neljapäev, jaanuar 25, 2007

“Estonia never had its own heroes.”

The Bronze Soldier controversy has just spilled over to the New York Times. And remember my take on this, how Russia is too keen to tell Estonian men that they are nothing and that they have no heroes? Well, the chairman of the Constitution Party just proved my point:

But Estonia remains a divided country, despite a free and thriving economy. Of its 1.4 million people, about 25 percent are ethnic Russians, who according to Andrei A. Zarenkov, an ethnic Russian and chairman of the Constitution Party, live as “untouchables” in a political caste system.

He said Estonia’s government was fighting to remove the monument because “Estonia never had its own heroes.”

Right, so this guy is mad because he doesn't have any power. Boo hoo. Note to Zarenkov -- if you want to get elected in Estonia, say nice things about Estonia. Saying that Estonia doesn't have any heroes isn't going to get you elected. In fact, if you are so dumb that you would say something like that to the New York Times, then you should find another job. At least a third of Russian residents in Estonia could vote in the 2003 parliamentary elections, yet they didn't vote for you. Why is that?

Also, I seem to recall a ragtag army of 75,000 defeating the army of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. The loss forced the Russians to renounce their claim to Estonia in perpetuity. That victory stands. Estonia today is a free republic. To add up the equation for you: Estonia fought for and won its independence in 1920 from the largest country in the world, and it's now 2007, 87 years later, and Estonia is an independent country, based on that victory. Who were your heroes again?

*Sigh* If Estonia wants to talk about wars with Russia, it should be talking about that one. They should also remind them that 3,000 Russian volunteers fought with the Estonian army and helped achieve Estonian independence. I wonder why nobody in Nashi dressed up in one of their uniforms this week. And are they honored by the Estonian state? Perhaps a monument to the Russian soldiers that helped free Estonia, attended by Putin himself is in order?

I guess some dead Russian soldiers are worth more to the Russian state than others. I've tried quizzing Russian acquaintances about how they feel about other actors in their history, ie: "How do you feel about Trotsky? How do you feel about Kerensky? How do you feel about Nicholas II?" But I usually just get shrugs. All the while, I keep wondering what Putin is trying to create here with fascist youth groups that dress up in Red Army uniforms like they actually had any balls. What do they want to do? Overun Tallinn, waving flags in grandfather's clothes and singing songs while people pause from shopping at Kaubamaja and then continue with their business.

See, in 1940, Russia still had an idea: communism. It had an ideological export. Today, it has no ideological export. They could march on Estonia, but they wouldn't win anything and their entire ideology boils down to worshipping idols. Smart historical costumes may make you feel good inside, boys, but they don't feed your family and they don't heat your home.

In the 1960s in San Francisco, they had "weekend hippies" -- young urban professionals who put on beads and went to clubs on the weekend. They weren't "genuine hippies" who actually lived communally on the bare minimum. I think it would be fair to say that "Nashi" are essentially the "weekend hippies" of communism.

28 kommentaari:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

"Wenden" was celebrated as one of the great victories of the Estonian Army during Vabadussoda. The anniversary was celebrated regulary during the 30s, first time in 1934:"Siegesfest" (Võidupüha). But it was not the victory over the Reds but the Germans (Landwehr)!

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

The information of välisministeerium regarding:
Võidupüha or Victory Day is an Estonian public holiday, which has been celebrated on 23 June every year since 1934 until 1939 and after the restoration of Estonian independence from 1992. Victory Day recalls the decisive battle during the War of Independence in which the Estonian military forces and their allies defeated the German forces who sought to re-assert Baltic-German control over the region. Today, Võidupüha also marks the contributions of all Estonians in their fight to regain and retain their independence.

plasma-jack ütles ...

They should also remind them that 3,000 Russian volunteers fought with the Estonian army and helped achieve Estonian independence.

And are they honored by the Estonian state?


