esmaspäev, mai 31, 2010


I just spent a week in Ireland and though I have but one Irish grandmother, I did feel comfortable with the country, some familiarity with its people.

Even if we did not look the same, they did seem to be relatives of some kind. There was some intimacy there, some immediacy to the Irish. And then I took two planes and landed back in Eesti.

As soon as I arrived, I knew that I was not of this place. When I sat among Estonian passengers on the flight back to the mosquito coast, when I chatted up the cab driver on the ride back to my home, I knew the language, the surroundings well, but felt intrinsically that these people were nemad, them, and I also knew that I was not like them, even if I am married to one of them, and even if my daughters are two of them. To be a bit more specific -- this doesn't mean that I look down or up at them; I merely acknowledge their difference. And I started to wonder about these instinctive ideas of us and them and what roles they play in today's Europe.

While Estonians are them to me, I started to wonder if they were meie, "us," to others. And who were these others. Estonians are foreign to Italians, foreign to Irish. But to Swedes and Finns? Even if they care not to advertise, it's hard for those who have come here and spent time among the Estonians to look at the locals and not feel a familiarity with the place. For Finns, this is perhaps the only place in Europe outside of their homeland where they can speak their native tongue and be kind of understood. And how about the Germans, who come expecting little Russia and wind up feeling like they've come across some Twilight Zone version of Schleswig-Holstein? Indeed, for a lot of northern Europeans, Estonians are "one of us," and this sense of kinship may have played a subtle role in the fate of Estonia.

I recall how then Latvian Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins at the Lennart Meri Conference a few years ago remarked that any application by Iceland or Norway for European Union membership would likely be fast tracked, while interest from Georgia or Ukraine for European integration would always be looked upon officially with polite openness, but privately with intense skepticism. I have to ask, was it really geopolitics, or was it something else that drove such attitudes? Is Europeanness more than just democracy, rule of law, and historical coincidence? Or does it have to do with German lawmakers meeting their Estonian counterparts and coming away feeling that the Estonians are a chip off the old block? Is it really possible for Nordic decision makers to look at, say, the Icelanders and the Georgians the same way? Is it possible for them to construct the Georgians as an "us" and keep the Icelanders as a "them"?

Of course, the Estonians share kinship with the Russians too, but it's a precarious relationship given the status of Finno-Ugric minorities in the Russian Federation. Russians can appeal to common Finno-Ugric roots, but the Estonians feel a tinge of sadness, for in their eyes, the Russians with a Finno-Ugric past have lost the one thing that continues to define the Estonians' image of themselves as a separate nation: the language. So there will be no warm embrace. Yet again, kinship plays a role. And this is not just information gleaned from some ethnology course. This is the process of looking at someone, spending time in their company, and deciding that, by some stretch of the imagination, they are family.

But for me, as close as I get to the Estonians, I still know that we are different. I know that they are, to put it simply, a them. I wonder though how foreigners with Estonian roots feel when their plane touches down in Eesti. Do they feel like they have landed in a foreign country? Or do they feel that they have finally arrived home?

71 kommentaari:

Colm ütles ...

It's nice that you enjoyed your trip to Ireland. Pity that you don't feel at home here after many years.

Giustino ütles ...

It's not so much about a feeling of "home"; it's about familiarity. I mean, I have spent some time in Finland too. But to look at Tarja Halonen and feel like she could be your mom? That's a whole other question. Think about it, Colm. Envision Andrus Ansip as your dad. Now you will get closer to what I am trying to say.

LPR ütles ...

Though born and raised on a Mosquito Coast, a few swamps over to the inland side, I still feel alien among these people. If fact, I always did. So I do not see anything unusual in your observations, they are mine as well. Would that mean that I feel more connected to Irish or some other nationality? Nope. I feel connected to certain souls, certain other islands. Every man being an island, thats what we all are.

luuletaja ütles ...

there was a moment when I, "pure" Estonian walked around in your current hometown and felt myself as a stranger in a strange land. I went away, and came back, and now, while it might not be Home, is something close to a permanent camp. I know the place, and the place has an idea about me, and we are ok with it. I cant imagine Andrus Ansip as a father figure as well but is it really important, aren't there subgroups you can identify with, make it YOUR Estonia and one where you feel instantly cozy, without identity questions.

Giustino ütles ...

It's not a problem, just an observation. Like when I meet a Finnish kid whose got ugrimugri eyes like my kids. A recognition.

Ejkf ütles ...

I am swedish, I have estonian roots, on my mothers side. I feel somehow that the language does everything, it makes me estonian and one of them. At least right now, as I am living here. But as soon as leave, I become swedish again. "Ugrimugri eyes"? Never heard. What is that?

Doug0212 ütles ...

Perhaps some exposure to the culture (any culture) is necessary before one feels "at home." I was raised in the U.S. by an Estonian father and non-Estonian mother. My sole exposure to the Estonian culture was to visit the "Estonian House" in Chicago while I was growing up. I didn't speak the language and felt completely out of place and therefore didn't really like it. However, I was exposed to a lot of Estonians and their families while growing up. They were always nice people - just "different."

Then I visited Estonia for the first time last year after a distant cousin found me via the internet. It was the most incredible experience. I felt completely "at home" even though I didn't speak a word of the language. I had a wonderful time meeting relatives I never knew existed and learning about my father's past.

So if Justin had had some early exposure to northern European cultures as a young person he might feel that Estonians are not so much "them." Give it time Justin - they'll grow on you :).

Cheryl Rofer ütles ...

On my first trip to Estonia, I felt completely at home, more so than in other European countries.

Perhaps that is because I was working with Estonians and other Europeans on an Estonian project. But it felt much deeper than that.

It is a different place, a place to learn, and I think I also feel the same "nemad" thing that you do, Giustino. But it seems to me that such a tension exists everywhere: here are people whose experience is different from mine, whose land looks different. But we share humanity.

Tiina Linkama ütles ...

Five years now in Estonia, and I still feel that to Estonians I am still "nemad", the other, a stranger.

And this is why it is hard for me to feel at home here.

For a Finn like myself the language was never the problem, I spoke Estonian (with accent)even before moving here.

I expected that in five years I would settle down, find my own circle of friends, have a functional social network.

I don't mind the mosquitoes, or the cold weather. I am used to that. But I do mind the overall polite coldness in relationships with outsiders.

So, it is hard for me to pretend that I am one of them. I am and I always will be an intruder, even a threat (you never know with Finns, they are such northern aboriginals with rude ways and a tendence to start drinking heavily any given minute).

I do not think that Estonians are "nemad" but I do feel that I am "nemad" to them.

Unknown ütles ...

Whether you feel "meie" or "nemad" depends a lot on the friends you have, in my opinion. I have experiences within a nation, but I imagine they apply "internationally" as well. When I came to university, at first I thought everybody was "nemad" too, until I found buddies of my own. I guess it's maybe the awkwardness of not relating to people. Which doesn't always mean all the people are weird, maybe you're just socialising in the wrong circles. Don't know if that's your experience Justin, but that just came to my mind, reading the article.

Адам ütles ...

Something I find interesting is how this wider meie (i.e. Estonia being 'euroopa oma') pans out in the context of Eurovision. Watching with some Estonian friends (and, of course, the drunken television commentary), it was interesting what was said when the votes were cast. For example: Russia's top-three countries were all from the Caucuses, which made for an eruption of dry 'of course they would' quips around the room. Russia takes ten points from Estonia, and there are only head shakes and grumbles, leading to muttering about national identity and 'loyalty'. However, Belgium or Denmark loads Germany up with Eurovision votes galore and there is nothing to be heard aside of praise, despite the fact that the countries remain in close geographic and cultural proximity.
Well of -course- 12 Estonian points would go to Germany - I mean, it's not like they are Spain or Romania. They are 'meie'.

