reede, aprill 25, 2008

the truth is out there

It's that time of the year. Bronze Soldier removal anniversary time. A time to replay clips of violent youths overturning cars and lighting flags on fire. A time to engage in word battles on YouTube supported by random facts pulled from the KGB archives. A time to lecture Estonia about integration. Yes, it is that time of the year.

A German student in one of my classes said recently that she was surprised how her Estonian interview subjects tended to view the integration dilemma as a foreign construct, a plaything for foreign students and foreign journalists, but something that actually matters little in day to day life.

I privately wonder when I stopped giving a shit. A Swedish friend in Tartu once had to deal with an old Russophone neighbor who one day went crazy in the apartment house corridor shouting obscenities about "Estonians" and his terrible lot in life to live in the City of Good Thoughts. The Swede seemed to conclude that the subject was crazy. In New York we step over people who talk to themselves all the time.

The problem with all of these interpretations of Estonia and what is to be done in this country, is that the "Estonians" the Swede's angry neighbor was railing against are treated as one unified block. The actions of one political party, like Isamaa, can be attributed to all Estonians, because the state is wrongly seen as ethnocentric. But when we revisit the facts, we see, for example, that the vote to remove the odious Soviet statue last winter only passed by two votes.

The reality on the ground is that, when it comes to politics, it's rather hard to pin anything on the "Estonians." In a country where you are 70 percent of the population, it's sort of hard not to vote along ethnic lines. Instead you vote for other reasons. Some people in Tartu are disenchanted with the ruling Reform Party. In Tallinn they opine about Keskerakond. The concerns of everyday life -- day care and housing and zoning issues and roads and sanitation -- take precedence over historical blood feuds and naive suggestions about integration policies.

And so, one year on, I find myself reading the "foreign" English-language press and scratching my head. "There's Soviet baggage in Estonia." Well, what do you expect? "The citizenship processes could be liberalized." Easier said than done, my friend. "Maybe you should take another official language." And maybe you should privatize the British National Health Service.

This country is complicated, but attempts to explain it to the outside world often fail. People fumble for remedies to problems they themselves misdiagnose. It's like 18th century medicine -- they create a host of other conditions for you by trying to solve one unrelated problem. Got the flu? How about some leaches and blood-letting? That's sure to do the trick!

Estonia is closer than you think to solving the Rubik's Cube of the Soviet legacy. Let them work it out by themselves.

4 kommentaari:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Sometimes I am wondering from where some Germans got their view on Estonian politics. Since there is no real coverage of it. But many have an opinion.
It has not changed since I've found the first pieces of current up to date info about this country, 20 years ago. Last week I wanted to do an update, but what's the point doing it.
I will do.

Katrin ütles ...

It is always a lot of fun to read articles, written by persons who have maybe never, maybe once visited Estonia. For example, did you know, that Russian boys are trying to avoid the 8 months of military service in Estonian Army by getting themselves citizenship of the Russian Federation? And now they are quite worried, because Russian Federation has made some serious acts, in order to call/force the foreign citizens of RF to serve in the Russian Army.

It makes me angry, when some "experts" are using our everyday problems as a political tool. Hey, danish people, why don't you do something about your teenagers, who are rioting on the streets? Hey, UK, how about the Northern Ireland problems, are they solved? ETC, ETC... Estonia has its problems, but just take a look in the mirror... and it's obnoxious how these tensions that exist in the society are so "cleverly" used for manipulating peoples minds. Like last April. An every human being who has a tiniest bit of common sense understands, that the Night Watch (Notshnoi Dozor) has NOTHING to do with honoring the men, killed in battles of WWII. They have nothing to say about human rights violations, except they don't like Estonian laws and they would like to have Russia here, in Estonia. And they would like to spell Tallinn with one "n". Is it so hard to see, that they are talking b...t - talking about honoring the victims of WWII and at the same time fiercely attacking the perished and the veterans of the same war - and the only reason is, they happened to be fighting on the wrong side... And not only WWII - also the War for Freedom (Estonia, 1918-1920) is something they can't stand and they find it amusing to offense people who find the events close to their hearts. I must remind you, that on the Bronze Soldier there was a sign (the original sign was replaced by the Estonian government a few years ago) - "For the memory of those, lost in the WWII". Nothing about sides. And that's how most of the Estonians would have liked to see it, and most of the people had nothing against it - to keep the monument as a memorial for ALL the perished ones. It was ND and Soviet Army veterans, who denied it and said - IT IS OURS! IT IS FOR RED ARMY HEROES ONLY! Huh..

Actually, WE SHOULD PROBABLY HAVE SAID THANK YOU, MR PUTIN and all the other foreign experts, FOR REMINDING US OF OUR PROBLEMS. But I'm quite shore we can work it out, we have been working on it and continue doing so. People in Europe know ;) - one can't do it in 10 years, in 15 years, sometimes it takes 50 years ore more. Now we know, we have to change the course and we must be even more suspicious about YOUR "friendly" proposals...

All you, big important politicians, should keep in mind that death is equal. And nobody has monopoly for sorrow and despair. It is so disgusting to see manipulating like this... I think, we (I mean, most of the inhabitants of Estonia, not looking at the nationality) will be ready to acknowledge it quite soon and THAT is a real threat to Russian Federation - because it steals its most effective weapon - a possibility to manipulate with "Russians in exile", a possibility to use it's pseudo-heroic halo as the "winner", the "liberator". And corrects the horrible mistake, that was done 50 years ago in Nürnberg - the world got a clear message, that you CAN kill, murder and torture - as long as you stay on the right side, as long as you are winning. 10 holy commands in the Bible are only for losers...

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

That part about soviet history: Those who rely on it get away to easy. Viewing from the other side of the WWII theater. There are two questions remaining for me. Why did 2 Million (I hope it's correct) Japanese POW did not see their home again. Almost all. When I remember well the USA took the burden in the Pacific war. Why were Korean women raped as well, though they were victims of the Japanese occupation? Or have some people problems in making a distinction. What kind of liberation were they thinking of?

Giustino ütles ...

Jens,

Korea and Japan are an excellent example of how these issues are present everywhere.