Last updated

Tibla (tiblad in plural) is an insult in the Estonian language, which typically refers to a Russian-speaking citizen of the former Soviet Union (USSR) who is hostile towards other cultures and countries. [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 ("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 ("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 tiblad 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]

See also


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

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flag of Estonia</span> National flag

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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Estonian War of Independence</span> War between Estonia and Soviet Russia in 1918–1920

The Estonian War of Independence, also known as the Estonian Liberation War, was a defensive campaign of the Estonian Army and its allies, most notably the United Kingdom, against the Bolshevik westward offensive of 1918–1919 and the 1919 aggression of the Baltische Landeswehr. The campaign was the struggle of the newly established democratic nation of Estonia for independence in the aftermath of World War I. It resulted in a victory for Estonia and was concluded in the 1920 Treaty of Tartu.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Estonian Independence Party</span> Former Estonian political party 1999–2022

The Estonian Independence Party was a far-right nationalist political party in Estonia. The small party, founded in 1999, never had any significant success in the elections, and it was dissolved in 2022. One of the principal aims of the party was the withdrawal of Estonia from the European Union.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anija Parish</span> Municipality of Estonia (2017)

Anija Parish is a rural municipality in the eastern part of Harju County, Estonia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Estonia in the Eurovision Song Contest</span>

Estonia has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 28 times since making its debut in 1994. Its first appearance would have taken place in 1993 but a qualification round was installed for seven former Eastern Bloc countries hoping to make their debut in the contest, with Estonia failing to qualify. Estonia has won the contest once, in 2001.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paide</span> Town in Estonia

Paide is a town in Estonia and the capital of Järva County, one of the 15 counties of Estonia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johan Pitka</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Harry Männil</span> Estonian businessman

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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pärnu Rannastaadion</span> Multi-purpose stadium in Pärnu, Estonia

Pärnu Rannastaadion is a multi-purpose stadium in Pärnu, Estonia. It is currently used mostly for football matches and is the home ground of Pärnu JK Vaprus and PJK. The stadium was opened after reconstruction in 2016 and seats 1,501. The address of the stadium is Ranna pst. 2, 80012 Pärnu.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Enar Jääger</span> Estonian footballer

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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Paju</span> 1919 military conflict in Estonia during Estonian War of Independence

The Battle of Paju was fought in Paju, near Valga, Estonia, on 31 January 1919 during the Estonian War of Independence. After heavy fighting, the Tartu-Valga group of the Estonian Army pushed the Red Latvian Riflemen out of the Paju Manor. It was the fiercest battle in the early period of war. Estonian commander Julius Kuperjanov fell in the fighting.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">University of Tartu men's basketball team</span> Estonian basketball club

Tartu Ülikooli korvpallimeeskond, also known as Tartu Ülikool Maks & Moorits for sponsorship reasons, is a professional basketball team based in Tartu, Estonia. They are a part of the University of Tartu Academic Sports Club. The team plays in the Estonian-Latvian Basketball League and the Korvpalli Meistriliiga (KML). Their home arena is the University of Tartu Sports Hall.

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.

The 1st Division was one of the three Estonian divisions created during the Estonian War of Independence, which was active until the Soviet occupation of Estonia. Since the restoration of independence in 1991 there are no divisions currently among the Estonian Defence Forces.

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.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Capture of Tapa</span> Battle in Estonia in 1919

Capture of Tapa, sometimes known as the The Battle of Tapa, took place on 9 January 1919 in Tapa, Estonia, between troops of the Russian Red Army and Estonia. The goal of the Estonian troops was to capture and liberate the Tapa Railway Station from occupation by Russia. Three armored trains (soomusrong) were used in the engagement, led by Captain Anton Irv, Captain Oskar Luiga, and Captain Jaan Lepp.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Armored Train Regiment (Estonia)</span> Former military unit of Estonia

The Armored Train Regiment was an armored regiment of the Estonian Defense Forces from 1934–1941. In 1939, the strength of the regiment was 544 men. The symbol of the regiment was a skull with wings on train wheels, symbolizing how armored trains fought in the Estonian Independence War. The symbol was nicknamed "Flying death on the railway".


  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