Doris ütles ...

I still feel like "other" here in the Netherlands but it doesn't seem like such a big deal because I'm just one of very many different "others" and so that makes me "same" in a way. Maybe the thing with Estonia is that it is still very homogenous both in the sense of what Estonians consider "us" as well as what they consider the "out other" (=Estonian Russians) and so if you don't fallin either of those categories then you're truly alien.

valge vares. Okasteta siil...

Doris ütles ...

Adam, in the Netherlands you still hear generic German-ribbing along the lines of "where's my grandfather's bike (you nazi)?" on a regular basis. Same in Belgium... In fact, last year if I remember correctly Germany's song ended among the very last, pretty much as it has done in the past... oh... as long as I can remember.

If there's any "bloc voting" it's more probably based on the minority consistency in the voter country. Hence why Germany always gives Turkey high points and why Greece exchanges top points with Cyprus, also why Israel always at least qualifies through the semi-finals.

I think it is also a little bit a question of general music taste - the music played on German radio is generally very similar to that played on the Dutch or British stations (well, except for the language, obviously) but quite different from the Balkan popular music. People obviously vote for what they are familiar with - the kind of music they hear regularly *shrug*

Giustino ütles ...

Well, an example is how I feel about Italians. And Italians don't have the greatest reputation, and, often, I have to admit that the bad reputation is warranted (a perfect example of this is Hollywood's portrayal of Italian Americans, which would be offensive, it it wasn't partly true). But, you see, I am also embarrassed a bit. I feel that it connects to me. When I met an Estonian relative of my wife's, he asked (seriously) if my last name was Pizza. (!) It's not like I was twirling a pizza at the moment. I was just sitting on the couch. It's something you just cannot escape.

By 'nemad' I just mean that we are not relations. If Andrus Ansip or some other Estonian was my father, I would be a completely different person. But if Berlusconi was my father? See, there it is again. I feel embarrassed by Berlusconi. But do Germans feel the same way? Estonians? No, they probably just think he's a ridiculous Italian. For me, Berlusconi is "meie," whether I like it or not. He's like an uncle you wish you didn't have. Ansip is "nemad." For my daughters, though, Ansip might be "meie." They could talk about picking berries and mushrooms ... I am sure Andrus would be happy to share his wisdom.

LPR ütles ...

In case this helps ... One way to figure out and to connect to Estonians is not to view them as a nationality, but as a group of practitioners of an alternative lifestyle.

If you dig it, you dig it. If you don't you don't.

Do Amish look "nemad" to each other?

Anonüümne ütles ...

I wonder though how foreigners with Estonian roots feel when their plane touches down in Eesti. Do they feel like they have landed in a foreign country? Or do they feel that they have finally arrived home?

To me,it definitely feels like a foreign country. The Estonian roots that continued to grow where the refugees settled grew differently than they did here, for obvious reasons. I was born in Sweden but never felt much familiarity with the culture there -- but after a year here there isn't much familiarity to be found here either. I will always be looking at both Estonia and Sweden from the outside, so to speak.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Being half Irish and half Italian and a native New Yorker I do believe I am extremely drawn to my roots.
My mother, (Irish) is not and when she married my father (Italian) she tried to totally assimilate into his Italian culture.
I remember as a young light haired blue eyed child feeling that I too didn't quite belong anywhere.
It is funny that I would feel this way being born in a country and in a city like New York where everyone is from everywhere.
When I am among Italians there is a level of comfort that just defies any explanation.
I feel connected to my Irish side as well and I am big on the wearing of the green and celebrating on St.Patricks Day ..but it is as true for me as it is for my light haired blue eyed son Ian (who has some Norwegian mixed in as well) that it is Italian blood that has always been running thru my veins.
My granddaughter Marta...used to say (chant) that she was a "New York Girl".
Everyone who has ever met her agrees that she is, and she "got it", understood it very early in life....but I believe what she feels in her heart is more then New York is New York "Italian".
She is a child who talks with her hands a flying and that "attitude" well it's just plain Italian.. Justin perhaps this gives some comfort to you and what you're feeling and maybe it answers why your love of the sea, bright skies and warm sunshine, instinctively makes you to turn your face into the sun, and take in a deep breath that leaves you with the feeling that you have just been
"re-born" ... is of course just that Italian blood coursing through your veins.

viimneliivlane ütles ...

The countries that went through not-always-smooth unification processes like Germany, Italy, France, seem to me still able to maintain regional variation that we can call 'identity' or, more bluntly, sense of self.

Probably there is an abstract gauntlet that must be passed through where the locals filter out who belongs and who doesn't . . . I don't think anyone should be intimidated by it.

Given the diverse racial mix (not of its own choosing) Estonia is not a nation of racists - doesn't Ansip look a bit 'not from my part of the country' though? Wonder what region his ancestors came from?

Seems there's no getting around the ugrimugri eyes - check out the ancestors in any family album . . .

McMad ütles ...

Admiral Pitka wrote the following about the Irish:
"The more i learned to know them, the less i understood them, and i came to the conclusion the less i have to deal with them the better.
I have always wondered how can two nations who have branched from the same tree, the Scots and the Irish, be so different. Irish being impulsive, lively, overflowing, that both in friendship and in hatred, always ready to run amok and to destroy. The Scots being peaceful, always calculating, careful and modest both in friendship and in hate."

LPR ütles ...

Familiarity breeds contempt. For that reason sometimes you are better off remaining an outsider.

Giustino ütles ...

To me, the Scots and Irish are pretty similar: freckles, track suit, cigarette hanging from lip, eating a chicken tikka sandwich from a box.

McMad ütles ...

I guess back in the days when Admiral Pitka sailed the 7 seas, the Irish and the Scots were not yet ruined by the multiculturalist non-culture :)

Lingüista ütles ...

I feel the same way about the Netherlanders up here. Interesting.

I wonder, Giustino, if you would feel the same way about Brazil and Brazilians -- that they're a "them". You wrote once that you like Portuguese and feel attracted to Brazilian culture. Would you also share a feeling of "us"-ness with Brazilians? Could your Italian roots help you out? Or are they also "attractive but different"?

I ask this because I was listening the other day to someone defending the theory that "them"-ness means something in "them" doesn't please us. "We can't feel attracted to some people without sharing a certain "us"-ness with them," she said. I don't think she's right, but since you coincidentally touched on the same topic, I wondered about your thoughts.

Giustino ütles ...

I wonder, Giustino, if you would feel the same way about Brazil and Brazilians -- that they're a "them". You wrote once that you like Portuguese and feel attracted to Brazilian culture. Would you also share a feeling of "us"-ness with Brazilians? Could your Italian roots help you out? Or are they also "attractive but different"?

I feel close to the Brazilians, sometimes closer than I do to the Texans :) I wish I had known more about Brazil from a younger age. Brazilian music to me seems to express how I feel better than a lot of North American musical forms. Especially this Chico Buarque character. I named our cat Chico after him, though we got rid of the cat after it shit on the bed. Poor Chico! Poor us!

I ask this because I was listening the other day to someone defending the theory that "them"-ness means something in "them" doesn't please us. "We can't feel attracted to some people without sharing a certain "us"-ness with them," she said. I don't think she's right, but since you coincidentally touched on the same topic, I wondered about your thoughts.

