esmaspäev, oktoober 29, 2007

Päeva komm

Things have wound down here on the political front since the days of Rene van der Linden's bungled trip from Tallinn to Vilnius. There's the usual hysteria in Tallinn over the BS, but what else is new?

The only thing really scandal worthy is the continuing back and forth between Robert Närska, a Tartu city official affiliated with Eestimaa Rahvaliit, and Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, the former mayor of Tartu and the leader of Tartu (and Estonia's) most popular party, Reformierakond.

The scandal got a full airing in the last issue of the weekly Eesti Ekspress. The issue is related to Ansip's days as a thirty-ish Soviet local government official in February 1988, when police dogs were used to disperse a pro-independence student rally in Tartu.

Närska, then also a local official, says that he met Ansip on the day of the demonstration, and that Ansip said the police should have used the dogs more aggressively to scare off the students. Ansip says he had nothing to do with that decision and that he wasn't even around Tartu on that day, nearly 20 years ago. Närska says that Ansip is lying.

What's this all about? It's about trying to weaken popular support for Andrus Ansip. But I think the timing of the scandal has been poorly judged. Ansip right now is the leader of the status quo, and the status quo for most Estonians is pretty good. So unless some bumpier economic forces intervene, this kind of back and forth is mostly useless.

Everybody knows Ansip is a politician. So that "you're lying, no I'm not" back and forth between Närska and Ansip is starting to take on flavors of the Vanhanen-Korhonen affair up in Helsinki. It's a distracting political soap opera, with little real impact on current national politics. It could only get worse if more people come forward and accuse Ansip of lying. By then I am sure Russia will have done something obnoxious again to make us forget all about Robert Närska and 1988.

As a side note, I just finished reading Northern Shores by Alan Palmer (2005). It's a historical overview of the Baltic sea region from the Viking era to present day. Some of the parts of the book are more interesting than others, especially his discussion of Swedish and Russian royal politics. I had no idea, for example, that Catherine the Great of Russia was a Baltic German.

What struck me though is that Palmer's description of World War II is pretty much the same as the official Estonian version. He singles out the fact that Estonians were not sympathetic to the Nazi German cause and that efforts to recruit Estonians to join the German army in 1943 were a failure. He describes how the Germans evacuated their leadership from Tallinn before the Soviets arrived in 1944, and the context in which the Otto Tief government was formed.

He is not overly sympathetic to the Baltic cause though. He details in quite chilling language how ethnic tensions in Latvia and especially Lithuania, where Jews formed larger proportions of the population during the independence period and first Soviet occupation years, contributed to the mass killings that occurred during the Nazi German occupation. So, it's no rosy, pro-Baltic detour down the avenues of 20th century regional history.

Nevertheless, it reaffirms that the Estonian interpretation of their role in World War II is mostly accurate. This raises a question for all of us in the West who love good historical non-fiction. When people like President Vladimir Putin call the Estonian historical interpretation 'revisionism', aren't they really calling Alan Palmer, let alone Winston Churchill -- whose six volume The Second World War (1948-1953) similarly describes events in the Baltic -- revisionists?

And if Putin is to call Churchill a revisionist, why are we so hesitant to tell him he is wrong and that he needs a refresher course in European history? Or do we just think that he is too dense to benefit from such 'fresh' information? My rubles are on the latter.

11 kommentaari:

Raido ütles ...

Ansip is one dirty lier, he sayd he was at a birthday at that time. But that day was workday, it was almost possible not to be at work that day when all rajoonikomitee liikmed were called out from homes to be there.

Raido ütles ...

it was not possible i wanted to say.

Priidik ütles ...

Catherine Great a Baltic German? Hmm... According to respectable sources she was the daughter of Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst (also a Prussian general and ran the city of Stettin) and Johanna Elisabeth of Holstein-Gottorp. Although they both were from eastern part of Germany (or Prussia), to call them Baltic germans isn't really fair. Are you sure that you are not mixing her up with the spouse of Peter the Great? She was definitevly of Baltic origin, it is unclear however, if she was from lower Baltic german social ranks or "native", either Lithuanina, Latvian or perhaps even Estonian. At least she was born in Rõngu..:)

Giustino ütles ...

