First, dear readers, I would like to apologize for writing another post about the most controversial monument in Tallinn. However, I was thinking, and thinking, and then thinking some more about how this will play politically, and I came up with a few basic thoughts. Being an American and an Atlanticist who believes that World War II was more about power and geography and less about ideology, I am perhaps biased in the eyes of some readers. Well - whatever - here are a few main political observations on this controversy.
1. This is bad for Tallinn mayor Jüri Ratas. Ratas, as mayor of Tallinn and a member of what appears to be the most popular party in Estonia, Keskerakond, should have been front and center in this debate. Instead he's been invisible, wondering what all the fuss is about. His nonchalant attitude about the memorial shows him catering to his "nostalgic for Communism" base - funny considering that the USSR died when he was a spotty 13 year-old. He might preserve KESK's hold on the "nostalgic for Soviet times" crowd, but his lukewarm defense of the controversial soldier will cost him big in the "character" category.
2. This is also bad for Isamaaliit AND the future Isamaaliit-Res Publica Union. With its smart ties and Eurospectacles, Res Publica seemed like Isamaaliit for the 2000s. Isamaaliit - it's name translates as "fatherland union" was the more old fashioned, genuinely patriotic party, with roots going back to 1987. Most of its members probably are nothing but Estonian patriots. But the high profile media attention given to certain Isamaaliit members like Kalev Rebane, and other skin heads, leaves a bad taste in anybody's mouth.
3. This is actually a win for the Reform Party. Andrus Ansip's commitment to moving the soldier to a cemetery - where most war monuments are located - and out of central Tallinn speaks less about what the monument stands for, than the fact that there is a Soviet memorial in central Tallinn that is a lighting rod for conflict. The Soviet nostalgia parties every May 9 don't help. With Isamaaliit and Res Publica voters pondering their future following the merger of the two parties, many could jump ship and move to Reformierakond.
4. This hurts Edgar Savisaar's presidential ambitions. Savisaar's belief that the monument should stay there reinforces the attitudes of his opponents that he is nothing but a Soviet-style yes man, an Estonian slave with a Russian master. Just read the comments on Postimees and you can see how deeply in hate some people are with the guy.
5. This helps the presidential ambitions of Toomas-Hendrik Ilves. Because where is Ilves these days? He's in Brussels. Far away from skin heads, spray paint, red flowers, and the bronze soldier in central Tallinn. He has said little if nothing on the matter, and he shouldn't have to - he's in the European parliament, it is wholly out of his jurisdiction. So as the mud flies, none of it lands on him.