On hot evenings in late June 1969, a cozy corner of the West Village in New York City turned into a riot zone. On the evening of June 28th a routine police raid on a bar known as a hang out for gays and lesbians turned into a violent fight between the police and the the patrons of the bar, the Stonewall Inn. In total it is estimated that 2,000 gay people did battle with 400 police officers in what became known as the Stonewall Riots.
The great "awakening" that shook the US and Western Europe - and other parts of the democratic world in the 1960s and 70s happened at a time when the economies of the communist countries - still licking their wounds of Stalinist mass murder - began to stagnate. When stronger Russification policies were introduced in the Baltics in the early- to mid-1970s, they fomented an awakening of a different kind - a nationalist reawakening, which culminated with Singing Revolution and Baltic Chain in the late 80s. Estonia didn't have a youth awakening like America's 1960s youth awakening. Estonia had its own, different nationalist awakening - not unlike the rise of Solidarnos in Poland or the 1968 uprising in Prague.
Now that Estonia is part of the "West," the movements of the the personal awakening of the 1960s and 70s are spreading their global movements into previously closed territories. Hence, Tallinn Pride 2006. It should have gone well, but it ended up with a bunch of skinheads throwing stones, rocks, and eggs at innocent people.
Coming from the epicenter of the modern gay rights movement, I can say that gay people don't march because they are soliciting new recruits into some perverted same-sex sex land. They march because they are a tiny minority, engulfed by straight people. They are horribly alone in the world. When I walk into a room filled with women, it is hypothetically possible that there is a romatic encounter lurking in every one of their jeans. I'm a heterosexual male. But for them, they must find company in special bars, and deal with the scrutiny of people that cannot understand something they probably had a hard time coming to grips with themselves. They are different and controversial. That's why they reach out in Tallinn and Riga and Warsaw. Because they know that there are young people there that need to not feel alone and not feel scared. To feel tolerated and accepted.
Enter the Skinheads. Tallinn has a skinhead problem. It's not the only country in Europe that has one. There are plenty of skinheads in Berlin and elsewhere. So it's not just an "East European problem" (sorry). Fortunately, problems in Estonia are not those of immense size. There are perhaps less than fifty active skinheads in Tallinn out of a city of 350,000 or so people. However, they are organized and they know how to stir shit up. Because their ideology is nihilistic, destruction to them is an ideal. In their perverse universe, they'd rather see the Estonian forests burn than have a 60-year-old statue to dead communist soldiers in central Tallinn. And they'd rather pelt innocent people with eggs and rocks than accept the sexuality of their fellow Estonians and allow them to walk down the street holding signs.
Estonians are cool to these marches. Tallinn is a quiet northern city. It hums, but it makes little noise. So the idea of dozens of lesbians, gays, and especially transgendered people marching down its quiet streets might not make the old ladies of Estonia particularly happy. Still, Estonia puts up with its share of bothersome intruders for the sake of welcoming tourists and their dollars. It puts up with drunk Brits - among the most vile of creatures - fondling its daughters at their Tallinn "stag" parties. It puts up with haughty Finns loading up on cases of Saku so they can go home and get drunk in the quiet of their Helsinki apartments. It puts up with some members of the Russian minority who display and honor the flag of the nation that killed their best writers, intellectuals, and plucked their family trees bare.
But gays? Holding signs? Is that too much for Estonia to bear? Give me a break. Get a life. Get over it. I understand that Stonewall did not happen in Tallinn. I understand that there was no Estonian Woodstock or No Nukes movement. But Tallinn has proven it is a tolerant town. And the only people it has to blame for this latest disturbance are about 30 to 50 shaven clowns.
Estonia is a democracy. And in Estonia you can be a skinhead. You can be a curmudgeonly bitter old communist. But you can't burn down forests. And you can't vandalize monuments to the dead. And you cannot assault your fellow Estonians just because you don't like what they stand for.