In some ways, I like the Estonians' attitude towards life. They are honest and open about their opinions, and they don't have delusions of grandeur. It's really hard to be an Estonian and be an elitist, though some do try.
I like that: I like that you can eat dinner with them and not worry, "Oh, did I use the wrong fork?" or "Oh, did I say the wrong thing?" -- most Estonians just don't care about that stuff; there's usually only one fork anyway. But, seriously, if I was in Japan, wouldn't I see Japanese as a "them" on the basic premise that they were, well, Japanese? So I see Estonians the same way. After all, I could live in Japan for years, marry a Japanese woman, have a Japanese kid, and still land in Japan and think, "Well, this is different."

LPR ütles ...

Actually, having this exact asian themed dream is quite common among caucasian males.

I am there with you 100%.

Unknown ütles ...

For me it all comes down to the person´s character, though I agree that estonians are indeed bit xenophobic and biased, but that goes more or less to all nations all over the world. And "the truth" is always in viewer´s eyes, I´m sure you know that Giustino. People who have left their "historic" homeland, have opened new door for them in spite of the reasons why they did that and are in theory in process of becoming part of the other community, other nation, cause that´s the universal way how nations form..roots do not matter as much as most of us "romantically" would like to think. They have sentimental value, and that´s about it.

Giustino ütles ...

roots do not matter as much as most of us "romantically" would like to think. They have sentimental value, and that´s about it.

I think roots do matter. Why were Americans so willing to accept Obama as their president? Could have something to do with the fact that his mother was English, and I don't mean any old English, I mean Mayflower English. Because of that, no one could question his claim to the White House, which has seen a steady succession of Englishmen and Irishmen (and one German and one Dutchman) since 1789.

I agree that people over romanticize it. It doesn't impact who you are so much as an individual. But it does put things in perspective. Right now you may belong one nation, but two or three generations back, it was some other nation, and a few generations before that, a completely different nation. This questions the very idea of romantic nationalism.

I wrote about this a bit in my book: how in a few generations, part of my wife's family could go from being Russian to completely Estonian, so Estonian that when today's Estonian Russians talk about "Estonians" they are talking about these very people who used to be, at least partly, Russians. It amuses me.

Anonüümne ütles ...

The whole string seems a little unrealistically wistful to me. Which does not make it less sad.
However - if you were to move to the heights of Big Bear lake near Los Angeles, the locals would refer to you as a "flatlander" decades after moving there. To not be taken into the inner sanctum quickly is not an unnatural phenomenon at all in our world. On isolated New England islands, people would only forget after the third generation that your grandchildren's grandparents were not islanders. I am not sure if you are complaining, but perhaps you are saddened by something you ought to take as natural.
Yes, returnee Estonians are also made to feel that they are not part of the extended family. This need not be by cruel design, it is just the way it is.
Turn your thoughts elsewhere, for one should be stoical about things that cannot be changed.
My final observation: I cannot see that a Westerner would seriously protest or be vexed if he or she were not fully and wholly embraced and integrated into let's say a previously undiscovered tribe in the Amazon area.
Few Americans would impose on the various native American tribes and expect that they be taken into the very heartland and the very fabric of let's say the Seminole people on a reservation.
The Estonian people are relatively few. Our absorptive capacity is finite. Our desire to be changed by people who come from elsewhere also knows limits. For you guys do affect our way of being. It is not that folks from abroad are bad or necessarily have bad intentions. You just don't reinforce the Estonian way of being or our traditions. Unintended harm can still cause harm. I personally always feel guilty towards the native Polynesians when I visit Hawaii. I am still an intruder there, but perhaps I am a more considerate intruder.
And should one's grandchildren live in a native homeland, there is a pretty good chance they will have acclimatized. Whether they acclimatize into the native culture is another matter.
With not unfriendly regards.

moevenort ütles ...

it´s a very interesting discussion. I am from East Germany and I was living in Estonia for nearly two years. In retrospective it was a very hard time for me and I can say that I never felt so much as a stranger or even someone coming from another planet than there. Before coming to Estonia, I was living in Latin America for some time. But even there, 5000 km away from Germany I felt less a a stranger than in Estonia. The funny thing is that Estonia and East Germany bot have a communist path and a way behind through transition afterwards. But now i would say in comparison these two regions are the most different ones from all former communist regions. like two extreme cases. The mentality is entirely different: In Estonian a society organized very much according to neoliberal principles, not much solidarity between the people, materialist values and very "cold people". By contrast an East German society proud of values like solidarity and their welfare state tradition which say see as an historical achievement and a surprisingly very open minded culture of debate and different opinions which has really become part of Western Europe since reunification. So I when I was in Estonia I most missed those "mental" things: the variety of different opinion within a society, the quality of the public debate especially among young people, who, in East Germany, do not care just about the newest car, or the newest cellphone, but also think about quality of life and the development of their society. they are not used to use credit cards and making debts to fullfill short consumption aspirations. they are just more post materialist in a very positive sense.(at least for my understanding) In Estonia by contrast I had the impression of an entirely egoist society were really no one cared about something else than himself. I also saw Estonian people not as critical citizen like it should be in a democracy but more as passive and obidient like servants in non-democratic times. not daring to critisize anything, claiming that the political elite will decide for them. I am sorry for the harsh words, but all this in my country has a very negative reputation and is seen as something pre-democratic. So in fact the only thing I learned in Estonia was how I hopefully will never see my own country. And to value the things at home which before I took so much for granted. It is surprising for me to see how two former communist regions could make such a very different developement within such a short period of time. Now I am just so happy as never in my life to be back home in a small university town in East Germany and I am able to analyze those things with some distance.
nevertheless, best wishes from Germany.

Giustino ütles ...

I wonder how the Germans feel about this Eesti Leegion stuff. I went to the bookstore yesterday again, and there it was -- songs of the Estonian Legion, coffee table books on the Estonian Legion, calendars of Estonian Legion recruitment posters (with the SS symbol airbrushed out, of course). Got to be weird for a German to see.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

For the majority of Germans Nazi links even symbols are a no go area.
And most get angry seeing this. Because Nazi Germany did what it did. And we know it. Though not enough research is done especially on the local level. That happens since the last 20 years only.
There is no understanding of the Estonian situation during 1939-1945 in Germany! And I guess most Germans are terrified if they see things like this (Nazi related) in the Baltic States.
I stayed in Estonia between 1991 and 1992. And there were a lot of political discussions going on. And since I grew up in a family with similar habits like the Estonians, you said "cold people", I did not feel that distance you've described.

Anonüümne ütles ...

This sure is ranging wide. How did Eesti Leegion enter into this? What the Germans feel is not fully germane to an Estonian phenomenon, for the Germans of yore were unfortunately the ones who got Estonian into this fine mess, as Laurel and Hardy used to say. We were minding our own business in 1939 as a neutral country.

Germans more than anyone else ought to weigh their words with substantial caution. That applies to the Russians too, except Germans and Russians are forced in our world to live by two fully different sets of rules. Germans as a rule seem to be much more careful before weighing in. Which is good, if careful means thinking and weighing your words.

In the house of the hanged man, one does not speak of the rope. He who lives in a glass house...

By the way, I rather liked the comments of Moevenort, speaking of German commentators.

Yes, Giustino, you are on to something. I do not like the fetishing of the Leegion - something that is taking place - because it is not under control. Leaves a bad taste. Yet it is a free country. More or less.

