reede, november 02, 2007

Lucas

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 ...

27 kommentaari:

Frank ütles ...

1. Thanks for the hint or link!

2. Most appealing sentence by Ed Lucas to me:
"FIVE years ago London was no place to be a Russia specialist. These days the meetings and cabals are so plentiful that, if you are an anti-Kremlin voice, you get unlimited coffee and biscuits; if you are pro, you get caviar and champagne."
Prostitution obviously alive and kicking all over Europe, UK included ~

3. The abolition of serfdom was not Alexander´s idea, he had to be prompted by his madman (see Jaan Kross) and his madman´s more sensible cousins ... (might do as a piece for City Paper one day)

4. Please continue your bashing of Gerhard Schroeder, but do not forget to point out the harlots in other high places all over the Western World ...

plasma-jack ütles ...

Solzhenitsyn has spent some time i Estonia, hasn't he? Well, let's put up a statue for him once he dies.

Giustino ütles ...

3. The abolition of serfdom was not Alexander´s idea, he had to be prompted by his madman (see Jaan Kross) and his madman´s more sensible cousins ... (might do as a piece for City Paper one day)

Frank, can you find any other admirable Russian autocrats? I know it's hard. If you had to pick one Russian monarch to stick on a pedestal in the central square of Narva, who would it be?

As a sidenote, the overly pious Lutheran Swedes destroyed the Estonian saints chapels around the province. It wasn't all liberal lingonberry jam and swedish meatballs ...

Evil Purc ütles ...

Solzhenitsyn is a nutjob who argues that all the former Soviet peoples should live under the "golden" rule of Putin's Russia. He believes that NATO is a fascist organisation and compares it to Nazi Germany. Putin even gave the guy a medal.

Giustino ütles ...

See, I don't think Alexander I ever argued that NATO was a fascist organization ...

In NY state ütles ...

I think Alexander is honored simbliminally in Estonia. I don't know when I realized that Alexander was a very popular name for those born between 1870 and 1930. But somewheres along the line it struck me that those great grandparents and great great uncles of mine were probably named for Tsar Alexander I.

Wahur ütles ...

Considering, that Russian rule threw this country about 200 years back in history and helped to cement Baltic German ruling position here it is quite difficult to point out any positive czar.
But I get your point. My sympathies would definitely go to different Russian intellectuals, many of whom had ties with Estonia.
So let's make a list of what we have:
1. Tchaikovsky's chair in Haapsalu
2. Pirogov in Tartu (afaik rather popular among younger generation)
3. .... and thats it! At least can't remember anyone else.
My first suggestion would be Vysotski - safely dead, many admirers among Estonians, nice romantic, half-dissident character and also about as Russian hero as one can be.
Second suggestion would be Vitali Nossov, author of infamous Totu Kuul, a book with a cult following in Estonia. Of course, first we should make sure if this gentleman is dead.
Finally something cosmos-related would be good, considering that Tõravere was one of the favourite party-places of Russian space aces. Ene Ergma could definitely produce few useful ideas in this direction and also open the monument.

Blogaddict ütles ...

Didn't Ayn Rand have something to do with Estonia?

Doris ütles ...

Who was it that Peter I married... Jekaterina... something, my memory fails me. But she was kind of Estonian/Livonian. Might want to emphasize that a bit.

also, every Bistro in the world is a tribute to Russian prowess in the battlefield, it goes back until the days of the Napoleonic wars when the Russian troops were in Paris and wanted food "b6stro, b6stro".

Oh, and Pirogov IIRC still holds the record of the fastest amputation of a leg (3 minutes) from the days of the Crimean war 1853-1856

just tidbits

Wahur ütles ...

"Oh, and Pirogov IIRC still holds the record of the fastest amputation of a leg (3 minutes) from the days of the Crimean war 1853-1856"

Wow, thats something! Well-desinfected battle-axe?

As for Catherine I, well, here is a call to our historians (excluding Mart Laar, obviously) to produce finally some badly needed evidence.

Giustino ütles ...

I think Alexander is honored subliminally in Estonia.

I am drinking an Alexander beer from A. Le Coq right now ...

Trek ütles ...

Nice post, but I have to say that I don't see "loyalty to the state" as a right wing value that is overstressed. A small country like Estonia especially needs the utmost loyalty to maintain it's independence, culture and language. Estonia is fortunate to have had such loyalty over the centuries and because of that we're living in and speaking Estonian today as opposed to reading about it in a book as a place somewhere that once was.

And I'm currently drinking Old Tbilisi Alazani medium sweet red wine because I support Georgia (well, actually just because it's really good.)

Giustino ütles ...

