reede, september 18, 2009

kes siis veel

Politics, politics, politics, politics. You can't get away from it. Like a wizened old drunk on a Tallinn street corner it pesters you for attention.

"Hey buddy, spare a few extra krooni, I'm awfully thirsty."

What to do? Everywhere I go in Tallinn's capital, I'm assaulted by posters for the Estonian Centre Party. Kes siis veel! Kes siis veel! The slogans are laughable and yet work. The Reform Party will cut your pensions. The Reform Party will increase unemployment. The Reform Party cuts money for kindergartens. The Reform Party practices human sacrifice.

"It's a demonstration of power," says a colleague. "Centre wants to show they have the most money. So they have to put a sign on every garbage bin in the city."

You can't take a leak in Tallinn without coming face to face with Edgar or one of his apprentices. Trust me, I've tried.

Where does Centre get its money? Who knows? Estonian parties aren't ones for transparency. But I have a suspicion that Centre's strategic partners in Moscow, United Russia, might be lubricating their Tallinn counterparts' local election campaign with petrodollars.

I know that Centre leader and Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar recently returned from meeting United Russia leaders Boris Gryzlov and Konstantin Kosachev in Moscow. Boris and Kostja have even given Centre their blessing. Edgar & Co. are the only ones, in Moscow's minds, who can heal the riff between these two proud states. Even if I am not Estonian, I found it embarrassing to watch the Centre's delegation to Russia. How could they ever say no to their benefactors? If they were to get into power, what would it mean for Estonian sovereignty?

In light of my disgust, you'd think I'd find my natural home with the right-wing parties. We could sit around, and dance to the day when Laidoner is king. Except, in many cases, they are just as annoying. This constant battle over the interpretation of history, the obsession with the wounds of the Soviet era, the nearly religious genuflection to economic liberalism. I hear about 1940 so much, you'd think it was 1940. I get it already, my Estonian brothers. I get it. But what's next?

There is this odd rift in Estonian political life. Neither of the political forces can truly unify the country. It's either Ansip or Savisaar. 'Pragmatic' relations with Moscow or ardent Atlanticism. Sorry Jaan Kaplinski but, right now, there is no third way.

Which is a shame. I listened to a young woman from Jõhvi last night become emotional as she described her relationship with the state.

"My father is an engineer in a mining company. He's lived in Jõhvi almost all his life. And the Estonians tell him it's not his home. How can it not be his home?"

My question is, what Estonians told her that? Didn't President Ilves go to Narva as soon as he took office and tell a classroom of Estonian Russian students that they were Estonia's compatriots and the country couldn't make it with out them? Didn't he go to Kohtla-Järve and tell the miners that they were the backbone of Ida Virumaa? Wasn't Population Affairs Minister Urve Palo out there, before Andrus Ansip canned her, scarf on head, making nice with MEIE venelased?

From what pungent sewer does Estonia's ethnic strife spring?

"Everyone knows that you can't be the boss unless you are Estonian," she opines.

"It's not true!" I protest. "Savisaar is half Russian. It's literally his mother tongue."

"But this is Estonia," she waves me away. "Everyone has a Russian in their family tree."

The Estonian Russian hates Ansip. She's like a cartoon character, almost as bad as those rural Estonians who haven't seen a Russian in years and keep complaining about kuradi tiblad. Except she's human. And friendly.

"We didn't think he was so bad. Then he took that statue down."

"He had to do it. There were two-right wing parties running, and he wanted to win. Once he won, of course, he had to do it."

She pauses for a second to contemplate how all that nonsense two years ago might have been just about politics. Not history. Not principles. Just politics.

"But he was stupid. He lost the support of all Estonian Russian voters."

"Maybe it was a short-term gain," I shrug. "Long-term loss."

***

Politics, politics, politics, politics. It's the foulest thing in this town. Tallinn looks great. I don't think it's ever looked better. When I came here for the first time in 2002, Tallinn did not look like this. Where there now stand shiny hotels and business centers once stood vacant lots and ruined buildings. Nearly every street in the center has benefited from a face lift.

I'm proud of how well this city looks. I am proud that international conferences can be held here, and people are surprised by how well things function. "You can get Internet everywhere," says a colleague from San Diego. "Even in a public park!"

