Estonians making a clean break with Soviet past?

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Estonians making a clean break with Soviet past?

Post by tenoriodj » Fri Apr 27, 2007 6:09 am

Just saw the footage of ethnic Russian youth rioting in Tallinn in protest for the removal of the monument to the Soviet soldier. Many of them appear to be drunk and ended up looting.

Just reminded me of many conversations on the topic of Estonian history 1940-1990 during my 3 visits there in recent years.

My friend Maris told me of the fate of her teacher grandpa when the Soviet army retook Estonia in 1944, how he was sent to Siberia with is entire family. They were allowed to come back only after Stalin´s death, and struggled to survive after that for years, how they hid a pig inside their home so it wouldnt be confiscated etc etc. Of course the same happened in Chechnia and other Sovier republics who saw the wehrmacht as liberators and the bore the consecuences.

The much smaller monument to the Waffen SS "Eesti Leegioni" was removed a few years ago.

I was also remembering the fenced ruins at the entrance of the old town, with a sign in Estonian, German and Russian explaining these were the ruins of a Soviet bombing in 1944. "a bunch of lies" commented my other friend Julia, an ethnic Russian, part of that 30% minority that remains. Those ruins are right in between two of the best cocktail bars in Tallinn, "Moskba" and "Stereo" :))

Maris was also telling me of the attitude of many of the Russians who call her work and expect everyone to understand them, in Russian. Many of the 30% ethnic Russian minority still don´t speak fluent Estonian, and fail to understand, it seems to me, how their professional and personal future success in the country is dependent on their command of Estonian....

Im just thinking out loud here, and would love to hear any thoughts or opinions on the topic from others

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Post by DXTR » Fri Apr 27, 2007 10:26 am

The whole matter is a bit difficult. On the one hand the ethnic estonians regard the red army as occupiers and oppressors. The russian regard them as liberators.

I don't think the matter is just a case of whether the Red Army was oppressive or not, or whether estonia was better off as a german ally than a soviet satelite. The memorial is a battleground for russians who feel alienated and marginalised in a country that is their home, and has more to do with social tension along ethnic lines within Estonia. I have been out of the loop for some years, since I took a class on democracy in eastern europe. But I think the issue of language and citizenship was handled rather poorly in the first post soviet years.

Considering the rather high level of russians in estonia. Estonia could have been better off adopting a canadian style, language approach instead of the language law passed in 89. But in the historical light, that would probably have been seen as a kneefall to the russians.

But on the other hand - language and citizenship is precisely the issue we western europeans are adressing ourselves these days, considering the immigration problem. And would I consider accepting arabic as a language on par with my own if the arabic population here would increase to 30 percent of the overall population? Hard to say...

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Post by sid guttridge » Fri Apr 27, 2007 10:57 am

Hi DXTR,

Given forty years of Soviet state-sponsored Russian immigration designed to overthrow the ethnic majority of Lithuanians, Estonians, and Latvians in their own countries, I think the Baltic Republics had little choice but to be tough over the question of national identity after 1990.

Latvia in particular was fast approaching parity between native Latvians and Russians. Had the USSR not collapsed, on post war trends the population ballance between Latvians and Russians would have been about even by now. Estonia was only a decade or two behind. These are very small countries with only a very few million nationals. Their national identity hangs by a thread. By contrast, the linguistic, cultural and national identities are not under threat.

Cheers,

sid.

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Post by Marc Binazzi » Fri Apr 27, 2007 11:21 am

I agree with Sid. I visited Tallinn a few years ago with a working group on the safety of housing and we were taken to various locations around Tallinn including a huge high-rise social housing area bigger than anything I have ever seen in Europe. There Russians live, workers brought under the communist regime as part of a system made to use the local resources for Soviet interests and leave the local population in slavery. Now the Russians in Estonia have become the underdogs in a country where life is getting better (I remember some really posh houses in Piritta..) and this obviously will lead to social unrest especially if the Estonians dump significant landmarks and symbols, but it is also a logical attitude in a country where the "Metsavenads" resisted the Soviet invader so many years...
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Post by phylo_roadking » Fri Apr 27, 2007 12:05 pm