You are referring to the White Army & mr Yudenich.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_N._Yudenich

Those guys were monarchists and supporters of Russian Empire, therefore they saw fighting along with Estonian republican forces only as a necessary evil. Later on, they got so undisciplined and unreliable that the Estonian army had to disarm them. The Whites weren't less evil bastards than the Reds, they just didn't win. In Russian civil war, my sympathy lies more with Nestor Makhno and Ukrainian anarchists (:

But actually there are no real good guys in war. Estonians themselves did shameful things during our war of independence, including shooting our own unarmed countrymen and -women who had too leftist views. Check out about the revolt in Saaremaa and the murder of workers' unions' activists in Irboska (Izborsk). That's a real shame - if there really was a need to get rid of them, we could have deported them to Russia and Stalin would have taken care of them himself like he did with the majority of Estonian red emigrés.

Btw, if I'm not very much wrong, in Tallinn, near the Schnelli pool is a monument commemorating the victims of Irboska. It's a legacy of the Soviet past, but has not been and will not be removed - it's because that awful deed really happened and fortunately, we are capable of admitting it right now. They don't speak very much about those things in our history lessons though. (:

giles crellin ütles ...

My name is Giles Crellin and I am in Estonia as Project Consultant to a new scheme known as "Noored Kooli" set to launch this February. The scheme is similar to Teach for America and Teachfirst. I want to contact estonian graduates abroad who may fit the tough selection process and have the commitment to the NK mission and believe your blog may help in this? I am happy to provide details etc of the scheme

giles@nooredkooli.ee

Anonüümne ütles ...

It was not Yudenich it was Bulak-Balahhovich who had total 3000 friendly troops to Estonian government. Yudenich army was royalists army and that was not friendly to Estonia. The Remarcable fact is that in 1919 Estonians get victory over their worst enemy in history that is Germans and that is Estonian Victory day even now and the soviet occupetion in 1940-1941 after the cue was so big horror that Estonians were very happy that Germans came and liberate them fton that horor. True is that they don't liked Germans also because of history and their policy but Soviet regime was absolute top of the horror in their mind that they were able to imagine.

oliver ütles ...

I'm actually glad Estonia gets some attention (besides those Economy-Skype-WiFi stories) in world media - like now, like in May 2005.
More BS from Russia means more history lessons to the world.

Heroes...
Well you know what they say about Estonian heroes... the Soviets killed them...

Overview of the fate of Estonian generals and admirals

Lennart Meri was the first president to die in free Estonia, here's what happened to his predecessors (Heads of State)

Ants Piip (1884 - 1942)
Imprisoned by the NKVD on 30.06.1941, died in prison camp.

Konstantin Päts (1874 - 1956)
30.07.1940 imprisoned by the NKVD and deported to Russia, lived as deportee, then in prison, 1954-56 in the mental hospital of Kalinin, where also died.

Juhan (Johann) Kukk (1885 - 1945)
Was arrested by the NKVD in 1940, died in imprisonment.

Friedrich (Karl) Akel (1871 - 1941)
17.10.1940 was imprisoned by the, shot in Tallinn on 03.07.1941.

Jüri Jaakson (1870 - 1942)
14.06.1941 was imprisoned by the NKVD, taken to Russia, sentenced to death and shot.

Jaan Teemant (1872 - 1941)
23.07.1940 was arrested by the NKVD, was probably shot in Tallinn or died in the Tallinn Central Prison. According to other data was sentenced to prison camp for 10 years on 21.10.1941, no information of his further fate.

Jaan Tõnisson (1868 - unknown)
Arrested by the NKVD in December 1940, according to some data shot in Tallinn in July 1941.

August Rei (1886 - 1963)
Escaped to Sweden via Riga in June 1940. Died on 29.03.1963 in Stockholm.

Otto (August) Strandman (1875 - 1941)
1941 shot himself at the time when the NKVD officers came to arrest him.

Kaarel Eenpalu (1888 - 1942)
27.07.1940 was arrested by the NKVD, died in prison camp.

I don't know what more to say...

Marek ütles ...

They could march on Estonia, but they wouldn't win anything and their entire ideology boils down to worshipping idols.

Giustino - bravo! This was well put. In fact - probably even better than most of the Estonians themselves could.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Oliver's list shows only the head of military forces. But it goes deeper like:
Colonel Karl Parts, who wrote the war memories: Kas võit või surm, did not survive the September of 1941.