A public park? You can get wireless outside the metalworks in Obinitsa on the border with Russia. I've sent mails from there, crouched down in the dirt with my laptop on my, well, my lap. One time the wireless was down in the restaurant where I was eating and I was waiting for an important mail. So I went out to the parking lot and linked up to another signal instead. Sure it was in the middle of a January snowstorm, but, impressive, no?

It feels good because a lot of people think Estonia is stuck in some 1991 vortex. They think that they might have to wait on a breadline to get a bite to eat, or get stuck up by thieves in the street. Dastardly eastern Europeans who prey on naive Western tourists. And the people who think these things come from places like London or San Francisco, where there really are aggressive street people, although, I'll admit, some of those thieves do probably come from Estonia. But that's a hidden benefit of EU enlargement -- eastern Europeans got to export their most successful criminals to Frankfurt or London or Paris.

So Tallinn looks good. The people do too. They are so fashionable with their scarves and sunglasses and exotic dogs. Maybe too fashionable for a city of 400,000 perched on the Baltic Sea. The Swedes expect another post-commie bottle depository and they go away thinking that it might be time to give Stockholm an upgrade. And during the conference they all got to watch the masses jog by for the sügisjooks -- the fall marathon. It was sunny the whole weekend. Everything was perfect. The city glowed with goodness. Tallinn to them must have seemed ideal.

It feels great to be in a situation like that because you have no idea how often I have dreaded sharing my biography with strangers. I would tense up when I let slip in front of strangers that I had a relationship with a place called 'Estonia.' There were times when I would just say Finland, or the all-encompassing 'Scandinavia' instead. Anything to avert the horrid line of questioning ('Do they have indoor plumbing there?') As the conference attendees discovered after serial cocktail hours, indeed, they do.

***

Politics, politics, politics, politics. Obama's decided to scuttle the planned missile defense installations in the Czech Republic and Poland. It's always been controversial, partially because this part of the continent, like most parts of it, actually, have been gutted by war for centuries, and the idea of any change in the 'balance of power' makes people uneasy. It's also been controversial because of the Russians' incessant whining about, well, everything. And wouldn't you know that after Obama and his advisors dropped the plan, Russia said it didn't owe America anything and continued to wag it's finger at the Western allies like a certain Austrian.

The Russians. They keep playing the same old song. It's irritating. But even the most irritating songs disappear from the radio for awhile to be replaced by other irritating songs. With a Putin return to the presidency possible, we could be hearing his tune for decades to come. It would be as if Brit singer James Blunt's detour in sappiness "You're Beautiful" (I saw your face/in a crowded place/and I don't know what to do) stayed at the top of the pops forever. If that's not a reason to jump out a window, I don't know what is.

"Things have never been good between Estonia and Russia," a friend shakes her head. "Why do you think we have our guys in Afghanistan? It's the best training they can get. Because they know it's not a matter of 'if', it's a matter of 'when'."

Her father's in the army. So's her brother. Maybe she knows what she's talking about. Or maybe she's just indulging us in the invasion myth. It stretches back through the generations. It's replayed itself over and over again, from the Northern Crusades to the Second World War. It's in every Estonian. "They're coming." Pack your bags. Hoist the sails. Run to the hills. "THEY'RE COMING!"'

Every Estonian has nightmares about the hordes of evil ransacking the country, raping and burning and murdering and torturing their way back and forth across the soil of Eestimaa, like a fine comb, back and forth, until every tree is charred black with the agony of death, every field flooded with blood and the anguish of geopolitics.

You watch Savisaar seated with Boris and Kostja and it looks like a tunafish supping tea with a pair of great white sharks. You wonder how terrible Russia's leadership is inside. I mean Stalin and Molotov also played nice with their Estonian colleagues before they sucked the country like an egg through a straw and informed the hostages that their nationality was destined to vanish and blend into the great Soviet people.

But those were evil men. They were different. Look what happened to Comrades Zinoviev and Kamenev and Trotsky. And Mihhail Khodorkovsky is only in jail indefinitely. Why, that's like a slap on the wrist. Putin and Medvedev are different. They're pussy cats. As Finnish President Tarja Halonen says, 'we've never had it so good.' Putin and Medvedev want to look respectable at the G20 summit. So we would like to believe.

