teisipäev, mai 23, 2006

At Postimees, It's All Pronkssõdur, All the Time!

What do you see when you look into the eyes of the Pronkssõdur ('bronze soldier') near the Estonian National Library in Tallinn?

Do you see the defiant look of the Red Army soldiers that drove Hitler's troops out of Pribaltika? Or do you see the manical laugh of the men who loaded your grandmother into a cattle car bound for Siberia? Or do you just see an ugly, bronze dude in a cape (how many soldiers back then wore capes? Come on!)

I regularly read Postimees, one of Estonia's daily national newspapers, and today has been Pronkssõdur day - the day where every leading news story is about what different important - and not so important - people in Estonia think about this guy.

One really important person who made his opinion clear today was Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, who told Eesti Radio that:

Kõige enam sümboliseerib see pronkssõdur seal okupatsiooni ja sellist ausammast okupatsioonile me Tallinna südalinnas Kaarli kiriku kõrval taluma ei peaks.

Basically, "the bronze soldier is a symbol of occupation that doesn't belong next to the Kaarli Church in the heart of Tallinn."

Ever the cautious public servant, Villu Reiljan told the newspaper that it wouldn't solve the problem to move the Bronze Soldier, which Ansip has recommended relocating to a cemetery.

Not one to miss an opportunity to get a few more votes from his base, Edgar Savisaar chimed in saying that the bronze soldier should stay where it is. But I had a hard time translating him without using a dictionary so we'll leave it at that.

Finally, President Arnold Rüütel decided that the best way to scuttle the controversy would be to bury it in red, or blue, black, and white tape. He believes that a commission should be set up to address the matter.

Other than Savisaar, Postimees found two organizations to disagree with Ansip - Vene Erakond Eestis and the Anti-Fascism Committee. VEE said that the Bronze Soldier memorial is a great place to come and put down flowers and honor ones grandfathers who won the war against fascism in World War II.

Sadly, in 2003, VEE only got 0.20 percent of the vote, or 990 votes in total. However, a spokesperson for the group said on ETV that removing the statue would not bode well for Ansip. One can only guess that VEE hopes to double its turn out in the 2007 election.

I think this debate will go on for a long time and never really cease in Estonian society. I mean look at the US. It's 2006 and we are still arguing about the Civil War!

21 kommentaari:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Same procedure, every year. O.k., it is stuff for the media. You don`t have to do any research about it and no investigation. Just throwing in your opinion.
Two weeks ago I've visit a huge Nazi compound in Germany from the 1930s. It is open to the public since January 2006. The Belgium Army left recently as a surprise. They also left the Nazi architecture and the remaining symbols of the Third Reich empire. Even the British were there after WWII. 'Vogelsang' castle is one of the biggest remaining Nazi architectures in Germany.

Giustino ütles ...

I actually can see Ansip's point. It's just annoying to have the statue there - it's a magnet for controversy, and the city has to guard it night and day and arrest whomever does whatever to it.

I can't think of one monument like that in New York. They are all mostly inoffensive.

Maybe it does make sense to move it someplace less prominent. For the majority of Estonians seeing Red flags waving in the center of their capital every May 9 is probably not the best feeling.

I mean the state did forcefully remove the Lihula statue because of similar controversy. Why not the bronze soldier as well?

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Reading the Russian media comments I'm also thinking about the same proposal now: Moving the monument to another location. It's probably the better solution. The situation now it's only about the stupid 'you are fascist' game.

Anonüümne ütles ...

I almost hate to say this but because we don't like something in our past it still is our history. Should we wipe out everything that is, in that particular moment, considered as not beeing nice? Well, to me it sounds just like the history they accepted in Stalinist U.S.S.R.

Kaur ütles ...

The statues in New York are not offensive because NY has not "changed hands" in the last few hundred years. If it had been occupied in turns by Confederacy and Union, things would be different.

I'd prefer the bronze soldier to stay where it is, as it is.

Eppppp ütles ...

I may sound oversentimental and not enough political or patriotic, but for me this statue is memorizing PEOPLE who were killed.
I would not move it. The situation will calm down soon.

Giustino ütles ...

The statues in New York are not offensive because NY has not "changed hands" in the last few hundred years.

You know, I'm not even sure where the big monuments are in New York. Most of the 'monuments' where I work are 'corporate art' - big geometric sculptures commissioned by businessmen.

I do know that a few blocks from here is Bowling Green, where there used to be a statue of King George III. But they tore that down about 230 years ago. Other than that, I'm not sure of any other controversial monuments...

Giustino ütles ...

this statue is memorizing PEOPLE who were killed.

Well it symbolizes the Soviet soldier, as opposed to the Soviet NKVD officer.

The best memorials would be to the metsavennad, because they were veterans of all the different armies - Russian, Finnish, and German.

You can't really argue with that.

Giustino ütles ...

War corrupts the human psyche. It is the most dangerous game. And some people still want to play that game - or at least toy with it.