A small country like Estonia especially needs the utmost loyalty to maintain it's independence, culture and language.

I don't think anyone would disagree with you. But a question is how you achieve that loyalty. Do you achieve it by simply telling people to be loyal, or do you achieve it by building a society to which they want to be loyal?

To take an example from my own home, New York, one of the reasons that the Dutch surrendered to the Brits without a shot being fired is because no one was willing to fight on behalf of the Dutch colonial administration because they ran things so poorly. They failed to run the colony in a way that made people believe it was worth fighting for.

And so I ask the same in Estonia. Am I loyal to Estonia because someone told me to be? No, I am because I like it here, because it is a nice place to live and work. Did I learn Estonian because someone told me I had to? No, I did because most people speak this language and I wanted to be understood.

If someone had told me to learn a language and that I had to be loyal, I might question those values more, whereas if the society has been created where such things occur naturally, then my loyalty is even stronger because it is organic and not demanded of me.

Giustino ütles ...

To clarify, I am not saying that Tõnis Lukas and Mart Laar at Isamaa Res Publica Liit are doing or saying the wrong thing by stressing loyalty to the state.

I am referring to, let's say, the Tiit Madissons and Andrei Zarenkovs of Estonia.

From the Tiit Madisson side, this kind of "occupants out" mentality is harmful for the Estonian moderate center, to which most people belong.

Similarly, Andrei Zarenkov or Dmitri Klenski's Stalinist apologist crap only contributes to the idea that Russians in Estonia are a 'fifth column' and not to be trusted, which makes them feel even more marginalized in society

And if you look at the Bronze Soldier affair, that's who it was, wasn't it. It was Tiit Madisson and Jüri Liim in one corner and Zarenkov, Lebedev, and Klenski in the other. Populist extremists who say they stand for the common good, but ultimately undermine exactly what they supposedly want to achieve.

Both are negative forces in the Estonian discourse that interfere with the circulation of more positive values in society, positive forces that could give Estonia the longterm stability that the radical right yearns for and give minorities the kind of space within society that Zarenkov and Klenski claim to advocate.

plasma-jack ütles ...

The awkward thing with Madisson and Liim is that those guys still are heroes of the independence movement. Loonies they are, but they were doing jail times when people like Ansip and Savisaar secured their career.

I am drinking an Alexander beer from A. Le Coq right now ...

Same here, it's the best beer in the republic.

Giustino ütles ...

The awkward thing with Madisson and Liim is that those guys still are heroes of the independence movement.

I know. Trust me, I feel sad every time I see Madisson's Holocaust book in the bookstore. What a disappointment.

Wahur ütles ...

Madisson and Liim can hardly be considered a "heroes of independence movement". Exactly those two guys are most probable candidates for double-dealers in this game. Quite telling is the case from early 90ies where Madisson, being a member of a commission that took over KGB assets, escaped with his own personal file in a rather dramatic way. No point in doing that, unless there is something in the file that you do not want to become public. So personally I am quite convinced that they still serve the same masters as 20 years ago - Russian secret service.

Jim Hass ütles ...

let's get neil diamond to rework his song "they're coming to Estonia " and make it about accidental multiculturali. And help Russia enforce military service for our friends who don't want ee passes

Juan Manuel ütles ...

It is a talking-shop even less relevant to the continent’s future than the European Parliament

Edward is obviously joking. First of all, the EP is very important, with nearly as many lobbyst as Capitol Hill (I said "nearly"). PACE is just a talking shop, and nothing more, but Russian membership of the Council of Europe (since 1996) is a damn good thing. Think of the number of people who have been able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The biggest EU weapon with regard to Russia is the fact that Putin LOVES to be received in the west. He loved his friendship with Schroeder and Berlusconi. He was visibly happy to be in Lisbon the other day claiming he was Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. I think that the reason why he is not seeking a third mandate, but will become prime minister instead, is that he does want to be received in the West. So Russian membership of all these institutions (G8, CE, OSCE, Nato-Russia summits) is a good thing.

Now the spooks that run Russia are convinced that the West's talk bout Human Rights is just a cynical weapon to weaken Russia. That is why they raise the issue of human rights in such a way. But should they be prevented from lobbing institutions to support Russian minorities? Of course no! There is nothing wrong with hanging around and claiming that Estonian is a hard language to learn, even if you get your numbers wrong.

What Estonia should do in these cases is very simple: respond with sensible arguments. There is no need to go claiming that Rene Van der Linden has business interests in Siberia.

In some cases, recommendations made by international bodies are reasonable. For instance when some report said that no child should be born without citizenship status, that is, that the children of people with no citizenship should be given Estonian citizenship.