At the same time, it is not at all unexpected that after the end of 50 years of having Soviet duct tape over your mouth, people try for once to figure out what actually happened, since discussion was artificially stifled by the Kremlin regime when it ought to have taken place. What you are seeing in the broad sense is natural, to include the current putting up of memorials to the French Jews transported to Estonian prisons by the German occupation regime.

Anonüümne ütles ...

PART II continuation of the above

I do not expect outsiders except for true argonauts - those who go the whole 9 yards -to fully understand.

The Germans under the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact let the Russians invade Estonia and then they divided up Poland jointly. The MRP let slip the dogs of war and brought calamity to Europe, to include a sleepy contented little Estonia who was not bothering anyone.
The Russians killed most or much of Estonian and the Polish officer corps - one in Norilsk and the other in Katyn.
The Russians systematically demolished the Estonian institutions of state and created a state of occupation. They disbanded and absorbed the armed forces of the Estonian Republic. They then deported, killed and tortured defenseless civilians. They instituted the rule of terror.
The Estonian men who witnessed all of this - mind you, it happened to their relatives and friends, like 9-11 happened to Americans - and no longer had no government nor Army of their own, then settled for the next best but very shabby thing, which was to unenthusiastically don the uniform of one occupier against another. A street utterly devoid of joy.

Would American professional soldiers enjoy being stuffed into the uniforms of an occupying army? Guys who had been brought up to love America and the traditions of its own Armed Forces? Estonians in the Legion is a very sad thing, not something we relish. Which does not change in the slightest the fact that many of the Estonians who fought against the return of the KGB stood proud.

Most of these guys were mobilized by Hitler - something not permitted under the Law of Land Warfare.

Perhaps we should have gone quietly to the slaughter?

Estonian men behaved like men, taking what destiny dished out. They did not complain. They adapted, improvised and overcame, even if they had been dipped in manure. This, by the way, is what militaries teach their people: that no matter how bad it gets, you improvise and stick with the mission. The mission was Estonian freedom.

Those who commited crimes have been punished or should have been or should be punished. On all sides.

I hate bloody swastikas and what they did to my country and could give a *&%$ #@* about how casual passers-by view this. This is not territory that those who have not done their research ought to be casually navigating in.

Was this the original objective of the "nemad" thread? To suggest at the end that Estonians are Nazis and that is what sets them apart? Or was this Leegion business an accidental unrelated afterthought?

Unfortunate somehow, how the thread has morphed in this direction.
He who does not understand the bitter tragedy of the Leegion paradigm - a horrible fate for the men of the Armed Forces of independent Estonia and their younger brothers, still has many leagues to walk in the boots of the Estonians before becoming initiated.

Perhaps understanding the sad and bizarre chapter of the Leegion (later the Division) is a litmus test of sorts.
Not all history is written by the victors. Little Big Horn too can be seen through several historiographical prisms.
There are many histories in the world. Estonia is large enough to have her own, and it is not identical with the history of the pacified new German nation nor that of the American D-Day and Band of Brothers brand either. None of these histories are invalid, but they only overlap to some extent, but do not fully overlap. American history is subjective, Russian history is subjective, Estonian history is subjective. To some degree. And all contain substantial doses of "true history" too, in the sense that certain things went down for sure.

Try looking at the history of Viet Nam through the eyes of the montagnard hill tribes and you will see something different from Apocalypse Now and something different from Ho Chi Minh's version of the story.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Part III and conclusion

Perhaps telling Estonian history to the outside world through Estonian eyes in English very successfully and with empathy and near-total grasp is the very thing that will bring enormous acceptance and even idol status locally to he or she who settles among us. You have the tools. You write well. Use them. Be like the guys in the Legion, who just did what they had to do. When life gives you lemons....

Doris ütles ...

Why did the Estonian shoot the German first, the Russian second?

First business, then pleasure.

The above, by the way, is referring to 1939/1940 onwards, before then it was the other way around.

As I said above, in the Netherlands you still sometimes have the "Where's my grandfather's bike?" directed at Germans, in Estonia you regularly hear "Where's my grandfather's grave?" directed at Russians. Which is not to say that individuals don't get along, they do... For the most part.

I sometimes sense a sort of sulking in the Estonian public mind, it's a bit like that nerdy kid that no-one liked at school... He gets all the best grades and is the teacher's pet but no-one wants to play with him. And so he draws up into himself and just puts up a wall "Fine, if they don't want to play with me, if they want to cavort with that retard Greece just because she's pretty, I don't want to play with them either" At the same time SOOOOOOOO much wanting to play with the other kids. That's the kid that when the class was playing hide-and-seek, everyone forgot that he was still hiding. They went home.

Giustino ütles ...

This sure is ranging wide. How did Eesti Leegion enter into this?

Was this the original objective of the "nemad" thread? To suggest at the end that Estonians are Nazis and that is what sets them apart? Or was this Leegion business an accidental unrelated afterthought?

"Nazi" is a political term. It has (mostly) nothing to do with a person's nationality anymore. The fact that there are so many Russian neo-nazis attests to this fact.

But are the Estonians Germanic? Partly at least. German orientation was probably stronger in the '20s and '30s. These days Estonians are oriented to Scandinavia and from there to the UK. I mean, Estonia's Eurovision entry this year was "Malcolm Lincoln" singing in a faux Cockney accent. But Scandinavia and the UK are Germanic also, aren't they?

I only bring up the Leegion out of curiosity, as we have some German readers here. It is by coincidence that I happened to be in the book store yesterday.

This post is very simply just about familiarity and non familiarity. If a Finnish-American travels to Finland, he's bound to feel some familiarity with the place ("Oh my God, the bus driver looks just like Uncle Heikki!") That's how I felt a bit in Ireland (Oh my God, all the old ladies look just look Grandma!") I don't have the same experience with Estonia, but I am sure Estonian Americans do in some ways.

I also expanded the idea that because Estonians are culturally similar to other Northern Europeans, this familiarity might have helped them in their integration into Europe. Estonian leaders quite intelligently appealed to common culture and history in their appeals to Europe in the 1990s, in order to escape the dreaded post-Communist/post-Soviet "themness" that they inherited in 1991.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Germans, Estonians ... .
What a simplification - for me.
My mother born in Tallinn, her father was advised to leave the country in 1939 cause he worked for the ministry of defense. He was Estonian. His wife was a German from Russia with Russian as her first language. When they endend up in the GDR (Eastern Germany) my uncle (their son) was refused from studying what he wanted cause the Eastern German authorities took him as a Baltic German what he was not. But he called himself one. What led to some disturbance in the family decades later. After unification, when normal conversation among family members of a divided one (East/West) started again.
Because of this I wanted to see it by myself, Estonia, tried to come as early as possible. That was November 1991.

Unknown ütles ...

