kolmapäev, märts 21, 2007

Of jalgpall and other things ...

This Saturday Estonia and Russia will face off in a football match with significant political undertones. Some 900 Russian football fans are expected to travel to Tallinn to watch the match, and it's highly likely events could transpire that could be used by opportunistic political vultures in any number of ways.

It's a reminder of the fact that Estonia cannot escape geography, and that its neighbor to the East not only outnumbers it 140 to 1 but also has something of a total lack of empathy or understanding for Estonia that it ascribes to other countries with which it shares borders, like Norway and Finland.

As the year 2005 dawned, Russia was in a position where it had to face the reality that Estonia, as well as its other former Baltic republics, had successfully made the transition it started with the Singing Revolution by joining both the European Union and NATO. It decided that it would have to sign a border agreement, initialed in 1997, with Estonia, and indeed signed the treaty in June 2005.

Then everything went downhill. Russia insisted that Estonia ratify the treaty first, Estonia attached attached a preamble to the law ratifying the treaty, which is a document of the domestic legal system and has no bearing on the text of the treaty itself. Russia disagreed with that and went through the rare action of legally removing its signature from the agreement, and, well, ever since then Estonian-Russian relations have been barely worthy of the term. Estonia's preamble referenced documents that were too truthy for Russia, and they made the statement that somehow Estonia's internal preamble would entitle it to getting Petserimaa back at some future 19th century-style territorial roundtable.

Russia then commenced with systematic violations of Estonian airspace, which it denied, although it also violated Finnish airspace, which it apologized for. The propaganda war emanating from the Russian foreign ministry and its news services has been unrelenting ever since, and it gained new momentum when scuffles broke out at a monument in central Tallinn last year.

Estonian far right activists, such as Tiit Madisson, whose books on the Holocaust could get him in trouble in Austria to say the least, then launched their campaign against the monument, pledging to blow it up, or, in Madisson's words, move it brick by brick to the occupation museum.

Then there were the demonstrations. There were skinheads yelling "occupant" in Estonian at Russians yelling "fascist" in Russian. There were teenagers holding red roses for the army that killed or imprisoned nearly all of Estonia's pre-war leaders. The youth dimension was enough to make a sane person nauseous.

The Estonian government, threatened with the collossal PR disaster that would ensue should the Bronze Soldier nonsense take on new, more violent twists, decided that it should be moved out of the city center to a graveyard -- which are also routinely vandalized in Estonia, but that people don't seem to worry about as much.

The matter, however, was bilateral. Beneath the statue are the possible bones of dead Red Army soldiers you see, which belong to Russia, even though Russia claims that it doesn't have anything to do with the USSR, except when it comes to the good parts (glory and territory).

It also didn't help that Prime Minister Andrus Ansip chose to peddle the issue down the "symbol of occupation" route as opposed to the "these men should rest in a cemetery, not a tram stop" route -- which he has embraced more as The New York Times has stuck its nose in the issue.

But did that really matter? Probably not. The BS issue fit well within Russia's preexisting propaganda war against Estonia and they've run with it ever since. Estonia later banned both the swastika and hammer and sickle, which the Russian foreign ministry -- never ones for logic -- decried as a glorification of fascism.

President Ilves, who vetoed the most recent bill allowing the removal of the BS, said that the Estonian government was passing out ammunition to its critics and indeed, if there is some kind of flare-up at this weekend's game it may very well involve said metal war monument.

There is hope though. These gentlemen are no longer fighting with guns. They are likely to channel their energy into a sport that is played with one's feet. I have read that everytime the Germans defeat the Brits, some dumb newspaper calls it a 'Blitzkrieg'. Perhaps if Russia defeats Estonia this weekend, its newspapers can rightly plaster 'Red Terror' on the front cover the following day.

38 kommentaari:

space_maze ütles ...

Russia then commenced with systematic violations of Estonian airspace, which it denied, although it also violated Finnish airspace, which it apologized for.

They also denied the systematic violation of Lithuanian airspace, IIRC.

Which kind of looked silly when a Russian jet crashed in Lithuania ...

kloty ütles ...

Well, maybe it crashed BECAUSE it was in Lithuania and not in Kaliningrad and ran out of fuel?

stockholm slender ütles ...

I just hope at some stage Russia would develope a decent civil society and start behaving like any normal country. At the moment it is officially rhetorically somewhere in the 30's. Just silly antics at the moment, but certainly worrying. And all other alternative voices are effectively silenced. The security organs manning the top need projected outside enemies like oxygen. I really would think that most sensible for Estonia (and other close neighbours) would be to downplay these issues, to patronize these childish 1930's fantasists and fantasies. Strange though to have a major European country emitting these quite semi-fascist sentiments...

Giustino ütles ...

