Personal Success Stories in the Estonian Press

Tuuli Toomere
Paper presented at the Fourth Nordic Conference on the Anthropology of Post-Socialism, April 2002, by Tuuli Toomere, Institute for International and Social Studies, Tallinn Pedagogical University

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Table of Contents


Paper focuses on discourses of success in post-communist Estonia. The idea of success seems to overwhelmingly occupy minds of citizens of the renewed state during 1990s. Everybody wants to become successful in changed conditions and not to find himself on position of a loser. The paper aims to find out what is thought when such a construct as success is discussed. It tries to understand what is considered to be success via content analysis of stories about persons on pages of four different magazines and newspapers.

Success is a term which realises itself as the end of accomplishment of aims of one's life. Success means satisfaction, happiness, and fulfilled dreams. A person is considered to be successful by others if he or she has accomplished something that the significant others around him e. g. the people whom he considers important and with whom he communicates the most, have not achieved. Success is an important issue to look at because it helps to understand aspirations of lifetime and brings us to the values and identities of a person in his social environment. Challenges are formed on the basis of what one considers worthwhile in his or her life. As success is perceived subjectively by people in different ways, there exist many different ideas about success.

Relativity of Success

Success is a subjective term as for different people it contains different meanings. Ideas about success depend on social environment of origin, into what kind of world a person is socialised and what kind of values he carries. For example a farmer might think that he is successful when his cattle brings significantly more milk than the neighbouring ones. Educated man considers himself successful after publishing a book. Also Neoinstitutionalists have found that people do not set their aims not directly according to their experiences, but they borrow from general cultural repertoires, which their surrounding society contains, by following the values of their social environment (Lamont 1992:7). Lamont has suggested that value borders are drawn before an action and they are determined by the cultural resources, spatial and geographical socio-structural factors and also by the circle of people, with whom one is likely to interact. Values of a person establish what kind of qualities one dares to demand from his or her life, where is the borderline which needs to be transcended in order to say that he has become succesful. Border drawing is essential in the process of self-determination, it proceeds in a operation of finding similarities and differences in respect to the others. By creating difference, one's identity, dignity and sense of honour is signalled. While by bringing up similarities, the sense of security is created (Lamont 1992:11).

Person's high estimates about his life should show that he is satisfied with his accomplishments in his environment. Great number of subjectively successful people means contentment within society, because it indicates the lives, which are worth living. Thus, many different standards for success should be accepted and tolerated in order to give every member of a society to find his place in his living environment. More satisfied people bring higher quality of life to every member of community because, hopefully, happy people are more stable, helpful and pleasant towards their fellows. Success by subjective categories does not necessarily express success in objective categories, thus it should not correspond to the overall judgements, sometimes objective success could be subjectively unimportant for a person. Also, one's estimation of one's success is influenced by quality of life more generally: relationships, lifestyle and living environment.

While talking about success, material and social categories could be distinguished. Concrete and tangible results like income and real estate could be regarded as material success categories. Here it could be asked, whether a condition of success is fulfilled, does one own certain things or does one's income has reached to certain level. Material success declares itself in concrete numbers, which are hard to dispute. But there are many different material categories, which could be chosen for comparison in the scale of success like real estate ownership, income per person or income per family member. Social categories are more soft. These are expressed in social status, which contains honour, glory, fame, and social position. In terms of social criteria success is not so easy to decide as it is in terms of economical criteria: one can only express its opinion about social status, it could not be touched or counted. Lamont (1992:85-87) has noted that quite differently from cultural status or even more, moral status, which could be evaluated on the basis of information gathered from social networks during some time, everyday consumer goods offer in addition to hints on one's lifestyle, direct information on where one is situated in the scale of income, whether one is a winner or a loser in transformed society.

Social success should not necessarily be accompanied by material success and vice versa. But often estimates about one's status are based on success in material terms. Many researchers, Michele Lamont among them (1992:4), have demonstrated dominating Protestant way of thought that was first particularised by Max Weber, according to which strict work ethic guarantees moral purity, and thus, honour. Thus, hard work and competence carry a meaning of superiority, especially when it is accompanied by professional success, and triumph at work also carries a sign of cultural sophistication (and maybe also a sign of high social status). Therefore, the way we talk about success is very important. If only material categories have become the indications of success, it is hard to imagine the situation, where economically less well-off people are subjectively happy.

While researching higher middle class men in US and France, Lamont (1992) found that occupation is one of the best dimension to determine individual's identity and therefore also what he values as aims in his life. Seymour Martin Lipset (1981, cit Lamont, 1992), but also Goldthrope and Hope (1994) have suggested that intellectuals, or in their words: social and cultural specialists, relate to capitalism with a certain prejudice, because their occupation demands them to preserve a certain independence from commercialism. They have to achieve cultural, intellectual or humanitarian aims, which could not be measured in economical terms. Subjects who seek financial profit draw socio-economical borders and intellectuals draw cultural borders. Lamont also notes that it is significant whether one works in private or public sector: if one is directly dependent on marketing economy through profit earning, one is also more tolerant towards capitalism and estimate everything in terms of economical criteria.