The Spanish civil code was amended some time ago to ensure that no child is born without a nationality, in order to guarantee the right to a nationality (recognised in article 15 of UN Declaration of Human Rights, and more specifically in many important international conventions). Here is the link to article 17c of the Spanish civil code for those who speak Spanish and might be interested.


http://noticias.juridicas.com/base_datos/Privado/cc.l1t1.html

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

What about Anatoli Pristavkin? He was on the barricades in Riga 1991 and published a book promoting Baltic independence: Latviysskij dnevnik.
And he his still an adviser of the Putin government.
http://www.kremlin.ru/eng/subj/22200.shtml

Kari ütles ...

about those freedom fighters... mr Savisaar himself was and still is considered an important figure. not everybody has been the leader of the popular front. but now he is drifting dangerously offcourse. though not as bad some other folks.

plasma-jack ütles ...

important, of course. simply not among the boldest.

Giustino ütles ...

Juanma,

I don't think Edward was joking. From the British perspective, PACE is pretty irrelevant. But I think that sort of underscores why countries like Estonia don't take recommendations from PACE or Amnesty International that seriously -- Western European countries regularly ignore these supposed "European" rights, especially France.

Another reason that the political elite does not pass laws like the one you suggested is because there is no need for them too and they see no benefit. Stateless persons are not going to vote for the rightwing parties. Why bother to liberalize citizenship when you are in power? And also, since Estonia is already in all the European clubs, then what motivation does it have to pass this kind of generic "European legislation"?

Frank ütles ...

Giustino, within your question: Alexander I. it shall be.

As far as I know, he did not really touch the special status of Estonia and he might well have known that this did serve Russia´s interests best.

But we should not forget that there was a tradition with some of his line and rank to portray themselves liberal and western-minded abroad, and to act contrary at home - Alexander I is supposed to have excelled in this discipline.

Thanks for that sidenote - I definitely have to do some homework - what I do know is that the "Kirchenregiment" (the Swedish governance of the clergy / ministry as an instrument of absolutist reign) met with steadfast opposition.

The second motto of the Korporatsioon Estonia - in more than one aspect a backbone of loyalty to Estonia in the 19th century and also the "fraternity" of F. R. Kreutzwaldt - was "Es bleibe beim Alten" - "keep it the way it was" (...)


For vikipeedia enthusiasts:
http://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korporatsioon_Estonia

Juan Manuel ütles ...

Off topic - I just saw this article in EPL (just in case you did not see it yet). I liked the initiative:

Noored seovad teatriga rahvusi

http://www.epl.ee/artikkel/406542


Ok, PACE is quite irrelevant indeed (it was created by a treaty signed in LONDON in 1949, so the British maked sure it would be irrelevant ;) That is one of the reasons why the European Communities were created by 6 other countries, not including the UK, in 1951 and 1957.

But the European Parliament is not irrelevant, that is why I supposed Edward Lucas was deliberately exaggerating a little bit. It may be bureaucratic and sometimes not quite effective, but not completely irrelevant.

Also, some institutions within the Council of Europe have proven to be effective, most notably the European Court of Human Rights. So all in all, i think Russian membership of the Council is a good thing.

You are right that nobody complains about minority rights in France, were historical minorities have been banned from public life since the revolution (or in Spain, where we have Basques and many other minorities). But the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against France and Spain quite many times (mostly in issues not directly related to minorities).

Giustino ütles ...

But the European Parliament is not irrelevant, that is why I supposed Edward Lucas was deliberately exaggerating a little bit. It may be bureaucratic and sometimes not quite effective, but not completely irrelevant.

Well, he was referring to the future of the continent. And when you consider some of the propositions that are being made behind closed doors -- a 'grand bargain' over Georgia and Ukraine -- one wonders where PACE ranks in the list of organizations that will influence Europe's future.

You are right that nobody complains about minority rights in France, were historical minorities have been banned from public life since the revolution (or in Spain, where we have Basques and many other minorities). But the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against France and Spain quite many times (mostly in issues not directly related to minorities).

So then why all the interest in Estonia?

Frank ütles ...

Why do the Italian media and the Italian politicians focus on one case of murder in Rome committed by a Romanian and prepare the expulsion of 1000s of Romanians but do not really tackle the 70+ cases of murder in 2007 (10 in the last weeks) in Naples ...?

(No offence meant by mentioning Italy, the story just hits German media these days, easy to find parallels elsewhere in Europe ...)

My guess: he who knows about the beam in his own eye is glad to point that there is a splinter or two in the eyes of his poor cousins in the (Nort- or South-) Eastern parts of Europe.