Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Estonia's persistence of memory

The ordinarily sedate city of Tallinn, Estonia was rocked by rioting this weekend as ethnic Russians in Estonia looted stores, smashed windows and lit fires as part of a protest by the Estonian government to relocate a Soviet era statue (and mass grave) commemorating the Red Army soldiers who died liberating Estonia from Nazi Germany in 1944.

Actually, we need to back up a bit here.

Before the Soviet Union "liberated" Estonia, it had conquered Estonia with Adolf Hitler's full consent. You see, before Hitler and Josef Stalin went to war with each other, they agreed on a division of Europe into German and Soviet "spheres of influence", and codified it in a treaty - the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Once absorbed into Stalinist Russia, Estonia suffered the full brunt of the "glorious socialist brotherhood" that nearly wiped out dozens of non-Russian Soviet republics, including mass deportations to Siberia, mass executions, torture as well as religious and political repression by the NKVD.

In 1941, Hitler doublecrossed Stalin. Hitler's plan for assaulting the Soviet Union, codenamed Operation Barbarossa, smashed through Soviet defenses in Poland, and quickly reached the Baltic countries, including Estonia. Estonians were initially overjoyed to see the wehrmacht chasing the Soviets out. After all, how could it get any worse than being ruled by Stalin? Their hopes were dashed by the heavy hand of the Nazi occupation, yet thousands of Estonians willingly joined the wehrmacht when it became clear that the Soviets would retake Estonia. Estonians knew they were deep trouble when the Nazis looked like the lesser of two evils. To make a long story short, the Soviets recaptured Estonia in 1944, and quickly picked up where they left off, liquidating all "traitors to the motherland", as well as their families including minor children, the elderly and infirm. Estonians had to be wondering - who's liberating us from whom?

When Estonia finally broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonians had made it clear that Estonia was a decidedly unwilling participant in the Soviet experiment. Estonia even joined NATO as soon as possible to safeguard its hard won independence from Russia. However, Soviet "Russification" policies meant that ethnic Russians made up nearly one third of Estonia's population, and what's more, a third of the population that neither spoke Estonian, nor wanted to give up the privileges they had enjoyed under Soviet rule. Estonia wanted Russians who decided to stay in Estonia to learn how to speak Estonian, and integrate into Estonian society. Many of these Russians (who were not made citizens of Estonia after independence, incidentally) wanted to keep speaking Russian, and they've demanded that their Estonian "little brothers" show the proper love and gratitude to Russia, especially an appreciation of Stalin's "liberation" of Estonia from the Nazis.

You can see where this was heading, can't you?

For years, a statue erected by the Soviets to commemorate the war in Estonia (known as the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn) had a double meaning. For Russians, it symbolized the shedding of Russian blood to liberate Russia from the Nazis. For Estonians, it represents a symbol of bloodthirsty Stalinist colonialist imperialism. Estonians wanted the statue gone. Russians wanted it to stay. Finally, the Estonian government decided to relocate the statue and the Soviet soldiers buried underneath it - and that's when all hell broke loose.

Estonia's ethnic Russians began rioting, incensed that Estonia would dare disrespect the Soviet war effort. Russia itself began to chime in, sending a "fact finding mission" to Estonia, and demanding that the Estonian government resign en masse. In Moscow, hostile crowds began assaulting the Estonian embassy and threatening Estonia's diplomatic corp, an astonishing abrogation of Russia's duties to defend foreign embassies from violence. Russia claims it is "powerless" to protect the Estonian embassy. Estonians claim that the Russian police look pretty good at crowd control when it involves Russians protesting against Vladimir Putin. Russia is making oblique threats to break diplomatic ties with Estonia. Rumors of an armed ethnic Russian insurgency being organized inside Estonia are even circulating.

All of this over a statue? World War II ended over 60 years ago, but the current battle over history and memory is still being fought in Estonia. I can't help but think that somewhere, Josef Stalin is having a hearty laugh about all of this.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Making business with Estonia you support and finance Nazis.

