esmaspäev, veebruar 19, 2007

Independence Day

In a couple of days it will be Feb. 24, the day when the nascent Estonian government declared independence from the Russian empire in 1918.

To me, the year 1918 is the year in Estonian history. It's simply amazing that a people whose centuries of legal enslavement had ended only five decades earlier could achieve such a feat, especially when pitted against two gigantic nations -- Germany and Russia.

What is more incredible is that Estonian national republicanism has outlived attempts from the most destabilizing forces to destroy it, including those acting on behalf of Nazi German and Soviet Russian ideologies. All of this leads me to think that this country has been built on solid footing.

What is lacking, though, is information on these historic events in English and other foreign languages. Not enough has been done, in my opinion, to remind people of the 1918 victory. If anyone has photos or facts to share, please put links in the
comments section.

Just reading about World War I, you see why they called it World War II. Here you have the Russians and Germans, both times fighting over land. What I like of Estonia's role in both conflicts is how little they seemed to care about the ideology or imperial goals of their historical foes. To Estonians, it always seemed to come down to hardboiled nationalism, an ideology that endures.

18 kommentaari:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

You are looking for 1918 not the Independence War, right? Forming of the Estonian Army begun in the end of 1918.

Puu ütles ...

Estonian could be called a case of nationalism gone right, it's mainly focused on a love of singing and language. Since most of Estonia's military leaders of history where defeated, the past can be called relatively benign. In Estonian you might have people called Kalev and Lembit and since one is fictional and got his legs chopped off and the other was defeated, it's not really a big deal.Take in contrast Hungary where the Huns actually where successful at being a dominant power. There are lots of kids named Attila, and that is somewhat scary.

Kaur ütles ...

It's simply amazing that a people whose centuries of legal enslavement had ended only five decades earlier could achieve such a feat...

What do you mean by that? I am asking this, because slavery was abolished in Estonia already in 1816/1819, whereas in Russia it was done in 1861. On the other and, Estonians were allowed to buy their own farms only at the second half of the 19th century.

Giustino ütles ...

What do you mean by that? I am asking this, because slavery was abolished in Estonia already in 1816/1819, whereas in Russia it was done in 1861. On the other and, Estonians were allowed to buy their own farms only at the second half of the 19th century.

Hi Kaur. All the information I have read -- in English -- points to the emergence of Estonian national consciousness in the 1850s. This coincides with the expanded ability of the Estonians to actually acquire land.

Anyway, I am going to see if I can get my hands on some good Estonian history books here in Tartu so I can study some more.

notsu ütles ...

Btw, I believe it's called serfdom, not slavery, that was abolished 1816 in Estonia, 1861 in Russia.

Flasher T ütles ...

Btw, I believe it's called serfdom, not slavery, that was abolished 1816 in Estonia, 1861 in Russia.

Indeed. The difference is that the peasants were not actually the property of the lords, they were attached to the land (which belonged to the lords).

Flasher T ütles ...

Some very basic facts about 1918 that I remember from high school history...

1) There was massive work done in Peterburg previously; there was actually a massive demonstration of resident Estonians and soldiers of the imperial army's Estonian Corps.

2) The two great landmarks you'll see related to the day are in Tallinn, the central bank building where independence was ostensibly declared in paperwork, and the balcony of the Estonia opera (across the road) from where it was proclaimed publically. However, the blue-black-white flag was originally raised in Pärnu, and only then in Tallinn. In both cities it was only up for a matter of hours, as the German Landeswehr forces arrived and it was taken down. Much like Otto Tief's four-day republic in 1944, the original Republic of Estonia came to life at an opportune moment.

3)The flag itself is based upon the colors of a prominent student corporation, which comprised many of the national activists. The corporation is still active today and proudly displays its blue-black-green banner on Independence Day. A couple years ago they marched from Town Hall Square in Tallinn - not part of the actual military parade, but part of the celebration.

