neljapäev, november 30, 2006

Seething Bitterness

It's hard to get a sense of the Russian point of view on Estonia, but quite a few media sources publish Russian news in English, among them Regnum.Ru, which dedicated a lengthy editorial not about the NATO summit in Riga, but about Estonia's "ethnocracy":

"One could argue that Estonia has definitely earned the visit: by continuous criticism of Russia in all respects and its active support of the so-called “new democracies” of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldavia," writes the author, Sergey Artemenko.

"All this is to outline the essential: the easily imaginable joy with which Estonian politicians waited for the proof that, “if anything happens,” the US will not betray Estonia and will not let the events of 1940, when Washington without emotion gave up the Estonian republic to Stalin, be repeated," he writes.

In recent weeks, the Russian media has had a subtle change of heart over the occupation issue. Prior to Bush's visit, they almost uniformly mocked the history of the Baltics as recognized by every country in the world except Russia by hiding it in scare quotes. It was "the occupation" or "the so-called occupation." But since the release of once classified documents by the SVR, the media have invariably recognized that Estonian sovereignty was removed by Stalin. It hasn't become official yet, but it's quite a change.

In an echo of what has been to date Baltic history, Russia's media now freely writes: "In June 1940, Russia accused Estonia of forming a conspiracy together with Latvia and Lithuania against it, and issued an ultimatum, demanding among other concessions that more Soviet troops be allowed to enter the three countries.

In the following month, local communists loyal to the Soviet Union won parliamentary "elections" in all three countries, and in August these parliaments asked the Soviet government for accession to the Soviet Union. As a result, the three states were formally annexed."

With this final tidbit of history now being processed by Russia's media, if not its political elite, Regnum's Artemenko reacts to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves' statement that Russia is "not a priority" for Estonia with jealous hyperbole.

"For the president made it clear that there is no such country as Russia, and problems in relationship with it should not concern the great Estonian democracy, “whose task is to support countries who have chosen the way of independence and democracy and who do not give in to the pressure from some of their neighbors,” Artemenko writes.

Moreover, he is not only displeased, or at least ironic, about Estonia's changing status and relationship with Russia, but with his fellow citizens' views on Estonia as well. For Russia's politicians, he mocks the idea that relations can be normalized with Estonia. "Something else is surprising – the devout striving of a number of Russian politicians and diplomats to pretend that relationship with this country can be normalized. How many more “Bush visits” are necessary to convince some “doves” in the State Duma and foreign ministry that Estonia is not going to fix good neighborly relations with Russia and, especially, respect our national interests?" he writes.

I'd like to interject and ask Mr. Artemenko what exactly Russia's interests are in Estonia. Russia's Baltic fleet is based in Kaliningrad, and it has to sail between two old NATO partners - Denmark and Norway - to get out of the Baltic Sea. Russia is building a gas pipeline to Germany. Russia has its own large Baltic ports. So, why, except to satisfy some kind of 19th century geopolitical greed, would Estonia (pop. 1,3 million) be of any "national interest" to Russia? The fact remains that Russia has NO NATIONAL INTEREST in Estonia. But that's beside the point. Mr. Artemenko goes on not only to point fingers at pragmatic "doves" in the State Duma but to shame Russian businessmen in Estonia, who are becoming "Estonianized."

"Whatever tales the Russian businessmen say of their influence in Estonia, they will remain fairytales for naïve audience," Artemenko writes. "All the “influence” and the work of Russian business in the country end with gaining profit and an Estonian citizenship or residence permit, and, consequently, with the Russian businessmen turning into law-abiding Estonian citizens who will not dare to resist this state."

How one is able to sustain such quiet rage for 15 years is beyond me. Especially over a country like Estonia. It's just silly. Why waste all your type on something like this?

8 kommentaari:

Anonüümne ütles ...

I discovered that article independently of this blog. Best piece of humour I've read in a while :D

Giustino ütles ...

I discovered that article independently of this blog. Best piece of humour I've read in a while :D

I wonder if it came across differently in Russian. It is hard to read the Regnum articles because they routinely omit articles and make clumsy grammatical errors. So I am not sure exactly what I am reading.

James ütles ...

I think Russia has more national interest in Estonia that people might think. There's this great book written by Yanus Bugatsky called "Cold Peace" in which he makes the argument that Putin's nationalist-populist platform is based on selling the citizens the idea that Russia should have and can regain its soviet era influence and control over the former satellite states.

Regarding the Baltic pipeline, the blog I help manage, www.robertamsterdam.com, has an extensive post today discussing the potential of a gas cartel.

Giustino ütles ...

Putin's nationalist-populist platform is based on selling the citizens the idea that Russia should have and can regain its soviet era influence and control over the former satellite states.

I don't think he'd be successful. Estonia in 2006 is not like Estonia in 1940. The Estonia of 1940 didn't produce the cover of Time magazine or have op-eds featured regularly in the Wall Street Journal. I am not sure if they even had an ambassador in Washington in '40.

Could you imagine the Estonia of today involved in a land war with Russia? What, we'd have snipers hiding in the eves of Eesti Ühispank? Mass murder at the Järve Selver? Mortar shells in Kaubamaja?

Am I being naive? Perhaps. But what would an Estonia under Russian nationalst influence look like? As far as I can tell, the only answer to that formula is armed conflict.
The last armed conflict (the forest brother guerilla conflict) died due to an inability to communicate and gain resources.

Would that really be an issue in the age of blackberries, laptops, and cell phones?

Also, the American foreign policy elite is stocked with individuals who came of age during the Cold War. I don't think they'd hesitate to defend their NATO allies. They've probably been waiting for the opportunity.

That's the difference between the Germany that lost in '45 and the USSR that lost in '91. The Soviets were lucky to have rational leadership in Yeltsin to guide them out of what could have been a very bloody few years.

Putin seems to lack that kind of patience. Fortunately, he supposedly only has two years left.

Giustino ütles ...

Regarding the Baltic pipeline, the blog I help manage, www.robertamsterdam.com, has an extensive post today discussing the potential of a gas cartel.

Estonia and Finland have discussed linking up to that pipeline if need be. It's the Lithuanians and Poles who are really scared about the possibility of a gas cartel.

stockholm slender ütles ...

It is beyond me why the Russian society so singlemindedly refuses to come to terms with its tragic past. This perspective of seeing individuals as cannon fodder of history to be carelessly sacrificed instead of free, valuable citizens whose slaughter is to be remembered with great sadness and pity and not garish "patriotic" celebration is so profoundly illiberal, so anti-englightened as can be imagined. How can this be perpetuated by the nation itself? Where is the civil society, where are the artists, writers, activists? Is Russia really doomed to barbarity for ever? Such great warmhearted people, such awful, corrupt state...

Giustino ütles ...

Where is the civil society, where are the artists, writers, activists?

Dead.

Master-Debater ütles ...

You seem to have an interest in this subject so I invite you to join some of your fellow bloggers at master-debaters.blogspot.com to discuss Putin's legacy.