Last updated

Tibla (tiblad in plural) is an ethnic slur in the Estonian language, which typically refers to an ethnic Russian or a Russian-speaking citizen of the former Soviet Union (USSR). [1] [2] "Tibla" was a censored word during the 1944–1991 Soviet occupation of Estonia. [3]



There are several hypotheses about the origin of the word.

Estonian journalist Voldemar Kures in the 1962 "Väliseestlase kalender" ("Calendar for Estonians Abroad", lit. "An Expat Estonian's Calendar") suggests, that the word comes from the name of the Vitebsk Governorate, in reference to Russian construction workers during World War I, who mostly came to Estonia from Vitebsk and were considered rather dumb. They were called "tipski" (a corruption of Vitebski – "one of Vitebsk"; tipskid in plural), which later became "tibla". [4] A similar version is the corruption of viteblyane/vitiblyane (витебляне) – "people of Vitebsk" or "people from Vitebsk". The 1937 Eesti Entsüklopeedia (Estonian Encyclopedia) is also believed to have such a reference. [5]

"Tibla" was already in widespread use during the Estonian War of Independence (1918–1920), as documented by then-current war correspondence between officers and higher-ups. At the time, the word was used to denote non-local Russians (more specifically males and low-ranking soldiers), independent of their affiliation during the concurrent Russian Civil War. [6]

The 1936–1937 war memories journal Vabadussõja lood ("Stories of the War of Independence") featured the word more widely both in soldiers' recollections, [7] war songs and anecdotes. [8] Of the soldier's songs, two used the titular word in their lyrics: "Vabariigi pealinnas" (eng. "In the Capital City of the Republic", alternately titled "Linda"; the former title was used in print, and the latter appeared in folklore [3] ), which indicated the worry of Estonian soldiers that young women would choose to bide their time with men of other nationalities during the absence of Estonian men themselves; and "Tibla seltsimees" (eng. lit. "The Comrade of a Tibla", or "The Tibla Comrade"). [9]

Another hypothesis is that the word comes from the Russian profane addressing "ty, blyad", "ты, блядь" ("you bitch", and the like [a] ) or, truncated, "ty, blya", "ты, бля". [10]

Modern definition

The Estonian Press Council offers an opinion that the term tibla is mostly applied to a Homo Sovieticus kind of person: lacking culture, uneducated, with imperialist worldview; one who does not respect the host country's language, culture, and its native inhabitants. [11]

The word began to be actively used in Estonian media since the 1990s by "Ivan Orav", a fictional character created by Andrus Kivirähk. According to "Orav", the word "tibla" has nothing to do with Russians, but that "tiblas" are instead small pink creatures that first appeared in Estonia in June 1940. [12]

The 2006 European Network Against Racism report mentions the recent use of the word tibla in Estonian-language media as an example of inappropriate language. [13]


In 2002, the Estonian Press Council settled the case when the newspaper Eesti Päevaleht printed an advertisement: "Don't you read the Päevaleht? You must be a tibla then. Be a true Estonian and become the reader." [11]

In 2008 the usage of the word in media caused a controversy, when Estonian TV aired the film Airheads , in which the slur "retards" was translated as "tibla" (a completely different meaning). When confronted, the translator, a well-known linguist, apologised, saying that she was careless. [14]


  1. ^
    While the word blyad literally means "slut", "bitch", and "whore", then in this context it's used as a non-personal interjection; especially its truncated form 'blya', which is never used in its literal meaning of "whore".

Related Research Articles

Flag of Estonia National flag

The national flag of Estonia is a tricolour featuring three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), black, and white. In Estonian it is colloquially called the "sinimustvalge", after the colours of the bands.

Livonian language Finno-Ugric language closely related to Estonian

The Livonian language is a Finnic language. Although its last native speaker died in 2013, there are about 40 reported speakers and 210 having reported some knowledge of the language. The native land of the Livonian people is the Livonian Coast of the Gulf of Livonia, located in the north of the Kurzeme peninsula in Latvia. Possibly unique among the Uralic languages, Livonian has been described as a pitch-accent language.

Estonian Independence Party Estonian political party

The Estonian Independence Party is a far-right nationalist political party in Estonia. The party, founded in 1999, is a successor to the Estonian Future Party. One of the principal aims of the party is the withdrawal of Estonia from the European Union. The party is currently without parliamentary representation.

Kumu (museum) Art museum in Tallinn, Estonia

The Kumu Art Museum is an art museum in Tallinn, Estonia. It is one of the largest museums in Estonia and one of the largest art museums in Northern Europe. It is one of the five branches of the Art Museum of Estonia, housing its main offices.

Johan Pitka Estonian military personnel

Johan Pitka, VR I/1, was an Estonian entrepreneur, sea captain and a rear admiral (1919). He was the Commander of the Estonian Navy in the Estonian War of Independence.

Harry Männil Estonian businessman

Harry Männil, also known as Harry Mannil Laul, was an Estonian businessman, art collector, and cultural benefactor in several countries, as well as an alleged war criminal.

Commune of the Working People of Estonia Unrecognised government

The Commune of the Working People of Estonia was an unrecognised government claiming the Bolshevik-occupied parts of Republic of Estonia as its territories during the Estonian War of Independence and the Russian Civil War.

Enar Jääger Estonian footballer

Enar Jääger is an Estonian former professional footballer who played as a defender.

Oskar Luts Estonian writer and playwright

Oskar Luts was an Estonian writer and playwright.

Leo Kunnas Estonian military personnel and writer

Leo Kunnas is an Estonian former military officer and a science fiction writer.

