teisipäev, oktoober 18, 2005

Alexander Yakovlev (1923 - 2005)

Most large nations are guilty of crimes against humanity. Supporters of these crimes will largely brush them off, too falsely patriotic and in denial to take responsibility for actions that were beyond wrong. But it takes an especially brave individual, particularly in a place like the USSR used to be, to come forward and acknowledge those historical sins and seek in some way to ameliorate their consequences.
Alexander Yakovlev, a senior adviser to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev who died today, is often credited as being the "Godfather of Glasnost and Perestroika." In charge of ideology he introduced an openness that eventually led to the dissolution of the USSR.
Of importance to this blog, he initiated the exposure of the 1939 Soviet secret pact with Nazi Germany, or Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, that paved the way to the Soviet annexation of the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The acknowledgement of the occupation of the Baltics alone would cost Yakovlev his head in the Kremlin today, let alone 20 years ago. But he did it, and he didn't do it as an outsider. He fought in the Soviet Army in World War II, and spent his life climbing the ranks of the Communist Party. But in the end he decided that truth was more important than dogma. Maybe it was the decade he spent as envoy to Canada in 1973 - 1983. But somewhere along the line, he made a brave decision.
One thing I regret and admire about my country is our willingness to deal with the past. I must say that I was very pleased when President Clinton invited the victims of the Tuskegee Syphillis Study to the White House in 1997 and apologized to them on behalf of the American people. I felt the same way about when Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush agreed to pay economic redress to Japanese-Americans who were relocated to internment camps during World War II. The government of Estonia has made similar gestures recently, opening a Holocaust memorial in Klooga to those that died in the concentration camps there in WWII and condemning the actions of Estonians that took part in those camps.
Still, sadly, I feel my country, and many others still have much to 'fess up for. Guys like Yakovlev, though, did the right thing. Perhaps the current occupants of the Kremlin could learn a thing or two from the older generation.

esmaspäev, oktoober 17, 2005


Well the liars at ITAR TASS - the mouthpiece of the Russian foreign ministry - are back at it again. In the past week they've repeated the same numbers as in today's press release on the municipal elections...

Over 20 percent of Estonia’s permanent population (260,000 people) do not have Estonian citizenship. An overwhelming majority of them are Russians.

Over 100,000 permanent residents of Estonia are Russian citizens.

That's not true. In a recent statement by the foreign ministry, it was stated that as of this summer 9.8 percent of Estonian residents lack citizenship. 6 percent have Russian citizenship. What's 6 percent of 1.35 million? 81,000.
Where does ITAR TASS come up with thier bogus information? Do they just make it up.

God, I wish there was a news service that could counter that garbage passed on as "real time news" that is circulated around the globe as having any merit of truth. But until then we'll just have to live with the liars.

pühapäev, oktoober 16, 2005

Clever Ants

If you spend enough time in Estonia, eventually you will learn the tale of Kaval-Ants, or "Clever Ants." Ants is a character of folklore that is supposed to reveal something about the Estonian character. Unlike Kalevipoeg, who most agree was something of a knavish jerk, Ants is still held in some regard. I never read the take on him, but I understand that he was something of a slave who always managed to play dueling masters off one another all the while filling his pockets as he watched the idiots squabble away.
In the 19th Century, such masters may have been the Baltic Germans and the Russian Czar. These days, however, Kaval Ants has his hands full trying to tiptoe around the...Germans...and Russians. Or Moscow and Brussels. Take your pick.

Take this story that just ran in some marginal non-native-English online webjournal "Axis News" entitled "Municipal elections in Estonia VALIMISED 2005:
Brussels Will Force Tallinn to Speak Russian" containing this gem:

The management of the European Union carries out active secret work on support of those political forces in Estonia, which agree to mitigation of a position concerning Moscow and the Russian-speaking population of the country.

The text gives background on the municipal elections and only provides the following "fact" to back up its claim.

Brussels decided that the municipal elections in this country can be used for support of those political forces which will agree on mitigation of positions concerning Moscow, and also concerning Russian-speaking minority of Estonia (including recognition of Russian as the second official language in the country). According to the information received by the author from several European diplomats the contacts on this issue between the representatives of the European Community and leading Estonian political forces took place recently.