I mean she was a German born in Baltic lands colonized by Germanic peoples -- wouldn't you consider Prussians to be similar in background to Germans born in Riga?

Flasher T ütles ...

Although they both were from eastern part of Germany (or Prussia), to call them Baltic germans isn't really fair.

Well technically Prussia was a Baltic country - Baltic being the ethnic term used for Latvians, Lithuanians and (original, pre-German) Prussians - but not Estonians.
[/pedant]

And if Putin is to call Churchill a revisionist, why are we so hesitant to tell him he is wrong and that he needs a refresher course in European history?

You're missing the point. Putin and his followers aren't interested in the truth. Think about the term, "revisionism". They're not angry because we're rewriting the true history of WWII - they're angry because we're rewriting the Soviet propaganda version which they consider to be gospel, documentary evidence notwithstanding.

margus ütles ...

[/pedant]

xD


Everyone knew even before that Ansip is a political slut. Everyone with half a brain that is.

Frank ütles ...

German native speakers would certainly differentiate Preußen (Prussians / with a family background in Brandenburg and other Prussian provinces governed by the Hohenzollern family, many nowadays Poland) from Balten (Baltic Germans, with a family background in the former provinces Estonia, Oesel (Saaremaa), Livonia (Liivimaa) and Kurland. Kurland (Southern parts of Latvia), sharing a border with former russia came closest, also mentally, but Baltic Germans (Courlanders included) certainly were eager to draw the line, they took always pride in the fact, that they enjoyed a higher degree of autonomy than the so-called Reichsdeutschen (Empire-Germans), who were less fortunate at least in that respect. Baltic German self-esteem is certainly linked to the fact that this primarily social group (Swedes, Scots, Russians, Estonians, French, Polish being part of the mix) survived as a quite powerful minority for centuries without getting absorbed in the larger neighbouring ethnic groups or the Estonians and Latvians. Ratio of Baltic Germans to "indigenous" people being about 5:95. I suppose this is something the majority of Estonians and the Vanaeestimaalased did share: language and culture do count more than the genes.

Here is a bit of information in the www:

http://www.baltische-ritterschaften.de/Englische%20Version/index-engl.htm

Giustino ütles ...

They're not angry because we're rewriting the true history of WWII - they're angry because we're rewriting the Soviet propaganda version which they consider to be gospel, documentary evidence notwithstanding.

But this 'rewriting' isn't exactly new. The history of eastern European countries in WWII through the eyes of the West was written right after the war and hasn't changed much since.

It's not like the Estonians are challenging the British historians' version of what happened. Churchill himself wrote that Stalin took over the Baltic countries due to the Nazi-Soviet Pact. And that was in 1953, by a head of an allied country.

You couldn't get a more primary source.

Max ütles ...

Giustino said...
I mean she was a German born in Baltic lands colonized by Germanic peoples -- wouldn't you consider Prussians to be similar in background to Germans born in Riga?

Not even remotely. You're trying for more than a Lycra stretch, Jussi old boy. Reminds me of a famously eccentric "scholar" Georg Waimel who in the 1960s published volumes of "research" purporting to link the ancestry of the Maarahwas to ancient Sumerians, to which the brilliant satirist musician responded by recording a ditty which noted:
Kaamel järsku koduloom,
Sugulaseks Babüloon!

Giustino ütles ...

I mean she was a German born in Baltic lands colonized by Germanic peoples -- wouldn't you consider Prussians to be similar in background to Germans born in Riga?

Not even remotely.


So the Baltic Germans of the second half of the 18th century would have felt nothing in common with a monarch born down the coast in modern day northern Poland?

I am sure the Bavarians are as foreign as Laotians to Rhinelanders. Maybe they even have some odd expressions or even an accent!

Frank ütles ...

Kallis Giustino, I am certainly looking forward to your explorations of Germanhood once you have laid out the coordinates of Estonia - in the meantime I can assure you that Rhinelanders and Bavarians are more akin to each other than you might have guessed ... and that it would be very difficult if not impossible to describe something as a consistent "Baltic-German" point of view in the second half of the 18th century.