Viewing the whole situation as of 1990 from this remove of 17 or so years - its likely the fast-approaching parity then was the only reason that some sort of ethnic cleansing wasn't attempted. Certainly the animosity was there. Its unclear if the Russians would have intervened back into the Baltic states - or even could have - as their performance in the first Chechen War showed....BUT as this reintervention was only two years later, it does perhaps show what could have been anticipated at the time. The rump "Red Army" still looked on paper to be its huge capable self, and NOW all pulled back over the borders into Russia in HUGE numbers from SO many places, it must have looked like the perfect tool waiting to be used and re-motivated by such an operation IF carried out successfully. And after all, any popular move against the Russian immigrant population would have happened in the full glare of the new Western publicity and the media machine....so it could even have been viewed internationally as a legitimate reason for Russia to intervene! It would be strange to go so quick from being the "villian" of the piece to being the "hero"...but it has happened. After all - it only took about the same amount of time for Yeltsin to switch from hero to zero...
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Post by Musashi » Fri Apr 27, 2007 1:15 pm

Estonia Buries Relations with Russia
http://www.kommersant.com/p762639/Eston ... sia,_WWII/
In Reburying the Remains of Soviet Soldiers
An archeological dig was going on early yesterday morning in central Tallinn at the site of the monument to the Soviet soldiers who drove German troops from Estonia in WWII. After the excavation is complete, the remains of the soldiers buried near the monument will be transferred together with the bronze statue that stands over them to a military cemetery in Tallinn. Yesterday saw the first scuffles between defenders of the monument and police at the site, and Moscow is threatening Tallinn with sanctions that "will have an extremely painful impact on the state of the Estonian economy."
What Happened

A police cordon was established around the monument at 4:30 yesterday morning by a detachment of riot police, who were soon joined by regular police officers. The police quickly drove away protestors at the site who had organized a "Night Watch" to guard against the removal of the remains. When a trio of protestors sitting in a car parked next to the monument refused to leave, police broke the windows and forcibly dragged them out of the car. One of the passengers suffered an injury to her hand in the incident.

Construction materials were unloaded from trucks at the site, and by five o'clock in the morning 2m-high metal barriers had been set up all around the perimeter of the square. A short time later, the entire monument and the square around it had been covered with an enormous tent. On the fence were hung white signs with a notice in Estonian, Russian, and English that read, "The archeological excavation of a military burial site and identification work is underway here. Please maintain calm and appropriate behavior in the work zone."

By nine o'clock in the morning, more people had begun to arrive at the square to leave flowers at the metal fence. The police initially demanded that the flowers be removed, but it was soon decided to let them remain where they were. Police arrested nine people throughout the day for shouting insulting slogans and attempting to scale the fence, but the first clash did not take place until evening, when "Night Watch" activists and their supporters tried to break through the police cordon. Police drove them back by firing tear gas.

What the Authorities Want

The motivation for yesterday's events in Tallinn were explained a few days ago by Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, who said that the excavation is being carried out to determine whose remains are buried near the monument. According to the prime minister, any remains that are discovered will be identified either by objects buried with them or DNA analysis. He predicted that the work will take at least two weeks or, "if the archeologists find anything from the Middle Ages, then three to four months. So the Bronze Soldier will still be standing on May 8 and 9." However, Mr. Ansip said that since the excavation work will not be done before May 9, the day when the victory of the Allied forces over Nazi Germany in WWII is celebrated, it will not be possible for people to bring flowers to the monument, since access to the Bronze Soldier will be closed until the work is finished.

Once the excavations are complete, both the monument and any remains found under it will be moved to Tallinn's military cemetery in accordance with Estonian law concerning military burials. The prime minister maintains that it is inappropriate for the graves to be located in the city center, where they are close to busy roads and present an easy target for anyone who might want to desecrate them. "It will be necessary to carry out preparations in the cemetery so that the Bronze Soldier can stand there forever, since the monument cannot simply be placed on the ground. That will also take time," said Mr. Ancip. Police have already mounted a patrol in the cemetery.