To moevenort:

I am really sorry to read your comments. Yes, Germany has had to critically view its role in WWII and has renounced Nazi and neo-Nazi ideas, and that should be commended (other countries like Russia have not renounced their own criminal past). However, your experience of Estonia was flawed. I can attest that people are indeed very humane and helpful to each other. They can be critical and cold too. And being a foreigner, one will always be a foreigner, even if one has lived here for ages and has family here. It's a shame if Estonian society is a bit reticent to outside influences or people, since some of us contribute positively. But I disagree with your opinion of Estonia and Germany. Germany still has some of the most extreme politicians and points of view, well engrained into their national psyche. They consider themselves superior to any other european, or other ethnic group, which is very unfortunate, they wouldn't have been able to read or write or govern themselves had it not been for latin culture. West Germany did remarkably after the war thanks to a lot of work and effort from their people, but also thanks to the largest financial contribution of the US to any country in history through the Marshall plan that basically made tons of money and credit freely available. It's to their credit that they used it wisely. Thanks to a developed society that benefitted a lot, they were able to build that social welfare state you mention. All that is very good, but that society has also entrenched some vested interests, such as strong left and Russian leaning politics, where we see history repeating in the form of big nations wanting to vassal smaller nations. Nowhere can a foreigner be more afraid of his skin color than in Germany or Russia. Discrimination and outright aggression is everywhere on the streets. There are very intelligent people who embrace other cultures, but the vast majority of people in these big states have an even worse opinion of foreign ideas.
I used to have a set of political ideas I grew up with which you could consider had elements of both left wing and conservative politics. However, as I have grown (up?), I have realized that the world is not unidimensional. There are evils in either side of the spectrum (and also in the middle!). Your point of view made me sense resentment and self-contempt and yes, a retrograde point of view. If you yearn for your socialist past and present, then you cannot criticize others for them wanting to glorify a different past. I would argue it is best not to glorify any past, since they have all had their dirty business. I know Latin America well, and there are also nut cases in power here and there. Blabbing about one point of view does not constitute a mature political discussion, however rich your society may be.

moevenort ütles ...

@tartuense: just to avoid some misunderstanding: 1. Have I said anything that would justify your claim I would be longing for the socialist past of my country? I think not. No one is longing for it here. What I refered to was the idea of social market economy most people here a proud on. That is a huge difference I guess. I think we can agree that within capitalism there is a lot of variety. There is the scandinavian model, the neoliberal way Estonia has chosen and the French or German tradition of combining market economy with social security. What disturbed me in Estonia was that the whole mentality seems to be addicted to one ideology: the neoliberal one. There is only the market, there is only Milton Friedman, low taxes and low wages are always good, we do not care about social security or protecting the les better off, welfare state ideas are socialist or old fashioned West European crap. and so on- that was what I have seen in Estonia. That things are seen so black and white, that there is nothing in between, that it seems to me that one ideology (communist one) was just substituted by the other exreme (Neoliberalism) That scared me. Because it is a dawwinist world view which is finally as anti-democratic as communism has been. There is one interesting article by Rainer Kattel, in my opinion one of the very few estonian economists who has not fallen into this watching the world black / white tones. He writes about this issue, claiming that the problem of Estonia is that its entire political elite seems to be addicted to Neoliberalism - because thats all they know and all they have ever learned:

2. another misunderstanding: the German welfare state was not installed after WW2, its roots are much older. Basically it was a idea of Bismark who introduced the foundations already deep in 19th century. It is a widespread prejudice in Estonia that welfare state ideas are always coming from the Left. In Germany it is of course defended by the political left. But the idea was from a conservative and it is today consensous among all political forces, conservative or left winged, to protect it. From the mental bases it has to do with ideas of human dignity, christian world views of Catolic Social Science of protecting the weaker ones in society (for the conservatives)and left winged ideas of solidarity. Its basic ideas are protected by the German consitution claiming in its first sentence that the dignity of the human being is untouchable and saying in an extra paragraph that the German state is designed as a social welfare state. So to understand its base it is not possible in a one dimensinal way to denounce it as a pure left winged idea as it is often done in Estonia.

3. Concerning this Nazi claim: Well, I could say a lot about what problem I have with the way Estonia is glorefying its as SS fighters as national heros who in fact in German eyes are pure criminals. I will let it be at this point. More important is the fact that you claimed the big prblem Germany has with right winged extremism within its own borders. I do not doubt that we have such a problem ( as any other country in Europe) Its sad that some of those idiotic people are still running around here and elswhere. But a fact is also that we have the stricted laws in europe concering right winged extremism and propaganda and that German police as even Amnesty International is acknowleding is doing much more than to fight these crimes than many other European countries. This is my opinion alos a difference to Estonia, where some forms of nazi ideology unfortunately seem to be right in the middle of society. It is that mix of neoliberalism and glorefying aspects of nazi / SS ideology which made me worried in Estonia. by the way: did you know that the National police here some years agao was interrogating against a book publication by your former prime minsiter MArt Laar here in Germany, claiming that he is spreading Nazi propaganda and glorefying the SS in his book?

Martasmimi ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Martasmimi ütles ...

After reading all of these posts even before the topic shifted sideways I feel that "Doris" best summed it all up in very simple terms
It reminded me of a book written in the late 80's...


I sometimes sense a sort of sulking in the Estonian public mind, it's a bit like that nerdy kid that no-one liked at school... He gets all the best grades and is the teacher's pet but no-one wants to play with him. And so he draws up into himself and just puts up a wall "Fine, if they don't want to play with me, if they want to cavort with that retard Greece just because she's pretty, I don't want to play with them either" At the same time SOOOOOOOO much wanting to play with the other kids. That's the kid that when the class was playing hide-and-seek, everyone forgot that he was still hiding. They went home.

Everything I needed to know.....

Giustino ütles ...

It is that mix of neoliberalism and glorefying aspects of nazi / SS ideology which made me worried in Estonia.

Estonia isn't all so neoliberal. It still maintains a state-run healthcare system (which is ironic, when you think that Estonia's biggest fans in the US are opposed to such a system). People enjoy lengthy parental leaves and, let's not forget, parental renumeration, the so-called "mother's salary", which most American mothers would like to have.

I am not alarmed by the presence of the "SS glorification" because it's mostly for the children of people whose fathers were transcripts. I respect their right to remember their loved ones, who were transcripts, and many of whom did feel they were acting in their national interest. It is confusing, though, for genuine neo-nazis who have the same symbols. Where is the line between those honoring grandpa and neo-nazi idiocy? And how come there are no Red Army calendars in the Estonian bookstores? A lot of Estonians were drafted into that army too. And both Berlin and Moscow maintained the same policy during the war: there would never again be an independent Estonia. I looked through the recent "The Estonian Soldier in WWII" book for any mention of the Holocaust, by the way. I'll have to look again, but I didn't see one in the "police battalion" chapter. That's a shame, considering how many Estonian citizens died during the German occupation.

By the way, this might have some impact on Estonian solidarity. It was Estonians who went to Moscow, begging to join the USSR. And it was Estonians who raised the one-arm salute in the civil administration during the German years.

Even today, you hear that one politician is working for Moscow and the other one is working for Washington. But who is working for Tallinn? Such are the perils of being a small state.

Unknown ütles ...

Yeah, the case against the police batallions seems really sound considering the fact that one batallion (the 36th) was during a lenghty period of time only once sort of close to a location (among many other units) where crimes were committed. And that's about all the evidence there is. Even the Soviets could not dig anything up for their propaganda. Seems like a shady business and a reference to the holocaust here would not be based on historic facts as we know them.

If you would like to talk about cases based on evidence, I suggest the likes of Ain-Ervin Mere.

Anonüümne ütles ...

"It was Estonians who went to Moscow, begging to join the USSR. And it was Estonians who raised the one-arm salute in the civil administration during the German years."

Quisling and Estonian are not synonyms. A handful always seem to be ready to take on the quisling role. In any society. Benedict Arnold. Some always seem to be ready to be a marionette.

Is Karzai in Afghanistan a native son or a handy bit of reimported window dressing, a Western creation masquerading as a native son?

Thenthe question of why so little Red Army nostalgia exists. Well, it is not fully nonexistent among Estonians.

