laupäev, aprill 28, 2007

Coming to Terms with a Dark Chapter in History

Now that Mr. Controversial is gone, and the opinion pieces in Estonian newspapers will move from "What should we do about the Bronze Soldier?" to "Did we do the right thing with the Bronze Soldier?" it's time to start asking ourselves a very serious question -- what should go there in its place, and how can the Estonian state foster a true understanding of that conflict among all its citizens.

I believe that the most accurate assessment of that conflict in Estonia is that World War II was one of the darker chapters in Estonian history. Estonia was swallowed up by two competing powers -- an expansionist Third Reich and an expansionist Soviet Union. Both powers had ideologies that supported their expansionist efforts -- the Reich's ideology was based on ideals of ethnic German superiority while the Soviets' was based on the export of Russian communism.

Both acted criminally in the 1940s. If they were alive today, actors from both regimes would warrant lengthy prison sentences in Estonia for crimes committed during that time. But they are not alive, and the purpose of this is not to lay blame at the feet of Germans and Russians today. Instead, it's to put into context that there is no way in which the Estonian state will ever support one of these two sides.

So if there's one aspect from that war that should be recalled in a central square, it's not necessarily military sacrifice. Since most of Estonia's casualties weren't military, but were civilian, then I believe that the best way to commemorate the dead of the Second World War is to erect a monument that is civilian in nature.

Ethnic Russians lived in Estonia before the war too, you know. They were more than 8 percent of the population at that time. And they suffered just as everyone else did during those awful years. So a monument to civilian losses would be just as appropriate for them as it would be for the ethnic Estonian majority.

I also think that in order to dispell the growing macho infatuation of some youth, both ethnic Estonian and ethnic Russian, with World War II (to the point of dressing up in WWII-era uniforms), the new monument should be feminine in nature. Indeed, it should be a monument of a woman mourning the dead. I think that this is the most accurate depiction of the Estonian experience in the Second World War and it serves as a representation of what the final result of violence is -- sadness and emotional torment.

That, in summary, is the Estonian experience of World War II.

38 kommentaari:

martintg ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
martintg ütles ...

The only thing that should go in place of the removed monument is some soil and some grass seeds.

The Museum of Occupations already fulfils the purpose you envisage. The only war memorial in Tallinn will be the new memorial to the Estonian War of Independence, for which there is currently a design competition, and will also serve as a memorial to those who fell in WW2 as well as in Iraq.

I don't think we should endlessly wallow in our past tragedies, these two elements will be sufficient to remember those who suffered and died in the past. So perhaps in addition to the grass, a childrens play area and some seating could be added.

Giustino ütles ...

So in between the Estonian National Museum, the Museum of Occupations, and Kaarli Kirik, you think there should be just a park.

I'd like this to materialize pretty soon. What was Aaviksoo saying about reconsidering plans for reinterring any found remains?

martintg ütles ...

Yes indeed, a park is a fine idea.

Just because the Soviets for 50 years exploited dead soldiers for propaganda purposes by burying them in city parks, contrary to the Geneva Convention which recommends that they be interred in cemeteries, doesn't mean Aaviksoo ought to cave in.

Liina ütles ...

My first thought about this place's future was something totally commercial... like Mercedes-Benz car boutique. It would give this place totally new meaning, smell of money and hide nicely these fights. Or car-parking hous in the shape of ugly grey box. Then I thought, that this would be something not so usable for public purposes. This area is very small, but a theatre or other cultural building would be suitable. I feel, that this place needs completely different function and meanings. If there is park, then it is still a place to put flowers and have fuelling speeches.

Scott ütles ...

I think martintg got it right in the first comment. Just grass and trees. It's meters from the national library. Enough clutter.

The museum of occupations is an effective memorial to that chapter, the "impotent's dream" is one for the Soviet, German and Estonian soldiers. They all are represented in the graves there, I believe.

Hopefully soon, Estonia can stop "coming to terms" with history, and ask itself -- "What's next?" :-)

Anonüümne ütles ...

Let's suppose that the Ukrainian government decided to destroy a monument in Babiy Yar (a place where lots of Jews were killed during the Nazi occupation). This could be done with a reasonable explanation: after all, Jews have the same status in Ukrainian political myths as Russians in the Baltic ones, that is they are convenient scapegoats for the local former communists to avoid inconvenient questions about their past. So, in order for the purebred Ukrainians not to feel past subjugation, the monument is removed (this is fictional). Would you understand the problems Israelis will have with this decision? Now why would you expect Russians to react differently to a similar humiliation? What really puzzles me is the total absence of human reaction from any humans of Eesti origin.