34 kommentaari:

Evil Purc ütles ...

Talk about a nightmare...I've had vile recurring dreams about Russian tanks pouring in to Tallinn from Narva maantee.

Evil Purc ütles ...

Ironically one of my first and strongest childhood memories is about Russian tanks. I was five years old when the August Putsch took place and the Russian tanks were actually pouring in from Narva maantee. I remember my father and mother standing in the kitchen in a very gloomy mood and my mother asking my father:"Will there be war?".

Lingüista ütles ...

Jesus, Justin, I sure as hell don't like the way Russia is acting in the world, but the nightmare you depicted in your last paragraphs had me running around the room with my hands in my ears shouting "noooo!". I almost woke up my daughter!

I suppose you can never really get away from politics--and Russia-Estonia relations are, well, the Estonian version of the far right's claims that "someone (Obama, liberals, gays, etc.) is destroying America".

I don't think the Russians will invade Estonia. What they want is an Estonian government that will say what they want to hear, and maybe Savisaar will give them that. So the worst case scenario is probably Edgar as prime minister. Now, would that be really terribly bad?

What would happen? Would he make Russian a second official language? Would he pull Eestimaa's boys back from Afghanistan? Would he put lots of Esto-Russians in positions of power? Would that be the end of Estonia's Second Republic?

What I'm hoping -- tell me if you think I'm too naive -- is that the current climate in Russia is somewhat like France under De Gaulle: war in Algeria, but the French lose and end up having to accept the independence of the old colonies; they create La Francophonie and stick to whatever influence they still have on all those African and Asian ex-colonies (and even keep a couple of them still as such, French Guiana, Réunion, Saint Pierre et Miquelon, etc.). Slowly, slowly, however, they begin to turn their attention to other matters, the importance of the ex-colonial empire slowly decreases, and the old wounds end up healing. (They aren't completely healed yet, but it's a lot better now than it was when Le Général was the leader.)

So I'm hoping that repeating the same clichés over and over again will end up tiring the Russians themselves--other matters will eventually occupy their attention (say if the oil prices go down?).

If the Estonians survived 40 years of Communist and anti-Western propaganda delievered right to their doors, they'll survive that.

I know, it's difficult to convince Russians that their "enemies" aren't their enemies. People like that woman you talked to -- hell, you should talk to my Russian mother-in-law! "Us vs. them mentality" should be her middle name. I don't count on convincing them of anything much; I hope for the next generations--Russians who will have had sufficient contact with the West to realize that the "us vs. them mentality" is a bit too simplistic.

Wahur ütles ...

Lingüista, yes, Savisaar might do all the things you say. But that is not the main problem. We could live with it. I have written about my main issue here before - that despite its appearance Keskerakond is actually not a political party. It is a power group similar to power groups in Soviet single-party system and as such the underlying principles and purpose of its existence are quite a bit different. These differences might be subtle, but they are still crucial. K coming to power would be definitely harmful to democratic system - as even its mere existence is actually harmful to a normal development of this system by making it more populistic and corrupt.

Wahur ütles ...

As for "I don't think the Russians will invade Estonia.", yes, you might be correct. And yet i think that even in 1935, 4 years before the invasion most people thought the same. I don't think in 1935 many people took seriously the possibility of a big war in Europe. In 1986 only crackpots dreamed about fall of Soviet Union and independence of Baltic states. Churchill declared that he would not preside over the death of British empire. We cannot really make any good predictions beyond 5-6 years.

So I would reword what you say: "I don't think the Russians will invade Estonia in next 4-5 years". I would not wish to make any longer-term prognosis.

Giustino ütles ...

Savisaar, for all his faults, is not always wrong. I enjoyed his response to the controversy over whether he agreed with Gryzlov that [Soviet] history should not be rewritten: he said that he's not a historian. And it's true. He's not a historian. Real historians spend most of their lives in archives trying to piece together what actually took place. I don't think that's what Savisaar does in his spare time.

Doris ütles ...

Except he is. A historian, with a degree and everything. Only he was educated according to the Soviet system where the message of history is much more than the actual facts of history. In that sense it's not really his fault that he is the way he is, he was conditioned.