You should understand, that making business with Estonia or buying anything produced in Estonia or visiting Estonia as a tourist, you actually support and finance a new generation of European Nazis. Estonia, which has recently joined to EU and NATO, officially practices Apartheid policies and does its best to rehabilitate and legalize Fascism, for years. EU, US and other democracies preferred not to pay attention on that till now. However, it doesn’t cancel the fact that Estonia carries out a policy of Ethnic Discrimination against ethnic Russians, who constitute a third part of its population. Most of these people were born in this country or live here for 30-40 years, but they were not even provided citizenship and are treated as second class people. Moreover, Estonia officially glorifies legionaries of Hitler’s SS troops that exterminated Jews in Fascist death camps in Estonia during the Holocaust. Government sets up monuments to these Fascist butchers. They are allowed to march in the downtown of the capital, Tallinn. They are invited to official events; the Estonian President shakes their bloody hands, and calls them heroes of Estonia.

At the same time, Estonian government aggressively fights with any memories of millions of the Soviet soldiers, who paid with their lives to free Europe from the plague of the Fascism and to save dozens millions of Europeans of the death. And democratic countries - first of all EU and US, prefer to dissemble this again. But recently Estonian regime overstepped the limits, which makes it absolutely illegal from the point of view of common human values. On April 26, Estonian authorities have decided to finally erase the memory of the victory of Russian soldiers over the Hitler’s Nazism by destroying the main World War II memorial to a Soviet warrior-rescuer, Bronze Soldier. For those Russians who live in Estonia, demolition of the memorial is not just a removal of some architectonic construction. This is the most painful insult of the memories of their fathers and grandfathers, who died in battle with the Fascism to bring freedom to the Europe.

Thousands of offended Estonian Russians came to a peaceful protest demonstration, demanding from Estonian officials to stop the vandalism. But instead dialogue Estonian authorities sent special police forces to suppress the protest. With no reason they started to fire in the protesters rubber bullets, water cannon and tear-gas, throw flash-bang grenades, and baton women and teenagers. During the massacre the first ethnic Russian was killed, dozens were injured and hundreds were arrested just because of their Russian ethnicity. Those arrested were thrown into in a harbor warehouse as they were livestock, and there they were beat by police within an inch of their life. Just think - in the heart of the Europe an Apartheid regime kills, injures and arrests hundreds people just because of their ethnicity! However, almost all of the European and American media keep hypocritical silence or even worse call this “pacifying gangs of drung vandals”.

This is disgrace! This is shame not only on those European and US governments that support this Nazi state. This is shame on every European and American who keeps silence today. Keeps silence, because somewhere inside he or she is confident that rehabilitation of Fascism, and Apartheid crimes committed against those “dirty Russian” at the heart of the European Union, provide “useful lesson” to Russians and Russia. But maybe you think that this is not your business? Then let me remind you a famous phrase by German priest Martin Niemoller he said about Nazis in 1945: “First they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew…. Then they came for me and by that time there was no one left who can speak up for me”. Today, new European Nazis came for the Russians, and the Europeans keep silence or, better to say, silently approve. Well, you can be sure - this is just the beginning, and some day yours home-grown Nazis, inspired by your silence of the crimes of the Estonian Fascism, will come for you. And there will be no one to speak up for you. Because Russians, once rescued the Europe from the Fascism, will never pay again with millions of their lives for those not speaking up today.

So what can you do? Not too much. But quite enough to stop Nazis. At least don’t finance them. Don’t buy anything produced from Estonia. Don’t do any kind of business with Estonian companies and organizations. Don’t invest in Estonian stocks. Don’t fly to Estonia as a tourist. What else? Maybe, to ask your representative in the House of Representatives, why your government spends your taxes to support Estonian Nazis? Or to forward this letter to your local newspaper and ask them, why they never write about Apartheid in Estonia? Or to call to Estonian embassy in your country, and ask them what is that they think they are doing? Or at least forward this letter to a few friends and colleagues? Your voice CAN prevent revival of Nazism, if you want it.

Anonymous said...

Let me ask you a question. Estonian police arrested and interned in a harbor warehouse about 600 ethnic Russians. There’s about 1.3 million inhabitants in Estonia. In Russia there’s about 144 million. So 600 arrested in Estonia would be about 70,000 in Russia if something like this were happened.