After studying 15 New York women Lamont concluded that women draw remarkably stronger cultural boundaries, weaker socio-economical boundaries and little bit stronger moral boundaries than men (1992:133). Other researchers have also found that women are more related to moral because their gender role contains more caring for others (Gilligan 1982, cit Lamont 1992:133), that they are less oriented to economical success than men, and that they are generally more linked to culture in general (Mohr & DiMaggio 1980, cit Lamont 1992:133). In the study of Lamont women talked more than men about their friends, taste in clothing, food, books, art, travelling, etc and emphasised self-actualisation and psychological development.

Changing content of success

As eras and ideals change, also the content of success transforms. Alternations in society bring along modifications in criteria of success, in ways to accomplish and think about success. Zigmun Bauman (1995, 78) notes that while once upon a time one was successful when he managed to survive in harsh conditions of nature, in contemporary society the dimension of quality of life, which radical Marxist critics of modernism considered a waste of resources in capitalist society, has became a central criteria of success.

Lamont (1992, 85-87) has found that with the increase of popularity of entrepreneurship (which also took place when Estonia transformed from planing economy to marketing economy), the consideration with socio-economical criteria will also increase, these will be emphasised more than moral and cultural criteria. The importance of socio-economical borders will also increase with growth in geographical mobility and anonymous relationships Lamont (1992, 85-87), which in the case of Estonia expresses itself maybe in people who concentrate into capital city and establish relationships with people outside of their country. According to many researchers, accomplishment of material aims is a prerequisite of achieving non-material success. For example, Abraham Harold Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid holds satisfaction of physical needs and need for security at the lowest levels before the other needs, and modernisation theory of Roland Inglehart (1998), which initiated from Maslow' hierarchy of needs, expresses transition from material scarcity values like economic security, leaning on authority, and conformity with traditional towards post-material security values like self-realisation, freedom of choice, concern on health and importance of environment and family.

Jay G. Blumer and Michael Gurevitch (1997, 126-127) have observed decrease in previous norms of morals and consensus, puzzlement of borders of taste and acceptability and conflict between what is forbidden forbidden and allowed in the globalizing world (compare with Ulrich Beck's idea of risk society - Beck 1992). Increase in mobility could be noted and not only in geographical, occupational or social terms but also psychological mobility has grown which brings a need to consider new identities and cultural perspectives - thus also new possible models of success, which reach Estonia from world via media.

Blossfeld, Kurz ja Bernardi (1998) have noted that in contemporary constantly changing society the success of a person depends greatly on circumstances, which do not depend on person himself and that is why his choices became risky. This kind of situation could lead to a state where leading of one's destiny is abandoned and one turns to passivity and does not try to improve his life any more. Bauman (1995, 79-80) wrote that postmodern life strategies as well as the idea of quality of life are guided by heuristic principle to keep your choices open, avoid settlement and determined future. Behind this way of thought there is a cognition that perception of every accomplished life quality is local and passing, it could be easily forgotten by those who stick to it and so unstable that even neighbours would not understand it. As was found by Arthur Schopenhauer and explained by Sigmund Freud: overcoming of a trouble of the moment seems happiness to people. Quality of life exists a ever changing picture, which credibility and mobilising potential or absence of it depend on whether it is in harmony with local and historical experience.

In addition to overall insecurity in the world ideas about success in post-socialist states have been influenced also by unclear future and decrease in everyday security, which is characteristic to transition period. These tendencies should give more attention to material success criteria: in changing times, objects are something secure, their value is more stable than the value of cognitive categories. In line with the transition from Soviet collective, uniform, low risk society, where the state tried to determine one's choices (Kupferberg, 1997), to a society with significantly wider options of action, and transformed and more differentiated hierarchies, differentiation and individualisation of success criteria should be expected along with a broadening of opportunities to accomplish success.

This makes thinking and talking about success complicated, because one needs to know many success criteria and rethink meanings of altered resources. For example, during Soviet times accomplishment of success often depended on connections with the communist party. Belonging to the party and working in its organs gave a free road in many career paths, but the options of those who did not participate in these institutions were limited (Szelenyi, 1978). It seems that institutionalisation of power still exists, but the number of power institutions has grown. Aside political institutions, economical societies and student societies, maybe also lifestyle clubs could be effective for gathering information and converting social capital into success.

Research Questions

In changed Estonian society it is important to observe how the media reflect ideas about success and failure, what are portrayed as desired aims, how is success constructed and what kind of frame is formed for discussing success: what kind of success paths are offered to readers, what kind of ways towards success are suggested to different social groups. Considering above mentioned research problems, it is necessary to study what kind of social-economical, cultural and moral borders (Lamont 1992) are drawn in the articles. Thus, the following questions need to be answered:

Who are the successful? Which social groups' members are described and which groups' representatives are missing from media releases? This comes out when it is looked to whom story is directed, in which position is the object in a story and whether the story is positive or negative towards the object.

