reede, jaanuar 12, 2007

Ai ai ai

Looks like the Estonian government is moving ahead with plans to relocate the monument to Soviet soldiers in central Tallinn. The riigikogu approved the measure and President Ilves signed the bill into law. Now all is left is for Andrus Ansip's Reform Party to ride the common dislike for the buffoons at left to another term in office. I wonder how they will magically get rid of Härra Pronkssõdur without turning Tõnismägi into Lihula on steroids. The prospect of such a removal is giving me more anxiety than the Elian Gonzalez case.

Who's responsible for this crap? Everybody. You can lay the blame at just about anyone's feet. First of all, if Josef Stalin's Red Army marched into Tallinn, recognized Uluots government, and marched out after the Germans surrendered in 1945, then we wouldn't be talking about this. Every Russian person that finds themselves the victim of Russophobia and Western mistrust today owes a great deal of their position to Mr. Djugashvili. His government killed millions, and yet very few of the war criminals in it were ever held accountable for their crimes. And so, 60 years after it was erected, some Estonians find accountability in an old bronze statue.

Secondly, the Russian Federation's inability to take accountability for what happened in 1940 and 1944 and to continue to attempt to represent its "compatriots" abroad while at the same time demanding blanket foreign citizenship for them, only fuels the Estonian-Russian crisis in relations. When you constantly deny acts of hostility against a neighbor, and then attempt to include yourself in your neighbor's domestic policies on behalf of a local minority, you only sew fear and mistrust in your neighbor's country. Hence, an old war memorial still means something. Also, how can Estonians be expected to respect the dead of the Soviet Army, when the Russian government won't even hand back its morbid souvenir from Päts' death - his presidential regalia?

From a third perspective, this is also the fault of the ethnic Russian residents of Tallinn. How naive could you be to think you could annually gather and wave the flag of a country that killed so many of your neighbors' family members and think that something like this wasn't bound to happen? If you unveil the Red flag of the Red Army in Tallinn it's just going to piss people off. That's a fact for all Eastern European countries. And if young people gather with candles to defend a monument to a soldier that many in the capital see as an occupying soldier, then they too are mistrusted, and the rationale behind removing the statue becomes stronger, NOT weaker. By arguing that the removal of the statue would spark "a cold civil war," as activist Maxim Reva put it, you only reinforce the majority's lack of respect for your views and mistrust of your motives.

But there's plenty of fault on the Estonian side. For Andrus Ansip, I must ask, why do a few summer clashes between small groups of people merit the attention of the Estonian parliament, its president, as well as the Russian Federation and now PACE? Haven't you also contributed in blowing this matter out of proportion? Is Estonia really a country that can't tolerate disagreements like this? Hasn't democracy failed just a little here? Many posters have suggested that the current government's "do nothing" policies have helped the economy. Could not the same brilliant strategy work in these "culture war" issues as well?

And finally, I'll have to throw some responsibility at former President Arnold Rüütel, who could have stepped in at some opportune moment last June and pulled the whole country out of this situation with some grandfatherly advice and the moderate resolve that any man learns as he ages. I honestly believe that most Estonians, while feeling negative about the memorial, are not 100 percent behind Ansip's decision. Perhaps he could have come up with a heartfelt statement that set people back at ease. But he didn't. Instead Rüütel hid and passed the buck to his successor. And where is meie Toomas Hendrik Ilves? He was the one who told us he believed that the memorial should be imbued with more meaning, to represent everything the Red Army stood for, including the March 1944 bombing raids on Tallinn that killed hundreds of civilians. That seemed like the moderate solution. Sergei Ivanov from the Reform Party got his butt behind that position mighty quick. And Edgar Savisaar supported it too. So what happened? Who dropped the ball?

Finally, this dilemma is my fault for not coming up with a solution so grand that all of the other options would appear frivolous. I have failed you as a blogger. I'm sorry.

:)

54 kommentaari:

stockholm slender ütles ...

The smaller a nation is, the easier it is to demand, to lecture it to act "rationally" and "sensibly". As a rule nations don't. For me as a Finn, it is very hard to even imagine the emotional trauma of the last 70 years of modern Estonian history - the word "history" could just as well be replaced by "tragedy".

Of course, I too really would think that the most sensible thing would be to defuse this issue, to make the right sounds and gestures towards the West, and not bring things to outright and highly visible conflict. At the same time I very well understand if that won't happen - though of course the essence of true statesmanship is to make unpopular, at times even unjust, compromises for the benefit of those who you represent.

gynter ütles ...

Speaking of Mr. Ivanov, he told us in an online interview that he will vote against the war graves bill in the parliament, but eventually he did not vote at all.

Later he mumbled smth about 'not being interested in a political circus'.

So much about flexibility.

Purc ütles ...

If it was a statue of Hitler where hordes of neo-nazis would gather then people would hardly be saying "Oh, it's just a statue, let it be". The statue of a Red Army criminal where zounds of neo-stalinists gather is just as bad or even worse. It's spitting in the face of every self-respecting Estonian and disrespecting all the victims of stalinism. I back Ansip 100% on this one.

kerho ukkonen ütles ...

I don't back anybody's stand on this issue. As an outsider, I really don't have any right to do so either but there is something I wish to point out. The Estonian society exhibits wonderful restraint by not resorting to more extreme form of a behaviour around this item. The historical background would, in many quarters, give the people sympathies if they would blow the monument to smithereens. That thing like that doesn't take place there lifts Eesti among the handful of civilized countries where this absence would be possible.

plasma-jack ütles ...

http://www.pressifoto.ee/fotopank.php?a=showpic&pid=239914&sp=19&sf=135&picnr=0&search_folder=0&keyword=pronkss%F5dur&teema_id=
http://www.pressifoto.ee/fotopank.php?a=showpic&pid=239910&sp=19&sf=135&picnr=4&search_folder=0&keyword=pronkss%F5dur&teema_id=
http://www.pressifoto.ee/fotopank.php?a=showpic&pid=239913&sp=19&sf=135&picnr=1&search_folder=0&keyword=pronkss%F5dur&teema_id=

a few illustrations...
now try to imagine people in black uniforms brandishing swastikas near Louvre and the reaction of an average Frenchman from the street.

