30 exquisite maps to teach a great deal about Estonia

Last November, a bunch of University of Tartu geographers participated in the #30DayMapChallenge on Twitter: Evelyn Uuemaa, Anto Aasa, Tõnu Oja, Janika Raun, Alexander Kmoch, and UT Mobility Lab.

Three geographers – Tõnu Oja, Professor of Geoinformatics and Cartography; Evelyn Uuemaa, Associate Professor in Geoinformatics; and UT Mobility Lab – managed to make thirty maps in a row, one each day. Evelyn repeated her 2019 accomplishment, which was when Finnish GIS professional Topi Tjukanov initiated the challenge for the first time.

In 2020, at least 1378 people tweeted the hashtag. 797 people made 6,882 maps. Geographers used open data and open-source software to make the maps.

Here come 30 selected maps by the University of Tartu geographers, grouped by topic. They visualize both essential and fun facts about Estonia. Clicking on a map opens a larger view.


1. Population map of Estonia

Population map of Estonia
Population in Estonia. Data: Estonian Statistics. Map credit: Evelyn Uuemaa

2. Another population map of Estonia

Map: population in Estonia
Let’s repeat the population map in green. Data: Statistics Estonia. Map credit: Anto Aasa

3. Population map: Estonians and Russians

Map: Estonians and Russians in Estonia
A population map, where each person is shown as a random point in a residential building. 2011 census data was used to differentiate between ethnic Estonians and Russians.
Data: 2011 Population and Housing Census. Map credit: Ago Tominga / UT Mobility Lab
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Risk-loving managers bribe more with no payoff

I studied the role of managerial traits in company-level corruption among Vietnamese small and medium enterprises. Vietnam is a Socialist republic that has experienced high economic growth; however, they also have widespread corruption.

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Vietnam is ranked 96th out of 198 countries (for comparison, Estonia ranks 18, USA 23, Russia 137).  It is interesting to investigate how companies, and in particular managers, do business in corrupt environments like Vietnam.

Vietnam has experienced high economic growth and widespread corruption. Image credit: Tran Phu on Unsplash

My study builds on two different streams of literature. Firstly, previous research has indicated that an individual’s five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism) can predict behaviour. This includes deviant and anti-social behaviour, such as plagiarism, criminal decision making, and workplace deviance. Corruption could be also specified as deviant behaviour that breaks legal or moral norms. Hence, one may argue that there could be a link between personality traits and corruption.

Another stream of literature posits that managerial personality traits are important determinants of business success and company performance. Although managerial personality traits seem to be identical to the five personality traits, they are specific to entrepreneurs and managers. For example, the traits of innovativeness and locus of control are positively associated with revenue. At the same time, risk aversion negatively relates to revenue.

In addition, there is evidence that suggests positive effects of corruption on company performance. This happens in cases where institutional quality is weak. Institutional quality refers to how good the rule of law, control of corruption, government effectiveness and accountability, and political stability are. (NB! There are also studies that show negative effects of corruption on company performance).

Accordingly, a manager’s personality traits serve as possible predictors of corruption. As managers are the ones who participate in corrupt negotiations, their personality traits could play an important role in deciding to pay bribes to public officials.

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Our top 10 most-read stories from 2020 are personal

Our most popular stories from last year are mostly very personal. These include quarantine diaries, a love story, a journey on the way to scientific discoveries, a quest for freedom, proud stories of graduation, and professional success. Enjoy!

1. Student diary: About self-care in quarantine

Anja Tovirac, our exchange student from Germany last spring, shared her fresh quarantine experience from Tartu in March:

COVID-19 is omnipresent at the moment. Coronavirus has reached Tartu and we are all affected. To prevent the spread of the virus and due to the state of emergency declared by the Estonian government, not only the university, but most of our personal social life now takes place at home.

Anja at the window of her Tartu apartment, looking for the signs of spring. Photo from a private collection

2. Our big day: It all started in Tartu

Anna Beitane and Stefano Braghiroli shared their Tartu love story:

A couple of weeks ago we had our big day, a day in a long path that has changed us both and will change our lives forever: a path of responsibility, commitment, respect, and – most of all – love. On 25 July we tied the knot and it was a sunny day of happiness! It was a moment that we had planned and imagined for almost a year, but had been very much threatened – until the final weeks – by the global pandemic and the unprecedented uncertainty related to it.