What is presented as success, what do the successful do?

What kind of resources and achievements carry signs of success? What events, opinions and experiences are tied to success? What attributes show that one is successful? What is accompanied to success? Do these experiences require material resources or not?

How successful are treated and how tolerant is media towards unsuccessful? If unsuccessful are presented with deep antipathy and with hatred - although failure could be temporary - success becomes a value in itself. Here it is necessary to see if a text contains a balanced discussion or model ideas are presented about something. This could be observed while looking at what is said in an affirmative way and what is said hypothetically; with whom there is a will to be related; who are "good" and who are "bad".

How is the way to success presented? Where is an emphasis while talking about success, does success/failure depends on individual himself or era and society where he happens to live? Does success need some special action by person, some kind of sacrifices or is success presented as something what just happens to somebody independently of his action. This is expressed in the voice of the text, whether the actor is presented in active or passive voice.

What are the possible accepted ways to accomplish success? Are some paths to success better and "more clean" than the others? What is somebody ready to do for success? For example is becoming successful by hard and tough work without any rest valued or rather becoming successful by living balanced and stable life, where there is a place for family, hobbies and vacation aside work appreciated. What factors and qualities are considered important while becoming successful? What creates failure?

The role of the media

People spend a great amount of their free time on mass media. Everyday knowledge and new information is drawn from media releases, but also conformation to one's identities and choices is sought. Therefore media plays significant role in shaping the lives of individuals. Lamont (1992:13) describes how people who are presented in mass media, shape events, products and other people: they confirm, advise, choose, propagate, and settle things down. Media persons' determinations about suitable cultural style influence indirectly choices of many individuals. This kind of statements could be regarded as expressions of power in contemporary society, because they play central role in affecting lives of many individuals. It is interesting to look at symbolic borders that are drawn in media in order to see the fight on symbolic level for the right to influence labelling and determination of social reality and macro-social classification systems (Lamont 1992:182).

Due to commercialisation, growth of media releases and globalisation, the influence of the regulatory forces of society has weakened and dependency of society from communication is growing (Blumer and Gurevitch 1996:126-127). Therefore, the importance of media releases increases. Bauman (1995:79-80) has noted that ambivalence created by insecure era of changes (that Estonia is also going through) brings always along a demand for experts, who tend to offer everybody a way to escape from uncertainty. But Bauman (1995:79-80) asserts that what experts really offer is just a temporary solution on how do fight dilemma of the moment without reducing its ambivalence. Because of only contradictory and unfinished contracts are possible, there is need for more experts to offer new solutions. First of all experts are needed as authorities, as somebody whom we could trust. As everybody trusts experts, suspicion and guilt about our behaviour afflict us to the less extent than if we would act on our own responsibility (Bauman 1995:79-80). Here media could fulfil a grateful role to be a generator of endless advice on what to do and examples on how to live. Marju Lauristin (2000:65) has noted that during societal changes, when social norms transform, the 'power of public word' grows considerably. The role of media is to offer solutions during the time of confusion.


Success stories could also be regarded as expert advice, where people worth to be presented in media releases are described as examples to be followed. An article could be named personal success story when aim of a person, factors of achieving success, and things and experience accompanying success are noted.

In order to access as much different attitudes towards success as possible, research objects were chosen from Estonian media releases with diverse audiences. Research concentrated to first six month Internet issues of the year 2001 of Anne (Women ' monthly), Kroonika (Gossip weekly), Maaleht (Countryside weekly) and Äripäev (Business daily). Äripäev and Maaleht were created during transition period, whereas Kroonika and Anne came to existence during independence era (see table 1). In the sample Äripäev was with the greatest number of print copies and audience. At 1999 it was read by 8,5 % of Estonian population and was the 10th newspaper by readership in Estonia (Baltic Media Book 1999). Kroonika was read by 10,4 % of Estonian population and it was the most popular magazine in 1999. Maaleht and Anne reached population to a little bit less extent.

Table 1. Data about media releases of the sample

  Äripäev Maaleht Kroonika Anne
printed copies 1999 165 500 42 000 50 000 31 000
number of readers 1999 940 000 166 000 254 000 115 000
year of creation 1989 1987 1996 1995
producer 1999 Äripäeva Kirjastuse AS Maaleht AS Eesti Ajakirjade Kirjastuse AS Ajakirjade grupp OÜ
frequency business days, in summer 3 times in a week once in a week once in a week once in a month

Source: Baltic Media Book. Tallinn. BMF Gallup Media (Balti Meediateabe AS)

According to the data of a survey by the Institute for International and Social Studies in June 2001, Maaleht was equally read by women and men, Ärip and Kroonika and Eesti Naine(1) more by women. There were statistically more women and men with higher education among the readers of Äripäev (see addition 1). Among the readers of other magazines there were no differences across education. There were more women in their fourties and fifties among the readers of Maaleht than women in twenties and thirties (see addition 2). Male readers of Maaleht had statistically more audience over sixty years old than in years 15-19. In the case of Äripäev significant differene appeared between women in thirties and women over sixties and men in twenties and thirties and men over sixties. Kroonika was read more by 15-19 years old females and females in their twenties than by females in their fourties, fifties and over sixty years old, also more by male in their thirties and over sixty years old. There were no age related differences in readership of Eesti Naine.