Estonia visitor ütles ...

Wow! You are fast! I just read this story on the bbc.

I remember all the controversy over this last year when I was living in Tallinn, the disturbances on the news, the yellow police ribbon closing the statue off. The statue really is an emotive symbol for both sides. I don't think an outsider can really appreciate its significance.

I'm such an outsider, so I am neutral on this issue. The only thing I wonder is, further to what Giustino said, How much parliament time did they spend on this issue? I just hope they didn't spend hundreds of man hours on this issue just to make a "grand symbolic" gesture (much like Labour here in the UK did with the fox-hunting issue), when there are other pressing issues to deal with.

Where will they move it to? I would think it would make sense to move it to a predominantly Russian area where they could revere it as much as they wanted - that might pacify the Russian- speaking population and keep things from getting too heated.

Anonüümne ütles ...

it is very probable that the statue will be removed to a cemetery so it could be used purely for commemorating the war dead.

Giustino ütles ...

Speaking of Mr. Ivanov, he told us in an online interview that he will vote against the war graves bill in the parliament, but eventually he did not vote at all.

That's really lame. If you aren't going to vote, then you shouldn't be in Riigikogu.

I don't back anybody's stand on this issue.

It's a difficult issue because both sides are right and because it concerns a symbol - something that can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

For Estonian-Russians it symbolizes a special thing - their families' sacrifice and the defeat of Nazi Germany in a war that killed millions of their countrymen.

For Estonians, it reminds them of the men who put their families into cattle cars like livestock and sent them to concentration camps in Siberia.

And could it possibly be that both sides are right and that we actually live in a world of grays and not simple black and white, or good and evil? Could that be the real truth?

Where will they move it to? I would think it would make sense to move it to a predominantly Russian area where they could revere it as much as they wanted

That's where Ansip has failed in the rhetorical fight. If the whole topic had been about the "suitability" of the location for war graves, then it would be less about all this historical baggage and about the real question - "Shouldn't these guys be buried in a proper cemetery instead of a busy intersection?"

Instead it has all of these ideological undertones. That's why it is so messy.

Giustino ütles ...

I am starting to suspect that Ansip "knows" something we don't - like that there are no graves there.

I bet he would be quite pleased to say, "we excavated the sight, and the war graves are a myth. so there, margelov."

Anonüümne ütles ...

I've thought it odd that there would be a handful of soldiers buried under the monument, when there are already established war cemeteries around Tallinn. Sounds like an urban myth.

Hard to believe that if a handful of soldiers were killed in the vicinity of the monument location, that they would remain unknown, otherwise they would have their names inscribed on the monument. It's not as if Tallinn was under seige like Narva where countless soldiers went missing in action and the battlefield littered with unidentifiable body parts, and hence for a need for a tomb to the unknown soldier. Narva would be a more suitable location in that regard.

Its placement in the centre of Tallinn was probably more to do with celebrating the triumphant conqueror.

La Russophobe ütles ...

There is a fundamental problem with your analysis apart from your own failure to identify any realistic solution while attacking everybody else.

While, speaking for the Estonian side, you are able to admit there are faults in your own side, the same is not true on the Russian side. Nobody in Russia is saying "gosh, we're being a bit unreasonable, aren't we?" This stems from the old Soviet days, when Russians forgot (if they ever knew) how to be introspective and admit their own faults.

So the net result is that you are playing right into Russian hands. You don't seem to realize that Russians view Estonia as being rightfully part of Russia, and view it as an outrage that Estonia has gained independnence. Their goal is to return their hegemonic control over all the Baltic states, and they will use any wedge issue available to pursue that goal. You can either resist that effort or submit to it. I wonder which you think your post is doing.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Obviously, most sensible people would like to weaken and undermine the chauvinist forces in Moscow. The question is what is the best tactic? I would think that in these kinds of sensitive and symbolic questions outright confrontation is not often most effective, it can even prove to be quite counterproductive.

Anonüümne ütles ...

"... to defend a monument to a soldier that many in the capital see as an occupying soldier." But it's a memorial to the dead, isn't it? Everybody dies for himself alone, no? This is precisely *not* a triumphalist monument, but one of mourning, which almost all of the genuinely thoughtful analysis on the topic in Estonia have emphasized. Mourning should be respected by everyone, and what other peoples do or don't do is scarcely the point.

Giustino ütles ...

Nobody in Russia is saying "gosh, we're being a bit unreasonable, aren't we?" This stems from the old Soviet days, when Russians forgot (if they ever knew) how to be introspective and admit their own faults.

Russians are just as fat and lazy as anybody else. And they love to complain. First Gorbachev was great, then he was the asshole that screwed everything up. First Yeltsin was a populist hero, then he was the asshole that screwed everything up.
But between 1985 and now, they have made some decisions.

You don't seem to realize that Russians view Estonia as being rightfully part of Russia, and view it as an outrage that Estonia has gained independnence.

Most younger Russians I have met have expressed the opposite viewpoint to me. To them, Estonia has always been free. However, I understand that Putin's generation is wholly lost and that they still have a backward 19th century mindset.

Much of these arguments are the domain of 1950s little boys, arguing over their fathers' deeds.

