reede, november 30, 2007


In case you didn't realize it, we are now entering the season of anniversaries -- the 90th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, the 90th anniversary of the Estonian manifesto of independence, the 90th anniversary of the War of Independence, the 90th of this, and the 90th of that.

Yesterday while in Tallinn I watched the children's program Lastekraan, and who should be on hand but Indrek Tarand, a historian involved in the Laidoner Museum in Tallinn, who was showing "Anni" -- played by Maria Soomets -- photos from the Estonian War of Independence.

There were grainy black and white photos of tanks and guys in trenches with guns and cannon. I actually hadn't seen so many images of the Estonian Independence War assembled in one place before. "Oi," blushed "Anni", reminding the viewers at home about the birth of the Estonian state. It seemed in a way so surreal to think that here were are in Tallinn, Estonia's city of fashionable haircuts, gushing over the deeds of 1918 some 90 years later.

But I was recently reminded of that conflict after a link at the incredibly idiotic website of Night Watch in Estonia -- which was trying to prove that those who were deported in the 1940s deserved it -- pointed me to a resource where I found the files of two of my children's great- great-grandfathers:

TULEV, Aleksander, Simeon s. 1898 Kirovi obl. Aleksandrovi raj. Nolinsk, arr. 30.01.46 Tartumaa Elva v., trib. 23.07.46 §58-1a, 10+5. [ük]

LAANEMAA, Martin, Mart s. 1898 Läänemaa Varbla v., eluk. sama, arr. 04.08.48, trib. 30.10.48 §58-1a, 25+5, 23.07.56 väh. ärak., vab. 1956, surn. peale vab. 1968. [ük]

Both of these men were arrested during the Soviet occupation for one reason: they fought in the Estonian War of Independence. Tulev's crime was that he was in the white Russian army of Nikolai Yudenich. For that 'crime' he received a sentence of 10+5. Martin's sentence was harsher. He was an Estonian Independence War veteran and he owned land. A big no no. So he got 25+5. Both were released after the death of Stalin and, sadly, both on occasion found peace in the bottle in the years to follow.

I wonder what they would say during these grand anniversaries. What would be their speech at the presidential gala in Pärnu in February. I can imagine Martin saying something to the effect of, "hey, they promised me land. How could I resist?" And Aleksander might say something like, "one day I was mobilized, the next day I was stuck in Elva for the rest of my life -- what gives?"

These are the heroes we commemorate. In some ways they seem so distant and foreign to us in the world of blogs. Yet in other ways, I am sure, we share a lot in common.

6 kommentaari:

Ly Kesse ütles ...

I have lived with some of those photos my whole life. That was an era that was within living memory when I was growing up, and at that time, Vaba Eesti was gone with the wind.

My grandfather fought in the Estonian War of Independence. While I did not meet him (he died hiding from the Russians), my grandmother was integral to my childhood. She would tell me stories about her youth and show me pictures.

So no, I don't feel it's a world apart. In a very intimate way, it is very connected to my childhood.

Alex ütles ...

I wonder what they would say during these grand anniversaries. What would be their speech at the presidential gala in Pärnu in February.

I think you'll find a lot of Estonians that don't actually know what happened to their family members who were abducted during the occupation period or why, so it would be harder to guess.

What would my grandfather say? "Spare them the knowledge of my fate and let them live in peace."

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

My grandfather left Estonia 1939 already by the advice of General Laidoner himself. Because of this (why 1939 already?) I've visited the Museum this year but cause of the new restructoring I have to wait to get more information.
He was enlisted in 1918 to the Estonian Army after he was officer in the Russian army until 1917 and avoided the recruiting in Tartu through the "Reds". He tried not to show off his Russian army officer's status to his comrades but some outed him. He did not want but the Estonian Army needed officers. Later he served on several armoured trains leading a group of infantry. The most dangerous battle was a clash with a Soviet armoured train near Pscov.
1939 it was obvisous that officers were in great danger. He left Estonia with his family in his 40s. Other officers who stayed were later murdered. There was no military response against the Soviet occupation. But the Finns did. I guess the survival ratio of officers in Finland is much higher there.
Later my grandfather ended up in the GDR, he did not want to move anymore. The consequenze: He had to hide his background the rest of the other 30 years of his entire life. While my grandmother was teaching Russian luanguage to (East)German students.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Ah, I forgot. The soviet stupidity continued. The GDR officals viewed my grandfather as Baltic German what he was not, he was bourgois in their eyes, so his son could not study what he wished to do at university, but since generations they were scientists, my mother compromised with the system but she was not into politcs at all. To study chemistry they had to master a test about soviet history and so on. She did not pass the test. Later she escaped the GDR, her sister went to West Berlin. Since then the family was divided into East and West until unification.
My grandfather thought that his Estonia is lost, he never traveled there again. But on his visits to the West, retired people could do, he was eager to get the information he needed about the Cold War and that he could not get back in the GDR.

Kristopher ütles ...

In NY state ha detto...
I have lived with some of those photos my whole life.

Speaking as an Estonian American, I would say that two things that people around us (ordinary Americans) never dug was just how heroic the events of 90 years ago were. It's up there with the "Greatest Generation" in World War II. Even in my most moral relativist and cynical periods (which alas persist at times), I never questioned the motives of the people who fought for Estonia's independence in either 1918-20 ot 1941-1978.

The other thing is -- how bad the atrocities were in the Stalin era. I remember ESTO '84 in Toronto and walking into a subfestival -- which I thought would be ethnography but turned out to be an exhibition of oil paintings from Siberia. Women's breasts cut off, people in boiling oil. Disturbing -- in the way that realist oil paintings can be even more verite than photographs. A heavy weight for a kid to bear, but there were other emigre kids walking around. And they'd probably go see the folk dancing later that evening.