From each release one article from the first issue of the month, where somebody was presented personally, was taken into sample. It appeared that media releases contained different number of personal stories. Each issue of Kroonika was full of personal stories, while there was more than one personal story per issue in Maaleht, but only one or two personal stories per week in Äripäev. In Anne there were also more than one personal story per issue, therefore only long portrait stories, which contained more information about a person, were chosen into the sample.

All media releases under the study were partly owned by foreign media corporations in 2001. Owners did not influence the content of papers and magazines directly, but the formats of Estonian releases were copying the formats of their foreign releases. It was not just appearance but also norms of writing that could have dictated the content to some extent. Thus, the differences between the releases could have initiated not from orientation to different audiences but from different formats of the articles. Personal success stories of business daily Äripäev were well structured and written in especially coherent style, which was obviously, a result of directed questions asked by a journalist. While reading the article, there was an impression that similar questions were posed to all interviewees, which could have left less time for interviewees to develop their thoughts.

While writing an article, journalist is making a choice from the material of an interview with somebody. He also writes his own value orientations and aims of a journal into the text. Attempts to change the context and alter the emphasis of a talk of interviewee was also visible in some of the articles under the study. For example:

According to one fellow, Eva was not as overwhelmingly ambitious as somebody else. Or was she after all? Generally, aside from her writing gift she had a talent to be in right place in right time (Anne 01).


First, analysis concentrated to every article separately in order to try to find answers to the posed research questions via qualitative content analysis. Next, results were compared and it was studied whom the articles talked about, what was presented as success, how was it achieved, and what kind of efforts and difficulties were described, what kind of thins, events and experiences were tied to successful person, and what kind of confrontations were made in the stories (see addition 3).

Who were portrayed?

Out of 24 articles under the study half were about women and half about men. While all articles of Anne were about women, there was one article about man in Kroonika. There was only one portrait story about a women in Äripäev as well as in Maaleht. Stories presented mostly younger people, who probably have not reached to fulfil their dreams in life yet. There were 20 stories about people in 20s, 8 about people in 30s, 2 about people in 40s, 1 about people in 50s, and 2 about people in 60s. In five articles of Maaleht the age of the portrayed person remained unclear. With one exception Äripäev described people in their early 30s. Kroonika presented 4 people in their 20s and 2 in their 60s. Anne had all age groups present except women in 60s.

People from very different occupational groups were displayed. Portrayed persons of Äripäev, who represented top business people, formed a most clear class of successful people: they were entrepreneurs, company owners, board directors and top managers. There was also one professional (an architect). Five out of six stories of Maaleht introduced people, who lived in countryside and/or were connected with farming. Successful people of Kroonika and Anne were representatives of traditionally feminine occupations. But when Anne wrote about professionals, whose occupation demands at least in most of the cases official preliminary education (publisher, professor, specialist in drug research company, designer, marketing executive, theatre designer), five stories out of six in the case of Kroonika spoke about representatives of occupations that demand mainly special personal traits like model, writer, conductor of TV show, leader of a religious group, show-dance teacher.

What was presented as success?

Strong differentiation mainly into releases of male top business leaders, female professionals, male farmers and female freelancers should reveal models of success of these social groups.


Aim of the persons presented in Äripäev could be described as 'confronting challenges'. Presented business people took a challenge to achieve something special in their lifetime, which is on the edge of their abilities. Also, a wish to become well known and famous could have been surmised behind the challenges but sometimes a grandiose desire to help the humankind too. For example:

Being successful means doing something - from the start until the end - producing extra value. (Äripäev 04.01)

This act could be something, which would make life of millions of people better. How to achieve this is more complicated. I would like to do something for very many people. (Äripäev 04.01)

Electronics seemed to be such a field about which nobody understands much. It seemed to me that something unique could be done with it. Of course I did not know then that lot of money could be made with it. (Äripäev 01.03)

Klementi has been to me a big challenge enough. By knowing how big risks clothing involves, I did not take this offer. (Äripäev 01.03)

While looking for different tools for expression, you always contradict common terms and situations… /…/ In my opinion it would be the sadest if they did not speak about my works at all. /…/ Five years ago Ühispank turned to me and asked if it would be possible to build a skycrapper in Tallinn. I accepted the challenge immediately. (Äripäev 01.06)