On another note, when I was 5, I remember seeing the news broadcast of the Russian tanks at the Lithuanian TV tower. I think it was live, but I may be wrong. And to this day I very strongly dislike most Hollywood action/horror movies(the latest awfulness that I didn't know would be like that was Watchmen. Awful, awful movie). Whenever possible I avoid them. Because I've seen a woman run over by a tank in real life, so what if it was several hundred kilometres away. At the time it felt like "this could be mommy".

Wahur ütles ...

It is obvious that Savisaar is not always wrong. If he was, he would not be in a position he is. It is just that we do not need our Estonian version of Chavez or Lukashenka. Sometimes i wonder what could Estonian politics actually look like if so much energy would not have to be spent on keeping potential Belarussian/Venezuelan/Moldavian scenario from happening.

guess who ütles ...

This is a very interesting topic you are writing about. Since you brought garbage bins up and obviously take an interest in the city, I want to tell you something about garbage bins. Right now the holes are too small on the garbage bins. They can only accommodate one person at a time. Who do you think designed them? Let me tell you and your readers a story. I wanted to throw away a kohuke wrapper the other day so I got in line and finally walked up to the head of the line. Excuse me, I said to the man standing there with his arm in the bin, and he hunched his shoulders defensively and rummaged deeper. Excuse me, sir, I said, I want to give you this potato. He turned around. I took out the raw potato I carry around in my pocket and presented to him. Then I said: now that I've given you this potato, what are you going to do for this city? He looked at me blankly, as if to say, "me?" I pursed my lips and shook my head slowly from side to side and almost asked him the question then and there, but then I said, don't worry about it. I want you to enjoy your potato now. Call me tomorrow. We need someone to keep seats warm on trams. I gave him my card. I turned to go, then drew up short and said, wait a second, I almost forgot. Then I gave him the kohuke wrapper to throw away.

This is what we are about. Giving people potatoes and work. You say you may have seen a sign claiming the Reform Party practices human sacrifice. Have you asked them? Maybe it is their sign. One thing is clear. I think too many people practice human sacrifice in Tallinn. You say you like Tallinn. I like Tallinn, too, but maybe for other reasons. I want to tell you a story. The thing I like most about Tallinn is its central square. If you've walked from the Viru Hotel to the Old Town, you've been there. That is my Tallinn. When you pass a kiosk, you should be able to see the back of the next kiosk. That's in our platform. This city needs people. We need more toilets and more kiosks. They need toilet attendants and toilet flushers. We need people to stand by the coin operated toilets and give you change, and that person needs an assistant. People to help you on the public transport. Different people to help you off public transport. People to keep seats warm on public transport. People to keep toilet seats warm on public transport. People need to eat sausages in parks and be able to excrete affordably. We don't run on petrodollars, contrary to what you claim. We run on potatoes, sausages and doing things for each other.

Brüno ütles ...

Russians do not invade anywhere. Way back in 2008, maybe, but certainly not now. Not never.

Yea right.

War is peace. Military of every country has to justify its existence now and then. So sometimes it is Georgia, sometimes it is ... "well sorry kuraty, but you did mess with our Aljosha, didn't you? ... Nothing personal, it's just business as usual. We still like Vana Tallinn."

Kristopher ütles ...

Russia invades countries 1) when the other side starts it 2) when they have a deep patriotic need to scour territory of fascists 3) want to be just like the US

If Estonia doesn't invade Russia, stays reasonably democratic and the US doesn't invade any more countries, it should be OK. I might have missed some reasons, though.

plasma-jack ütles ...

don't miss

Wahur ütles ...

Kris, in fact all it takes is:
1. Russia herself needs to be relatively free from other military problems. As long as Northern Caucasus keeps them busy we can feel quite safe. What was that talk about Estonian support for Georgia being unreasonable?
2. Will. As long as yearning for almighty derzhava is the basic instinct of Russian state, there is always a good motivation to take back lands lost. This will is always there, but any motivation for a small victorious war - new president who needs to prove his capability, economic crisis etc - will increase it.
3. Europe and US have to be sufficiently busy elsewhere so they would not be able to react within the timeframe that will be needed to finish the job - according to Russian calculations. So every time US starts some stupid war somewhere, we should be worried, very worried.