Unfortunately, to date there are no mainstream Estonian parties that are willing to establish Russian as a second official language. Not even Keskerakond, which has distanced itself from Dmistri Klenski, a local politician who wants to make Russian the second official language of Tallinn, and not Isamaalit, Reformierakond, or any of the other parties. So who these Eurocrats met with to appease Russia is beyond me. The only one i can think of is Keskerakond's Edgar Savisaar, who is looking to assume the mayorship of Tallinn as soon as possible. He certainly is clever. But would Keskerakond ever recuperate if he did?

But that brings us to another, clearer point. What business does Brussels or Moscow have in telling Estonia how to run its country? Perhaps Brussels can make some requests, as Estonia is an EU member state. But Russia has no jurisdiction over Estonia. It has recognized its independence since 1991. And it has no right to A) tell it what kind of monuments it can erect B) tell it what kind of citizenship laws it must enact and C) Tell it what its official languages should be.
Somewhere in this mess there must be a Clever Ants waiting to spring to the forefront to manipulate Mommy Germany and Daddy Russia in order to get out of this mess.
Estonia joined the EU and NATO, this is true. But it will always be the safe keeper of its own sovereignty, and right now it is up to Estonia to pick both of their pockets as neither can be trusted.
The Western Europeans just want cheap oil. The Russian mafia, I mean government, just wants to feel powerful again, especially when they can't raise their own submarines or put down the Chechens. And in the middle, once again, is Kaval Ants.
I know the Estonian government possesses some great intellectual faculty. Estonians, as a whole, seem like pretty well-read, well-versed people. I hope that those in charge can marshall some cunning to get out of the way of the Brussels-Moscow collision.

teisipäev, oktoober 11, 2005

Vana Andrus

As you may have noticed, there is always some kind of tension between the Russian Federation and the Estonian Republic.

Today, living piece of human garbage and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said
“Latvia and Estonia are clearly stifling the Russian language, and the situation requires tight contacts between Russia and EU in solving that problem.”

Look, I have only been in Latvia for one day in my life. But in Estonia, no, the situation doesn't require tight contacts between the EU and Russia. Because Russia has no jurisdiction over the majority of Russian-speakers in Estonia. Some 6 percent of the 25 percent of Estonia's 1.3 million population that are of Russian heritage are indeed Russian citizens. Another 9 percent, or more, are citizens of the Estonian Republic. The remaining 9 percent have yet to decide which citizenship they wish to obtain.

That means that Russia only has the right to speak on behalf of those 6 percent that have decided that they will be Russian citizens and stay in Estonia. Everyone else is represented by the Estonian state. So, like, butt out, dicks.

More good news from the warm-hearted, fun-loving, Vodka-endorsing nation of invaders to the East came from Sergei Yastrzhembsky, aide to Putin, who said:

"Moscow has taken many steps to accommodate the interests of Tallinn and Riga. Now it is their turn to start the search for a way out of the stalemate,” Yastrzhembsky said. “Russia will be prepared to resume discussions, but only when it sees the readiness to reciprocate.”

In times like these, one may pine for some kind of hard-headed history professor to step up to the challenge and make Lavrov wish he'd never been born. But instead we have the man in the gray flannel suit, Estonian Prime Minsiter Andrus Ansip, who said in the past few weeks that Estonia 1) is giving up its claims to financial compensation from the RF, and 2) No apologies are necessary for murdering the entire Estonian government in 1940.

"I cannot speak for the future, but we have no claims today," he said. "No people, no country can live in the past. We should move on quickly rather than lay claims."

RIA Novosti quoted him as saying, followed by:

"We do not want Russia to apologize, because apologies should be sincere, and if not, then its better not to apologize at all."

How polite. Some people think that Estonia deserves a charismatic leader like Lennart Meri again. But maybe Ansip, who took over the reins from the cock-headed and clueless Juhan Parts after Res Publika crashed last March, is the right guy for the job.