Giustino ütles ...

I'm actually glad Estonia gets some attention (besides those Economy-Skype-WiFi stories) in world media - like now, like in May 2005.

The international press coverage actually reinforces Estonia's position that it was occupied. Even the eurocrats at PACE unequivocally call what happened in Estonia an occupation.

Franz ütles ...

"if you want to get elected in Estonia, say nice things about Estonia"
Justin, may be you are too optimistic about local Russians. Yesterday I heard in radio, how people in Narve were interviewed about possible Russia's economic sanctions against Estonia. And more than half approved anti-Estonian sanctions

Giustino ütles ...

Yesterday I heard in radio, how people in Narve were interviewed about possible Russia's economic sanctions against Estonia. And more than half approved anti-Estonian sanctions.

So they approve of measures that hurt their own livelihoods just because the Bronze Soldier MUST stay on Tõnismägi and it cannot be moved to a cemetery. R-i-i-i-ght.

I wonder what percentage Russian trade accounts for in Narva. I know that nation-wide it's only about 10 percent. Talk about being your own worst enemy!

plasma-jack ütles ...

Konstantin Päts is definitely not my hero and it's a shame that he was never tried before an Estonian court for destroying Estonian democracy and then selling us to the Russians. I don't care what his merits might have been during the Czarist era, his legacy is utterly negative for me.

plasma-jack ütles ...

.. the guy who won Vabadussõda, therefore a real hero was general Tõnisson (yeah, Laidoner sat in his general command and did the paperwork, so what). Kuperjanov died valiantly, but if he wouldn't have, he would probably have been tried before a military court for getting his soldiers killed for a strategically meaninglesse object.

Otto Strandmann or August Rei would definitely make good icons, but they were leftists y'know and that is too big a mouthful to swallow to our right-wing national romantics ;-)

And Jaan Pitka definitely earned his monument, unlike that Laidoner-bastard who is riding his horse in Viljandi.

lurker ütles ...

Maybe they could set up a statue of Kuperjanov in place of the Bronze Soldier? Would that be okay? A real, known hero, honoured by a grateful nation?

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

@plasma-jack,
You are right. Laidoner and Päts played that top secret game in 1939. Not telling the people that they've already surrendered. Again: My grandfather was a veteran of the independence war, he worked at the ministry of defence responsible for chemical warfare, defence and/or protection. Laidoner himself told him before the end of October 39: Go and take your family. Your wife is member of the German cultural association. So you can leave your country together with the Germans, he was not. But he did. The other officers staying behind were mostly killed or send to Siberia after Soviet occupation. The state became the betrayer itself.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

In those circumstances Jaan Tõnisson is the great politicians. He was trying to get democratic candidates on the list against the soviet plan of faked elections.

Giustino ütles ...

Jüri Uluots is a hero in my book, as is August Rei. Those guys kept the Estonian state alive in its darkest hour. They set the mindset for surviving the occupation - that Estonia may be under Soviet control, but it is temporary, and it will end.

There are also some noteworthy forest brothers that don't get the attention they deserve. Jaan Roots is perhaps best, because he was too young to serve with the 20th, and is therefore "untainted" by fascism.

Pertti ütles ...

Giustino, your blog is one of the best things that one can read in the net. I presume you are a being of higher intelligence ;)
Anyway, the aljoša affair is revealing important facts about us:
Many of us are afraid of the so called power of Russia some of us admire it just because it is "powerful". Some kind of a whish "to be with the winners", I think.
The views of kesk's policians is for sure what could be named pro-russian or russinan minded. I believe it is safe to say that kesk is willingly very easy to manipulate by Moscow. It is sort of like living next door to a disgusting rich violent drunk (who, when sober, acts normal) - their view is that you should make friends with your neighbour no matter what, because he is rich, powerful and your neighbour. Talk about faulty logic - the reasonable thing to do would be to ignore him and call the cops if necessary.
Some sort of a national history and patriotism program is needed. We are in the middle of a turmoil and stay mostly quiet, this is not good. From outside it looks like we don't care or have nothing to say, from inside it feels like we do not know what to say. Some sort of mild moral steering could help us as a nation and as a state.
Päts - Savipäts (Savisaar's nick name). The resemblance is scaringly deep. Both were powerful persons with half russian roots, both did great things during (re)gaining liberty, both failed play by the rules of democracy, one did and the other will sell Estonia out to russia when the opportunity arises.