Their goal is to return their hegemonic control over all the Baltic states, and they will use any wedge issue available to pursue that goal. You can either resist that effort or submit to it. I wonder which you think your post is doing.

Well, I am not an Estonian. I am an American. But, having read how Estonia obtained its independence from 1988 through 1991, I'd have to argue that direct confrontation does not always yield the best results.
Estonia can pick and choose its battles with Russia. It has won most of them so far.

This is precisely *not* a triumphalist monument, but one of mourning, which almost all of the genuinely thoughtful analysis on the topic in Estonia have emphasized.

My analysis doesn't say it is or it isn't. What I am saying is that it is *both*. Because it is a symbol, it can be interpreted in different ways.

K ütles ...

Why do you think moving the Pronkssõdur to another place would be a bad idea? I can't see any reason for keeping it where it is -- the Soviet occupation is over.

Suppose two criminals, Vanya and Fritz are fighting for who's next to rape you. Finally, Vanya wins and drives Fritz away. Will you be grateful to him and even erect a monument for him? Well ... if you're a masochist.

Giustino ütles ...

Why do you think moving the Pronkssõdur to another place would be a bad idea? I can't see any reason for keeping it where it is -- the Soviet occupation is over.

I don't think it is a bad idea. But are the political ramifications of it worth it for Estonia? I am not one to say. I really can see both sides of the issue here.

Anonüümne ütles ...

"Because it is a symbol, it can be interpreted in different ways." Not really; Tartu semiotics could be helpful here. Naturally, there is such a thing as a forced interpretation, but with the bronze soldier, you really have to work on this...

Giustino ütles ...

Naturally, there is such a thing as a forced interpretation, but with the bronze soldier, you really have to work on this...

No, it's like the Confederate flag, which means slavery to many and heritage to some.

As for Pronks, I hear two things. 1) It's a symbol of mourning and 2) It's a symbol of Soviet power in Tallinn.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

Estonia's decision will doubtless lead to a new round of nationalist posturing and Russo-Soviet reaction here in Latvia, where even Peter the Great's restored statue rides into parks at night, even if the horseman stays only briefly...

I don't see how avoiding this would be "to make the right sounds and gestures towards the West" -- Vladimir Socor, for example, clearly supports Estonia's position (at Eurasia Daily Monitor). Russia's propaganda war against the Baltic States doesn't really depend upon what we do -- the distorted interpretation of the Great Patriotic War stays the same. Those in Western Europe who join the Kremlin in accusing us of dastardly revisionism (e.g., certain columnists at The Guardian...) wouldn't change their minds even if the Lenins were returned to their pedestals, methinks.

As to the symbolism for Estonian-Russians -- "their families' sacrifice and the defeat of Nazi Germany in a war that killed millions of their countrymen" -- is that all it symbolizes, to them? In Latvia, at least, their convictions are not so innocuous; most ethnic Russians here don't accept the fact that the Baltic States were occupied, and neither does Russia.

There is some similarity between Confederate monuments (most of which were built long after the Civil War, actually) and Soviet victory monuments in the ambiguity of their meaning for different people, perhaps -- but not too many Southerners would deny the evils of slavery. Dixie's part of the States, after all. Russia is a foreign power whose president describes the collapse of the USSR as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th C -- one need only peruse Regnum or RIA-Novosti to see that the symbolism Russia so wishes to protect is missing a rather large piece of the truth.

In keeping with our traditional spirit of "pathological tolerance," as Ludmila Azarova called that characteristic, I suppose the best solution would be augmenting the monuments -- laying some track and adding a cattle car or two, for example. But I'd be a bit wary of the urge to say "both sides are right" -- it's just not so. The one side does see the grays -- there's little or no sympathy for Hitler. The other mostly still celebrates the victory of good over evil, in black and white, and tends to call Balts "fascists" whenever anybody tries to add atouch of gray.

Giustino ütles ...

There is some similarity between Confederate monuments (most of which were built long after the Civil War, actually) and Soviet victory monuments in the ambiguity of their meaning for different people, perhaps -- but not too many Southerners would deny the evils of slavery.

Oh, Southerners will tell you about the evils of slavery in public, but get a few drinks in them and they'll begin to revisit some themes:

1) Abraham Lincoln as moralist zealot
2) William Tecumseh Sherman as genocidal Dixie killer
3) Slavery was on the way out, anyway
4) It was about states' rights, not slavery. The slavery interpretation is revisionism.
5) It's not the Civil War, it's the "War of Northern Aggression."

The bottom line is that "they" lost and "we" won. It's funny that I put it that way because several of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy. But today, my blood are clearly "they" and I am part of "we" - the Union, the USA, the victors.

But I'd be a bit wary of the urge to say "both sides are right" -- it's just not so.

I don't know. I wasn't there last May, but the mood as captured in film and print was ominous. Young Estonian-Russians, many of whom had never set foot in Russia proper, were calling their neighbors fascists and holding red roses for the army that bombed their city.

Obviously, a lot of people are sickened by the sight of people showing allegiance to a country that followed the following order:

1. To eliminate all individuals who show up at least some patriotic activity,

2. To inhibit the possible rebellions of the less active part of the society through use of fright,

3. To depopulate these nations physically.

But the question is, after 15 years of living in an Estonian Republic, where has the state failed, where has the country failed, in making newer Estonians aware that Estonia is their country, and that they should sympathize with those that fought foreign occupational powers, like metsavennad, in the same way that I, a descendant of Confederates, could never see myself on the side of the South. And does the removal of a monument make that situation any better or does it just alienate those kids more; does it play more into the hands of the meddling Kremlin?

