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.