Kristjan ütles ...

What really puzzles me is the total absence of human reaction from any humans of Eesti origin.


What "human reaction" would you like? "Yeeeaaaah!!!!! Fuck you Russians!!!! Yeaahhhhh!!!!!!! How do you like us now, bitches!!!!!!! Yeeeahhhh!!!!!"

Good enough for you? ;-)

Indrek ütles ...

The riot is not about how either side describes the history of WW2. It's not about bones or bronze soldier.

I tried to do some thinking outside of the box. For Estonians the box is the knowledge that the bronze soldier was erected during soviet times and everyone protecting it is worshiping soviet system and is against free Estonia.

I think most Russians in estonia did't care about Bronze soldier and the bones. But there were some people who were anti-Estonian and therefore waveing USSR flags and ohter soviet symbols.

Estonians started to call them occupants. Estonian Russians understood that it was against all of them. So if Estonians hate the bronze soldier thefore they hate them also.

I think that the Russians think that as long as bronze soldier staies in Tõnismängi it means that Estonians hate towards them hasent defeated them.

So imagine if you think like that and then the goverment is just going to remove it and you can't do anything about it. You get the feeling that the goverment is just favoring the other side and trashing you.



I remember when I was little. Two other boys were playing a computer game. I asked if I could also play. It was a boring game and I really didn't want to play it but I wanted to test if they accept me. They were probably in the middle of action so they refused. I got angry and unplugged the computer.

This happened not because I wanted to play. I didn't care about the game. If they had let me paly I probably would have get bored quite quickly and left. I just couldn't stand the fact that they refused me.

martintg ütles ...

I think the BBC nailed it as to the causes, to quote:

However, there are two other factors provoking tensions in the current row. The first is the unwillingness of the Russian leadership to reconsider its adherence to the Soviet version of the history of World War II.

The second factor is the striking, nationalistic rhetoric permeating coverage of the issue by Russian state media, especially television, which is the major information source for Estonia's Russians.


The rest of the article here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6599145.stm

Kristopher ütles ...

Like most people, I don't accept any sorts of comparisons to the Holocaust. So I don't like that Babi Yar analogy, period. But the specific problem with it is that untold numbers of Jews were killed in Babi Yar. Nothing of the sort ever took place on Tõnismägi. A monumnent should be raised to those who lost their lives in the conflict in a more appropriate location. They should be reburied in dignity. That's all.

Roland ütles ...

Nothing that can be blown up should be built on Tõnismägi in the next 50 years. I don't think that a WW2 memorial, that both Estonians and Russians want to go to, is possible there. It should be a park.

There should be a WW2 memorial in the city centre. Saying that the occupation museum is enough, is asking for the impossible from russians. Yesterday you celebrated the glorious victory over the fascists, tomorrow we will all go and think of the losses Estonians suffered in the war. It's just not going to happen. Replacing soldier with a mourning mother could be too much. Maybe something abstract?

silversky ütles ...

Dear Anonymous - term "second class citizens" comes directly from Russian state-owned media, who have been fueling this conflict from the start. I don't think any Estonian citizen who is Russian by nationality is from some "second class". If we want dialogue then terms like "occupant" and "second class citizen" should be put aside.

Kristopher ütles ...

I propose an interactive statue: a statue should be a matrioshka doll, representing an infinite series of hollow claims at the ultimate centre of which is an empty bottle of vodka, representing the true cause of the problem.

Trulla ütles ...

I tend to agree, that there should not be a new monument, which would remain strongly hated by the ones who consider it the sign of victory over Aljoscha. Kind of - the damn Estonians kicked Aljoscha and put the new monument on his throat. So I, too, think that no monuments there. Remember how we ourselves have treated the Russian monuments that were erected on place of some of our own pre-war monuments (Kalevipoeg and such)when the Russians started to build their power here. We hated them and considered them mocking. And silently mourned for our old monuments.

A park would be a rather acceptable idea - although I am 100% sure, that then there will be gatherings and flowers on the place where Aljoscha used to stand. And as back then before it was removed it used to be a place where Russian community could go and feel their superiority over Estonians (at least Estonians felt strongly that way about it :)), with a park it will be the place where they could go and nurture their hatred towards us and mourn their defeat and boil aggression. So maybe a building would not be such a bad idea after all. To just give the place a new smell, as commenter liina kind of said. Although, yes, there is not that much room after all.

