Ed Lucas of The Economist has an excellent post over at his blog. It's comforting to know that as I trudge these leaf-littered paths of Tartu, the same things are on the mind of journalists that only stop into Tallinn once in a while for coffee, talk, and -- of course -- the requisite chillin' with Mart Laar.
Rather than clutter up his blog with my rambling thoughts and feed several of the hungry trolls who comb through Lucas' musings for signs of fascist sentiments or Russophobia, I thought I'd post my thoughts here and urge you to go read Lucas for yourself.
Lucas Excerpt One
A tasteful cemetery alone will not save Estonia. The current approach of smug passivity is a recipe for disaster. Policy towards Russia and local Russians needs pepping up, urgently.
I think one thing people fail to understand when looking at Estonia minority policies is that up until the Pronksöö, society achieved a very sensitive social equilibrium. It has kept two ferociously opposed camps -- the nationalist extremists and the Stalinist apologists -- in check.
When looking back in time, it's clear that the Intermovement to preserve Soviet rule in Estonia was terribly wrong. Estonia has benefited enormously from independence. Those chic shops that were looted in April would not be there if it wasn't for the efforts of the Estonian nationalists.
On the flip side, the Estonian right-wing discourse on minorities is also flawed and often counterproductive. The terms "occupant" and "colonist" are emotionally flagrant. They seek to elevate the status of the Estonian majority but in reality undermine it.
If we are to look at Estonia in 2007, the real reforms that are needed are not so much in language reform -- which has already been agreed upon and put into law -- but in values reform. Estonian values -- liberal democracy, high-tech innovation, European culture -- are being under stressed, while more right-wing values -- loyalty to the state, appreciation of historiography, fluency in the national language -- are overly stressed.
The solution is to craft a more integrative framework unique to Estonia that retains the position of the national language but enables minority enclaves in Narva, Sillamäe, Kohtla-Järve, and elsewhere to feel more comfortable in retaining their ethnic identity while embracing core Estonian values, like liberal democracy, fiscal transparency, high-tech innovation, and European cultural orientation. This will ultimately result in the kind of Estonia most people want anyway and to some extent this has already occurred. But certain right-wing constituencies -- among both ethnic Estonians and Russians -- continue to hinder this process to the detriment of society as whole.
Lucas Excerpt Two
A wider plan—suggested by Anne Applebaum—is to highlight positive aspects of Russian history that the Kremlin ignores.
This is interesting, particularly in light of Estonia's policy towards its past as part of the Swedish Empire. Swedish monarchs are invited to unveil memorials in Estonia. But what of Estonia's tsarist past? Is there nothing good there? It was Tsar Alexander I who ended serfdom in the Baltic provinces and re-opened the University of Tartu. These were indisputably positive decisions for Estonia. In Helsinki he is remembered with his own street, Aleksanterinkatu.
To what extent is he honored in Estonia? Too much of the Estonian discourse is influenced by the thinking that a Russian influence is a bad influence. But I think most Estonian intellectuals disagree. But could some efforts to honor the more positive moments in the tsarist past massage the soul of a St. Petersburg-dominated Russia, not to mention the local Russian minority? Who knows.
Some think that emphasizing the tsarist past somehow references Russian hegemony over Estland. I would disagree. During Tsar Alexander's rule, both Poland and Finland were parts of the Russian Empire. Nobody questions their sovereignty. Moreover, drawing attention to Estonia's tsarist roots reminds people of how exactly it was that the tsar was overthrown. His execution and the defeat of the White Army sent the first large wave of Russian exiles into Estonia who found a country more innovative, European, and democratic than the one they left behind.
In other words, addressing this past allows Estonia to air its core values in a roundabout way. President Ilves has already drawn on his own family's experience in some speeches to stress this version of Estonia -- as a sanctuary of liberal democracy.
Lucas Excerpt Three
PACE is a misleading moniker. The assembly should really be called DRAG. It is a talking-shop even less relevant to the continent’s future than the European Parliament. But it sounds important, and having the top spot will be a most useful pulpit for the Kremlin to denounce Europe for its hypocrisy, arrogance, weakness, Atlanticism, greed, malevolence and general failure to follow the constructive, reasonable and disinterested policies of the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder.
Ever since US Rep. Tom Lantos called Gerhard Schröder a political prostitute, his name has become synonymous with selling ones national interest out for personal benefit.
Indeed, if we can talk of Benedict Arnold today, two hundred years after his death, and the first word that comes to mind is 'traitor', is it possible that in the year 2207, someone might utter the name Gerhard Schröder and mean 'political prostitute'? Things appear to be trending in that direction.
Is PACE Chairman Rene van der Linden 'pulling a Schröder'? Is PACE turning into a 'Schrödocracy'? You be the judge ...