The Russian plans tended to violate the airspace of Vaindloo saar, which is so small I can't even pull it up at high-res on Google Earth. All that's there is a lighthouse.

Flasher T ütles ...

Oy! Estonia didn't attach a preamble to the treaty. Estonia attached a preamble to the law ratifying the treaty, which is a document of the domestic legal system and has no bearing on the text of the treaty itself. Russia recalled its signature on the pretense that the preamble leaves Estonia legal room to revise the border later (since the preamble mentions the Tartu Peace Accord, and the treaty recognizes current de-facto borders), which is an outright lie on the part of the Russian diplomats. Or blatant incompetence, if you to be charitable.

The nature of the preamble is an important distinction that most people in Russia don't realize. Don't sustain the ignorance, Giustino! ;)

Flasher T ütles ...

Also, it's not correct to say the bones of the soldiers under the Bronze Soldier (which may not be there, though that's another issue) belong to Russia. Most Russians deny that the Russian Federation is the direct descendant of the USSR, or indeed that Russians were the dominant force in the USSR, so Russians carry no responsibility for the USSR's actions.

Under that logic, the bones of the soldiers belong to Russia no more than they belong to Moldova or Kazakhstan, and certainly a lot more to Estonia.

Furthermore, the memorial is not hallow ground. As the de-facto authority in the territory where the dead are buried, the Estonian government is obligated under the Geneva Convention to make sure that the remains of wartime dead in mass graves are reinterred at a cemetary.

It's not just Estonia's right to move the bones, it's Estonia's requirement under international law.

Flasher T ütles ...

Eh... I may need to read more slowly next time, but still. :P

Flasher T ütles ...

Well, maybe it crashed BECAUSE it was in Lithuania and not in Kaliningrad and ran out of fuel?

For a fighter jet, Lithuania to Kaliningrad is more or less gliding distance. :)

When Estonia was just joining NATO, there were technical descriptions drawn up for the Baltic airspace patrols, and it turned out that it is impossible for an F-16 fighter jet to take off in Estonia, switch on its afterburners and go supersonic. It runs out of country first.

Kristopher ütles ...

Insightful and astute it is, this blog has had way too many subject headings on Estonia-Russia tension.

I appreciate the vigilance and agree that Russia is not to be trusted, but speculating that a football match will lead to an escalation is simply journalistically irresponsible.

It\s not like it is close to midnight on the Estonia-Russia doomsday clock and everytime something happens, like the Duma doesn't ratify a treaty, the hand is moved up.

If you look at the history, the pattern has remained pretty much constant for the last 13 years. I don't the proper weight is being assigned to developments. For example, airspace incursions happen all the time and are just one way countries act, especially impotent former giants, other than diplomatic channels and propaganda.

With the latest Bronze Soldier issue, there is simply not much there -- this isn't the 1930s and it is hard to fake things, such as public sentiment on a wide scale. Apart from a couple deluded useful idiots at Amnesty Intl or some such, everyone knows that the people who gather at the Soldier are either cranks or have no political power.

About the only way it could become a story is to keep up whipping the froth. Not that I think it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy) Just that there might be better and more constructive things to write about.

Giustino ütles ...

I appreciate the vigilance and agree that Russia is not to be trusted, but speculating that a football match will lead to an escalation is simply journalistically irresponsible.

I actually think that it will go off without a hitch. But I also thought that Hurricane Katrina was all hype until it happened.

The problem here is two-fold.

1) I don't have time to work on long, constructive posts because I work. I want to write a post about life in Viljandi. I've wanted to for days, but I don't have time.

2) The Russian propaganda machine is active everyday. There is no English-language response. If there's a fight at the game, they'll swing into effect. Then news wires all over the world will pick up their interpretation and run with it. That's what I mean by opportunistic political vultures.

My underlying message here was that most countries these days work their way out via football matches. So I see the match as quite healthy.

People are talking about the possibility of hooliganism, and police are being set aside for the match. I was listening to the radio in the car yesterday and that's what they were talking about. So I wrote this post.

FINALLY, nobody seems to be interested in other posts. I wrote an interesting one about Bildt's blog and it got what? 3 comments.

Shame on you, Kristopher. Shame on you.

:)

Kristopher ütles ...

Funny, I actually thought of redressing the balance and commenting on Bildt. I even thought of posting a comment on Bildt's site, but in the end, I didn't find it really that interesting. It probably loses something in traslation, but suffice it to say "A Day in Tallinn" beats the pants off "I'm Heading to Prstina and Then Having Dinner with Some Dignitary". Seriously, your posts are vägagi constructive, especially given that it's a pro bono project...

Giustino ütles ...

I think your criticism is dead on actually.

I have this problem that I want to push this blog beyond the Russia-Estonia BS, but every morning when I do a Google News search for "Estonia" there's the latest gift from the Russian news wires staring me back at the face.