The minister of defense is formally responsible for the removal and reburial of soldiers' remains. According to his press secretary Madis Mikko, if skeletons are found under the monument, they will be disinterred, packed up, and transferred to a morgue: "In any case, the remains will be treated with respect and in accordance with international conventions."

Mr. Ancip asserts that the government has never considered destroying the monument. "We would never simply remove a monument in our country, as has been done elsewhere," he said, clearly referring to a monument and several tombstones of pilots killed in WWII that were recently removed from the Moscow suburb of Khimki.

In order to maintain the peace around the removal of the monument, the Estonian police have been in a state of high alert since Monday, and approximately three extra detachments of police from regions around the country are in the capital for an unspecified period of time. However, Estonian parliamentary deputy Marko Mikhelson confidently told Kommersant yesterday that there will be no serious clashes in Tallinn. "The situation is very calm. Our police are acting carefully and in a civilized manner, not like the OMON [riot police] in Moscow. Everything will take place only within the framework of the law," he said.

According to the Estonian media, the extra police presence does not come cheaply for the Estonian authorities. Most of the regional police officers are staying in the Tallink Hotel in Tallinn, which costs 127 euros a night.

What Estonians Want

However, the confidence of the Estonian authorities that the monument will be moved with a minimum of fuss could be shaken by Russia's actions. For instance, the Estonian authorities are not the only ones who are splashing out funds on the operation involving the Bronze Soldier: according to the Tallinn newspaper Postimees, activists from Russia's Nashi movement have moved into the Meriton Grand Hotel Tallinn (69 euros a night) a few hundred meters from the monument. In addition, Dmitry Linter, one of the leaders of the "Night Watch," has also recently promised that "surprises are in the works" for the Estonian authorities.

Support for the defenders of the monument does not run very high in the country, even among Estonia's Russian-speaking population. In the last parliamentary elections, the Constitution Party, which joined politically with "Night Watch" to build its campaign around the defense of the Bronze Soldier, garnered only 1% of the vote. The majority of the Russian-speaking citizens of Estonia supported the Centrist Party of current Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar. whose position on the question of the monument is fairly contradictory. On the one hand, he said yesterday that the government "is stupidly acting in the format of a monologue" on the issue, and he offered to initiate a dialog between supporters and opponents of the monument. Mr. Savisaar also noted that recent opinion polls carried out by the newspaper Eesti Paevaleht show that 49% of residents of Estonia are against the monument being moved, 37% are in favor, and 14% are undecided. However, the Centrist Party under Edgar Savisaar also voted in favor of the Military Graves Protection Act in January, and it was Mayor Savisaar who allowed two protests – one by Estonian nationalists and the other by veterans of WWII – to take place in front of the monument simultaneously. The resulting clashes were cited in the case for moving the Bronze Soldier away from central Tallinn to a military cemetery, where such discord is more easily avoidable. In the end, it is unlikely that the Russian-speaking Estonian citizens who make up the majority in the Centrist Party will risk run-ins with police for the sake of the monument.

What Russia Wants

The international scandal between Moscow and Tallinn has recently heated up to a level that arguably exceeds the tensions on the square in front of the monument itself. Yesterday Speaker of the Russian State Duma and United Russia party leader Boris Gryzlov called the actions of the Estonian authorities "obscurantism" and said, "while the Nazis couldn't get the better of the living, the government of Estonia is attempting to get the better of the dead." (Incidentally, Mr. Gryzlov expressed his support for "my friend" Edgar Savisaar on the eve of the Estonian parliamentary elections.)

State Duma International Relations Committee chairman Konstantin Kosachyov echoed the sentiments of his party's leader and threatened the Estonian authorities with harsh retaliation from Moscow. "These measures will not necessarily take the form of official sanctions – the palette of our possible actions is very wide, and the actions of the Russian authorities will be very effective and will have an extremely painful impact on the state of the Estonian economy," said Mr. Kosachyov. He also accused Tallinn of intending to "demolish a monument to soldiers who fought against Nazism in the years of the Second World War."