The memorial is a lightning rod for those kinds of people. If this keeps up, there could be some serious violence there between those who want to protect the 'liberator' and those who want to blast it away.

The Great Patriotic War is really important for Russians. It is one of the few times they managed to collectively accomplish something.

On the other hand, for some people - old dissidents who were arrested by the KGB or sent to Siberia - you can understand why they don't like seeing the red flag in central Tallinn every May 9.

And who do you side with if you are a politician? Ansip did a smart thing by getting out of Tallinn and going to Helsinki yesterday.

But the smartest politician of them all is Rüütel who wants to bury the issue in a commission.

"Quiet down my hot-blooded young sons," says Rüütel. "This is a job for bureaucracy."

Anonüümne ütles ...

this statue is memorizing PEOPLE who were killed.

Well... yes, the plates on the monument say “to those who died in World War II” (that is of course since year 2000 – before that, it was something about Red Army and Great Patriotic War...)
Oh and its original predecessor (made of wood) was dedicated to the “great victory” and “liberation” of Tallinn… It was blown up in 1946 by two Estonian schoolgirls (15-year-old Ageeda Paavel and 14-year-old Aili Jõgi) who received the maximum sentence and were sent to prison camp in Siberia...
And even today the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls it the “statue of the soldier-liberator”.

Make no mistake about it – people who go there do not mourn – they celebrate, it’s a party(-pidu-prazdnik) and it really doesn't matter what the plates say. They celebrate together with “professional anti-Estonian” Dmitri Klenski and the leaders of “internatsid” (don’t know the English translation) – agitators who worked against the Estonian independence and attacked the Parliament of Estonia in 1990. They celebrate waving Russian/Soviet flag...

And when there is some room for discussion on the May 9th celebrations (I mean the “red terror” after all beat the “brown terror”), don’t forget that you can see the same faces there on the 22nd of September celebrating the “liberation” of Tallinn… That is when I feel... I can’t even describe how.
How do you feel about it (or do you feel anything at all), Epp and Kaur...

On the 22nd of September 1944 the three-day-old Estonian Government was crushed (half of the Members of the Cabinet were shot dead or died at prison camps), Estonian national flag from the tower of Pikk Hermann was shot down with machine-gun, hospital ship “Moreo” under Red Cross was sunk by the Soviet Air Force – over 2000 woman, children and wounded soldiers dead. A half century of deportations, oppression, Russification to follow...

Personally I think it’s hard to find people more tolerant than Estonians and Latvians - our ridiculously low requirements applying for citizenship, mollycoddling Russian language and so on. All of this has led to the situation at hand – many of the people living here don’t understand that they’re in Estonia and not just some part of the “big happy family” of USSR which for some unknown reason started to use funny news flag...
I have a feeling that recent celebrations on the 9th of May finally broke the patience of Estonians. It was a real eye-opener for many seeing people attacking the Estonain flag and shouting insults at Estonia.

Don’t get me wrong. I have many Russian friends who all respect Estonia and its history, it’s the “homo sovieticus” (or “tibla” in Estonain) that don’t get along with Estonia and Estonians.

Ah, aitab kah vist.
Pikk jutt - sitt jutt, nagu ütlesid vanad eestlased.

Giustino ütles ...

It was blown up in 1946 by two Estonian schoolgirls (15-year-old Ageeda Paavel and 14-year-old Aili Jõgi) who received the maximum sentence and were sent to prison camp in Siberia...

They should build a monument to those girls...Seriously.

Why no monument for them, right in that spot? How could anyone argue with that? How could any foreign ministry say that it was a monument to Nazis?

That's the kind of activity people should venerate.

I also feel like something has changed with regards to the monument - perhaps it is as Oliver said, that "patience" has been lost.

I am an American and I became aware of the world during the peak of the last Cold War years. Most Americans either find the Soviet flag loathsome or kitschy because it belongs to a country that is dead.

However, we do get really put off when we see it held aloft and venerated by people. To us the hammer and sickle and swastika aren't that different.

And apparently to some others, they aren't mutually exclusive. I know a guy in Moscow (he works for Yabloko) who said that it is not uncommon for National Bolsheviks and Neo-Nazis to collaborate.

But anyway, I am deeply biased, more than I ever thought I was. I mean I thought that this stuff died 15 years ago. But to see it resuscitated really troubles my worldview...

Anonüümne ütles ...

I am a German and I live in Tallinn together with my native-russian speaking girlfriend...First of all, because of the above mentioned "international constellation between people" your sentence "To us the hammer and sickle and swastika aren't that different.", well, you shouldn't say that, please think about it...About the statue, guys, open your eyes, the native-russian speaking minority here (and please forget that estonian and russian stigmatization) is just trying to keep their identity, most of them wont live in Russia or in former ussr times/conditions...most of them feel themself as estonians because they were born here, they got their education here and they work here, they live together with "native" estonians...and does a minority not have the right to stand for their rights, their identity, isn't that not all about democracy??? Wasn't it the US where the latines went on the street to demonstrate for their rights, for their rights as an accepted, respected and equal treated minority...Well, the statue is dedicated to the red army soldiers which fought against nazi-germany and among the red army forces were also estonians as well as germans, latvians, hungarians etc...I mean the statue is part of the estonian history as well as the danish flag in the old town, as well as the large finnish and german influence. And the only reason why no estonian is demonstrating against the danish/finish/german leftover items is just that those nations are not so present as the (living)russian part of the estonian history...Get over it guys, accept the history and live and learn from the history and don't let yourself provoke by cold stone (resp bronze)

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Why beeing anonymus? It is a good comment. I have a different pespectivce or point of view, but like to read your opinion.

