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Estonian historian: USSR victory over Fascism is “a tale”: Estonian press digest

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Politics, Society

“Consent to run for the second term has made the Estonian president more popular”.

The consent of Estonian President Arnold Ruutel to run for the second term has made him more popular, reports Eesti Paevaleht. The public opinion poll by Faktum&Ariko shows that 33% of Estonian voters support Ruutels decision. In April Rutel was supported by 20%. 36% support European Parliament member, Social-Democrat Toomas Hendrik Ilves as many as in April. “The number of Ruutel supporters is growing as the picture is getting clearer. There were more doubters before — as nobody knew if the president was going to run again,” says the press secretary of the Peoples Union Agu Uudelepp. Now that the leader of the Centrist Party Edgar Savisaar is absent, Ruutel has got especially popular among the Russian-speaker voters: 59% of non-Estonians and 20% of Estonians support him. 42% of rural residents support Ilves, 28% — Ruutel. The first round of the presidential election in Estonia is scheduled for August 28.

“The past must not overshadow the present” Estonian President Arnold Ruutel, Speaker of Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament — REGNUM) Toomas Varek, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, members of parliament and government, foreign ambassadors took part in a mourning ceremony on June 14, on the Day of Memory for the Victims of the Deportation of 1941. In his speech Ruutel reminded those present that on that mourning day it is important to understand the pain of each person and to remember that victim to the regimes who destroyed Estonias independence were also the soldiers forced to fight for both warring sides. “Luckily, some of them came back home, but here too they faced injustice people began to sort them into friends and foes. It is time to overcome this problem. Lets not allow the seeds sown by the alien regime to sprout with malice in our hearts,” DELFI reports Ruutel as saying. “We remember and mourn but we are sure that the past must not overshadow the present,” Ruutel said.

Also speaking were the chairman of the Tallinn Registration Bureau of Repressed People in Estonia, the “Memento” Union, Leo Oispuu and Ambassador of Russia to Estonia Konstantin Provalov. Provalov spoke as doyen of the diplomatic corps. His words stirred up the audience. Postimees reports that, while speaking as diplomatic corps doyen near the Linda Monument, Provalov, whose six-year term in office expires in August, said no single “occupation” word. He expressed compassion for thousands of innocent people who were forced out of their homes and said that they all fell victims to totalitarianism and its displays: Hitler death camps and Stalin mass deportations. Blind adherence to ideologies always leads to one and the same result: those disagreeing to become “happy” are destroyed or made silent.

Remembering the history of the USSR: the bloody Civil War, the Red and White Terror, the emigration or destruction of the greater part of the elite, the collectivization and terror of the 30s, Provalov said that this all makes Estonias pain understandable in Russia. He noted that they in Russia erect monuments to many repressed people, including Estonians. Russian Ambassador Konstantin Provalov laid flowers to the Linda Monument in memory of the victims of the June deportation.

At the end of his speech, Provalov said that in conclusion he would like to speak as Ambassador of Russia to Estonia rather than diplomatic crops doyen. Reminding about the events near the Bronze Soldier (monument to the soldiers liberating Tallinn from Fascists — REGNUM), he said that the troubles of XX should unite rather than separate nations.

When Provalov finished his speech, some old woman, who earlier tried to interrupt him by exclamations, asked when Russia is going to pay for the crimes of the Communism. Provalov said that one must not equate Communists and Russians. After the ceremony Provalov told journalists that the June deportation was “social terror” which resulted in many deaths, for example, “the slaughter of the whole Georgian intelligentsia.” “Today we are remembering Estonian victims, but there were other victims, and one must not blame the Russian people for their deaths as it was a different state the Soviet Union,” Provalov said. He refused to speak about “occupation.” He said that Russia does not and will not recognize it, and it is for historians to solve this problem.

One of the few politicians present at the ceremony was the chairman of the Pro Patria Union Tonis Lukas, who noted that “Russia still doesnt dare to recognize its history.”

Despite different interpretations of history, Ambassador Provalov and President Ruutel spoke about the past and the present in almost the same words.