Anna and Stefano
Anna and Stefano descending the stairs of Modena’s City Hall. Photo credit: 10 Photography – Francesca Pradella

3. Why is Hong Kong protesting?

Two University of Tartu students from Hong Kong, Litman Huang and Aubrey Yung, wrote about the protests against the Chinese Communist Party in their home city. In their story, they also draw parallels to the Estonian past in the Soviet Union and point out the mechanisms of Chinese soft power.

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Anything but usual: My Erasmus stay in Tartu

It all started at the very first exam of my master’s studies. After the end of the exam, I asked my professor for a recommendation of a good place to go to an Erasmus+ study stay – somewhere I could learn something new in my field, in media studies. He mentioned Tartu, which had already been on my shortlist of universities. I kept it in mind.

Lucie Čejková with the Tartu smart bike

My first ride on the Tartu smart bike which I fell in love with, and I used them to move around Tartu a lot. Image from a personal archive

One and a half years later, at the beginning of 2020, I began the process of preparations for Erasmus+ studies. I went through the websites and offers of many universities, but in the end, I wanted to go to Tartu so much it was the only university I signed up for in my application. It was in the middle of February, to be precise. Some disease which apparently appeared in China started to spread abroad, but at the time, I had no doubts about the rest of the year. I thought it would go as usual when a new disease appears – a cure for it arrives quickly, and it just disappears in a few weeks.

The further I got through the application and acceptance processes, the more anxious I got about it. The disease stayed, it was named COVID-19, and it was spreading around the world. It canceled the tour of the band I play in, it canceled my plans for the summer, and I feared it would cancel my dream of finally living and studying abroad for some time.

During August, the situation with COVID-19 got slightly better, and despite hearing many unpleasant predictions for the autumn, I was grateful that I could at least travel to Tartu and start my semester there with face-to-face teaching. After several canceled flights and two days of complete chaos, I took a 35-hour journey by bus from the Czech Republic to Tartu.

When I arrived at the bus station in Tartu and opened the Google Maps app to finally find my way to the dormitories, I felt like I had just finished a marathon run that I lost, because all my plans for a calm departure to Estonia failed. Nevertheless, I made it to the end, and the successful finish was the only thing that mattered. I felt exhausted but extremely happy at the same time.

Just like many others, I had to stay in self-isolation for two weeks after my arrival. Again, I felt grateful for being able to come to Estonia, so I obeyed the rules carefully. I went only to the nearest supermarkets to buy the necessary groceries, I wore a mask, and I spent days in my room. And gosh, how I missed a good cup of specialty coffee.

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Five tips for the safe use of drugs

All drugs are poison. No drug, be it natural or herbal, is completely safe – if it has effects, it also has side effects. The rigid regulatory framework of the pharmaceutical world and the strict requirements protect public health and guarantee the high quality, safety and efficiency of drugs. Below you will find some simple principles to follow to ensure the reasonable use of drugs.

How to achieve drug safety

Tip 1. Use medication for the correct purpose, in the correct manner and in the correct dosage

Drugs are helpful only if you use them in the right way. The doctor or pharmacist can tell you what the right way is. They study at the university for many years to become experts in this field. They will help you find the best therapy and/or medication for a medical condition, taking into account the specific patient, the secondary diseases, and other medications used. One should pay particular attention to children whose bodies function differently from adults’ and for whom there are special drugs, the dosage of which depends on the child’s age and weight.

No drug is universal to function equally well for everyone and for every disease. This is why smart people do not self-medicate or share drugs (especially prescription drugs) with friends or family. Taking a prescription drug that has not been prescribed specifically to you may pose a serious risk to your health. And although you do not need a prescription to buy over-the-counter drugs, it is not wise to administer these without consulting the pharmacist either. Arbitrary use of drugs and making self-wise treatment decisions involve a great health risk.