The difference being: what the homesick Red Army conscripts of Estonian origin and their Red quisling collbaorationist political officers and superiors of Estonian origin and hundreds or thousands of Russian liberators brought with them from the East were suffering, interrogations, arrests, and a crappy Soviet economic model. Retardation (being held back, in other words), censorship, the dinginess of the East.

Had the desperate aspirations of the Otto Tief government come to pass - but it didn't - Estonia would have regained her independence and the men in the Legion could have gone back to their farms and workshops and would shed the alien German uniforms, and some would have returned to the honest and unsullied trade of being in Estonia's defense forces. In a manner akin to what the Finns managed to pull off.

It is the Soviet legacy that complicates the homecoming of Western Estonians, makes it more awkward than in Finland. I look at my society as still bearing a lot of scars. Eventually it will pass.

A successful Otto Tief gambit (but it was too little too late and Russians simply had the massive numerical advantage, along with American Lend-Lease Willis jeeps and Studebakers and rations) would have brought freedom and a return to democracy.

What the Russian Army veterans brought regime-wise was second rate vodka, food lines, the closing of Estonia to Western contacts for 20 years and begrudging slightly increased contacts thereafter. They brought sovietized Estonians with alien behavior into high positions. The Red Army simply did not bring a whole lot of things to be nostalgic about or thankful for. Women made do without tampons and sanitary napkins. There was censorship etc etc etc

Had the Reich won, it would have sucked badly in many other ways and the area would have eventually been flooded with other settlers. "Generalplan Ost".

Giustino, do check your knowledge of the twenties and thirties. The Estonian prewar orientations were French, British and Scandinavian. German proclivities ran behind the others, even substantially. Estonians still clearly remembered the yoke of the manors. And Germany wasn't setting much of an example.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, I don't know, it seems to me that you are saying that you don't feel a kind of Blut und Boden connection with the Estonians but do connect with Italians and Brazilians. I guess that must be the case then. I feel my self pretty much at home in Sweden, Estonia feels maybe a bit more distant, Ireland is very much ok, in contrast I'm sure that China and Japan would feel totally strange. But I don't know if one can draw any great conclusions from these things - they are matter of culture (not of blood for me), and quite natural.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Perhaps some good "simple" advice for all...

All I Really Need To Know
I Learned In Kindergarten
by Robert Fulghum

ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do
and how to be I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don't hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don't take things that aren't yours.

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned - the biggest
word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about
three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap.
Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

Giustino ütles ...

Then the question of why so little Red Army nostalgia exists. Well, it is not fully nonexistent among Estonians.

I'm not talking about nostalgia: I am talking about the simple act of remembering. Right now, Eesti Leegion is remembered, 22nd Territorial Corps is forgotten. There is a chapter on them in the "Estonian Soldier in WWII" book -- which is good. I am not out to engage in some kind of propaganda war, and I believe in the free flow of information. I am just curious why similar books about Estonians in Soviet uniform don't exist in the book stores. Simple question. Your answer seems to be: because no one wants to buy them. But who's stocking up on the calendars? That's what I want to know. By the way, sorry for the conscript/transcript thing. Mixing work with pleasure ...

Seems like a shady business and a reference to the holocaust here would not be based on historic facts as we know them.

Yes, it's hard to tell who was on duty at the camps at what time and who did what. I just forgot to check if the part on the police battalions in the book mentioned part of their duties as guarding concentration camps.

Giustino, do check your knowledge of the twenties and thirties. The Estonian prewar orientations were French, British and Scandinavian. German proclivities ran behind the others, even substantially. Estonians still clearly remembered the yoke of the manors. And Germany wasn't setting much of an example.

Not political orientations, but cultural and material ones. For a lot of old people, German is still their first foreign language. That's the language they learned in school (and it was probably the same in Sweden, for what it's worth). If you wanted some new product: car, radio, etc., where did it come from? Germany was a very influential country in Europe before the war (and is again today). I did not intend to suggest that the governments in the thirties were German leaning. There were certainly some figures who were closer to Berlin than other capitals. But, then again, Estonian history is contentious (like all history, I suppose). If you read one history book (by an academic) there are five others who will tell you that all his research is wrong.

Lingüista ütles ...

I was under the impression that things like the Eesti Leegion were remembered solely in the context of the fight against the USSR occupiers -- isn't it so? I mean, the point seemed to be that those were Estonians fighting / thinking they were fighting for their country, without any whiff of added Nazi ideology: no Master Race, no Jewish Question, etc. Or am I wrong? Is interest in the Eesti Leegion seen in a context different from simply fighting against Stalin's USSR?

The old philosopher makes some very good points. I can better see now what the dilemma of an Estonian wearing a foreign occupier's uniform as the only way to fight another foreign occupier must have been. (I wonder if feelings would have been reversed had Germany been the first occupier and the USSR the second -- so that Estonians would have first experienced Nazi terror and only then Communist repressions... Might this conceivably have made it more possible to find Red Army calendars in the book store that Giustino went to?)

Unknown ütles ...

I wonder if feelings would have been reversed had Germany been the first occupier and the USSR the second

Well, look at the War of Independence after WWI. As far as I know the Estonians killed their former landlords, the Germans, with passion, but were more sympathetic towards the Russians who they fought against simply because there was no other option to escape communism.

Unknown ütles ...

to moevenort, part II:

There is nothing wrong with the social model, and not only should it be supported, but be extremely well-funded, such as for hospitals, schools and universities.
In some areas, as Justin has pointed out, the social support is even better than in Western Europe, and this has had enormous benefits for the Estonian population. Also, being a part of the EU also requires that a certain standard be kept of social spending, even though it can be better.
The point I was trying to make was that for certain liberals, Estonia is portrayed as a model and poster nation, whereas in certain left-wing political media and discussion, they chose to hit out at anything Estonian, even with wrong information. Such attitudes are unfortunate, since they do not show the whole picture, that is, Estonia is a diverse and well advanced society. It had to chose an open, market driven economy because of the starting point where there was not much money going around. Once salaries have reached a more decent level, more interesting stuff may appear. Leave the arguments that remind people of the 'social dumping' and 'Polish plumber' phrases behind, a better quality of life was gradually being achieved in Estonia too. The last crisis has affected things, let's hope they improve.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Giustino ütles: "Not political orientations, but cultural and material ones. For a lot of old people, German is still their first foreign language. That's the language they learned in school (and it was probably the same in Sweden, for what it's worth). If you wanted some new product: car, radio, etc., where did it come from?"

There was a documentary on tonight - "I Lived in the Republic of Estonia". A scion of the German barons said that "we didn't associate with the locals" (Estonian neighbors), and admitted they were wrong to do so.
In other words the Estonians didn't have to use "blacks only" parts of the bus station, etc., since the Baltic Germans simply ignored the former slaves (serfs) and didn't fraternize with them at all. At least according to this guy.
Sure, the Estonians learned a lot from their betters and even emulated them (look at modern postcolonial India), but litte love was lost.
In 1905 when the manors burned, much of it was done from a pent-up sense on inustice going back for centuries.

You didn't have to be into Germany to buy BMW and Telefunken, Germans have always had good brands.

Topic-shifting and going back - I suspect Estonians in the Red Army are an embarrassing topic for many. It is sort of like being among the rapists of your country.
Like being forced to work for the people who were the cause of suffering for your people. Co-complicitness.
Mnay Estonians who had to help to crush the Czech rebellion in 1968 were embarrassed to say the least. A few rebelled.
You are right that there is too little research done about the Soviet Army. Even this might, to an extent, be out of a certain distaste.

