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Read all about 2003, before it happens - a TBT exclusive

  • 2002-12-19
2003 will go down as a curious year in the annals of Baltic history. Guided by our redoubtable political expertise, and intimate knowledge of the Baltic region, TBT staff have put together an exclusive selection of some of the most extraordinary stories, long before they break.

The food and drink giant Pepsico offers Estonia $25 million to change the name of Lake Peipsi to Lake Pepsi. "We're only asking them to change one little letter," claims a company spokesman. "They can still pronounce it anyway they want." If approved, the deal would make the 3,555 sq. km. lake the nation's largest geographical landmark to be named after a soft drink, massively dwarfing the Coca-Cola cinema in Tallinn.

In another business related story, Estonia continues its aggressive national branding campaign by convincing Britney spears to write a special promotional song. "Estonia is Great," is a huge hit in the country. The video features Britney in national costume skipping around the island of Saaremaa and dancing by windmills. For her services, Ms Spears is granted honorary citizenship of Estonia, enraging some members of the Russian minority.

The 2003 Eurovision Song Contest in Riga is overrun by Latvian nationalists who want to make a protest against Europe. Maria Naumova and Renars Kaupers can only look on helplessly as the "euroterrorists" storm the stage and launch into a blistering Latvian language version of "Waterloo." Before being hustled off stage by security guards, however, Malta gives them an impressively high score.

Vaira Vike-Frieberga is re-elected as Latvia's president but shaves off her hair in a shock protest against the country's "corrupt" judiciary. The move enrages politicians, and the legal profession sues her for defamation of character, but Vaira's new shaven look proves a hit with the public.

Prime Minister Einars Repse continues to gain public support for his anti-corruption zeal, but when the popular daily Diena shows exclusive pictures of Repse pocketing a 5 lat note that he finds on the street, he faces a vote of no-confidence.

Repse strenuously denies any wrongdoing, insisting that there was no point handing the money over to the police, since "...they would only have kept it." He insists that he handed the money over to an accordion-playing busker in Old Riga, although there are no witnesses to confirm this.

In Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus is re-elected as president, as was widely predicted. But in a completely unforeseen development, Adamkus suddenly decides to quit politics. He embarks on a new career as DJ Adamski, earning widespread praise for his remarkable turntable techniques, and playing to packed out clubs all around Europe. DJ magazine, the British publication, votes him its man of the year.

Vilnius continues to experience its phenomenal building boom. But Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas is declared mentally disturbed when secret plans are discovered among his belongings to build a life-size replica of the Coliseum, the Empire State building, a pyramid and Big Ben in the heart of the Lithuanian capital. Fielding questions from journalists from his hospital bed, Zuokas says that he only wanted Vilnius to be like the "Manhattan of the Baltics."

In developments elsewhere in the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his impassioned war against terrorism when he outlaws beards in the Russian Federation. "Beards are weird," he says, "And I don't like them. We have some excellent specialist barbers in Moscow who can shear them off."

Eyebrows are also raised when St. Petersburg changes its name to Putingrad, although the Kremlin insists that Putin is embarrassed by the city's move. The president specifically asks that the new city name takes a small "p" instead of the traditional capital letter.

George Bush decides to do a part-time university course to counter media speculation over his intellectual capacity. He signs up for a course at Georgetown University in Washington, amid a blaze of media publicity. Asked by a reporter why he chose to study hermeneutics, the president declares that he's very well.

The U.S. president also pursues his anti-terrorism campaign with unabated determination. "The axes of evil," he says, "will chop down the tree of democracy if we don't be careful." The war against Iraq is thankfully averted when Saddam Hussein dyes his hair and mustache blonde in a conciliatory move toward the West.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair undergoes emergency surgery at a London hospital when a facial nerve gets trapped, causing his famous grin to become stuck in place. However, the surgery is a failure and the PM's rictuslike smile can't be effaced. New Labor spin doctors work around the clock to give every piece of news a "happy angle," so that Blair's smile is seen to herald a new and happier age in British politics.

The Baltic states meet their new NATO defence commitments by employing a radical new strategy. They hire the well-known private security company Securicor, at a discount rate, to take over the job of regional defence. A Securicor spokesman says, "We are delighted with this deal. With all our experience in collecting money from banks and shops, we are ideally placed to take part in the international coalition against terrorism."

Finally, a new film called "Brave Balt" breaks Baltic box- office records. and heralds the dawn of a new age for the Baltic film industry. The film is about one man's heroic struggle to be free from the yoke of colonial oppression. He bravely decides to stop growing potatoes for his imperial landlord and eats them himself instead. He's eventually killed for his beliefs.

A Pan-Baltic production, financed by Pepsico and the Rimi supermarket chain, "Brave Balt" draws some criticism for its glaring similarities to the film "Braveheart." But that doesn't stop it earning widespread critical acclaim. "Brave Balt 2," is planned for release the following year, in which Brave Balt's grandson fights against the yoke of imperial oppression with a wooden spoon.