Lingüista ütles ...

Wahur, I'll rephrase my statement as you suggest to include a 4-5 year time frame.

But history really is hard to predict. It's true that wars happened when people thought it wasn't going to happen, but the same is true for peace. Case in point: the armies of the Warsaw Pact vs. NATO in Europe. During the whole Cold War, we were expecting there to be something... some little squirmish in East Berlin, and suddenly the Red Army would enter West Germany with tanks around Fulda, a big push towards Bonn... How many fictional accounts of such a war were written during the Cold War years?

Yet what nobody expected ended up happening instead: the Soviet Union collapsed.

Now, I see too many people worried about Russian invasions. I admit the possibility: given the right pretext, I'm sure it could happen. But I wonder if something less expected isn't again what's actually going to happen.

A.R.G ütles ...

Linguista wrote;
"Now, I see too many people worried about Russian invasions. I admit the possibility: given the right pretext, I'm sure it could happen. But I wonder if something less expected isn't again what's actually going to happen."

I got two words for you - Paranoia and Russophobia. That is it! Some people in Eastern Europe often base their opinions on irrational fear of Russians.

Why Baltic States and Poland are so fearful of Russia but Finland, Hungary, Slovakia are not? So I guess when Russians invade Poland, people in Slovakia, Hungary will safe because Poland was 'real' prize and not them. And Russians will not touch holly slavic state of Slovakia when we are pillaging neighboring state of Poland?

Vello ütles ...

First of all, great writing, Justin! (Change "pray" to "prey" before you send it to the NY Times Op Ed people.)

Second--and I almost feel off topic since there's so much talk about the coming Russian invasion--is what impresses me about the elections: That Centre is not only everywhere, but Reform is absolutely nowhere.

Paavo Pettai has done another bangup job running Centre's campaign. They've thought everything in the campaign through--when to drop the "Dirigent" magazine, the firewood and potato giveaways, how to use the city budget to legally promote the party with non-party ads, the pairing of celebrities with more experienced politicians on signs, plus, of course, the huge media buy with a confidently arrogant slogan ("Who else?").

And then there's Reform. A silly I-heart-whatever slogan, the world's f'ugliest yellow design, a slogan which any junior highschool student council candidate could have come up with ("Fresh energy"), all powered by a media budget of five Estonian kroons. It's as if Reform didn't even show up to play the game. They seem inept. Is this it? Or have they just not started?

And who's running Reform's campaign? Did Ansip hand it over to his grandchild for her second grade class to make a project of it?

This is like watching an unbalanced boxing match. Edgar and Andrus appear in different weight classes. And Andrus hasn't raised his gloves or thrown a punch--some pacifist thing?

Reform need to get themselves a Karl Rove, that's for sure.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Having been brutalized by Soviet terror (to a degree unimaginable in the West), it is very understandable that the Russian threat is always on the mind of Estonia, a collective nightmare up to Holocaust level (and it really was a holocaust that Estonia experienced in the bloody hands Stalin). Times have changed though - history very rarely repeats itself. Certainly it will be in the permanent Russian interest to secure a "friendly" Estonia, but I would think that even the primitive Kremlin mind has by now realized that Stalin is long dead and the power resides in economy, not territory. Not to speak of the fact that the West (particularly the EU) is rather a natural ally of Russia which has lots to worry about with its rapidly aging population and raw material dependent ineffecient economy, and with the potential (or actual) menaces on its endlessly long Southern and Far East borders...

Wahur ütles ...

A.R.G, paranoic you may call me if you will, but definitely not russophobe, having done business with them, climbing in mountains with them, having friends among them. Russiaphobe, yes, russophobe, no way.
And this fear is far from irrational. Baltic coast and Poland have been target of Russian expansion for last 700 years. Last victims of this are still alive and Russia has done very little, to ease these fears, rather opposite. Hungarian and Czhech territories were protected from such expansion, being parts of another powerful empire, so they definitely fear less. And yet you'll find very few Russia-loving people there (I wont even start on Finns opinion about Russia and Russians that is way worse than anything you encounter in Baltics).