So I take the bait and get angry. It's not actually constructive, although sometimes a vigorous debate is needed in other places, like at the Guardian.

But I've got to get around to writing about Viljandi, Estonia's unsung town.

Estonia visitor ütles ...

"The Russian propaganda machine is active everyday. There is no English-language response."

"every morning when I do a Google News search for "Estonia" there's the latest gift from the Russian news wires staring me back at the face."

There is no english language response because one is not needed. If you think that most people, at least in Europe, take anything coming from Russia seriously then I think you are majorly misjudging them. And I can't see most Americans either particularly trusting any propaganda coming from Russia (unless it's about goshdarned "trrists").

Giustino ütles ...

There is no english language response because one is not needed. If you think that most people, at least in Europe, take anything coming from Russia seriously then I think you are majorly misjudging them. And I can't see most Americans either particularly trusting any propaganda coming from Russia (unless it's about goshdarned "trrists").

I think that's mostly true. However, I have been in debates where its obvious that the 'info supplier' on one side is the Russian government-sponsored newswires.

I do think it's time to start writing about other topics. However, the posts may become fewer as I concentrate on more complex material.

Estonia visitor ütles ...

The only people I have EVER met who believe the Russian "hype" are Russians from the motherland. To effectively counter this, you would need to begin a Russian language blog!

plasma-jack ütles ...

http://www.epl.ee/uudised/379248
Headline reads: "Kossatchev agrees to replacing the Bronze Soldier"

:-O

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

'Estonia in World Media' is doing it in Russian already. Would be nice to read his experience in English so far. See link in Giustino's blogroll.

Estonia visitor ütles ...

I've had a look, and while my Russian is far from perfect, it seems to be more of a reporting and translation of stories in the news from other countries, relating to Estonia, and most seem to be about the economy, tourism, etc... In fact, Giustino, he seems to find a lot more to write about Estonia, non-related to the Estonia/Russia schism, than you! Get with it! ;-)

I think that there being so many stories internationally about Estonia non-related to Russia is a pretty good indication nobody outside Russia is really paying much attention to what the Russian media is portraying.

Anonüümne ütles ...

'no english language response because one is not needed'
How about a FAQ of the history of Estonia and Estonian-Russian relations? Or is there one already?

Giustino ütles ...

In fact, Giustino, he seems to find a lot more to write about Estonia, non-related to the Estonia/Russia schism, than you! Get with it! ;-)

Where's your blog? Perhaps you could cover the stag party beat, being from "Great" Britain and all.

space_maze ütles ...

The only people I have EVER met who believe the Russian "hype" are Russians from the motherland.

I've encountered some Serbian nationalists that believed in the same nonsense. And also some Westerners that started swallowing some of the produce of the Russian propaganda machine, due to not knowing where the intel was coming from.

Which is really the main reason I've gotten involved in debates with Russian nationalists - not because I have any hope of ever convincing them of a single word that I say, but to expose their nonsense for nonsense in the eyes of those that know little about the situation.

On a more technical note - jalgpallist :-) .. does someone know of the best way to follow the game online? My chances of receiving ETV here in Vienna are fairly limited, but I'd hate to completely miss it. In Austria, there are running live commentaries on a news site .. Estonia being Estonia, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a live free broadcast on the internet or something ;-) .. but I honestly have no idea. Hints appreciated!

plasma-jack ütles ...

ETV is not (yet) live broadcasting on the internet, so the only option would be listening to Eesti Raadio broadcast :-p
http://www.vikerraadio.ee/index.php?lang=est&main_id=121

and/or read news updates from newspapers' web pages.

Andres ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
space_maze ütles ...

No, the Russian wikipedia is surprisingly sane, I've been told. I can only babelfish Russian, but I've been told it quite clearly calls the occupation of the Baltics .. well .. an occupation.

http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%98%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F_%D0%AD%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B8

though it's possible, of course, that I only got my report from a convenient moment in an edit war ;)

Estonia visitor ütles ...

"Where's your blog? Perhaps you could cover the stag party beat, being from "Great" Britain and all."

:-D

Vova ütles ...

Flasher-T, аффтар. Inasmuch as I appreciate your blog and your posts (in reverse order), please don't engage in anthropomorphism and don't attribute human properties to where they don't belong--to very unhuman tiblad, imho

Giustino ütles ...

I don't know - given how many planes crash in Russia, it sort of wouldn't surprise me if the Lithuania crash actually was accidental.

dresolve ütles ...

OK, it's a few fours after the finish of the Estonian-Russian soccer match, and I've been looking online and the worst that I've seen (in terms of controversy) is that so far there was a drunk Estonian fan who threw a bottle in the vicinity of some kid; said person has since been arrested.