Anonüümne ütles ...

To demount the monument is not the solution, is not the end of any protest.
But it would be the beginning of the end of integration in Estonia. After that no Estonian politician can claim from the so called Russian part of Estonia any steps in direction participation, common sense or 'real EStonian culture'.
And don't forget: One of the most active persons against the bronze soldier is Tiit Madisson - the guy who brought the SS-monument to Lihula.
It is a shame, that Ansip and Rüütel cover him and speak with the same tongue.

Tony ütles ...

I am a first generation American whose family escaped communism from Hungary and Lithuania. To call the Soviets liberators, is ludicrous. They were invaders and occupiers for over 45 years and the only liberation they did was to steal the property and livelihood of my parents and grandparents, some of whom spent time in the Gulag for the notorious crime of advocating in liberty and democracy. My take on this...


Giustino ütles ...

"To us the hammer and sickle and swastika aren't that different.", well, you shouldn't say that, please think about it...

The Soviet Union murdered most of the Estonian government in 1941 and 1942.

They shot them in the head, or put them into prison camps where they died.

As an Estonian government official today, how would you feel about a monument to the men that did that to your predecessors?

Why would the Estonian President or Estonian Prime Minister coddle a memorial to the men that helped kill their predecessors?

The Nazis never successfully set up Ostland. They never wiped out the population of the Baltic States. But the USSR came pretty close to doing just that, albeit in another manner.

Is it the ends or the means that distinguish the actions of people?

Just because the USSR used gulags and secret executions instead of gas chambers and conveyer belts - if the end result is the same, then how are the actors different?

These are big questions.

Giustino ütles ...

All what I wanted to point out is that the conflict about the statue is an expression of failed integration, of native-russian speaking people, into Estonia's society... and frankly speaking...it suck's to see that

Integration is denial of former nationality.

Many of my forefathers were Italian. Yet nobody in current generations can speak Italian.

That happened through a conscious effort by my forefathers to stop being Italian. My grandfather forbid the use of Italian in his home.

He was painfully aware of how he was different, and I should remind you that New York absorbed most of the Italian immigrants to the US.

We could have our own subculture now speaking Italian only. I believe something like 20+ percent of New Yorkers are of Italian descent.

But we don't. Because people like my grandfather decided to become Americans. His children were not Italians. They couldn't speak Italian. They knew about Italian culture and food, but he took the initiative to integrate his family.

The "regular" Americans decided that if he spoke English and celebrated the Fourth of July, well - that was enough in their books to allow Italians into the mainstream culture.

But the burden was always on the immigrant. Not on the state. The state just collects taxes and funds education and paves roads. It takes the initiative of immigrants themselves to integrate, along with the tolerance and acceptance of the majority.

Giustino ütles ...

the thing about the statue is just that I can understand both parties...

The thing is that sometimes a symbol means different things to different people.

To Russian-Estonians it's a symbol of their national triumph over the German invasion.

To many ethnic Estonians, it's a symbol of the guys who liquidated their state.

Seeing the Communist flag unfurled in central Tallinn is deeply offensive to perhaps the majority of the country.

But in a democracy you are allowed to offend people in public spaces. However, you must be prepared to deal with a backlash - in the media, in the form of protests - if people wish to respond to your statement.

Giustino ütles ...

...I hope I could make my opinion clear...

I understand what you are saying. I am not particularly fond of my grandfather's decision. I wish I knew Italian.

The Russian-Estonian community is a mystery to me. I wish more Russian-Estonians would post here so I could hear more of what they have to say.

I'll say this: when Russians come to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn they feel as if they have stepped back in time to the 1980s, because that is when the bulk of immigrants came over here.

Sometimes when I am in Estonia, I feel like parts of the Russian community also have those traits of the diaspora. Some are stuck in a time period that is long passed.

It's like the Estonian-Americans in the US. For them the occupation is an even bigger deal. It's part of their family narrative. The Estonian House in NYC doesn't have a picture of Lennart meri on the wall. It has a portrait of Konstantin Päts.

Even Italian-Americans are far more conservative than REAL Italians, because we still have hand me down family rules from the 1910s and 20s - when our families came over.

I bet genuine Italians would find Italian-American culture less forgiving.

Dodo ütles ...

We all are just puppets in hands of Russias election campaign as usual http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article2422661.ece

Dodo ütles ...

how it started http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D04ptK8HZas