What you think about kind of reaction we should expect from every public person in EU and US, if Russia would arrest and intern in a harbor warehouse 70,000 of protesting Estonians in Moscow, no matter were they Russian citizens or not. Do you believe that Russia would not be named by every European and American “totalitary, fascist, criminal dictatorship”? And why in the exactly same situation Estonia is named by everyone “a democracy sharing common european values”? Apartheid, police crime against ethnic minority, glorifying of fascism - these are common european values? Fuck such values. When any European from now will tell me in a private talk a single word about “common european values” I will immediately strike him heavily in his right eye without even asking his name.

Anonymous said...

Btw, here is a proud story from Estonia on an Estonian site about monument to Estonian Waffen SS legionaries erected near Tallin. If here is a Jew at this blog, I want to remind you, that Estonian Waffen SS legionaries executed ALL Estonian Jews - a few thousands - within the first year of WW2, which is officially confirmed by Holocaust organizations. And official Tallin is proud of these “brave sons of the nation”. And EU is proud to have such a “democratic” state between its nations. Doesn’t is makes you a bit upset? I would be upset if I were Jew and some “European” country would glorify butchers who exterminated my forefathers as livestock.
http://www.baltictimes.com/news/articles/12586/

expert said...

If a flea was as big as a horse, it would jump 3 kilometers. We could put saddles on them and have a cheap means of transportation that is also friendly for the environment. No more traffic jams!

Anonymous said...

Totalitarism? Do you know what does this word mean? Maybe you will tell me, why living in totalitarism I talk to you here without KGB standing on my shoulders? Why I can right now go to NY Times or WSJ website and read the "truth of Russian totalitarism"? Let me know what meaning you put in this word. And maybe we will find, that totalitarism is US situation, rather than Russian. At least we don't have here a law that allows KGB to listen our phone talks and read emails without a court decision. And we don't have secret KGB jail here where people are tortured. And we don't have a situation when the House of Representatives apporves the end of the war and the Presindent tells them: "Fucj all of you this and that - the war will be continued. Me said! The end of a story".

Anonymous said...

Btw, Russian totalitarism have not a single war. And US democracy had only in recent 20 years two wars in Iraq, war in Serbia, Bosnia, Afganistan, Panama, Somali, Lybia, Haiti, Sudan, US democracy killed there about one million people - mostly women and children - in the name of democracy.

Anonymous said...

Is this all you can say - correct my mispelling? You know the differece between me - a "Russian with washed brains by Kremlin propaganda" and you - an American "knowing the truth"? I can speak to you or any other human in the World thru Internet or read any national newspaper or watch any national TV in English, French or Germain any time. So my "washed brains" get enough points of view from different sources, official or personal. While the only source of information available to you are your national "ted turners" and "larry kings", 'cos you don't even know any other language to speak to Russians, or French, or Germains, or Brazilians. So at least open a dictionary and read the definition of the word "totalitarian" - you will know whcih country you live in.

Joshua said...

Russian totalitarianism had not a single war? Is the unbelievable cruelty of the campaign in Chechnya not a war?

That being said, some wars are worth fighting... like, say, trying to end the genocide in the Balkans (oddly enough, supported by Russia).

I also must have forgotten that time we fought a war with Libya. If you mean the single airstrike in relation to the disco bombing, well, then we can talk about all the anti-Putin journalists who have wound up mysteriously clubbed to death outside their apartments.

Anonymous said...

Chechnya is a Russian state, like California is a US state, and no one is allowed to separate it from Russia. What do you think US Gov't would do, if Mexicans living in California would decided to separate from US? Do you think Idiot Jr. would tell them: "Sure, guys, why not. You can take California along with San Francisco, Los Angeles, Microsoft, Terminator Governor, Hollywood and Red Hot Chilly Peppers and go wherever you want"? I suggest you again - don't watch US TV as much. Otherwise propaganda will make you a complete idiot, like you President.

Michael said...

Most wanted Nazi war criminals
10b. Harry Mannil
Arrested Jews and Communists who were then executed by Nazis and Estonian collaborators
Status: Cleared by investigation in Estonia

10a. Algimantas Dailide
Arrested Jews who were then murdered by Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators
Status: Deported from US; convicted by Lithuania, which has hereto refused to implement his sentence of imprisonment
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1178020745724&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Not a single Estonian citizen who participated in the persecution and/or murder of Jews during WWII has been brought to trial by the Estonians, despite the existence of abundant incriminatory evidence in at least two cases submitted in recent years.
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1176152786406

Anonymous said...