See, that's what I am concerned about. Estonian independence -- that my wife's family and my friends and colleagues there can grow up happy and healthy and live normal lives without the threat of another Muscovite siege of death and deportation -- is my priority. I am looking at this event, from the perspective of how it will play into the Estonian-Russian relationship in the long run.

It troubles me that young Russians in Moscow felt like they had a reason to burn an Estonian flag outside the Estonian embassy last month, but Finland -- with whom the Soviets fought two bloody wars -- is considered cute and harmless.

The Finns gave up long ago in trying to talk any sense into their totally irrational neighbor that is given to fits of genocidal mania. But Estonia still thinks it can make the Russians understand if they tack on a preamble to a border treaty?

Good luck.

The question here is, "What do Estonians want out of their relationship with Russia?"
Forgive me if I am wrong, but it seems the best relationship to have is one where the dialog is strictly business and little else. Estonia doesn't need Russia, intellectually, or, increasingly, economically. But here we are again, talking about Russia. This whole statue debate is about that relationship. It's not that it matters whether or not it's in central Tallinn or they relocate it to Naissaar. It's that it's got all of the Estonians and Russians feeling passionate and yelling at each other about things that, currently, matter little.

My daughter is three years old. When she gets older she will know what happened to her family, and that her great great grand dad was an Estonian independence war fighter who spent time in Siberia because he was too "patriotic" for the Estonia NSV they tried (and failed) to build. She doesn't need Sergei Lavrov to accept the facts of her family history for it to be so. Their opinion doesn't matter.

And doesn't she deserve a better discussion of the future rather than a rehash of the past? Shouldn't people be trying to figure out ways so that more Estonians can go to the dentist, or so that Estonia pollutes less, or so that I can get to Tartu without taking a 2.5 hour bus trip, or that self-medicating drunks living in the countryside can get a decent job?

Relocating this statue is an addendum to 1991. I'd welcome a little more progress.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

It troubles me that young Russians in Moscow felt like they had a reason to burn an Estonian flag outside the Estonian embassy last month, but Finland -- with whom the Soviets fought two bloody wars -- is considered cute and harmless.

Whilst I find la Russophobe's antics troubling, I daresay I think he or she might have a more insightful take on such things than you have, in this case -- I meant to hint at that; there is really nothing you could do to keep such creatures from burning the Estonian flag, short of declaring Russian the official language of Estonia (and probably even that wouldn't work -- the next demand would likely be that it must be proclaimed the sole official language of Estonia...). You don't accomplish anything at all by trying to mollify the sentiments of such flag-burners. Latvia and Estonia regularly rank among the most hated countries in Russia -- no excuse is necessary, and Lithuania is up there, too (despite having sipped from the Holy Grail of the zero option and handing everybody passports).

You know the outworn Santayana quote: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"; the point of monuments is rememberance. Denkmal. Historical truth (in all its wildly various interpretations)won't keep your daughter from heading into the future. Failing to rehash the past might.

But Estonia still thinks it can make the Russians understand if they tack on a preamble to a border treaty?

Oh, come on now -- these treaty problems, which are fundamental to the very existence and continuity of our republics, are hardly about getting Ivan Ivanovich in Blinsk to grok his history -- they're about international law.

I don't think you progress by sweeping history under the carpet, even if you suffer a severe Wirtschaftswunder and make image-making the national sport.

Estonia doesn't need Russia, intellectually, or, increasingly, economically.

Maybe so. At this moment in time, maybe so. Estonians probably said that in 1935, too, though, no? And I'm not sure what "intellectually" means -- "culturally"? That wouldn't make any sense, at least not to me -- you cannot simply turn your NATO-armored back upon your largest neighbor, and to make the armor impermeable to the intellect would be silly as all hell.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

When the law about the removal of monuments was under its way through parliament we have seen the common official reaction from Russia: "unmoral" etc.
Again Estonia has to strive/argue for its own history. I miss some support from our German side cause the Hitler-Stalin pact was the beginning of the end of the Republic of Estonia. But it seems they -German politicians- will held their mouths shut as they did in the past. Was there a big apologize of a chanzler or president from Germany ever? Maybe relations with Russia are more important.
So again Estonia is singled out each time to be blamed beeing a country of revisionists. But Estonia was not the only victim of soviet rule. So I started to post about all of those who could not see the victory of the Red Army as their own liberation, from Nazi rule yes,and some were NOT under Nazi rule in 1939-1945 even, so no liberation as the soviet rule was established or continued: The Koreans in Russia, finno-ugrian minorities, the Polish from the eastern side of their country to give some examples. It could be continued with the "Zwangsarbeiter" forced into the "Reich" who later ended up in the GULAG after 1945. I wish they would have a louder voice.

Giustino ütles ...

Latvia and Estonia regularly rank among the most hated countries in Russia -- no excuse is necessary, and Lithuania is up there, too.

Georgia is probably number one these days. Estonia is number four, after the respondents remember "Latvia, Lithuania, and that other country, what was it called?"

I have noticed some acknowledgment from Russians I have met of Estonian culture. It's a bit different from the days when they'd tell you that Estonia is part of Russia. Today, they'll tell you that Estonia is part of Scandinavia or like Scandinavia. So I sense some change in their viewpoint.

Maybe so. At this moment in time, maybe so. Estonians probably said that in 1935, too, though, no? And I'm not sure what "intellectually" means -- "culturally"? That wouldn't make any sense, at least not to me -- you cannot simply turn your NATO-armored back upon your largest neighbor, and to make the armor impermeable to the intellect would be silly as all hell.

But the REASON countries like Georgia and to a lesser extent Ukraine, flirt with the West is BECAUSE Russia has less to offer intellectually.