In two articles of Äripäev it was implied that it is common to think that career is one of the most important things in life or success means climbing to the top of occupational ladder. At the same time interviewees tried to distance oneself from this way of thought:

Growth from position of telephone mounter to leader of the company has been a result of continuos work. After reaching from low level to top 34 year old director says that he has finished one work of lifetime. /…/ It is working, not career building that has been the most important thing in my life. For this it has been important to try to do right things and always finish these. (Äripäev 01.02)

I have not planned my career but educating, training and trying myself. /…/ It has always been important to me that position would offer something to me and that I could offer something to the company. /…/ Maybe I could try to lead an industry but I have never set myself an aim to make a next step on ladder or wanted something higher, more beautiful or attractive. After all, I just started here and I would like to develop together with this company. (Äripäev 05.04)


While speaking about their lives, portrayed persons in Äripäev emphasised creation of new qualities, four out of six persons in Maaleht did not set so high aims and concentrated on handling their harsh environment, willing to survive and not to give up. This was often expressed directly: Searching for ways to survive in countryside… (Maaleht 08.03). Thus, in Maaleht it was rather described how to handle life successfully e. g. getting back to health via natural way of life, earning profit and salary for employees by producing milk, green farming with the help of Finns, dealing with life at land and sea at the same time. Two articles of Maaleht talked about more ambitious aims: running a shop of farm products in the centre of Tartu (2nd largest city in Estonia) and mission to restore Estonian organs.


In four articles of Anne interesting job and self-development were valued as worth of accomplishment. In two stories handling family and work at the same time was considered achievement in itself. In one article importance of independence was emphasised. Articles of Anne encouraged to unite family and career by balancing the story with difficulties that go along with it and by giving advice how to make it work:

Now she publishes books in her own home, among her family. (Anne 01)

Law should say that father could also stay at children leave when mother has more decisive moment in realizing her career when baby is born. Also, man should share the burden of home cleaning and babysitting equally with woman in order to have both a little bit more difficult period when a baby comes to house and not just woman has a very difficult time. For my husband dividing homework has been totally natural. Without support of Urmas I could not have fought at many fronts. (Anne 02)

Both of them do homework - the one who has more time at the moment does it. Woman should not cook and clean alone at home if both work and earn the same way. Why one should have home for resting and other should not? Evald considers this kind of attitude natural and sensible. (Anne 04)


It was the most difficult to read off possible aims of life of the presented people from Kroonika. Aspirations where not directly spoken about but implied in leads and in introductions. Current situation appeared to be the most valued as satisfaction with current job was described. Greater concrete plans were not made:

Writing is something, which gives and takes energy and without which she could not live. (Kroonika 02.03)

What do you really-really want? I want to be happy. I want to do these things, which make me happy. (Kroonika 02.02)

Thus, media releases had a tendency to value different aims. In Äripäev challenges at work and in society were considered desirable, in Maaleht surviving in worsened conditions were spoken to be worth reaching, in Anne interesting job and uniting career and family were valued, in Kroonika aims were spoken rarely and satisfaction with current situation was expressed.

Achieving success

While looking at personal traits and factors that were mentioned in the articles while describing reaching aims, it could be pointed out that most often self-development and ability to analyse were emphasised in the 24 articles of the sample. Self-development, which appeared in 11 articles meant studying, education, professionalism and improving oneself. Studying was mentioned in all four media releases to the same extent, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, for example:

Ahti Kukk, who graduated Estonian Agricultural University, came to be a substitute director in the field of animal growing of Vändra experimental farm and became a leader of reformed Selja OÜ. (Maaleht 05.04.)

Second most stated ability was skills of analysis. Here examining one's surroundings and fitting oneself into one's environment could be regarded two separate categories. Ability to analyse external environment or follow trends, information and surroundings, to systemise and generalise this information and most importantly, skill to pick up things with future were pointed out in five articles, out of which three were in Äripäev and two in Kroonika. Analysis of self in relation to external environment or finding out one's strengths and focusing on these, planning one's career, setting aims in accordance with one's abilities and waiting for a right moment were mentioned in eleven articles, out of which five were in Äripäev, three in Kroonika, two in Anne and two in Maaleht. Importance of analysis skills could be illustrated as follows:

/…/ thinks of himself as navigating leader, who does not hold the aim once settled. In his words, leader should be able to change aims accordingly to a situation. One has to be flexible and especially in clothing business. (Äripäev 04.05)

Third significant ability in the way to success was communication skills. That got mentioned in eight articles of the sample. It appeared that by communication skills many different things could be implied from the ability to communicate one's ideas clearly and motivate the others until just good relationships with colleagues or being open and outgoing, for example:

Beautiful and brave girls belong to main five of Egoiste, who beside moving could also freely communicate with people and warm people up with their show. For example every month we run an event "Only girls on the counter". (Kroonika 01.06).

Communication skills were talked about in four articles of Äripäev, in two articles of Anne and two articles of Kroonika, but these were not mentioned in Maaleht.