Brüno ütles ...

One should put and end to russiophobia by starting austriaphobia.

Lingüista ütles ...

A.R.G., I have to agree with what Wahur and stockholm slender said: in view of their recent history, Eastern Europe's distrust of Russia is quite understandable, just as understandable as, say, Russia's distrust of the US.

I would even include countries like Hungary (1957 invasion) and Slovakia (part of Czechoslovakia in 1964). Both countries were quick to join NATO, and it wasn't because they were afraid of Islamic terrorists. As for Finland, I'm not sure they're not afraid of a Russian invasion; they just think (with their post-Winter War experience) that theirs is the best policy regardless. As stockholm slender said in the "teel" thread, even their 'russophile' president Paasikivi wrote in his diary that if the Soviets wanted more than Finland could reasonably give, he himself would take the rifle and go to the front however hopeless the battle would be. (Can anyone see Savisaar doing that?)

Is there real russophobia and paranoia? I think there is; you don't need to go to the "la russophobe" website, you can see it in other places. Is the current Russian foreign policy, plus their media, actually feeding this russophobia and making it look like they have a point? Sure it is.

The Russian media aren't being exactly polite and logical with respect to the Baltic states and their problems, A.R.G. Think of it: if you were a Balt, a Pole (, a Ukrainain, a Czech, a Romanian...), who knows Russian and can read the kinds of things that the Russian press writes about your country, wouldn't you feel at least a little bit russophobic?

Now, for myself, I don't think the risk of a Russian invasion is very big--there are other ways to pursue Russian interests. But I don't think those who are afraid of an invasion are "just crazy paranoids". I don't think they're exactly right--but they're not exactly wrong either. I don't expect an invasion, it would surprise me--but again, weirder things have happened.

Lingüista ütles ...

Vello, interesting question. Do you think Keskerakond has a good chance of winning, with all this well-thought-out propaganda? Isn't Savisaar's pro-Russian stance (his meeting with Borja and Kostja, as Giustino wrote in his post) enough to scare most of the Estonian Estonian voters?

Doesn't it often look as if, in politics, the bad guys always think do the better campaigns, and the good guys don't come up with good campaign material (because they're so busy being ethically correct)? I.e., even if they did have a Karl Rove, they wouldn't let him do his damnedest ('it isn't ethical!').

Pierce Bacchus ütles ...

"They've thought everything in the campaign through--when to drop the "Dirigent" magazine..."

More people would read that if they put Katrin Siska on the front cover instead of the inside back cover. Looking at Savisaar's face always makes me vomit a little in my mouth.

I did have to do a quick double take on the title. At first I thought it said "Belligerent."

Bea ütles ...

Well, Grybauskaitė in Lithuania was also left as the sole more or less solid-looking candidate to our presidents. You couldn't expect Lithuanians to vote for Tomaszewski or anyone else there... And I remembered Putin and Medvedev because of that.

Well, I know, Savisaar's looks make one vomit, that's not about it.

Brüno ütles ...

I really hope that Estonian leaders' collective lack of charisma tells us nothing about the character of a nation they are leading.

Lootus on aga lollide lohutus.

Lingüista ütles ...

Lootus on aga lollide lohutus... that sounds so Estonian/Scandinavian in spirit. Like a cue to a Bergman movie.

Are there any polls on current voter preferences in Estonia? Is Savisaar's strategy working for the Keskerakond?

Tymen Ferron ütles ...

@Stockholm Slender:

Aren't you exaggerating? What Stalin did to the Estonians is not comparable to the Holocaust. There where no gigantic massmurders, no intention of physically destroying the whole etnicity. Offcourse Stalin did many criminal things to the Estonian people and innocent people died, but not something like the Holocaust.
If you look for equivalents of the Holocaust, the things Stalin did to the Russian and Ukranian population are a much better example.

Lingüista ütles ...

Tymen, you don't need the Holocaust, or the Holodomor, to say that a people was brutalized. I think it's maybe a sign of the times that someone like you would apparently claim that a country would only have the right to claim to have suffered 'enough' if it had to endure a real Holocaust.

