The other day I finally made my trip to the Museum of Occupations in Tallinn. It costs 10 kroons to get inside, and it wasn't that unfamiliar to me since I have watched all the key films at www.okupatsioon.ee.
I know that I was supposed to come away with the joys of the Singing Revolution ringing in my ears, but instead I was haunted by the faces of the gentlemen and women of the June coup that cast Estonia into 50 years of being, quite literally, on Moscow time.
To me that fact alone -- that Estonian clocks were switched to Moscow time in 1940 -- sums up Stalinism. The reality that the Sun enlightened the territory of Estonia and Finland, and all the countries down to South Africa, at the same time, was but a mere detail in the worker's paradise. It was 7 am in Helsinki, Finland but 8 am in Tallinn, Wonderland.
The great dark spot on Estonian history is purported to be the willingness of some of its residents to do Berlin's dirty work in the 1940s. But I find the actions of Estonia's communists to be a tad darker. Why? Because the SS men followed orders under an occupation regime. But the communists of the 1924 coup attempt and the 1940 coup? They were not boys of 18 in German uniforms. They were grown, educated men that thought they knew what was better for everyone else. Communism could not win in a popularity contest, so it had to be enforced from above, for 'the public good' as defined by intellectuals.
But despite this I only feel pity for them and that vein of thought in Estonia. Because even though communism flourished at the official level from the 1950s through the 1980s, the truth is that it died a pretty brutal death in the Second World War. At least half of the June communists didn't live to see the end of the war in Estonia. And what has been their legacy -- Estonia is surrounded by countries where the left has traditionally been strong like Sweden and Finland, yet today's Social Democrats' coalition partners are the Milton Friedman-inspired Reform Party and a party whose name translates to 'father land'.
From what I can tell the June communists never regained the power they had in 1940. Most of the cabinet ministers that survived the war died quiet deaths in academia. Others found themselves imprisoned by the NKVD. Fighting and losing is one thing. Inviting the wolf into your house and telling him to make himself at home is quite another.
I wonder what kind of country Estonia would have been if it had kept the Stalinists out. It probably would have gone down the social democrat route instead, but as it is, the Estonian left is marginal and dead, and who to thank? Estonia's June communists.