Even Estonian-Russians don't want to go to school in Moscow -- they want to go to school in Germany or the UK. Contrast that with the Russia of the first half of the 20th century. Even the Communists had something to "offer" intellectually. They had some kind of philosophy. Russian "philosophy" today seems to boil down to mafia-like turf wars and British football club-like solidarity. Think about it, if you were a musician, would you rather head to Stockholm or St. Petersburg?
That's what I am getting at.

Whilst I find la Russophobe's antics troubling, I daresay I think he or she might have a more insightful take on such things than you have, in this case

The Russophobe and I can write blogposts forever, it will most likely change little in Russia. Putin doesn't read our blogs, sadly.

Frank ütles ...

There must be a spot in Lasnamäe or Kunda where the monument blends in nicely ... or the backyard of the occupation museum ~

I guess that the proximity to the National Library is a point not everybody does realize - this is really an "Ärgernis" of the first degree ...!

notsu ütles ...

I'm not sure, if I were a musician, which one I'd choose, Stockholm or St Petersburg...

Don't know about Russia in the first half of 20th century, but in the second half, I've heard that West was pretty prestigious there and when they staged Agatha Christie, then the actors who played aristocrats, spoke Russian with Baltic accent (:.

gynter ütles ...

Relocating this statue is an addendum to 1991. I'd welcome a little more progress.

Man, this is what I've been thinking for the last 8 months.

Removing/relocating the monument and creating the whole fuss about the necessity to do so in 2007, right before the elections, looks like a pre-election publicity stunt rather than a sincere urge to restore 'historical justice' as some put it. Especially when the relatively rational and business-minded party like the reformists are up to it.

Flasher T ütles ...

The issue cannot be solved with any decisive action, unfortunately. The only sure-fire way to get rid of the enmity between Russia and Estonia, and the russophobia of Estonians, is to ensure a period of stability and prosperity long enough for a change of generations. When there are no more Estonians with (perfectly justified) personal hatred of all things Russian, the Estonian attitude to Russians will be no different than the attitude to Swedes, Danes or Germans, or even Poles - all nations that have conquered Estonia at some point in history.

As for mr. Ansip, he's scared of being seen as competent, but not leaderly in the face of the upcoming parliamentary election. The Reform party's running on a platform of "we're going to make all of you lots of money", which is fine, but lacks vision. Let me put it this way: Ansip is a Sir Humphrey Appleby finding himself in the position of a James Hacker.

Flasher T ütles ...

The statue of a Red Army criminal where zounds of neo-stalinists gather is just as bad or even worse.

True enough. The only difference is that Stalin won.

Flasher T ütles ...

I would think it would make sense to move it to a predominantly Russian area where they could revere it as much as they wanted

Bad idea with a capital "Are you out of your mind?". We'd have a ghetto of marginalized Russian supremacists, which is, short of a full-on invasion by the Russian Federation, the worst case scenario.

Flasher T ütles ...

That's really lame. If you aren't going to vote, then you shouldn't be in Riigikogu.

Also see the Centrist blackout of the parliamentary round in the presidential elections - the Ilves camp was three votes short of the necessary majority, and Savisaar High Command knew it could not keep its backbenchers in check over someone as decrepid and objectionable as Rüütel. So they actually forbid anyone from attending that session.

Flasher T ütles ...

This is precisely *not* a triumphalist monument

What it was meant as, is not relevant. What it's being used as, is.

Giustino ütles ...

True enough. The only difference is that Stalin won.

Stalin's war on the Estonian state was won in '44, but lost in '91. Think about it. They tried to completely destroy the Estonian state. And what happens? The children raised in the Eesti NSV completely rejected Communism and chose instead to resurrect the state that was founded by their fathers and grandfathers. Stalin failed in every sense of the word. His methods - deportation, murder, cleansing of the history books - it all failed.

So in the end, he lost. His "vision" for Estonia did not survive a mere 50 years.

Giustino ütles ...

As for mr. Ansip, he's scared of being seen as competent, but not leaderly in the face of the upcoming parliamentary election. The Reform party's running on a platform of "we're going to make all of you lots of money", which is fine, but lacks vision. Let me put it this way: Ansip is a Sir Humphrey Appleby finding himself in the position of a James Hacker.

There's no way out for Ansip now except for losing the election or taking that monument down. Could you imagine if he suddenly "changed his mind" under pressure from Moscow? His political career would be over.

Yet at the same time, all the politicians benefit from this mess. Ansip gets to look patriotic and leaderly. And the Russians benefit too! Zhiranovsky gets to act like he actually matters by railing against the paper tiger of "Estonian fascism" (which is really comprised about 30 skinheads with Eesti Leegi t-shirts) and all of the boys in the Duma get to look so patriotic by picking on an easy target - their neighbor, which by the way, is only 1.3 million people. "Estonia is blasphemous and immoral" they get to yell, while juxtaposing themselves -- so pure and patriotic, like freshly fallen
gulag snow.

You'd think they all got together to think this one up to further their political careers. It's too perfect. Every politician in power in Russia and Estonia benefits.

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

But the REASON countries like Georgia and to a lesser extent Ukraine, flirt with the West is BECAUSE Russia has less to offer intellectually.

I can't really agree with this, Giustino, at least not fully -- the main reasons countries like Georgia flirt with the West are material. The urge to flirt is also influenced by negative historical experience and by having been cut off from the West. Unfortunately, that also often leads to no small degree of silliness -- despite the horrors most every people suffered under the Russian/Soviet yoke, not everything was negative.

In the Baltics, dissing and/or ditching Russian culture is (or was) understandable as a reaction (in that so much was imposed and access to other cultures restricted), but most people with a functioning intellect do not abominate a language and culture just because they've seen its ugly face. To use an extreme example -- Wagner was finally heard in Israel in 2001. Celan wrote in German.