Nobody is comparing what happened in Estonia to the Holocaust. What happened there was simple, as Stockholm Slender put it: the country was brutalized in a way that the West isn't familiar with. This is true, and is also much less than the Holocaust. (So you can get an idea of exactly how bad the Holocaust was...)

Brüno ütles ...

No comments. http://images.orkut.com/orkut/photos/OgAAAJ6V8a-euU5HYeUyXLBJfNAFclkw7xviMZyKPwHCgxEikETbmLMKNL-UQ4S9yw49wEz2NQ9moHfwlszMASyFF2wAm1T1UOUSjj9tug0T-THGXeBVmUuv7pkZ.jpg

:-) :-)

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, considering that Estonia's population was 25% lower in 1945 than in 1939 (and that forced collectivization after the war drove additional tens of thousands out of country), considering that the country's political, economical and artistic elites were liquidated, considering that tens of thousands were murdered or deported like animals to Siberia (were tens of thousands perished, considering that Estonia's economy and cultural life were ruined, I would say that we are talking of a holocaust level event.

Finland had in 1939 3,5 million inhabitants - in the early 1990's we were ca 5,2 million. Estonia had ca 1 million inhabitants in 1939 and in the early 1990's it had ca 1 million inhabitants that were direct descendants of the 1939 population. If same things would have happened to Finland, we would be missing ca 2 million citizens (that would be replaced, and more than replaced by largely Russian speaking immigrants - Helsinki would likely be a majority Russian city). So, one can debate semantics but one can't debate whether this was an awful, unspeakable crime against humanity. It was.

Meelis ütles ...

"There where no gigantic massmurders"
About 78000 Estonian citizens were killed or died in the results of Stalinist repressions. This is 7 % of Estonia's pre-war population. Not at all small number.

Vello ütles ...

Lingüista:

I don't buy the good/bad demarcation of Centre/Reform. From what I've read and from what I've heard (some of it credible), I don't see Reform as a bunch of ethical angels who are above Rovian tactics. To play on Estonia's biggest stage requires money, and Reform needs it, too. President Ilves has called for attention to campaign finance reform and he's been brushed aside--our new state prokurator (sp?) is focused on what? Whether the VAT was pushed through too fast. The previous prokurator asked ugly questions about campaign finance. He's been replaced with someone more palatable to both major parties and he pursues relatively lightweight issues.

I don't necessarily think Edgar is pro-Russian. But he's definitely pro-money. But he's also pro-Estonian. Though he may have disagreed with others on tactics, he took personal risks for Estonian independence. So painting him as some Moscow stoolie is not quite fair.

Do I prefer Ansip over Edgar, yes. But not because I think Ansip is purer, but because I think his vision of Estonia is more akin to a place I want to live. Edgar is old school, is afraid of the West because he can't understand it (he speaks no English and seems extremely uncomfortable in the company of westerners).

I still wonder why Reform's campaign is so poorly planned. They have money and they're not idiots. So why do they allow Centre to dominate? Perhaps they think reason and reasonable Estonians will prevail. Maybe it/they will. But I can make a list of pensioners for you who are damned excited about free firewood. And I can make a list of pensioners' children who are damned excited that grandpa is getting actual potatoes, instead of the money advocated by Tartu's mayor (Reform, BTW), because the kids know grandpa would have spent the money on vodka.

And so many young Estonians still don't vote. So what good is being a reasonable Estonian if you don't exercise the privileges you have in a democracy?

Myst ütles ...

Vello, would you prefer it if the other parties also distributed potatoes? I wouldn't.

Leave populism to the populists. They'll get the vote of stupid, the ill-informed and the easily bribed, but the majority will make their choice from the other parties.

Also, I think it's a mistake to view Estonian politics simply as a contest between Reform and Kesk, Ansip and Savisaar, the "Yellow Center Party" and the "Green Center Party", as some would say..

And aren't young people poor voters everywhere?

Myst ütles ...

* They'll get the vote of the stupid, the ill-informed and the easily bribed...

nipi ütles ...

Vello, speaking about Bureshin and risks - it is still unknown, whom the August-putch organizers were keeping for leadership. Rüütel knows but hasn't said. I strongly feel that Edgar didn't took any risks. He just used his position, regardless on side. After some twenty years historians are comparing Simm and Bureshin. Two sides of same coin.