“The Centrists rewrite bill for preserving the Bronze Soldier” On June 15 the Centrist parliamentary faction made additions to Pro Patrias bill for transferring the Bronze Soldier, which, in fact, reversed its content.

The original text urged the City Council to plan the transfer of the Bronze Soldier, a monument to the victims of the WWII standing at Tonismagi Square in the center of Tallinn, while the Centrists who have majority in the City Council (31 seats) added to it quotations from earlier statements by Pro Patria politicians, for example, excerpts from the article of Pro Patria representative to the City Council Liiza Pakosta published in Postimees in 2000. In the article Pakosta says that “the Bronze Soldier is ceasing to be the most urgent city problem for an increasingly bigger number of Tallinn residents.” The amended text urges the City Council to comply with the viewpoint of the former Pro Patria member the Tallinn mayor Juri Mois. In an article in Postimees Mois says: “I can sanction only decisions acceptable for the majority of city residents.”

The revised version was approved by 31 Centrists. Before the voting Pro Patria members walked out of the hall as a sign of protest.

Three weeks ago Mayor of Tallinn Juri Ratas expressed his personal point of view on the problem of the Bronze Soldier. He supported President Ruutels idea to set up a commission for solving the problem of this repeatedly profaned monument. “This monument does not bother me and I have never thought about leaving the city because of it,” Ratas said.

Meanwhile, the government has allocated 1,081,017 kroons from its reserves for police operations at Tonismagi in Tallinn.

Economy and Communications Minister Edgar Savisaar has promised that the 1,081,017 kroons allocated for the police protection of Tonismagi will not be the last if the tensions continue. “The guards will stay there until the problem is solved. The task of the government is to ensure public order for as long as necessary and no government will fail this task because of financing,” Savisaar said during a news conference on June 15. (Postimees)

Estonias accession into Schengen zone put off” The accession of Estonia and other new EU members into the Schengen zone may be put off for half a year, at least. The key reason is the introduction of the second generation information system in the zone. Eesti Palevaeht reports the press secretary of the European Commission in Estonia Marit Ruuda to say that the introduction of the system was scheduled for March 2007 but already today one can say that it will not be introduced by this time.

Experts call the Schengen information system, a unit to be headquartered in Strasbourg and supervised by the European Commission, the key mechanism for compensating for the indirect security-level losses each member state will sustain as a result of the formation of common European visa space. Besides, each state should form its national information system. Initially, Estonia was supposed to join the Schengen Agreement in October 2007, but experts say that this will happen no earlier than March 2008.

“Mart Laar: Georgias Future on Knife-Edge” Estonian Ex Prime Minister Mart Laar says that the present situation in Georgia is very much like Estonia of 1993-1995. In May 2006, Laar was appointed as reforms advisor of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. Eesti Paevaleht reports him as saying that in 1-1.5 years it will become clear if things in Georgia will go very well and very badly. “International experts say that Georgia will do either very well or very badly. I say the same there is no other way,” says Laar. He refers to the last IMF report on Georgia but refuses to comment on the details of this confidential document. However, one can easily guess that Laar is speaking about its negative part. One can also guess what Georgias key problem is.

“Georgia would never stand large-scale reforms unless Russia declared an economic war on it,” says Laar. He notes that their conduct is indisputable. Speaking of Russias pressure, Laar says that the question is about survival rather than economic choice. Laar names the key items of the Georgian export: “Metal scrap — like once in Estonia — air equipment, wine and agricultural produce.” The former two will not hold out for long, the latter two depend on Russia, who has put a huge lock on its market door. The second Russia-related problem is energy. Laar admits: “Nobody can help it. The rise of the price to $240/ c. m. is just a matter of time. True, Armenia is helping for the moment, but not for long. Iran is not a way-out either: its energy is no cheaper.” In conclusion, Laar admits that today Georgia is like Estonia of 1993-1995, “but Georgia has lost 15 years the years Russia has used to raise its policy making capabilities,” says Laar. He is delighted with the reformatory ardor of the young Georgian leaders and with the quickness and effectiveness of their anti-clan and anti-corruption measures.

