esmaspäev, märts 20, 2006

Reliving the Creepy Past

We have a subscription to Time magazine, which gives us access to Time's archives that go back to 1923.

Amazingly there's a wealth of information on Estonia. Understandably it drops off the radar from the 1940s to the 1980s, but the 1930s and 40s stuff is absolutely chilling.

Here's an example of Time's coverage:

June 19, 1933, concerning the Vaps:

Not exactly Nazis, the blatant bravos of Estonia call themselves Front Soldiers, wear rakish "front caps." Last week in mellow Dorpat, "the Estonian Athens" (it has a university), scurrilous Front Soldiers had fun with pompous President Jann Tonisson of Estonia.

Directly in his path they launched a skyrocket. Zizzling true to aim it hurtled into President Tonisson, dented him painfully, did no real damage. When the President retreated to his car, Front Soldiers seized the off side mudguards, jounced Herr Tonisson severely, nearly turned his car over before police interfered. Next day, pale with fury, the President summoned his Cabinet at Reval on the Baltic. Declaring Estonian democracy "menaced," the Cabinet put Dorpat under martial law, dismissed half the town's police force as tainted with Front Soldier ideology.

April 16, 1934, on a Soviet-Baltic non-aggression pact:

Last week Maxim Litvinoff, roly-poly Commissar for Foreign Affairs, met in Moscow with the plenipotentiaries of the three [Baltics]. They took up the two-party non-aggression pacts they had signed with Russia four years ago and extended them for another ten years. Glowing with the respectability of a proved peaceful intention. Mr. Litvinoff talked for the world's ear:

"In every corner of the globe much is being said about the menace of war, but little about means of averting such a catastrophe. Let the agreements which we have signed here today remind the world that there are governments which consider it their duty to work toward strengthening the peace structure. Chauvinism, nationalism and racial prejudice are foreign to the Soviet State, which does not put its ambition in conquests."

Not laughing/recoiling in horror yet? It gets better. October 1939 -

Bluff and Bombers. Meanwhile, Dictator Stalin suddenly brought down Russia's fist upon Estonia. This prosperous little Baltic state flanks the sea approach to Leningrad, where the Red Navy is frozen up tight at least three months of each year, and its capital, Tallinn, is an ice-free port. On the pretext that the Estonian Government recently "allowed" an interned Polish submarine to chug out of Tallinn and become a commerce raider—actually it shot its way out, fired upon by harbor batteries (TIME, Oct. 2)—the Moscow press and radio have been violently attacking Estonia as "hostile" to Russia. These attacks redoubled in fury last week as Soviet stations screamed that the pint-size Russian freighter Metallist had been "torpedoed in Estonian waters" with a loss of five proletarian lives by a "mysterious submarine."

Next thing Estonians knew, warships of the Red Navy appeared off their ports. Soviet bombers, some of whom the Estonians thought came from a Russian aircraft carrier, began a threatening patrol over Tallinn and the nearby countryside. What all this meant, the Estonian Government soon learned from their Foreign Minister Karl Selter. He had flown to Moscow the week before to "boost trade," now flew back to Tallinn with word that the Russians bluntly asked Estonia to reduce herself to the status of a protectorate of the Soviet Union in return for trade favors. J. Stalin suggested that an Estonian delegation empowered to sign a treaty along these lines be at once brought to Moscow by Foreign Minister Selter. Some 48 hours later Mr. Selter emplaned with an imposing array of Estonian bigwigs.

The new Baltic Pact, running for ten years, provides: 1) Estonia grants Russia the right to maintain naval bases and airdromes protected by Red Army troops on the strategic islands dominating Tallinn, the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Riga; 2) Russia agrees to increase her annual trade turnover with Estonia and to give Estonia facilities in case the Baltic is closed to her goods (i. e. by Germany) for trading with the outside world via Soviet ports on the Black Sea and White Sea; 3) Russia and Estonia undertake to defend each other from "aggression arising on the part of any great European power" (i. e. Germany); 4) the Pact "should not affect" the "economic systems and state organizations" of Russia and Estonia.

This last clause, which carefully does not bind Russia to abstain from spreading Communist propaganda in Estonia, seemed to mean that the country will be spared for a time such outright Bolshevization as the Russians are putting through in their part of Poland. Military experts said that the Pact definitely transforms Estonia from a country capable of fighting for its independence into one completely at the mercy of the Soviet ships, planes and troops which are now to be based on her soil.

I know it's long, but read it all - read it in all its disgusting glory. Smokescreens, mirrors,'s fucking crazy...

and more...

August 19, 1940

Last week, as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia officially became Russian Republics Nos. 15, 16, 17, liquidation of their nationalism began. Hundreds of men were arrested, including all leaders of former regimes that the Ogpu could lay hands on. Tribunals were set up to try and punish "traitors to the people." Traitors to the people included not only active opponents of sovietization but all those who have fallen short of their political and economic duties, including the political duty of voting their countries into the U. S. S. R. in recent elections. Those who failed to have their passports stamped for so voting may be shot in the back of the head.

Under arrest and liable to prompt liquidation were Estonia's onetime President Konstantin Päts, Latvia's onetime President Karlis Ulmanis and Foreign Minister Vilhelms Hunters, Lithuania's onetime Foreign Minister Juozas Urbsys. Special justice, including immediate confiscation of property and execution within 24 hours if they are bagged, was decreed for diplomats abroad who refuse to recognize the new regimes and return home.

April 16, 1990 (Rüütel in an odd, kick ass moment):

Mikhail Gorbachev does not like waiting. After trying several times to reach Estonian President Arnold Ruutel by telephone last week, he was in no mood for small talk when he finally got through late Tuesday evening. The Soviet President told Ruutel that he had "lost his temper" over the Estonian parliament's decision two weeks ago that declared "the state supremacy of the Soviet Union to be illegal" in the republic. What exactly did that mean? Gorbachev demanded. If the Estonians no longer recognized the Soviet constitution, what law was operating?

Ruutel had a ready response: Estonian law. Displeased, Gorbachev called the decision "improper" and summoned the Estonian President to Moscow immediately to explain himself. When Ruutel declined, the Soviet leader turned tough. If the declaration was not rescinded, Gorbachev warned, Moscow would impose the same "regimen" there as in rebellious Lithuania. Ruutel replied that Estonians understood the consequences of their actions.

I have hoped you've enjoyed this little backpack through an awful, yet ultimately inspiring century. Courtesy of Time, and posted for discussion purposes only.

2 kommentaari:

Anonüümne ütles ...

...Next one about the cold war period, please!

Pekka K ütles ...

This is almost too gripping and heart breaking to read. There is so many farsical elements and one still can't bring oneself to laugh with the knowledge we have to-day. I never liked the president Regan but his utterance, about the evil empire, might just have been fitting.