My view has long been that Latvia has no problem with Russian culture -- the problem is with a Soviet lack of culture. As to measurements of which nation might have more or less to offer -- every nation has a lot to offer. Russia is huge and intellectually very rich even today, and the historical ties between us are not to be so blithely severed, methinks. Jakobson to Koidula, 1870: "from the Russians we have nothing to fear; whatever we have to bear from them is but one-tenth of the burden of the Germans we drag upon our backs"... Valdemārs (the father of the Latvian nation in many a sense) said almost exactly that around that time.

To write that Russian "philosophy" today boils down to "mafia-like turf wars and British football club-like solidarity" is like writing that American intellectual life boils down to McDonald's. It's just not so. In fact, living Russian philosophers (and/or philosophers who write in Russian) are still quite important even in Latvia.

Now, I won't deny that a lot of thinking and especially polittekhnologiya in Russia seems sick, seemingly mixing "football club-like solidarity" redolent of Soviet "thought" with the fermented juices of 19th C Slavophilia and the exaltation of misery.

"The West," assuming there is such a thing, is not one thing or a monolithic place. Why try to quantify intellectual fecundity in this way? I mean, I think it is especially strange for a person of a small nation to do that -- intellectually, we don't all look to "the Anglosphere" or Scandinavia because there's more there, do we? Guntars Godiņš translates Estonian literature, for example -- you're our neighbors, you know, and Ilves doesn't really stand by his rather nasty Yuleland remarks these days. About three hundred people in Poland study Latvian at the university level -- they should study Chinese instead, because Latvian has less to offer?

Even economically: trade between Russia and the Baltics is no longer overwhelming, true (though it is difficult to measure how important money laundering and such activities are to our economies...) -- it's still significant, though, and it is extremely significant at the EU-RF level. That dimension is never going to change, whether Russia reverts to Stalinism or institutes, er, an Icelandic level of democracy between Ivangorod and Vladivostok. We are particularly well poised to take advantage of that trade. That we realize how risky and messed up Russia is -- is part of that advantage.

Even assuming that we work unheard-of miracles of assimilation/integration, Estonia and Latvia will still have large Russian minorities when not only you but also your daughter are six feet under. And then there is the care of time -- nobody can predict what "Europe" or "Russia" will turn into, or what the place of small nations shall be. We've all seen the world turned upside down at least once.

Flasher T ütles ...

after 15 years of living in an Estonian Republic, where has the state failed, where has the country failed, in making newer Estonians aware that Estonia is their country

I won't deny that at least some of the blame lies at the feet of the government (in a country where no cabinet has ever lasted a full term, you may substitute "political clique"). But this is a fight against Russian megalomania, which is so intrinsic to the mentality that it makes Texans look like Swedes. For the child of people who moved here in the Soviet years, there is no explaining that he needs to learn the language, respect the culture, and not go around talking about the superiority of all things Russian. These people - both the youth and their parents - have the unerring pride of manifest destiny and its disdain for other cultures, without manifest destiny's work ethic. A Soviet soul can comprehend that he is not welcome in this country, but will never comprehend that it's for a good reason.

Estonia's taken plenty of wrong turns, some in hindsight, some that were obviously stupid at the time, but it's made an effort; and there's only so much you can do with social devices.

Flasher T ütles ...

But Estonia still thinks it can make the Russians understand if they tack on a preamble to a border treaty?

Oy, the preamble was to the ratification bill, an internal legislative act. Significant difference there. ;)

Flasher T ütles ...

it seems the best relationship to have is one where the dialog is strictly business and little else.

That's very true; and that's why Estonia ratified the treaty (abandoning its claims to Setu lands and Ivangorod). It was Russia, not Estonia, that introduced double tariffs.

What bothers Estonians is the constant stream of propaganda coming out of Moscow. My friends have had concerned inquiries from extended family in Russia, who were convinced that Russian speakers in Estonia were being beaten with sticks in the street by clean-shaven young men in SS uniforms. It's hard to keep a business-only attitude towards someone who keeps spitting obscenities in your face.

Flasher T ütles ...

Was there a big apologize of a chanzler or president from Germany ever?

I expect there was, at some point. Germany is quick to apologise; after the war it chose to admit its fault and try to get over it. This puts people at ease, because it doesn't look like it's gearing up for another go.

While it is desirable to have a stable, calm, businesslike relationship with Russia, once you start thinking diachronically - assume that history does not end in 2009 when we go over to the Euro and live happily ever after - you come to the conclusion that sooner or later Russia will invade Estonia again. So we're kind of sensitive to the sort of imperialist crap coming out of Moscow these days.

Flasher T ütles ...

Think about it, if you were a musician, would you rather head to Stockholm or St. Petersburg?

The syndrome of the supremacist mentality I'm talking about is that while what you're saying about Russia's intellectual bankruptcy is, with individual exceptions, true - Russians in Estonia will still vigorously defend the superiority of Russia in every aspect of human endeavor. To quote Douglas Adams, it has nothing to do with reason, logic, or physics.

Flasher T ütles ...

looks like a pre-election publicity stunt rather than a sincere urge to restore 'historical justice' as some put it.

Um... No shit, Sherlock? :)

Giustino ütles ...

In the Baltics, dissing and/or ditching Russian culture is (or was) understandable as a reaction (in that so much was imposed and access to other cultures restricted), but most people with a functioning intellect do not abominate a language and culture just because they've seen its ugly face. To use an extreme example -- Wagner was finally heard in Israel in 2001. Celan wrote in German.

