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.