From my point of view the best advice for living next to russia comes in the form of a proverb: "Give the devil a finger..."

Anonüümne ütles ...

Maybe Estonians don't need big role-models to go and bend before? We aren't "warm-blooded" people like Russians who need their vast armies and tsars to feel okay and normal. Today Komsomolskaya Pravda published an article about 2008 being the first most probable date for the restoring of the USSR because according to worst case scenarios crude oil prices could rise 3 times then. Just fantasizing about things like that shows that Russians need to be powerful and pushing their big military boot into somebody's face to make themselves feel like Russians. We don't need that to feel ourselves feel Estonian.

And speaking of heroes, the biggest hero of Estonia in my opinion has a statue on the Tallinna Lauluväljak. His name is Gustav Ernesaks and he really is a POSITIVE hero.

Lauri ütles ...

What about Alfons Rebane? Russians defintely hate even the mention of his name, and he avoided the capture and died as a free man in England.

La Russophobe ütles ...

You see, Giustino puts up a post about the monument where he tries to be reasonable, and see both sides of the question, and look for a bilateral solution, and what does he get for his trouble? The Russians get even more extreme and demanding! And which Russians come forward to meet him half way? Giustino now is learning the lesson about anti-democrats via Russia that Chamberlian learned via Germany: Anything other than direct resistance is seen as weakness and reason to attack.

The furor going on in the Russian Duma over the monument is a clear exrpession of Russians imperialist and ignorant attitude towards Estonia, based on decades of Soviet propaganda and inherent Russian xenophobia. Russians can be friendly towards Estonia only if Estonia is in a position of subservience to Russia, and under no other circumstances. Russians, including those within Estonia, generally regret the loss of Soviet influence over Estonia, which is why Estonian patriots want to confront them.

It's fortunate that Estonians were farsighted enought to make great and immediate strides away from Russia as soon as the Berlin Wall fell; now Estonia has many allies and can show the world Russia's true colors, so that hopefully we can galvanize against the neo-Soviet Union in a more effective way than we did against its predecessor.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Imagine what would happen if Estonians would do this:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/34854585@N00/366960567/
Some angry Hungarians at a central soviet monument in Budapest. They have thrown the metallic symbol into the Danuba river last September. See the video link.
In Hungary the use of soviet and nazi symbols are banned since 1989, I guess.

Giustino ütles ...

You see, Giustino puts up a post about the monument where he tries to be reasonable, and see both sides of the question, and look for a bilateral solution, and what does he get for his trouble? The Russians get even more extreme and demanding! And which Russians come forward to meet him half way? Giustino now is learning the lesson about anti-democrats via Russia that Chamberlian learned via Germany: Anything other than direct resistance is seen as weakness and reason to attack.

Could you *not* compare me to Neville Chamberlain? Don't you have any other useful historical idiots to use?

Anyway, you are right in some ways.
For example, Global Voices Online quoted a Russian blog discussion that said the following:

I don’t understand it. Why none of the patriots got up and said calmly: yes, we did occupy Estonia. And we’ll occupy it again, if need be. Because we are a great country, capable of slicing Europe up whenever we feel like it. And Estonia is a piece of shit that keeps [sucking up to] those who are on a horse [superior].

http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2007/01/19/russia-estonia-the-monument/#more-19847

There you have it. Estonia has no heroes and it is a little piece of shit. Direct from the mouths of Russians. That's funny. I seem to recall reading about how Lenin sent his top diplomat to sign the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, renouncing all claims to Estonia in perpetuity.

Little piece of shit, indeed. ;)

Now Estonia has many allies and can show the world Russia's true colors, so that hopefully we can galvanize against the neo-Soviet Union in a more effective way than we did against its predecessor.

But you've got to be careful, Russophobe. If you run around crying Putin everytime a dead Russian shows up, people will stop listening to you after awhile. You've got to pick your fights if you want to be effective.