The reasons countries like Estonia and Georgia (and Italy and Ireland) exist today is to be found in the model created by post-enlightenment revolutionaries in the United States and France.

You can deny it all you want, but isn't it interesting that Garibaldi spent time in New York before heading back to form the Italian state in the 1860s. And Eamonn De Valera was actually born in the United States, and he grew up to be a father of Irish republicanism.

Where does Russia fit into that equation? It has marvelous ballets and stirring symphonies and heartwrenching novels, but what is it's big idea?

My view has long been that Latvia has no problem with Russian culture -- the problem is with a Soviet lack of culture. As to measurements of which nation might have more or less to offer -- every nation has a lot to offer. Russia is huge and intellectually very rich even today, and the historical ties between us are not to be so blithely severed, methinks.

I am not arguing for a severing of cultural ties. I am talking of a political relationship based on common interests instead of this emotional bickering between Russia, the child molester, and Estonia, the molested child, over the past.

Jakobson to Koidula, 1870: "from the Russians we have nothing to fear; whatever we have to bear from them is but one-tenth of the burden of the Germans we drag upon our backs"

That was when Russia played an intellectual role in shaping the Estonian intelligentsia. They studied and lived in St. Petersburg. Tõnisson served in the Duma. Those days are long gone.

To write that Russian "philosophy" today boils down to "mafia-like turf wars and British football club-like solidarity" is like writing that American intellectual life boils down to McDonald's. It's just not so. In fact, living Russian philosophers (and/or philosophers who write in Russian) are still quite important even in Latvia.

My blog is about Estonia, and as I learn more about Estonia my opinions will change. I am not an ideologue. I change my opinions on a daily basis. One day with the Pronkssõdur I am saying, "blow the muthafucka up!," the next week I am saying, "let by-gones be by-gones." The only thing I can guarantee you is that I will continue to discuss things and I am very happy you like to discuss them too.

I mean, I think it is especially strange for a person of a small nation to do that -- intellectually, we don't all look to "the Anglosphere" or Scandinavia because there's more there, do we? Guntars Godiņš translates Estonian literature, for example -- you're our neighbors, you know, and Ilves doesn't really stand by his rather nasty Yuleland remarks these days.

Well, I am not an Estonian. I am an American, and yes, it may all boil down to "McDonalds" - an over simplification of life by a culture that values bottomlines, and simplicity, or, if you will, sodium and carbohydrates.

In my opinion, Estonia is today a de facto part of Scandinavia, or a budding member of the Nordic community. I see its cultural output as being a natural addition to that community.

Estonian statehood was incubated by and kept alive in Scandinavia and Finland. It was the Danes that founded Tallinn, it was Gustavus Adolphus who founded Tartu University. It was the Finnish example that led Estonians to believe that they too could have a state, it was Finnish TV that never let Estonia be completely closed. It was Stockholm that offered a foster home to Ilves' family after they fled the occupation of their country. Finally, it was Iceland, followed by Denmark that rerecognized Estonian independence in 1991.

Therefore, I don't see Ilves comments from 1999 as "nasty." He was born in Stockholm, it's natural that he too would be inclined towards good relations with Sweden.
At the time you could intepret his remarks as the arrogance of a people trying to distance themselves from their neighbors. But I read them as an effort from a guy from a mostly unknown country trying to explain Estonianness to Brits and to Norwegians and to Swedes who all seem to think that anything former-Soviet is likewise Slavic, and that Estonians are just another mass in a jigsaw puzzle of of "dobre dien." I think that effort has been successful.

Even assuming that we work unheard-of miracles of assimilation/integration, Estonia and Latvia will still have large Russian minorities when not only you but also your daughter are six feet under.

I don't think that matters that much. It mattered for all Estonian males when they had to join the Soviet army, but fluency in Russian language is not a forte amongst the younger Estonians I have met, even the teenagers in Tallinn, where about 40-odd percent of people speak it as a native language. About 30 percent of the people in my city speak Spanish as a native language, but the majority of non-Spanish speakers have no knowledge of that language. My daughter has lived her efor most of her life, and the Spanish she has picked up has been from Dora The Explorer.

Flasher T ütles ...

There's no way out for Ansip now except for losing the election or taking that monument down. Could you imagine if he suddenly "changed his mind" under pressure from Moscow? His political career would be over.

Eh. Possibly. Siim Kallas survived the $10,000,000 scandal. Mart Laar survived the surveillance scandal. Edgar Savisaar survived more stuff than Riggs & Murtaugh combined. Even then, Ansip is just one more figurehead that came up from Reform's Tartu stronghold to replace Kallas. Party leadership will be perfectly prepared to catapult him into a nice, cushy EU job to retain overall control.

You'd think they all got together to think this one up to further their political careers.

Now you're presuming competence. ;) And not everyone in Estonia benefits; for Savisaar, his obvious ties to Edinaja Rossija and his defense of Filatov's citizenship claim is very likely to have cost him this election.

Remember, despite the Reform PM embarassing himself with the monument campaign, the Reform/IRL/Social Democrat camp is basking in the reflected glory of Ilves, who has, against all expectation, come out as the voice of reason.

Giustino ütles ...

You come to the conclusion that sooner or later Russia will invade Estonia again.

I don't come to that conclusion, and here's why.

As far as I see it, the story of the Baltic sea region has been one of contests between three major players - Sweden, Germany, and Russia.

Germany because of World War II and its membership in the EU is now on the same team as Sweden. So you can consider its power, for now, neutralized.

Now, think about Sweden. Starting in 1710 and continuing through 1944, you saw a total devolution of the Scandinavian empires. They lost most of their colonial possessions, Norwegian republicans created their own state, Finland was lost to Russia, and, in 1944, Iceland -- little, tiny Iceland -- became independent.