The Battle of Cēsis, fought near Cēsis in June 1919, was a decisive battle in the Estonian War of Independence and the Latvian War of Independence. After heavy fighting an Estonian force moving from the north, supplemented by Latvian units, repelled Baltic German attacks and went on full counter-attack.

Harald Tammer Estonian weightlifter

Harald Tammer was an Estonian journalist, athlete and weightlifter. As a heavyweight weightlifter he won a world title in 1922 and a bronze medal at the 1924 Olympics. As an athlete he competed in the shot put at the 1920 and 1924 Olympics and came sixth and twelfth, respectively. He served as the Olympic flag bearer for Estonia in 1920, and as a representative of the Estonian Olympic team in 1928 and 1936.

Andrus Kivirähk Estonian writer

Andrus Kivirähk is an Estonian writer, a playwright, topical satirist, and screenwriter. As of 2004, 25,000 copies of his novel Rehepapp ehk November had been sold, making him the most popular 21st century Estonian writer. His book Mees, kes teadis ussisõnu (2007) has been one of the top selling books in Estonia. He has been a member of the Estonian Writers' Union since 1996.

The Estonian Athlete of the Year is an annual award presented by the Estonian Olympic Committee to one male and one female sportsperson judged to have delivered the best performance over the course of the year. The winners of the award, which was first conceived in the 1930s and has been presented every year since 1955, are chosen by an aggregated vote from sporting journalists, national sporting federations, and the public at large.

Estonia Country in Northern Europe

Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia, and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia. The territory of Estonia consists of the mainland, the larger islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, and over 2,200 other islands and islets on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,339 square kilometres (17,505 sq mi). The capital city Tallinn and Tartu are the two largest urban areas of the country. The Estonian language is the autochthonous and the official language of Estonia; it is the first language of the majority of its population, as well as the world's second most spoken Finnic language.

100 great Estonians of the 20th century is a list of notable Estonians compiled in 1999 by Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, Eesti Päevaleht, National Library of Estonia, Radio Kuku, and TV3.

Salme Reek Estonian actress

Salme Reek was an Estonian stage, film, radio, and television actress and stage director whose career spanned nearly seventy years; sixty-six of which were spent as an actress at the Estonian Drama Theatre.

Voldemar Lender Estonian politician and engineer

Voldemar Lender was an Estonian engineer who was the mayor of Tallinn from 1906 to 1913, notably being the first ethnic Estonian to become the mayor of Tallinn.

Heikki Haravee was an Estonian actor, theatre director, and singer whose career spanned over fifty years; forty-three of which were spent at the Vanemuine theatre in Tartu.


  1. Roos, Aarand (1994). Words for understanding ethnic Estonians. Kommunaalprojekt. p. 49.
  2. "Tibla", Estonian Vocabulary (Eesti õigekeelsussõnaraamat ÕS 2006), Institute of the Estonian Language
  3. 1 2 Kulasalu, Kaisa (2013), "Ropp ja riigivastane: rahvaluulekogude tsenseerimisest Eestis hilisstalinismi perioodil" [Profane and anti-state: On censoring of folklore collections during the period of late stalinism](PDF, 6.4 Mb), Master's Degree thesis (in Estonian), University of Tartu, pp. 59, 61, retrieved 2015-12-08
  4. Estam, Jüri (2003-02-13). "Jüri Estam: Tibla, neeger ja juut". Eesti Päevaleht (in Estonian). Eesti Päevalehe AS. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  5. Tobi, Uku-Ralf (2000-08-25). "Minu päevik 2000: 19. august" [My Diary 2000: 19. August](Encoding ISO-8859-1). varamu (in Estonian). Sirp . Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  6. Kröönström, Mati (2008-02-20), "Kuperjanovi partisanide väeosa ja selle juhid Vabadussõjas" [The Kuperjanov Partisans Troop and its Leaders in the Estonian War of Independence](PDF, 3.79 MiB), Tuna (in Estonian), Eesti Arhivaaride Ühing, vol. 1/2008, p. 68, retrieved 2012-12-09
  7. Oskar Mänd, ed. (April 1937). "Vabadussõja lood" [Stories of the War of Independence] (in Estonian). 1937–7. Oskar Mänd, B. Ingel (PDF via Digar): 205, 212 (p. 15, 22 in PDF). Archived from the original (PDF, 28.78 MiB) on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-12-08.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. Oskar Mänd, ed. (June 1937). "Lõbusaid lugusid: Piinlik lugu" [Funny Stories: Embarrassing Story]. Vabadussõja lood (in Estonian). Oskar Mänd, B. Ingel (PDF via Digar). 1937–09: 279 (p. 29 in PDF). Archived from the original (PDF, 25 MiB) on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
  9. Oskar Mänd, ed. (March 1937). "Vabadussõjaaegseid laule" [Songs from the time of the War of Independence]. Vabadussõja lood (in Estonian). Oskar Mänd, B. Ingel (PDF via Digar). 1937–03: 185 (p. 27 in PDF). Archived from the original (PDF, 27.5 Mb) on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
  10. Laineste, Liisi Dysphemisms on the Estonian Internet (+).  Mäetagused . Hüperajakiri ("hyperjournal"), No. 38, 2008. — pp. 7–32. (in Estonian)
  11. 1 2 "Sixth Periodic Report" on the Implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Submitted by the Republic of Estonia under Article 9 of the Convention", 2004
  12. Tiblad are small and pink, epl
  13. "Racism in Estonia" Archived 2016-03-12 at the Wayback Machine , ENAR Shadow Report
  14. Shmelev, M. Strange accent of the local translation." Daily Vesti, 16.09.2008; the reference taken from "Racism in Estonia", ENAR Shadow Report 2008