Speaking of Aljoscha, in a newspaper somebody suggested to put it up somewhere near the Maarjamägi monument. So that those kind of similar things would stand together. I doubt a bit that the cemetery of OUR army would be a place where RUSSIAN veterans would like to go to mourn their friends and colleagues killed in those battles back then. It's kind of grinning into their faces from our side :).

And I, too, think, that the monument had to go not because we were hating the dead buried there. But because it had become the symbol of our enslavery back then. Had Aljoscha carried a bunch of chains and balls in his hands, the symbol could would have been even clearer. It WAS erected there to show Estonians who the bosses are. And as such it had to go. (Especially after all that rambling that began when some intrigants erected that Lihula thing.) When the Lihula monument was torn down because of other nations' strong protests, then it was clear that Aljoscha, too, had to go. Only a matter of time. Now it is gone and finally we can stretch our backs and say that we have shown ourselves as a free nation. I am proud of the action. Even if I have to suffer some consequences - the monument of slavery had to go.

Thomas ütles ...

it should be something for reconciliation...something what each estonian (doesn't matter which mother tongue) can live with, something what shows the open hand from the estonian government towards their minorities and what also combined in a harmonizing way the losses/harms each ethnicity had to go through on the territory of eesti!

martintg ütles ...

How about a monument to Kalevipoeg, surely no one could object to that.

Trulla ütles ...

How about a monument to Kalevipoeg, surely no one could object to that.



Russians would - strongly. It's comparable to them tearing down our old Kalevipoeg and erecting Aljoscha or one of his brothers instead. A demonstration of power. ("See, Russians, now our national hero has taken the position of yours.") That would be a direct insult right into their faces.

Trulla ütles ...

I mean, we took down Aljosha, but it wouldn't be honourable to keep prancing around afterwards, yelling, "Nanana, eat this, you suckers!" We righted the things in one decisive motion. But now it's time to take care of the consequences and not go on fuelling the conflict even more. We can't answer barbarity with barbarity if we want to show that we've got some dignity in us.

Kristopher ütles ...

Tehnically, "honourable" would be doing what you said you would, in one decisive motion. I.e., putting Alyosha in the spot where the war graves committee said he should be -- the Kaitseväe cemetery on Filtri tee. Not only did the government depart from the original game plan (because of the hooliganism), they haven't finished out carrying the executive order. Thus "juriidiliselt kõik ei ole korrektne," and that is not a good thing in today's Estonia, where doing things in line with the letter of the law (if slightly sneakily) is almost a matter of pride.

Kristopher ütles ...

I'd vote for a park, and specifically, hedges. Not a fence that appears overnight but a living thing that grows higher over time -- and blocks and fragments access.

Of course, this part of the city actually needs something like an outdoor cafe -- there's nothing in the area unless you walk 200 m into the National Library and eat there. It's a very cavernous sort of place for a clearing top of a hill and it needs some life.

Remember, Harju tn ruins from 1944 also had a beer pavilion over it for many summers -- and people actually died there in a Soviet bombing raid.

Trulla ütles ...

I agree with your bitter remark, kristopher, that technically Aljosha is not yet where it's supposed to be. And I am not sure whether the Kaitseväe cemetery is actually the right place for him. (Problems may arise with vandalism on the already existing graves there - the ones of those who fought on the opposite side.)

I'm not saying that the government has acted honourably all the way down (lots of hesitation and waiting for the opinion of other countries - which I don't consider a very good ide, especially when dragged to last that long). But I am saying they did one decisive motion after all - removed the statue. Now the rest should be carried out honourably - find a proper place for the statue, erect it there, calm down the crisis - NOT add fuel to the fire. The point is in finishing the started action. And NOT starting anything provokative or triumphant now in the heat of the moment. (If we want the situation to calm down quickly and no more damage done to people's property.)

Btw, without everything done "by the book" we'd live in even greater anarchy. Following the law is not always bad. (We only have to differentiate between what's really rightful and what's hiding behind the law.)