Service in the Legion was a short-lived phenomenon in comparison. Unpleasant and downright ugly, but transient.

Giustino ütles ...

And look what's the top story on CNN. See, this blog is topical.

Unknown ütles ...

Could this happen in Estonia?

DD ütles ...

After many years of living in Estonia, i am still struck by what a village it is and remains.

Why is it that "foreign Estonians" are still described to me as "foreign Estonians" even after living here for 15-20 years, the same is not true for people who have left Estonia for many years.

How many times does someone ask -"who was he?" after the other person has left - almost if one were to worry that perhaps it is someone i should know.

How often are business and political relationships determined by who was whose deskmate or who came from the same village or went to the same summer camps.

It is almost as if, perhaps unconsciously, the experience of growing up - and in many cases suffering - in the "mythical" village has defines peoples outlook.

While I have never come across any overt support for the legion - i would imagine that the Soviet Authorities were quite punitive, and never let those people - or any of their relatives - forget that they had been part of the legion.

Giustino ütles ...

How many times does someone ask -"who was he?" after the other person has left - almost if one were to worry that perhaps it is someone i should know.

Very funny. A few times, the person with whom I have been conversing has narrowed his eyes and given me a strange look. "You're not an Estonian, are you?"

I do the same thing in the US though. I usually just like to find out where the person is from. I imagine it gets quite boring for them after awhile though. They should just wear t-shirts: "I am from the Czech Republic. Thanks for asking!"

Unknown ütles ...

I don't know... the Holocaust was undoubtedly horrible and should be never forgotten etc.. but Zuroff? The Jews got their justice - in Nürnberg, in countless anti-Nazi trials, in being heads of world media and diamond trade. They even got to buy their own country just because people felt so guilty about them. Give it a rest to be honest. You seem to be pretty fortunate as it is. Picking on tiny Eastern European nations who haven't known justice nor can they honestly believe in international treaties etc. That seems just like pushing it. Coming to terms with their Nazi past is of course only for the good of the Lithuanians... but Zuroff on a personal vendetta... that's low, man.

Giustino ütles ...

What is interesting is that Zuroff was basically the top story on for awhile yesterday. I like his New York-Israeli accent, though.

Imagine there was a Wiesenthal-like center for Soviet crimes, silently tracking down NKVD perpetrators from their apartments in Moscow. "This is for Jaan Tõnisson, biyatch!"

I wonder who got rid of Tõnisson, too. I bet it was some dumb, 19-year-old sociopath. It always is.

DD ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Temesta ütles ...

I think it's very important that Lithuania recognizes the darker sides of the nation's history. It is hypocritical to complain about the fact that the world doesn't acknowledge enough the crimes of the Soviet Union and at the same time to minimize the monstrosities committed and supported by Lithuanians themselves.

Giustino ütles ...

I agree with you, Temesta. I am not sure, though, how such a 'coming to terms' happens. Everyone cites Germany, but when Germany 'came to terms,' it happened to have foreign troops stationed on its territory. I don't think the German situation will play out in Lithuania or in Russia.

A problem is that Soviet propaganda linked the loss of Lithuanian independence with the actions of some Lithuanians in the Holocaust: this unworthy country did not deserve it's freedom, Soviet actions were some kind of divine punishment for some Lithuanians' role in genocide, etc. In other words, they brought 50 years of Soviet rule on themselves. Decoupling these ideas is necessary for the Lithuanians to move ahead.

This month, Putin will go to Vilnius. It happens to be 70 years after the Soviets took over the country. I wonder what he will say and how it will effect the Estonian position. In fact, that's a whole other blog post.

moevenort ütles ...

@ Giustino_"Everyone cites Germany, but when Germany 'came to terms,' it happened to have foreign troops stationed on its territory. I don't think the German situation will play out in Lithuania or in Russia."

I`m sorry, but from the facts this is not true. On the contrary, most of the nazis punished by the allied trial in Nürnberg were quickly and silently released long before their penalty ended by the West German authorities in the 1950. West Germany in the 1959 was szill dominated at the elite level by often the same people who held positions in the nazi era. The whole atmosphere is West Germany in the 1950s was still very conservative authoritarian. Democracy had not won ground in the mind of the people yet. This changed significantly not before the middle of the 1960s with the cultural change and a change of political culture. It was especially the younger generation, the student movement of 1968 that changed the situation: the young people were protesting and demanding to deal with the nazi past also, putting huge pressure on the still conservative government. In political terms the situation changed when Willy Brandt, who emigrated in nazi time and was actively fighting against the Nazis in Exil in Sweden and Norway,became chancler of West Germany. The most famous picture of political change towards dealing with nazi past is his famous kneefall at the memorial in the former jewish getto in Warzaw. Willy Brandt probably had probably the most significant influence on the change of political culture in West Germany. He was able to really attract the people with his charismatic and idealist visions to expand both democracy and welfare state issues in order to modernize Germany. For example he began his first speech in the parlimant with the famous words " we want to dare more democracy". But also the long term consequences of the student movement should not be underestimated. the culturally changed Germany from below, making it the modern country it is today. Unfortunately little of this chapter is known in Estonia. My impression is that the picture of Germany ordinary Estonians often have is still the picture of traditional Germany. Thats why they think they are similar to Germany. But if the would realize the huge mental change towards democratization of society and postmaterialist values that has taken place in Germany the last decades, they would not feel so much similarities with us I guess
Because under this aspect, today Germany and Estonia are more than different in fact than it may was the case in the past.
What I want to say is that the wish to punish nazi crimes in Germany with the time came from within the society. There is no other way. also not for Estonia or Lithuania.

moevenort ütles ...

@Guistino: In East Germany the situation was a little bit different: punishing Nazi criminals here was on the one hand part of the offical socialist ideology and was forced through by the socialist political elite. On the one hand the good thing was that they punished those Nazis really hard. but on the other hand the disadvantage was that it did not come from below, from the society itself. nevertheless, there was also indirect influence from the west on the people: Willy Brandt enjoyed big popularity in East Germany for his policy as well. this was visable when he was first visiting the East in the 1970s, when people were celebrating him in the town of Erfurt, breaking troogh stasi and police lines even. When you type in just "Willy Brandt" and "Erfurt " into google or another search engine you can see the pictures of that event understanding what I mean. But the real change in East Germany civil society to come to terms with Nazi past came late and only after the peaceful revolution and reunification in 1990. In the first years after reunification, therewas some widespread neo nazi movement and every day racism especially in rural areas of East Germany, blaming foreigners and minorities for unemployment and social problems. There were some really ugly events when Neonazis were hunting foreign people at the streets. But after a while also protest againsgt this began to raise from below, from East German civil society. They began to find their own democratization initiatives even at the countryside, organizing education against racism, blocking Neonazi events and organizing the protest of the citizens against the Nazis. When I had seen this inititatives from below spreading in small villages even, I realized that something positive is happening. That also in my part of Germany as in the West in the 1960s democracy and a change of political culture began to grow from below.

moevenort ütles ...

@Guistino: here a link to a short video, showing the incident in Erfurt I mentioned and the influence of Willy Brandt ideas on East German society:

moevenort ütles ...

One other famous quote for Willy Brandt was: ""Democracy is not a question for use. It is a question for moral." - compare this with Andrus Ansip or Mart Laar and you know the difference I mean. by the way: Brandt got the Nobel Prize for Peace for his "Ostpolitik" in the 1970s.

Frank ütles ...