The next most frequently spoken trait was being hard-working (was brought up in seven articles). By hard-working ability to work, will-power, continuity, steadiness and always finishing what you started were meant. Hard-working was emphasised in three articles of Äripäev, in three articles of Maaleht, in one article of Anne and in on article of Kroonika.

To the same extent as being hard-working, pure chance was mentioned as a significant factor to in the way to success. Here it was said that what happened to a person did not depend on himself, it just happened, a good chance popped up in his environment independently from him. Chance was most frequently mentioned in Kroonika (in three articles), but also in two articles of Maaleht, in one article of Äripäev and in one article of Anne, for example:

In the middle of summer vacation a classmate came to Jaak and said: "My brother was just practicing in France and Italy. Let's go also to study in navy school!" Further the story went as usual in this kind of cases: a friend did not get accepted, but after four years Jaak became a long distance steersman. (Maaleht 07.06.)

In the process of achieving set aims 'to do things, which one likes' were also considered important. Articles talked about doing pleasant things in general (four articles), but also that job should be interesting, inspiring and offer chances to develop further (four articles). Doing pleasant things was equality once mentioned at the pages all of the media releases under the study. Some examples:

Idea is important, chance to learn from it. (Äripäev 01.03)

It has always been important to me that position would offer something to me and that I could offer something to the company. (Äripäev 05.04)

The next factor in success hunting - everyday environment is connected with pleasant job and work surroundings, but also to environment at home and environment of the past e. g. childhood home. Good working environment and nice colleagues and teamwork were mentioned in five articles, two of them were in Äripäev, two in Anne and one in Maaleht. Supporting home environment was pointed out in four stories of Anne, in one story of Äripäev and in one story of Maaleht. By this understanding attitude of family and husband's help in homework were meant. Childhood home was mentioned in one article of each media. Here enforcing by parents, practising something from early childhood and parents as examples in life were brought up. For example:

At home they wanted that I played an instrument. /…/ In my opinion I was pretty clever, because this way I could skip homework. I thought it was easier to practice piano instead. But as the time flow, it became decisive in determination of my faith because I started to like playing. Where there other musicians at your childhood home? Father know how to play piano… (Maaleht 01.02)

Also, attractive appearance, self-confidence, ambitiousness, independence and cheerful mind were pointed out as significant factors for succeeding in life. Attractiveness and being nice looking and provocative were mentioned in two articles of Kroonika and in two articles of Anne. In two articles of Äripäev, in one article of Kroonika and in one article of Anne self-confidence was talked about, which was expressed by noting courage, believing into oneself, peaceful mind and sensibility. In three articles of Kroonika cheerfulness, optimism, being energetic were mentioned. Ambitiousness was stated in Anne and Maaleht and independence in Anne and Kroonika. Economical use of time, living day by day, vanity, carefulness, artifice, feminine wickedness and egoism were noted once in Kroonika.

Relationships, things and experiences


People also described their relationships, things and experiences while talking about their lives. Family, its members or future family were most frequently mentioned in the media releases (in 14 articles from 24). Out of these five were in Kroonika, four in Maaleht, four in Anne and only one in Äripäev.


Material things were not frequently talked about in the articles. The most often mentioned material artefacts was house (home, farm). Three times the process of building a house by its own was pointed out. House got stated in three articles of Maaleht, in one article of Kroonika and in one article of Anne. Secondly, money was talked about in Äripäev (three articles) and in Kroonika (one article). Owning a company was brought up as valuable two times in Äripäev, two times in Anne and two times in Maaleht. Car was once pointed out in Kroonika and once in Anne. The other things that got mentioned were computer, telephone, bicycle, skis, glasses, books, writing-desk, and consuming habits in general.


Experiences were also talked about quite rarely, but many different experiences got mentioned. One article of Kroonika and one article of Anne expressed denying attitude towards traditionally heavy and expensive things and preference to spend money rather on new sensual experiences and on self-development, which signifies hedonistic attitude. A person in Kroonika preferred to make things herself and a person in Anne longed for beautiful things but the ones, which could be easily packed and carried away. Most often travelling was referred as desirable (in even articles, out of which three in Kroonika, two in Anne and one in Maaleht and one in Äripäev). Friends and good company were mentioned in four articles (in two of Kroonika, in one of Äripäev and in one of Anne), playing music in three stories of Maaleht, port in one story of Äipäev, in one of Anne and in one of Kroonika. Simply feeling happy about every day was noted twice in Kroonika. Reading was pointed out in Anne and Kroonika. The other experiences, which were worth to be mentioned were being at countryside (Maaleht), doing public work (Maaleht), starting a party (Anne), being alone (Kroonika), sprawling at roof (Anne), alcohol and sauna (Äripäev).