The Russian State Duma does not intend to pass a special resolution addressed to the Estonian authorities. In January, the deputies instead appealed to the president and the government to introduce a law aimed at Estonia entitled "On Special Economic Measures."

The furious statements from the Russian deputies were preceded by a long skirmish between the Foreign Ministries of the two countries. In the latest sally, Estonian Ambassador to Russia Marina Kaljurand was presented with a note from the Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday that contains "a call to the Estonian authorities to renounce plans for moving the monument and reburying [the remains], which are an attempt to rewrite the role of the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition in the victory over fascism in WWII and which contradict not only the norms of international law but also the elementary principles of human morals and humanism." In reply, the Estonian Foreign Ministry expressed regret that the document contains "intentional lies and slander."

State Secretary of the Estonian Foreign Ministry Matti Maasikas called the behavior of Russian diplomats in Tallinn "not in accordance with generally accepted diplomatic norms and regrettable." He was referring to the First Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Estonia Vadim Vasiliyev and embassy advisor Sergei Overchenko, who, according to the Estonian press, have recently met repeatedly with the most radical defenders of the monument: Andrei Zarenkov and Dmitry Linter, the leaders of the Constitutional Party and the "Night Watch." The fact that the defenders of the monument regularly consulted with Russian diplomats was confirmed by Estonian law enforcement authorities. "I can absolutely officially say that we have long been informed about such meetings," said Estonian Police and Security Commissioner Martin Arpo. "These meetings testify that Russia considers Zarenkov and Linter cannon fodder in Estonia. By using local radicals, Russia is attempting to influence the domestic political situation in Estonia and to destabilize it, as well as to strengthen the role of a small group of local radicals to show that they supposedly reflect the majority opinion in Estonian society."

Yesterday Estonia's ambassador in Moscow, Marina Kaljurand, suggested that Russian send its own observers to participate in the excavations. In Tallinn, however, Russian Ambassador to Estonia Nikolai Uspensky immediately went personally to the Estonian Foreign Ministry to reject the offer.

In a press conference yesterday, Andrus Ancip confirmed that the political relationship between Estonia and Russia is currently in a very poor state. When asked whether it will deteriorate further, Mr. Ancip answered that "according to Murphy's Law," every situation has the possibility of getting worse. He also stated that the question of the Bronze Soldier is an internal Estonian affair and that the opinions of other nations will not affect the outcome of the matter.

Mr. Mikhelson, who is a member of the ruling coalition in the Estonian parliament, ventured to state in a conversation with Kommersant yesterday that "there will be no official Russian sanctions against Estonia: there may only be covert sanctions against Estonian entrepreneurs working in Russia." He also advised his Russian colleagues to take heed of the statement of Russian State Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who gave a speech yesterday that was as good as being in Estonia's defense. According to the Liberal Democratic Party leader, Russia can express only a "moral protest – physically we can do nothing." "They have the right to take it down. It is a foreign country. It wouldn't be a bad thing to take a look at events in Russia first. We ourselves are taking such monuments down," said Mr. Zhirinovsky, referring to the removal of the monument to WWII pilots from a street in suburban Moscow.

Alexander Shegedin (Tallinn), Vladimir Vodo, Suzanna Farizova, Arnold Shveps
Ezekiel 25:17. "And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you."

Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Fri Apr 27, 2007 4:35 pm

The Russians should be repatriated.

PK

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Post by Marc Binazzi » Fri Apr 27, 2007 11:05 pm

Paddy Keating wrote:The Russians should be repatriated.

PK


Easy to say..... and I am pretty sure that this is what most Estonians want, but at the same time they are scared by the reaction of Russia and with Putin on the other side of the border they have good reasons to feel uncomfortable. I guess so far thay have tried to discourage their Russian citizens from staying in Estonia but now that life is better they are just generating unrest and frustration. A time-bomb from the Stalin era that may blast off in the near future.
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Post by Commissar D, the Evil » Sat Apr 28, 2007 3:23 am

This is a terrible historical mess. On the one hand, the Soviet Union--as opposed to Russian People--snuffed out Estonia before the German invasion. On the other hand, the Soviet Union freed Estonia of Nazi occupation only to replace that with Soviet Imperialism. Hard to say who, if anyone, is in the right in terms of the monument.

