The other night I was convinced by my ailing wife to make a 4 am trek to the apteek on Tõnismägi to buy some over-the-counter medicine for the common cold.
As I made my way up past the Latvian embassy towards the national library, Tõnismägi park lurked in the immediate distance. I saw the dark trees and suddenly was overwhelmed by a feeling of badness.
It was here where the infamous soldier of bronze once stood, where all eyes were fixed for several days in late April 2007 when Tallinn reopened the gushing wound of its Soviet past. I have to say, I still don't feel comfortable there. I don't want to walk through that park. I did not especially care for walking through it in the past, trampling over the mortal remains of a dozen individuals.
Tõnismägi has bad vibes, and I am a bit surprised that Finnish "scholar" Johan Bäckman has decided to stick his nose in that business. Like some voodoo curse, after insulting just about everything that is sacred to Estonians by predicting the end of their state in his new book, Bäckman found himself the subject of a campaign to disrupt his academic career.
Finns and Estonians of some reputation sought to have the University of Helsinki discipline their reckless scholar Bäckman, equating his denial of Soviet occupation in Estonia with Holocaust denial. The university, though, supported Bäckman, arguing that academics are free to tango with the past, especially the Estonian past, in whatever ways they see fit.
In a way, I guess the university is right. Without the career path of academic vanity, fellows like Bäckman might pursue a less savory, unabomber-like way to contribute to society. Remember, universities are at their core institutions, are they not? Finnish scholars are supposed to recreate the world as they see fit, then publish books that garner wanton media attention in Estonia, right?
Though he is unlikely to be washing plates at a Helsinki cafe anytime soon, Bäckman, like Andrus Ansip and Dmitri Klenski, among others, has chosen to play with the most unpleasant of topics, and must now issue statements in English defending his reputation to cling to any sense of normalcy he may have once enjoyed.
He has fallen prey to the curse of the bronze soldier, where logic is turned upside down and poorly concocted, World War II-influenced metaphors rein supreme. Sadly, for Bäckman, there is no known cure.