His job isn't major economic reform. Although he is from the Reform Party, the party is actually the status quo party, with less shadowy connections than the most popular party - the Center Party - which is the party that promises much, but has yet to deliver.

What may make the Ansip government last until 2007, the time of the next scheduled parliamentary elections, could be Ansip's stern, emotionless, wholly unsexy demeanor afterall. Unlike the other politicos in Estland, he seems to be the least about himself. Maybe that can make his government succeed where the others have failed.

kolmapäev, oktoober 05, 2005

Meie Arnold

Well it looks like grown-up Estonian President Arnold Rüütel is trying to sort things out amongst the spoiled, younger political elite of his country and the one adjacent to it with regard to the border treaty.

"Meie Arnold" told RIA Novosti yesterday that he believes that "[Estonia and Russia] should hold a high-level discussion [of the issue] to find a solution, to cut this Gordian knot."

"It is an issue of international relations for both countries, and respective foreign ministries should start negotiations to get out of the deadlock," he added.

The border treaty, long-awaited, was signed in Moscow in May, but Russia withdrew its signature after Estonia ratified it adding a preamble which indirectly mentioned the Soviet occupation.

While the Estonian side is (of course) correct in their reading of the law - that they have not added new components to the treaty and they have no territorial claims - it may make sense to wakeu and realize that Russia is not a European country. It's an Asian country, like China. It's not logical, it doesn't care what the laws says, it just likes being a dick to its neighbors so it can encourage faith by its own citizens in its current government.

So, really, if you need a border treaty, then just get a border treaty. The rhetorical points have already been scored. Every history book published outside of Russia describes the Soviet occupation and annexation of the Baltics. So, really, why bother.

Arnold may be an Old Communist, but at least he's not chomping at the bit - like Putin or Margelov or Laar and others - for heavy duty rhetorical combat. Instead of writing history books, he enjoys the tend to his garden in Saaremaa. Hopefully the old compromiser can end this issue.


teisipäev, oktoober 04, 2005

Like...OK, Already

Far away, on another corner of the Internet in a foreign language, my wife the blogger is revealing to Estonians everywhere the secrets of our life. From laptops in Võrumaa and rowboats on Naissaar, Estonians can read about my latest smelly fart, my caffeine-fueled New York anxiety, the romantic perils of my older brother.

What can I say about full disclosure? If it makes interesting reading than so be it. But it doesn't help knowing it is being read by the most judgemental people in the world.

Look, who am I to judge? I'm just an overweight, lazy American. But really, I am, somewhat troubled by Estonian pigheadedness. It's what is slowing down their government with all these frivolous, symbolic resignations and political pussyfooting.

And where does my daughter fit into that mix? Torn between a nation of vehement anti-intellectuals and self-styled know-it-alls? Right now she seems to be interested in Elmo, but which side will she come down on?

One place where our cultures have been rubbing has been the topic of the future.
Last time I checked I was nearly 26 years old and had little interest in real estate. But then again, last time I checked my wife was 31 and was thinking about what color to paint her house.

Still near my sexual peak, my interests in real estate are nil. I have yet to experience the dramatic drop in testosterone levels that leaves men in their 30s pining for trips to Pottery Barn and jumping at the sight of a color wheel. "Oh Joy - A Color Wheel!"

Not me, no sir. Not yet. Why is it that when I hear the words "buy a house" it scares the living shit out of me. I imagine myself chained to the home, toiling day after day, painting and painting, sawing and sawing, doing everything and passing out at night, only to awake to a leaky roof spitting on my forehead. Not to mention my wife pointing out everything I've done wrong after I've done it. Could it be? Could it have only taken me 26 years to become my father? Doesn't it usually take like 40 years?

But that's the Estonian man's so called ideal. To build his own home. To spend all his free time hammering away, slugging down õlut and hammering away again. And, like it or not, that's the trip I signed up for.

It could be worse. I could be married to a "Keepin' Up With the Joneses" American. The type that expects an X-pensive wedding ban and desires three or four wedding showers. That would really be a nightmare.*shudder*

Whatever, all I can say is that I am a bit ambivalent about the future but a little tired with the present. Who knows. Whatever whatever and whatever, amen.