Dr Google, despite being only a few clicks away, will not replace a doctor or a pharmacist. A web search is not reasonable because in the patchwork of information it is easy to stumble upon misinformation. And if you believe it, the consequences to your health may be irreversible. It is like a lottery with a random chance of winning. However, you cannot afford to gamble with your health.

Tip 2. Buy drugs only at the pharmacy

Pharmacies sell drugs with proven safety, quality and efficiency. This is ensured by the strict control and regulations of the pharmaceutical sector. When you buy drugs at the pharmacy, it is not just a transaction of purchase and sale, but it always involves counselling as a part of high-quality pharmacy service. As it requires open communication with the pharmacist, you should take enough time to go to the pharmacy, just as you do when seeing a doctor. A pharmacy is not a place to rush through.

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Contest for international students: My way to Tartu

UPDATE, 30 November 2020: the contest is over.

The winners of the contest “My way to Tartu”

This year, travelling to Tartu was so much different than usual. It has been challenging and tough, but also more adventurous. We would love to hear your story of reaching Tartu despite all the difficulties and obstacles on your way!

Please share your story with us in writing, photos, video, or a mix of them. Choose whatever format or medium you prefer.

To participate in the contest, please follow these easy steps:

  1. Prepare your contest entry on the topic “My way to Tartu“.
  2. Upload your entry to a social media account of your choice as a public post, so we can see it.
  3. Share the link to your post with us here: http://utstudentblog.tumblr.com/submit.
Contest visual
What was your way to Tartu like? We’d love to hear your story!


Can I participate? To participate in the contest, you must be a current international student at the University of Tartu.

Contest period. Contest entries will be accepted until 22 November 23:59 2020. The jury will announce the winners on 30 November 2020.

What should I post? The topic for contest entries is: “My way to Tartu”. Entries can be submitted in writing, photos, videos, or a mix of them. There are no restrictions to the format or medium. Entries will be judged based on their quality of expression and originality. By uploading your entry, you confirm that you own the rights to this work and happily agree that the University of Tartu may use it with proper attribution.

How do I enter? Please fill in your name and email address, and upload the link to your entry: http://utstudentblog.tumblr.com/submit.

No social media account? Upload your work to: http://utstudentblog.tumblr.com/submit.

Prizes. The prizes include a Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 camera, two Kaubamaja gift cards valued at 50 euros each, and three university hoodies.

We are looking forward to your stories!

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How to reduce the workload of healthcare workers using robots

Five new applied research projects are starting at the University of Tartu this autumn. All of the projects aim to address coronavirus-related problems.

The project led by Associate Professor of Collaborative Robotics Arun Kumar Singh is beginning to develop autonomous mobile robots that help to reduce the workload of healthcare professionals. The robots will minimise the contact between staff and patients and thereby lower the risk of infection during virus outbreaks.

For example, a robot carrying a human-sized display could lead a patient to the doctor’s room. This would give nurses a bit more time and reduce human contact in hospital hallways. Another example is a box-shaped robot that could deliver food to patients who are staying in the hospital.

Clearpatch Jackal robot
This knee-high robot can be used for transporting objects, such as test samples, food, and medicine. Image credit: IMS lab
Clearbot robots
These 10-cm-high robots will be tested for interaction with patients. The researchers will mount a tablet on them at a higher level to guide patients in reception areas or testing rooms. Also, a remote nurse can talk to the incoming patients through the tablet. Image credit: IMS lab

In the course of the project, the team will work out sensing, control, and human-robot interaction technologies, the latter of which is the most challenging task. So far, robots have mostly been used in factories where few humans are present, whereas in hospitals robots should interact and cooperate with humans. “When you put robots and humans into one space, they both feel uncomfortable. Suppose a robot moves and sees a crowd of people. It needs to predict how the crowd will move during the next 0.1–0.2 seconds and decide on how to move”, said Singh.

Singh and his team are planning to start testing robots in Estonian hospitals at the end of next year. The tests will show if the robots manage to impress healthcare professionals and hospital leaders. The researchers will develop a commercialisation plan for the technology based on performance, along with hospitals and industrial partners.

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