The other matter is, that now the turn to take action has moved to common citizens. Since I suppose the rioters are soon going to diverge into smaller groups to attact smaller targets as the town-centre will be quite under control by the police soon. And that's where common citizens really have to be prepared to firstly protect their property and at the same time stay in certain limits so as not to give reason to a new wave of disturbancies. We've done it, we've removed the arrogant statue - now we have to remain calm and steady - but not fight back in agression. We just have to defend our positions that were fought. This far and not further now. (Is my opinion.) Let the situation calm down a bit before doing something new and radical.

Although radical steps must be taken against the vandals. To send them the message that they won't simply get away with such actions. But it's more on the persons' level, not on the level of nations as erecting the statue of Kalevipoeg on place of Aljosha would be.

I wonder how the police in Paris have treated their rioters after they'd managed to calm down the wave of vandalisms? Maybe we could take some tips from there? (And I've heard about similar riots in Berlin on the verge of May 1. How have the police and government treated the rioters there?)

Kristopher ütles ...

I\m not disagreeing at all, Trulla. I hope my remark did not sound bitter. Believe me, I'm not pining for the Bronze Man, and if I thought it would be good for life in Estonia, he could be thrown into Mount Doom. I just think honesty is the best policy, less fodder for one's opponents.

Eppppp ütles ...

"
What really puzzles me is the total absence of human reaction from any humans of Eesti origin.
"

Dear anonüümne, there are many Estonians who are deeply disappointed in our government and who have always disapproved Ansip's decision to use this monument as a part of his election rally, and who understand that the WWII simply was a different thing for Russians and Estonians.
For many middle aged Russians the soldier really was a holy thing (esp. if they had to choose what they feel about it, to form their opinion in the crisis, "with us or against us" situation).
There are many Estonians who understand. And who argue when some other Estonians try to simplify it into "Russian youngsters are criminals" or smth else like that.

martintg ütles ...

What Trulla says makes a lot of sense. I also like Kristopher's idea of hedges and a cafe. Perhaps even an open air ice skating rink during the winter. The park is an open space that should be enjoyed by all.

Sam ütles ...

The entire triangular area should be closed off by a 10-foot limestone block inscribed with the names of all the dead from 1940 to 1991, Estonian, Russian, Jewish, or other, regardless of whether they died at the hands of the Red Army or the Wehrmacht, or fell in battle on either side. The top of the limestone block should project a floodlight straight up into the sky.

We don't need enough room there for bands of people to assemble. We don't need another statue there. It would be respectful towards all the dead, and very hard to paint as politically charged by anyone.

plasma-jack ütles ...

and, dear anonüümne - you are still talking about destruction. BS wasn't destroyed... or that's what they're telling us.

Kaur ütles ...

The latest news from Postimees.ee are that the Bronze Soldier will be showed to the public already tomorrow and the goverment plans to erect it on its new place before the 8th of May.

Sten ütles ...

I found this:
http://www.kavkazcenter.com/
eng/content/2007/04/29/8179.shtml

Kristjan ütles ...

I found this:
http://www.kavkazcenter.com/
eng/content/2007/04/29/8179.shtml



Yes, great. Let's identify ourselves with Chechen terrorists!

No offense, Sten, but please take a break from this blog until things cool down.

plasma-jack ütles ...

http://jubejuss.blogspot.com/2007/04/kes-ei-mleta-oma-nime.html
(:

Kristjan ütles ...

Jussi kvaliteet on stabiilne. :-)

space_maze ütles ...

I did some "research" regarding that source .. it's Caucasian, and anti-Russian. It is thus probably as trustable as Russian news sources are on these matters. So I would expect some sniplets to be true, but not the whole thing.

At least I'd hope so...

Kristjan ütles ...

So I would expect some sniplets to be true, but not the whole thing.


Well, it's certainly not a "fair and balanced" view, so it's best to just ignore it.

That other Russian sources are also unfair and unbalanced is, of course, another topic altogether.

Giustino ütles ...

The latest news from Postimees.ee are that the Bronze Soldier will be showed to the public already tomorrow and the goverment plans to erect it on its new place before the 8th of May.

And all the notables should attend the dedication, and look down at the ground in reverance when the prayers are said ...

Kristjan ütles ...

And all the notables should attend the dedication, and look down at the ground in reverance when the prayers are said ...


I think, being civilized human beings, they won't even have to fake it. ;-)

georgy ütles ...

такой памятник в образе женщины-матери в Эстонии существует и его
периодически обсерают господа националисты потомки героев вафен СС

Kristjan ütles ...

Just get over it already. ;-)