Speaking for the scions of the Eestimaalased proper: many children and grand-children of those who had to leave Estonia in 1939 feel instantly at home when touching terra mariana, some even more so than back home in Germany or elsewhere - and are quite proud when the Estonians proper consider them as some sort of fellow-country-men ...

Unknown ütles ...

Brandt got the Nobel Prize for Peace for his "Ostpolitik" in the 1970s.

Yeah, as did one Barack Hussein Obama for... uhm, nobody knows.

Now I'm not trying to belittle the Holocaust or everything. It should be remembered, the memorial for the massacred French at Patarei vangla is appropriate etc. But I'm all for theoretical debate considering traditional rights and wrongs.

The Nazi-debate seems a bit pushed upon Estonia and in my opinion Estonia doesn't quite deserve it. I understand Germany, they started the madness, they had some seriously sick elements in their society, kudos for dealing with that... but Estonia? Damn it, the Jews even had a state culture autonomy here.

And now some self-righteous (nothing bad meant, just calling it like I see it) German is making generalisations like there's no tomorrow. Nazi Germany was here for roughly 3 years. Estonia was made Judenfrei in that time. Yeah, probably not hard, since there were a couple of thousand Jews left here. Did the Nazis find Estonian scumbags to help them in their execution? Sure, they would probably find them now as well, probably in any country. Does that mean Estonia as a whole or as a society should be linked with a murderous German society? Considering it was wartime and all kinds of shit happens in times of war, I can't justify that comparison.

Also like I mentioned, it was 3 years in a time soon 70 years ago. 45 years of Soviet occupation follow that time. Not that the comparison of magnitudes is a justification for not looking into Nazi crimes, but I'm pretty sure Stalin already had his way with those guys, and we have a period roughly 15 times longer in our hands to analyze. Blaming us that we don't pay attention to some old (probably dead) geezers who shot innocent people at times of war... Why won't we jail all the German soldiers who raped Russians then? Or vice versa... pretty horrific crimes too, I don't recall hearing of vendetta groups for them.

Giustino ütles ...

Moevenort -- The Soviet Union co-opted the Estonian left wing and purged it of 'bourgeois nationalist' elements, and then brutally suppressed (by murder and displacement) the right side of the spectrum. That means that, following the dissolution of Communist order, the political pendulum swung back pretty hard to the right (but relatively not as hard as in some other places in Eastern Europe). I think it started to swing back to the center right around the time they moved that Bronze Soldier monument. Things were a little scary there for a few days in May 2007. And people's living standards have improved so much, the country is so integrated into the West, that nobody wants to see Estonia go up in smoke over who did what to whom 70 years ago. It was closure, in some ways, for the Estonians.

Because of this, 'Coming to terms' would probably be looked on unfavorably. Who would you put on trial? How is his or her crime greater than one perpetrated by someone else? I mean, they charged Arnold Meri with genocide, and he had the good fortune to give up the ghost before that trial went ahead. Now that Zuroff is basically waging a media war to get some old man on trial here to atone for perceived collective national guilt, and such trial would be inherently politicized. Bottom line: it's very messy. And we haven't even figured out who pushed Artur Sirk out of that window in Luxembourg yet!

Temesta ütles ...

@ Giustino:

The important thing is not just about putting people on trial. It is about presenting an objective and balanced picture of the nation's history, to admit that a substantial amount of the people who fought for the fatherland where capable of bestial actions (I am thinking more about Lithuania than Estonia).

Bea ütles ...

Well, Zuroff said that earliest after a 100 of years he and his successors will admit that Lithuania came to terms with what was done to Jews in Lithuania and partly by Lithuanians.
until that time many many many Jews will continue to scream that Lithuanians did exactly NOTHING or nearly nothing in the right direction because they still all are born and raised so deeply genuinely antisemitic. In fact, people like Zuroff just make Lithuanians protest radically against such radical blame they put on the entire nation. I am sure my granddad did not shoot any Jews, he was deported to Siberia at that time and I remember how he still shown me the place near his lill-town to which he was deported within Lithuania afterwards where the Jews and some commies were shot, and how he always told me the horrible story about how the ground was mowing for some time. The story was told to him by other people of the town, I suppose, Lithuanians. I know that Lithuanians came to terms about that or nearly came to terms, I know that many Lithuanians had been told by their grandparents who in their village had been the Jew-shooters, how these wildly drunk shooters were hated and shunned by the communities after-wards, how some of them felt bad and killed themselves or how they were punished (shot) by the Soviets. I certainly understand that the Jews saw only their own tragedy and Lithuanians saw their own, the cultural autonomy, the social differences and the not too much connected life-styles made the difference and the conditions for certain distance, ignorance and misunderstandings of the Jews and the Lithuanians after the Germans came. Some German-minded people from Klaipeda (Memel) and Karaliaucius (Koenigsberg) spoke perfect Lithuanian and could pretend they were Lithuanians in the eyes of the Jews.
Lithuanians even didn't have the legion. A group of intellectuals were sent straight to the Nazi conzentration camp after they said to the men who came to the legion that the legion won't be independent, so the men shall better run to all four sides and hide with the weapons they got.
There were many Jews in Lithuania, about 150 000 of own Jews and about 100 000 who run or were brought by German Nazis from Poland and other countries. There were not as many in Estonia... I'm not sure if Estonians would not have killed all of theirs if there would have been more. I'm not sure if Lithuanians would have killed theirs if the country would not have been left without so many intellectuals, whithout their leaders and practically without hopes for the future. There were, of course, genuine Lithuanian Nazis or those who thought that talking like Nazis, walking like Nazis would save them a chance to preserve the independent Lithuania.
I and many Lithuanians understand what the Jews shall feel and think after loosing such a big community in Lithuania. But I don't agree with that Lithuania did nothing or nearly nothing to understand the past crimes of Lithuanians yet. There are many who did a lot, there are some malicious neo-Nazis who won't ever do, there are those just mad because they feel its unfair that they are blamed by Zuroff, always collectively, as a malicious nation that is doing nothing for Jews, no matter that they try to do all they can. I see many people who were born after the Jews were killed still don't feel like the Jews were ones of us, they seem to be much more cold to what happened to Jews in Lithuania. Or some angry cause of their present can be completely indifferent to the past or angry at the tellers of old stories.

Bea ütles ...

Jews whose ancestors lived here wanna feel at home here, wanna meet Lithuanians who would feel their tragedy, and they don't meet many of such, and they write something which Lithuanians may perceive as simple blaming, similar to Zuroff's. But can we expect any warm feelings from some poor person who did not live the war, but who thinks those Jews are still better off and wanna take something from him? From someone who is angry at his life, at himself?
Books were and are written, monuments built, museums created, special day of commemoration made, etc. There's always a possibility to do more, of course. But such Zuroff, sure, does not help for many young Lithuanians to perceive the Jews killed here as us, not as them who wanna simply get something more and more from us. We are people, we aren't monsters either. We are all different. Zuroff is an alien to Lithuania, and he lives from blaming it. Jews as well as Lithuanians shall also understand that the times were too messy and too scary for everyone; nobody shall expect that everyone guilty will be punished, and everyone's story will be told and believed as the only right one. It can't happen anymore, but you are free to tell your story and shall let others to tell theirs. We as groups of people shall not stay angry one at another for those tragic events anymore.

Peter ütles ...

I visited Estonia for the 1st time this summer. My grandparents were Estonia - but both died before I was born. I nevert met a blood relative in my 46 years of life before my visit (other than my mother and kids). I only knew a little of the language, but I definitely felt "meie" there. When people knew my story they opened up to me and each day was something special.