But what's this? Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania wrest free from Russian control in 1918. Finland retains its independence in 1940, but the other Baltic sea states lose their de facto sovereignty -- but not their legal soverignty -- for under 50 years until they too once again become independent. During that time the Scandinavians have set up their very own Nordic Council, and have filled their coffers with cash from selling IT and legos and modern-looking, yet affordable wooden furniture that they are essentially their own "soft empire."

Russia, meanwhile, dealing with revolt in one of its constituent republics in Chechnya, withdraws its military presence from the Baltics, and leaves its Baltic fleet to rot in Kaliningrad. Within a decade, 75 percent of the Estonian economy is owned by Sweden and Finland.

So, what I see here is the Scandinavians reemerging as the great power in the Baltic region. The last time they held power in the area, it was from about 1560 to 1720. That's 160 years. It took them over 200 to get their act back together.

Meanwhile, Russia continues devolve as Sweden once did. I wonder if Swedes were equally as bitter in the 1740s ;)

Flasher T ütles ...

You're right, Russia is incapable of invasion at this point - but that doesn't mean it'll stay that way. Fortunately for us, for all of Putin's heavy-handed approach to government, his team has continued to let Russia's armed forces rot. For that, we are grateful.

You're also right that Scandinavia, and Sweden in particularly, considers Estonia to be within its sphere of interest. We don't mind. We'd rather be a province of Sweden than a province of Russia.

However, the 20th century has made it bleedingly obvious that military impotence is quickly fixed. The Weimar republic was a corpse, and we all know what happened.

(PS. Get in touch when you arrive in Tartu - my email is on my blog - I think I need to buy you a pint. ;))

La Russophobe ütles ...

FLASHER: I wouldn't take too much comfort in Russia's military impotence if I were you. Russia's weaponizing of energy is a topic of great concern. Perhaps it's Russia's intention to place Estonia in a position of energy dependence and then cut off its energy supply, returning it only when Estonia agrees "voluntarily" to reenter the Russian (neo-Soviet) fold. And prominent Estonians who sought to block such a return might conviently meet the fate of Litvinenko and Politkovskaya. Given the pathetic way Europe and NATO have behaved in resisting the Soviet coup attempt in Georgia, the Russians may have been much emboldened along such lines of late. One must wonder how Europe and NATO would react if forced to choose between the loss of their own energy reserves and the loss of Estonia. Of course, a loss of oil revenues would inflict a devastating injury on Russia, but Russia has been willing in the past to let its people eat dirt in order to pay for conquest.

Then too, you are quite right in saying that Russia could dramatically improve its militar power by diverting its oil windfall to that purpose, as it may well already be doing in secret.

Frank ütles ...

How bitter were the Swedes?
As bitter as can be!
There is at least one novel where Charles XII (whose birthday instead that one of the Fuehrer is celebrated by Swedish skinheads ...)when reentering the soil of the Swedish heartland after one of his last and lost campaigns keeps his incognito opposite Swedish peasants, since he and his traveling companions are mortally afraid the peasants will kill them if they guess who he is ... der Landverderber!

Giustino, the idea of nations is a latter-day affair, Tartu University was founded by Gustav-Adolf as Universitas Dorpatensis, with German as official language and the more or less "German" nobility of his dukedom Estonia as the authority in charge, no real trace of Swedish or Sweden then there, the idea was to keep the intellectually minded offspring of the Baltic-German and of the Germanized upwardly mobile Estonian population "at home" ...
Official language at the Swedish Court was also not Swedish but German I have been told - that does not make G. A. a German but it shows that there are no real national identities before Napoleon ...

Flasher T ütles ...

I wouldn't take too much comfort in Russia's military impotence if I were you.

I don't; that's the point.

However, the specific "Russia as energy bully" argument doesn't convince me. Detailed analysis shows that Putin is building up an exit plan for himself; the Baltic gas pipeline and affiliated ventures turn out, on close inspection, to be a sellout of Russia's energy reserves to European interests. Energy is a bargaining chip for Putin; if he stops the oil, the country grinds to a halt, and his popularity as a hardass that gets things done - a latter-day Stalin - goes down the drain. Yeltzin barely survived that, and Putin is a lot more actively hated by people with resources.

Ken ütles ...

Russian newspaper Izvestia published a really curious discussion about the topic

http://izvestia.ru/media-center/conference849/index.html

See especially the fake photograph..

Giustino ütles ...

Russian newspaper Izvestia published a really curious discussion about the topic

Noh, kus te olete tõlkid?

Anonüümne ütles ...

http://amd.store20.com/gallery/index.php?galerie=Tallinn%20-%20March%201944&snimek=1&exif_style=&show_thumbs=

Anonüümne ütles ...

http://www.hot.ee/fone/pomm.htm

Giustino ütles ...

thanks!

Martin ütles ...

Great links! Apparently the Soviets removed many of the monuments to the Estonian War of Independance. Are there any images of these memorials online?

wombat ütles ...

There were several hundred monuments to Estonian war of Independence ... Soviets vandalized ALL of these (maybe there were 1 or 2 exceptions) in 1940s. (You can search google images for "Vabadussõja mälestussammas" or "... ausammas" or "... monument"). Most of these monuments were placed on cemeteries .. but that didn't help. Actually, the soviets even vandalized whole cemeteries (like in Kopli and Kalamaja in Tallinn).

And now people are just talking about moving a soviet monument to an appropriate place. If there is anyone buried there (even if they were the vandalizing soviet soldiers), they will be reburied on a decent cemetery -- instead of a trolley stop. They're dead and deserve to be treated as such.