Personal opinion--if monuments to Robert E. Lee can exist in the U.S., than certainly a monument to fallen Russian Soldiers should be able to exist in Estonia, despite the harm the Soviets inflicted upon that country.

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~D, the EviL
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Post by sid guttridge » Sat Apr 28, 2007 3:47 am

Hi CDtheE,

.....not least because many Estonians died in Soviet uniform, willingly or otherwise.

However, if Estonia is a truly independent state, it must have the undisputed right to put up or tear down whatever public monuments it wants. Whether this is wise or not is another matter.

As a general rule, I think public monuments should remain. It is a sign of mature society that it can live with them. (If the English tore down all alien-founded edifices there wouldn't be a castle or Gothic cathedral left in the country!) Perhaps they should just relabel the monument as simply dedicated to Soviet soldiers who fell on Estonian soil and remove any reference to "liberation"?

Cheers,

Sid

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Post by Commissar D, the Evil » Sat Apr 28, 2007 4:07 am

Hi Sid, that is a very valid point, if Estonia belongs to the Estonians, they should, under the principle of "Sovereign Rights", be able to tear down or replace any monument in their country!

On the other hand, politically, ethnic Russians make up 30% of their population and modern Russia sits on their border, so I wonder at the wisdom of this action.

In strictly moral terms, a Soldier's Grave, which I understand the monument marks, IMHO, should remain undisturbed--it is not to the credit--although understandable--that the old Soviet Union bulldozed German graveyards after the war. I would hate to see the same thing happen in Estonia in 2007.

Very Best,
David
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pzrmeyer2

Post by pzrmeyer2 » Sat Apr 28, 2007 4:14 am

Personal opinion--if monuments to Robert E. Lee can exist in the U.S., than certainly a monument to fallen Russian Soldiers should be able to exist in Estonia, despite the harm the Soviets inflicted upon that country.
I'm not following you here. Robert E. Lee was probably the single greatest soldier this country has ever produced. Are you implying he wasn't an authentic American?

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Post by Commissar D, the Evil » Sat Apr 28, 2007 4:20 am

No, I'm saying--not implying--that he fought on the wrong moral side of the Civil War. Just as Manstein fought on the wrong moral side of WWII. Like Manstein, he fought on the side of a regime dedicated to slavery, oppression and racial supremacy.

IMHO, talent and dedication is always trumped by morality. In this case, Robert E. Lee, whom I respect to an extent, was personally more ethical than Manstein, but the ultimate test of both men is that of the morality of the regimes they fought for.


Best,
David
Death is lighter than a Feather, Duty is heavier than a Mountain....

pzrmeyer2

Post by pzrmeyer2 » Sat Apr 28, 2007 5:21 am

Commissar D, the Evil wrote:No, I'm saying--not implying--that he fought on the wrong moral side of the Civil War. Just as Manstein fought on the wrong moral side of WWII. Like Manstein, he fought on the side of a regime dedicated to slavery, oppression and racial supremacy.

IMHO, talent and dedication is always trumped by morality. In this case, Robert E. Lee, whom I respect to an extent, was personally more ethical than Manstein, but the ultimate test of both men is that of the morality of the regimes they fought for.


Best,
David
I think you're stretching it a bit far when you say the Southern states were a "regime dedicated to slavery, oppression and racial supremacy". Morally, the Confederacy used the same logic to separate from the Union as the founders did in separating from the British Empire. It was Federal oppression of them that led to problems.
And as far as Manstein, who fought primarily in the east goes, are you claiming The USSR, a state dedicated to slavery and oppresion much more so than the Confederacy, was on the right moral side?

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Post by DXTR » Sat Apr 28, 2007 5:48 am

pzrmeyer2 wrote: And as far as Manstein, who fought primarily in the east goes, are you claiming The USSR, a state dedicated to slavery and oppresion much more so than the Confederacy, was on the right moral side?
Leaving aside that Germany invaded USSR and not the other way around,
Manstein had a hand in the invasion of Poland and France...

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