While looking at whom and what media releases are writing about, the differences in audiences become clear and also the differences in the issues that are presented as worth of speaking. Older people, who should have already achieved success in their lives in comparison to youth, who still has whole life to live, where introduced to less extent than younger people. The reason for this could be that older people did not belong to a target group of media under the study or journalists did not expect from them anything worth writing, thus it was more efficient to present somebody, whose story could be continued on pages of next issues, who were perhaps half-way towards their desired aims. Also, stories about people under 20 were missing, who probably have not accomplished anything significant for the regarded media releases. The strategy of Maaleht to leave the age of the person a secret was an interesting one. At least in the case of Internet releases it did not give audiences a chance to discover age from photo too because photos were not present. This gave readers the possibility to identify with the hero of a story or settle him into his system of relationships.

Although there were equal number of articles about men and women in the sample, the stories about two sex groups appeared in different media releases. There was no articles (even no negative ones) about marginal social groups as handicapped, homosexuals or street people and also no articles about single mothers or single fathers and Russian speaking population which seems to imply that these groups do not exist for the media releases that were studied.

The stories of media releases valued different aims. In Äripäev challenges in work and in society were considered desirable, in Maaleht handling life in worsened circumstances were emphasised, in Anne interesting job and managing work and family at the same time were pointed out as worthwhile. In Kroonika aims were set to the less extent and satisfaction with current situation was expressed. While talking about aims in life, emphasis laid in work in every media release besides Kroonika. This refers that work and not for example free time is one of the central categories while talking about somebody as was also found by Lamont and Lipset. At the first glance missing aims of the persons portrayed in Kroonika seems scary, but it could be that in ever-changing world, where it is often necessary to change the direction, it is quite well-working strategy. During unstable era it seems to be a good idea to stay open to possible chances, sensitive towards your surrounding and not to cling to a single narrow activity. But it is vital to stay actively open e. g. look for information and communicate with people and not passively wait for mouse to run into your mouth.

It should be appreciated that persons of Äripäev did not consider just themselves while setting the aims of their life and wanted to make the world around them better. But these ideas often appeared in a very grandiose and general level, for example it was desired to do something to 'humankind' or to 'everybody'.

Maaleht portrayed people, who had difficulties in their lives from a positive side and encouraged to handle the worsened position. Although, persons from all media releases noted difficulties, which they had to overcome during their life, the hardships described in Maaleht seemed to be the most harsh and these were more than in pages of other releases related to material surviving. Few money, need to do extra work, agreeing with more difficult job after losing job, need to get more expensive production facilities because of EU regulations were the issues to complain about.

While looking at how media releases were similar and different by achievement factors, it could be noticed that self-development and studying were equally represented in all articles. This could refer to increasing popularity of higher education in Estonia generally but also be considered as a tool to gain new knowledge necessary for coping with transforming society. Äripäev tended more than the other media releases to emphasise following and generalising external environment, picking up important things for future, analysing one's strengths, and career planning. Also communication skills and inspiring work were mentioned more in Äripäev than in other media releases. These achievement factors are probably more important to leaders than to other working people' groups. Leaders' task is to guide and motivate their employees,

Ability to work and persistence with it, which were emphasized in male-oriented Äripäev and Maaleht present probably traditional spirit of Protestantism, where happiness and purity in the eyes of God comes only after hard work. Also, enforcing by parents to deal with something persistently already in childhood is connected to developing ability to work. It is interesting to note that the other moral related categories like honesty, modesty, etc were not mentioned in the articles.

Gaining success via ability to work is somewhat in opposition to the role of pure chance in meeting one's desired ends, which was mostly pointed out in gossip daily Kroonika. In one hand belief into determining power of chance seems to refer to loss of control of guiding one's life, in the other hand it could proceed from specifics of occupation. For example, chance really seems to play greater role in life of artists than it does in life of company owners: when an entrepreneur has to analyze the company and the environment, where it exists, then artist has to improve himself and hope that a culture manager will discover him. Thus, it could be said that generally the results of my survey correspond to the conclusions of research of Lamont and Lipset, where occupation was described as one of the main dimensions to determine one's values and aims. But also it must be considered that during unstable era, when social environment changes significantly, chance has a greater role to play than during stable era.

Also pleasant work was mentioned many times by pointing out nice colleagues, inspiration and working environment in general. This refers that work should be something to enjoy in life. But pleasant job is first of all post-materialist quality, which could be afforded only after material needs are satisfied if we lean here to Maslow's and Inglehart's research. Pleasant job came up the most among leaders of Äripäev, but also among professionals of Anne, who are probably the most materially secure groups.

Talking about family quite frequently in every release except Äripäev expresses importance of intimate relationships. Business people' attention and identity seems according to Äripäev to be first of all related to work and themselves and not to the family. Anne emphasised a little bit more flexibility in planning one's life and career. This kind of readiness is coherent with expectation to combine family and work. In Anne it was said that supportive environment at home helps to handle work, but at the same time independence was emphasised in the articles of Anne and Kroonika. Relating these two issues an interesting phenomenon was pointed out that by depending on help of family, it I possible to achieve independence.