4) The fight was originally against the Landeswehr, and ended on June 23rd, 1918, in Võnnu (now Cesis in Latvia), thus securing not only Estonia's independence, but Latvia's as well. Ungrateful wankers, the lot of them. The anniversary of this battle, Victory Day, is why we have a massively convenient two-day holiday for Summer Solstice.

Have you seen Names in Marble?

Giustino ütles ...

Have you seen Names in Marble?

Yes, and I liked it too. It was way better than Jutta Rabe's film about the Estonia ferry disaster ;)

space_maze ütles ...

"Baltic Storm" was almost entertaining for me, for the utter mis-representation of .. well .. anything.

But from what I've heard, it's nothing compared to "Candles in the Dark", which I have (un)fortunately not have had the pleasure to see till now.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Candles in the Dark has a fab eighties sorta sex scene or prelude to a not shown sex scene involving a ladder and a wild eyed young Estonian. Very evocative. Haven't seen it in over 12 years and I still remember.

Then there is also a priest getting beaten and I think dying.

That and the facts that communism was responsible for the priest dying and joint estonian identity for the sex scene are all you need to know.

-puu

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

flasher t, now I am getting confused. It was the German army that arrived Tallinn and Estonia in 1918. The Germans had to retreat in autumn 1918. The Landeswehr occured after that and the very important victory of the Estonians, the defeat of the Landeswehr was in June 1919.
About this time in German (later i summarize this in English):
http://estland.blogspot.com/2005/05/kriegserinnerungen-vor-dem.html
photos from the air of the advancing German Army from the Estonian islands toward Tallinn:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/65817306@N00/56514099/in/set-1219581/
Germans in Narva:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/65817306@N00/38162883/in/set-486575/

Jens-Olaf ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Here you can see the well organized retreat of the Germans from Tartu to Riga in October 1918.
Departure time and arrival:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/65817306@N00/396194154/

Franz ütles ...

"and the balcony of the Estonia opera (across the road) from where it was proclaimed publically"
No, it was not at all Estonia opera. Independence was proclaimed publically in Pärnu on 23th February 1918, from the balcony of "Endla" theatre.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Now the brief summarize of the memories of an Estonian officer that I have mentioned:
In 1917 many officers from Estonia in the Russian Army were actually Estonians and Germans. Verner Palmberg was one of the Estonians among them:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/65817306@N00/58506068/in/set-1265357/
His 12th Pontoon Battalion was send to Tartu. on October 15th 1918. V. Palmberg got a 6 day off that he spent in Tallinn, soon the battalion moved to Valga. During these days the revolution in Russia begun. On December 7th the rank signs of the uniform of all officers were taken away. A new mobilisation by the Reds started with a health check. Palmberg used this chance. He was running around Tartu so a doctor diagnosed a servere heart desease afterwards, Palmberg was released. He got 6 months off. He spent the time working in Tallinn at the Mayr factory. In February 1918 the Reds left because of the German advance, until autumn 1918 they lived under German occupation. After the retreat of the Germans, the Red Army came back the mobilisation of Estonians started. Palmberg avoided to be officer again but his former comrades in the Russian Army 'outed' him. His real service started in 1919 as officer on the armoured trains. Remembering one battle near Pskov where they had clash with a Soviet armoured train.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

The best discussion and most detailed about the Cesis -Wenden battle here, I hope copy and paste works. A very long url:
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=12115&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=45&sid=c7d615db2d91a6ae04a0bf0be67a2c7b

Flasher T ütles ...

You're right, jens-olaf, it's been a while since I learned this stuff, some of it got mixed up. :)

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

It's not easy for me either:
1917 Russia
1917 Soviets in Estonia after revolution
1918 Estonian declaration of independence after the leaving Soviets and advancing Germans (similar situation like 1944)
1918 Germans until October
1918 advancing Soviets again
1918 Creation of an Estonian Army
1918 defeat of Soviets
1919 Advancing Landeswehr and Eiserne Division defeated in Latvia by Estonians and a Baltic German unit
1919 fierce battles with Soviet forces at the border, the 'White Russians' and the break up of support for them by the Estonian side.
I missed the Allies and the Latvians and some more.