Giustino ütles ...

Russians, including those within Estonia, generally regret the loss of Soviet influence over Estonia, which is why Estonian patriots want to confront them.

I think this is unfair. There are quite a lot of successful Russian-Estonians, and any kind of Russian Federation takeover would result in dramatic losses for them.

First of all, like always, in any military conflict that involves Estonia, Narva would be entirely destroyed.

Secondly, the reason Tallinn still has its allure for its local residents is because of its 'thriving' economy. You can witness this on weekends when more of the youth of Maardu or Lasnamäe take the bus into town to buy new puffy jackets or Eminem albums (I have no idea who the popular rapper is these days, please advise).

All of those kids would lose big time in any kind of Russian nationalist takeover. 90 percent of Estonia's trade is with countries other than Russia. And any of those young Russian-speaking gentlemen or ladies that works in the tourist sector in Tallinn would be out of a job.

Which brings me back to my main point. Shiny Soviet stars don't feed your family or keep you warm. People give many reasons for Estonia's decision to regain independence in the late-80s. But here's one salient factor - Finland and Sweden had better stuff, and Estonia wanted better stuff too.

Something tells me that the smiling Russian-Estonian faces I see on Orkut don't particularly fantasize about living on leib and vodka and freezing their asses off during a wartime winter in Tallinn.

La Russophobe ütles ...

GIUSTINO:

There are quite a lot of successful Russian-Estonians, and any kind of Russian Federation takeover would result in dramatic losses for them.

I don't doubt that there are such Russians, but they are silent, so they mignt as well not exist. These people could be the key to resolving the problem because they could speak with unquestionable gravitas to the Kremlin, but they don't. They are silent just as Russians are silent in regard to Putin's anti-democratic moves, just as they were silent as Stalin conslidated his power, just as they were silent as the USSR gained a chokehold on the Baltics.

But you've got to be careful, Russophobe. If you run around crying Putin everytime a dead Russian shows up, people will stop listening to you after awhile. You've got to pick your fights if you want to be effective.

I can't agree. By your logic, if we were silent until we had absolute proof of Putin ordering a killing, then the world would take dramatic action. I don't believe there's any evidence for this, and in any case the Kremlin is probably not stupid enough to allow "absolute proof" to exist. It will move in a series of incremental steps none of which may itself be justification for massive retaliation, just as Hitler did after Munich, until it has consolidated its power. If we wait for France to be invaded, we've waited too long.

By the way, I might say that I think you in the Baltic nations could be doing more to cooperate with each other. You are all suffering from the same attack by Russia yet seem to be waging the struggle independently.

Giustino ütles ...

I can't agree. By your logic, if we were silent until we had absolute proof of Putin ordering a killing, then the world would take dramatic action. I don't believe there's any evidence for this, and in any case the Kremlin is probably not stupid enough to allow "absolute proof" to exist.

You don't need absolute proof, you just need to pick your fights. You need to look at your argument, break it down, come up with a few salient components and then proceed to hammer away.

notsu ütles ...

Not all Russian Estonians are silent. I'll give some links to blogs of such Russians (all in Russian). In my opinion, they are loyal to Estonia and trying to explain what the life is really like for a Russian in Estonia. One of them (narva-lane) has posted several comments in Giustino's blog as well.
http://narva-lane.livejournal.com
http://nostalgie-ee.livejournal.com
... and one blog of a Moscovite who identifies as "väliseestlane", being a descendant of pre-war Russian minority:
http://plushkin-papa.livejournal.com

And, of course, Krishtafovitsh (both in Russian and Estonian):
http://krishtafovitsh.livejournal.com/

Anonüümne ütles ...

Rei is at least partially problematic. The way he abandoned his Estonian diplomatic colleagues as he took flight from the Embassy in Moscow in 1940 when the Soviets/Russians had staged the coup d'etat in Estonia - Rei was in charge, but did not warn the others, saving his own skin - this was less than savory. This is akin to Americans evacuating Saigon and abandoning Vietnamese allies, except Rei did this to his own closest colleagues.