In Kroonika and Anne, which mostly wrote about women, importance of appearance was discussed. That was neither mentioned Äripäev nor in Maaleht. This seems to imply that for women look is more important than for men. These conclusions should be treated as preliminary as there were too few articles under the study for quantitative generalisations.

Most often intimate people were talked about, which should show that relationships are aside other things considered the most important things. Maybe because of this house/home got pointed out most frequently from material things as something that relates to family. At the same time house is also one of the most expensive objects and requires lots of care as well as owning a company is a value, which requires lots of responsibility and work. The fact that from non-material experiences travelling was noted most frequently shows that looking for new experiences and self-development are considered important. Travelling, but also enjoining every single day, making music and sport could be very resource demanding or just the oppositely very cheap activities. Thus, it could not be said that in the articles the emphasis laid only in things and experiences that require great material investment. Material objects and experiences were not frequently talked in personal success stories.


In the article it was aimed to study imaginaries of success in different target groups' oriented media release. It was discovered that Anne (Women' monthly), Kroonika (Gossip weekly), Maaleht (Countryside daily) and Äripäev (Business daily) present stories of different people, offer diverse ideas about success and accordingly different ways to accomplish them. Four papers could be characterised as follows:

Business daily Äripäev writes mainly about male top managers, whose main aim in life seems to be to challenge his surrounding. This is accomplish ed via education, analysis of the surrounding environment and self, ability to work and communication skills and supported by inspiring work and working environment. Money and owning a company is important, family is marginal.

Rural life daily Maaleht writes mainly about males, who are connected with farming and whose aim in life is to survive. This is realised via education and ability to work. Family and house is valued; government and city people are criticised.

Women's magazine Anne writes only about women, who aspire to do original work and fit it with family life. It is completed via education and readiness for changes. Family is very important.

Gossip weekly Kroonika writes mainly about women of artistic occupations, who wish to feel well in the current moment and hope to gain this via self-development and good chance. Family, travelling, and friends are considered significant.


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Addition 1. Readership of Media Releases 'Regularly' and 'Sometimes' by Education and Gender (N=964)

    basic gymnasium higher Sum
male Maaleht 37.3 36.2 33.3 36.0
  Äripäev 13.8 26.8 56.0 28.3
  Kroonika 32.2 36.5 30.7 34.4
  Eesti Naine 10.9 12.6 8.0 11.4
female Maaleht 38.3 33.2 40.7 35.5
  Äripäev 6.3 20.3 40.2 21.6
  Kroonika 51.2 51.6 36.8 48.8
  Eesti Naine 35.4 42.4 44.8 41.6

Source: Attitudes towards European Union Survey. Institute for International and Social Studies 2001.


Addition 2. Age and Gender of Readers of Media Releases (N=964)

    15 - 19 a. 20 - 29 a. 30 - 39 a. 40 - 49 a. 50 - 59 a. 60+ a. Sum
male Maaleht 19.0 26.4 35.7 34.2 44.2 46.8 36.1
  Äripäev 21.4 41.9 43.4 25.6 26.0 10.9 28.3
  Kroonika 45.2 38.9 39.8 32.9 38.5 20.0 34.0
  Eesti Naine 7.0 4.2 16.5 10.1 13.7 12.7 11.3
female Maaleht 19.4 12.7 31.6 45.1 53.4 38.2 35.4
  Äripäev 20.6 28.1 30.2 22.5 25.0 10.4 21.6
  Kroonika 77.8 58.5 57.3 39.7 46.6 37.0 48.9
  Eesti Naine 44.4 43.8 43.8 46.5 38.4 36.5 41.3

Source: Attitudes towards European Union Survey. Institute for International and Social Studies 2001.


Addition 3. Models of Success

(Women' monthly)
(Gossip weekly)
(Countryside weekly)
(Business daily)
Who? Only professional women, all ages Mainly female artists, in 20s and 60s (except 1) Male farmers or other countryside people, age unclear Mainly male top business people, in 30s (except 1)
What? Interesting job in combination with family To feel good at the current moment Handling difficulties, surviving Challenges, something special
How? Supporting home environment (4), education (3), self-analysis (2), communication skills (2), supporting work environment (2), appearance (2), hard work (1), chance (1) Self-development (3), good chance (3), communication skills (2), appearance (2), hard work (1) Hard work (3), education (2), chance (2) Analysis of self (5), communication skills (4), education (3), a nalysis of environment (3), hard-working, (3), inspiring work (2), chance (1)
Things and experiences Family (4), travelling (3), own company (2), friends (2), car (1) Family (5), travelling (3), friends (3), house (1), car (1) Family (4), house (3), own company (2), travelling (1) Money (3), own company (2), friends (2), travelling (1)



1. Magazine Anne, the comparative data is presented about another women' monthly magazine Eesti Naine.