kolmapäev, mai 21, 2008

kolmas arnold

On Voice of America he's an "ex-officer." On Russia Today he's a "war hero." And on the BBC, he's a "Soviet war figure."

The trial of Arnold Meri, an 88-year-old cousin of former President Lennart Meri, began in Kärdla yesterday. The state prosecutors office is charging him with genocide for aiding in the deportation of 251 hiidlased to Siberia in 1949, 43 of whom died either en route or in Soviet concentration camps.

Despite helping to deport women and children, Meri is somewhat hilariously the head of the "Estonian Anti-Fascist Committee." He claims the case is political, I would agree it is. Meri did not organize the deportations. He collaborated in them, which I will leave it up to you to determine his guilt or innocence. The term 'genocide' itself is a hot potato. But if they don't try Kolmas Arnold (former president Rüütel being esimene, boy genius Oksmaa being teine) then the youth of Estonia might get the impression that you can help send your neighbors to their doom and get away with it. And nobody wants that.

This case is a new field day for the Russian media, which declined to cover the successful Teeme Ära campaign with the same ferocity in which it inspects old war memorials for scratches or graffiti. But that's just the Russian-Estonian relationship these days, isn't it? There is only the past to talk about. Only the past, because the two countries are on entirely different trajectories. The Estonians want to be small, tough, efficient, and fabulously wealthy. The Russians lust after status.

Perhaps it is good that the Icelandic foreign minister is in town. The Estonians will have some one with whom they can commiserate about economic crises and talk EU politics. Some are hinting that the next round of enlargement may be northward, rather than to the east. Maybe Estonia and Iceland can adopt the euro at the same time, after being bailed out by the Scandinavian banks, of course.

15 kommentaari:

Kristopher ütles ...

The only sane and healthy way of looking at any genocide was suggested by Martin Amis in Time's Arrow. Which is of course not a practical way at all.

Circuses around these old guys are ridiculous. I don't even know who this one is, I once confused him innocently enough with Arnold Green, a fourth one, who I think was a top apparatchik, hävituspataljon member and president of the EOC. So only prosecuting Meri to me is just like making a big fuss over the Bronze Man yet continuing to base the Foreign Ministry in the former Communist Party headquarters.

But maybe trials are important to clear the air? Maybe there will be valuable witness testimony that will help find other war criminals. If this is not a naive hope?

In any case, ringleaders are as guilty as the triggermen and vice versa and more than one person can be prosecuted for one war crime.

Genocides thrive on rubber-stampers and bureaucrats and civil servants.

plasma-jack ütles ...

The laws are there (at least should be) for a reason. If Estonian law says that genocide is illegal, then the accomplices must be tried. If Meri is found guilty, he must be sentenced. Thats how the õigusriik works (in most cases, I hope). In that particular case it's not clear how big his guilt actually is, but that remains for Riigikohus (or European Court for Human Rights) to decide - in case he lives to be that old. Very interesting case, anyway.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Of course these things have to be argued: truth has to be defended. But facts are quite powerful weapons in themselves, slowly but surely they will emerge. These symbolic issues will come to public notice every now and then - and it might not be always sensible to be very rigid when imposing justice.

But justice must be done: what happened during the Soviet era was in many essential regards a holocaust. I would not hesitate using that word for a second. Yes, we can grant the first place to the Nazis, they descended further into the darkness, surely, but both systems went so far, that this sort of horse racing is quite macabre. The Nazis were more efficient and more concentrated murderers, the Stalinists (and many Marxist-Leninists) were more enduring ones, and managed to slaughter even more people.

So, there you go. It might be pointless to prosecute humble footsoldiers of these gigantic terror systems, but the crimes should not be ever forgotten. And that is our duty to ensure.

Puu ütles ...

The Nazi's were bad. The Soviets were bad. Everyone found a way to justify their actions. And then it's nice to have scape goats that are a million years old, to put on trial. What a terrible world.
I just read the Exception by Christian Jungersen.
It's excellent. The problem with war crimes trials are that they give human blood lust ( Which is in us all) a respectable outlet. It's like people used to stone people to death and it was because supposedly those sentenced to death were criminals, but don't you think the stoners ( heh) were happy they were criminals because they got to kill them and killing is fun ( to most people.. why else are violent movies so popular)... in killing the community enacts the same crime as the murderer... a basic problem... in imprisoning the same as the imprisoner.

martintg ütles ...

Check out this movie trailer, called "The Soviet Story", coming to a cinema near you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YPmoJT1PRs

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

It is not about to sentence someone, the court should find out who is resonsible for what. That simple. Nobody should be save to get away with these kind of crimes at any time. And maybe it is too late to find the proper facts.

Rainer ütles ...

What ticks me off is this utter hypocricy and ambivalence of Russians when it comes to their Soviet past. They dodge accounability for Soviet atrocities, but on May 9 they are as Soviet as they come. OK, we all know that.

In case of Bronze Soldier there were at least dead Russian soldiers involved. But in this particular case there's not a speck of Russian interest: Meri is an Estonian, tried by Estonians for deporting Estonians. It should'nt be their business to begin with.

Puu ütles ...

The United States dodges accountability in the same way as Russia. But at least they are holding to a multi party system.Nominally. And US involvement in Afghanistan is a little better than Russian, because they plan to leave ( after making sure there are Mcdonalds in Kandahar)

Giustino ütles ...

I bet Afghani burgers are real good. If we can have McLavash, maybe we can get McShwarama. Or did they already introduce that?

Puu ütles ...

What I'd like to see is McSu:lt or Mc Roosolje.

Puu ütles ...

McKringle

Rainer ütles ...

What a serious discussion this turned out to be...

Puu ütles ...

You have a problem with McSu:lt?

Giustino ütles ...

It's actually good that he goes on trial, though I am not sure of the state's case.

He does not seem to grasp that deporting people to work camps is a crime against humanity. "I was just making sure it was all done legally," is his defense.

Puu ütles ...

It was Eichman's defense too. Though the scale of death is a little different ( there also weren't that many Hiidlased to begin with).And Hannah Arendts been criticised because she is accused of just regurgitating Eichman's defenses arguments. But I think that her basic argument is good.And terrifying. People on both sides of WWII conflict were just doing their jobs, just as people in the South African Police force were and Afghanistan and Iraq are doing their jobs.And we all have eaten meat and probably own and use clothes or computers or something which has been made using slave like minimum wage labor. Where in the chain of command and action do actions become actionable( bleh terrible phrasing), what is justic?.Will the threat of sitting in jail when you are ninety stop you from doing something bad when you are twenty? I don't know. But free societies need to have dialogues about these sort of things, in an enviroment where everyone feels safe.