teisipäev, aprill 03, 2007

The sad death of Estonian communism

The other day I finally made my trip to the Museum of Occupations in Tallinn. It costs 10 kroons to get inside, and it wasn't that unfamiliar to me since I have watched all the key films at www.okupatsioon.ee.

I know that I was supposed to come away with the joys of the Singing Revolution ringing in my ears, but instead I was haunted by the faces of the gentlemen and women of the June coup that cast Estonia into 50 years of being, quite literally, on Moscow time.

To me that fact alone -- that Estonian clocks were switched to Moscow time in 1940 -- sums up Stalinism. The reality that the Sun enlightened the territory of Estonia and Finland, and all the countries down to South Africa, at the same time, was but a mere detail in the worker's paradise. It was 7 am in Helsinki, Finland but 8 am in Tallinn, Wonderland.

The great dark spot on Estonian history is purported to be the willingness of some of its residents to do Berlin's dirty work in the 1940s. But I find the actions of Estonia's communists to be a tad darker. Why? Because the SS men followed orders under an occupation regime. But the communists of the 1924 coup attempt and the 1940 coup? They were not boys of 18 in German uniforms. They were grown, educated men that thought they knew what was better for everyone else. Communism could not win in a popularity contest, so it had to be enforced from above, for 'the public good' as defined by intellectuals.

But despite this I only feel pity for them and that vein of thought in Estonia. Because even though communism flourished at the official level from the 1950s through the 1980s, the truth is that it died a pretty brutal death in the Second World War. At least half of the June communists didn't live to see the end of the war in Estonia. And what has been their legacy -- Estonia is surrounded by countries where the left has traditionally been strong like Sweden and Finland, yet today's Social Democrats' coalition partners are the Milton Friedman-inspired Reform Party and a party whose name translates to 'father land'.

From what I can tell the June communists never regained the power they had in 1940. Most of the cabinet ministers that survived the war died quiet deaths in academia. Others found themselves imprisoned by the NKVD. Fighting and losing is one thing. Inviting the wolf into your house and telling him to make himself at home is quite another.

I wonder what kind of country Estonia would have been if it had kept the Stalinists out. It probably would have gone down the social democrat route instead, but as it is, the Estonian left is marginal and dead, and who to thank? Estonia's June communists.

5 kommentaari:

Anonüümne ütles ...

Well then - thank you June communists! ;-)

Seriously though, and leaving aside the history, I think SDE gets too much stick from the left for their part in the current coalition. It should be understood, in my opinion, that the current Estonian political scene is not so much divided along the lines of right and left, as it is along the lines of sensible and populist. The current government coalition happens to be sensible, and it is not strange for SDE to be part of it.

Anonüümne ütles ...

i can't help but to agree. they were intelligent and educated and wanted the best for their people. unfortunately they were too gullible. a sad sad thing, a true waste of talent.
ant then again i can't help but to agree with the political divison by kristjan.

antyx ütles ...

From what I can tell the June communists never regained the power they had in 1940.

It was quite typical of Stalin to purge the top ranks in any given area once a master plan had been completed. Some people are good at taking control, others are good at keeping control. A practical approach, if not for the fact that a lot of people got a lead bullet instead of a gold watch.

antyx ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
stockholm slender ütles ...

I believe that actually most Estonian communists alive in 1939 were in Estonian prisons. Stalin had dealt with the others... The June government has in Finnish historiography at least a progressive-socialist tilt - most of them probably were aiming to save whatever was possible from the wreckage but that turned out to be nightmarishly little: the whole bloody story was dictated from Moscow.