The recent introduction of the Estonia's euro coin has sparked controversy after it was claimed that a map of the tiny Baltic country on the new Estonian one euro coin appears to include a chunk of neighbouring Russia. A prominent member of Estonia's large ethnic Russian community complained about the alleged mistake to the Kremlin, triggering a diplomatic row just days after the new coins entered circulation on January 1.
"When I first took the new euro coin in my hand the borders seemed unfamiliar to me," said Sergey Seredenko, a lawyer and defender of the Russian diaspora's rights in Estonia.
"I phoned the Bank of Estonia and asked what borders were represented. The answer was wonderful. They told me that it was an 'artist's impression'." Mr Seredenko said it looked as if the artist had made a mistake and included a chunk of western Russia that used to belong to Estonia before 1944. His claim is highly sensitive as Estonia was part of first the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union until 1991 and relations between the Kremlin and its tiny neighbour remain riven with mutual historical animosity. Russian media were quick to suggest that the alleged error was a deliberate "political provocation" designed to rub salt in a long-standing territorial dispute.
Estonia Map by Wikipedia.
"The map of Estonia depicted on the new euro coins clearly does not correspond to the country's modern borders," Russian daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda fumed.
It said the two countries had tried to reach an agreement over their respective borders in 2005 but that a deal had unravelled after the Kremlin accused Estonia of bad faith.
"The situation is absolutely scandalous and its consequences are unpredictable," the paper said of the euro coin dispute. "It would have been better if the Estonians had depicted a fig leaf on their coins turned towards Russia. That would have been more honest."
Estonia's ambassador to Moscow dismissed the claims about the new coins as inaccurate. While admitting that the borders depicted on the coin might be "a millimetre out here and there," he said the outline was broadly right.
"This piece of news is untruthful," the ambassador, Simmu Tiik, told Ekho Moskvy radio. "The current border and not the pre-war border is depicted." Estonia has tried to distance itself from Moscow by joining the EU, Nato, and, most recently, by adopting the euro.