The first comment is one of the finest samples of reborn soviet propaganda that I have seen lately. Or, maybe, the author is complete idiot. Either way, it shows the level of russia as it is.

Let's take a look..

officially practices Apartheid policies and does its best to rehabilitate and legalize Fascism, for years

No, it does not. Russia, in other hand, actually does this with, for example, smaller finno-ugric nations like Komi.

Most of these people were born in this country or live here for 30-40 years, but they were not even provided citizenship and are treated as second class people.

If person cannot learn a language of the country they live in in 40 years, it kind of shows how THAT person views the native population, doesn't it.

Moreover, Estonia officially glorifies legionaries of Hitler’s SS troops that exterminated Jews in Fascist death camps in Estonia during the Holocaust.

No, it does not. You have no facts. Russia (notice pattern here) still ADORES Stalin tho .. just check out all the 9th may parades.

Government sets up monuments to these Fascist butchers.

THAT monument was actually really REMOVED by the same government that presides now. Idiot.

At the same time, Estonian government aggressively fights with any memories of millions of the Soviet soldiers, who paid with their lives to free Europe from the plague of the Fascism

ROFL. Yeah, soviet army sucked so much that it literally had to butcher millions of people to win. Not to mention that "free" meant being terrorized for next 50 years.

by destroying the main World War II memorial to a Soviet warrior-rescuer,

It starts to get really funny now.. because ONLY thing Estonian government did was to MOVE the monument from busy street to nearby CEMETERY. Let's once again compare to Russia, where not only monuments disappear, but also actual people..

With no reason they started to fire in the protesters rubber bullets, water cannon and tear-gas, throw flash-bang grenades, and baton women and teenagers.

Yeah, I guess throwing rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails towards police is really peaceful. Same goes for turning over cars, vandalizing shops, setting things on fire, destroying bus-stops and stealing. There are tens of videos both on youtube and just lying around, just to show what exactly those "peaceful" demonstrants did. http://tuvasta.politsei.ee/est/0426_01.html for example.

During the massacre the first ethnic Russian was killed, dozens were injured and hundreds were arrested just because of their Russian ethnicity.

That person was killed by "peaceful protesters" over dividing a loot from local shop. And I take the author of that comment puts equal sign between looting bandit and person with russian ethnicity. Well, he probably knows best. I, on the other hand, have many russian friends who do not share that view.

Those arrested were thrown into in a harbor warehouse as they were livestock, and there they were beat by police within an inch of their life.

Really? wow. Estonians really do have great police, if those guys didn't accidentally cross that inch on at least some those poor arrested ones. Strangely enough even russian DUMA delegation didn't find any signs of that, even when talking with arrested persons. Do we need to remember some KGB/NKVD methods here?

I don't really care to comment the rest of that joke. Coming from person who lives in a country where basic freedoms are not guaranteed, where majority of people live below poverty line and state can do whatever it wants -- it cannot be anything else than a sad attempt of failed propaganda.

BTW, there are 300 thousand russians in Estonia. Out of those, 100 thousand live in Tallinn. Out of those, only 1% took part in the protests and looting thereafter. Remaining 99% are perfectly happy in Estonia -- regardless of Putins continuous call for them to return home?! Not only that, even that 1% does not really want to follow the call home. Wonder why is that?

Melko said...

anonymous said (10:02 AM comment): "At least we don't have here a law that allows KGB to listen our phone talks and read emails without a court decision. And we don't have secret KGB jail here where people are tortured."

Actually, I am quite sure THAT you (Russia) DO NOT (have that kind of laws).
And there's a reason for that too - then they do not have to stand that kind of harassments like the ones you named. Isn't that a pity?

Melko said...

anonymous said (10:02 AM comment): "At least we don't have here a law that allows KGB to listen our phone talks and read emails without a court decision. And we don't have secret KGB jail here where people are tortured."

Actually, I am quite sure THAT you (Russia) DO NOT have that kind of laws.
And there's a reason for that too - then they (i.e. KGB) do not have to stand that kind of harassments like the ones you named. Isn't that a pity?

Anonymous said...

Get the russians and their monuments out of independent Estonia and the other Baltic countries. They can go to hell. . .