Of course, since I don’t understand Russian I can’t search Russian-language postings, but I fully expect the Kommersant/Regnum/Interfax/Itar-Tass/et al. propaganda machine (to which I will do my best to henceforth refer to as KRIITeal) to characterize the 10 yr old kid that had a bottle thrown at him/her as a Russian orphan who was blasphemed by a N—I uniform-wearing, fas-ist-loving Estonian, Swazzz tika and all.

For sake of all, please let's hope that they (KRIITeal) prove me wrong.

space_maze ütles ...

Quite a pleasant surprise, the lack of stupidities. From what I've gathered, the athletes were also very fair and friendly towards eachother.

dresolve ütles ...

From what I've gathered, the athletes were also very fair and friendly towards eachother
-space_maze


I watched the game in the US on Fox Soccer channel. To me, English-language commentators seemed to minimize Russia-Estonia controversy and for the most part players were civil to each other (No Zidane-esque head butts.) But there were times you saw they weren't too happy with each other and made a point not to help the other guy up. But I guess this is what should be expected from a football match.

Considering that from what I've been told that Estonians view soccer as a Russian sport, like hockey, I think team Estonia acquitted themselves quite nicely.

Giustino ütles ...

I watched it too. The worst I saw was a crowd of Russian fans doing the 'sieg heil' in some sort of mockery of Estonia. Anyway, perhaps it's good they got their little victory, it's not like it's cross-country skiing or anything.

I have to say that the Estonian defense is just awesome. I could tell that from the begining they were a second or two behind the Russians the whole game. They did really well, 2 goals aside. It's the offense that seemed a bit confused.

But, 100 minutes and two goals? It reminds me of why I never really got into football/soccer.

plasma-jack ütles ...

that makes these goals more VALUABLE, you see.

football is very much an Estonian game, only we suck in it :-p

space_maze ütles ...

I wouldn't say Estonians suck at it, considering the size of the country. I can't think of a country with a similar population that could easily wipe the floor with Estonia.

As for football not being an Estonian game .. wasn't that sort of like that during Soviet days?

Maluxa ütles ...

Well, there is a number of inaccuracies and falsehoods in this article, which is small wonder given its biased pro-Estonian slant. It matters little though as the event it started describing - the Euro qualifier in Tallin - ended quite predictably, with a solid Russia victory on the pitch, thank you very much.

Giustino ütles ...

Well, there is a number of inaccuracies and falsehoods in this article, which is small wonder given its biased pro-Estonian slant.

What is there to dispute? I am an American and I think I have taken a pretty even-handed look at the situation.

The rightwing in the Estonian government scores domestic points by pissing Russia off. This proves to be easy work as the Russian government is blind it its own history and continues to hold an uncured and sick fetish for lost territory.

It matters little though as the event it started describing - the Euro qualifier in Tallin - ended quite predictably, with a solid Russia victory on the pitch, thank you very much.

Good for you. Estonia has its moments of victory to savor last winter in Torino. One cannot ask for everything.

Anonüümne ütles ...

"A pretty even-handed look"? With respect, a blog like this is about advocacy, not impartial reporting - which is totally fine with me as long as it's not done under any other guise. I am not much on propaganda whether it is coming from the Kremlin or Tallin or webspace. As for Torino, my memory fails me - I can't recall Estonia's triumph all that well (never was a fan of 100k cross-country skiing or whatever you were alluding to).

Giustino ütles ...

With respect, a blog like this is about advocacy, not impartial reporting - which is totally fine with me as long as it's not done under any other guise. I am not much on propaganda whether it is coming from the Kremlin or Tallin [sp] or webspace.

I think this blog covers opposition viewpoints fairly well here in Estonia. I've taken various positions on Estonian political matters. I am not a talking head. I am actually unsure of most things. But I am sure that I want this country to remain prosperous, free, and independent. I think the press in most countries take that position as a given.

There are small viewpoints that represent the Kremlin's perspective in Estonia, but they amount to less than three percent of the vote electorally. So why bother? I might as well write about a communist perspective on US politics. Now THAT would be advocacy.

As for Torino, my memory fails me - I can't recall Estonia's triumph all that well (never was a fan of 100k cross-country skiing or whatever you were alluding to).

Cross country skiing is on TV here almost every weekend during the winter, and if it's not, you can catch it on the Finnish TV channels. I like skiing in general as I am a fan of individualist sports rather than team sports.

I was never one for football either. I mean a 100 minute game can be summed up in a news brief of about three minutes. Here's the attempt at scoring, here are the goals, here's the players jumping on each other like wolves in heat.

Better to watch the news instead of the game, or if you actually watch the game, make sure to drink a lot of beer -- and bring a crossword puzzle.

Giustino ütles ...

Here's a post where we tackle some political issues here.

http://palun.blogspot.com/2007/03/thinking-about-2009-and-2011.html