explained the history of several landmarks, including an old Soviet cinema, a statue of Konstantin Päts, and the War of Independence Victory Column. I really enjoyed being taught about the town by people who had grown up there, because it offered a unique insight into the public opinion of all these sights, for example the controversy over whether Pätz should have a statue or not.

We also visited the headmistress’ historic office and were able to practise our Russian with her.

In the afternoon, Evelin took us on a tour of the old town. We visited the Tallinn Town Hall Pharmacy, which has operated in the same site since 1422 and a chocolate shop which sold traditional marzipan, then we were given time to investigate the old town, and all its shops, ourselves.

Our final timetabled excursion of the day was a visit to the convent where former Minister of the Interior Lagle Parek lives. We had had time to research her life story and prepare questions before the trip. She spoke Russian the entire time, allowing us another opportunity to practise our listening (although Mrs. Wesson translated for us just in case). It was fascinating to hear about her life from her perspective and how her early experiences shaped her view of the world.

It was fantastic meeting her and listening to her responses to our questions.

After dinner, we were given the opportunity to go ice skating if we chose. It was such a fun end to a wonderful day.

  • Day 3

On our last day, we had one final treat before we went to the airport. We visited the PROTO Invention Factory and spent a while trying all sorts of virtual reality simulations. It was such an enjoyable experience, and the cherry on top was getting to try the same type of ice cream that used to be served in the USSR. It was an unexpected and cool link to the past; a brilliant way to round up a trip full of historical education.

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