Russia and Estonia. Russians in Estonia

“MPs building bridges”

A delegation of the Russia-Estonia deputy group of Russias State Duma is to pay a three-day visit to Estonia the first visit in the last few years. The Russian delegates will come to Tallinn on the invitation of their colleagues from the Estonia-Russia groups of the Estonian Parliament.

In an interview to BNS the chairman of the group, Reformist Sergey Ivanov says that even seven Russian members of parliament coming to Estonia after a long recess in Russian-Estonian relations is a big event. He says that the Russian delegation includes representatives of economy, culture and tourism committees, who will discuss specific problems with their colleagues from the Estonia-Russia group and with foreign ministry officials. They will also go to Ida-Virus district to consult with local governors and big businessman Tiit Vahi. Ivanov says that the Estonian MPs will certainly raise the question of the building of a new border bridge across the river Narva.

The Russian delegation is led by the coordinator of the Russia-Estonia group Svetlana Smirnova. She last visited Tallinn in 2004 as a delegate from Udmurtia at the World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples. In May 2006 Smirnova supported Estonian MPs from the Centrist and Peoples Union parties in their objection to the proposal of Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip to transfer the monument to Soviet soldiers from the center of Tallinn to a cemetery.

The response visit of the Estonia-Russia group may take place in October-November 2006

“Tale about victory over Fascism” “When on May 9 2005 Russian President Vladimir Putin invited world presidents to Moscow, he did it officially in order to mark the victory over Fascism/Nazism. Many presidents came and pretended they all believed in all that staff. However, there was one thing that spoiled the holiday a bit: Adamkus and Ruutel did not come. With all my respect for the Latvian president, the step by her Lithuanian and Estonian counterparts proved more effective. For Russia it is still important to keep up the myth that the Russian/Soviet people liberated Europe from Fascism. Stalin was Stalin, but it was we who liberated the peoples. Russia is clutching at this myth like a drowning man at a straw as this is the last thing that keeps it in the international super league, of course, except for atomic bomb and natural gas. Those celebrating the Victory near the Bronze Monument are also clutching at this myth.

However, myth remains just a myth. Germany and the Soviet Union were not enemies, they were rivals. They felt malice not towards each other but towards European democracy. Germany and the Soviet Union were like criminals, while the West an honest person. Tyranny has never given freedom to anybody. That war was just a settlement of accounts with the key opponent, and the countless monuments we can see all over Central Europe today are just a reminder of its destruction. The best known and the most untrue monument is in Treptower Park in Berlin. Worship of such monuments as to symbols of happiness is beyond any criticism. The Bronze Soldier symbolizes not the victory over Fascism but the victory of one criminal over another. Both just wanted to rule the world. Have they actually defeated Fascism after all? No, we can see Nazi flags flying in Russia, not Estonia,” historian Lauri Vahtre says in Eesti Paevaleht.

“Isamaliit seems to be a diagnosis”

Representatives of other parliamentary parties comment to Daily News on the article of Isamaliit representative Vahtre.

Peeter Keinzberg, Social Democratic Party: “For me, the main thing about that war was that it was a war against Fascism, and nobody can convince me it was not. Yes, that war resulted in the occupation of Estonia, the division of the whole Europe by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and in many other things. However, the people who fought in the anti-Hitler coalition fought against Fascism. Thats why I have no claims against those who fought in the Red Army and won together with the whole Europe.”

Vladimir Velman, Centrist Party: “As you may know, in 1940 Estonia did not resist the accession into the USSR, as otherwise, as someone said: ‘the whole history of the Estonian people would have ended in a five-minute report by BBC.’ These are unpleasant recollections. Thats exactly why today people like Vahtre are rewriting the history and are trying to turn defeat into victory. I dont think that the emergence of such interpretations is a tendency in our society. As regards Isamaaliit, for them it is simply a diagnosis. ‘

Tatiana Muravyova, Party of Reforms: ’If the content of that war was ‘a fight of two criminals,’ then why the US and the UK decided to ally with one of those ‘criminals.’ The selfsame Europe, whom Vahtre presents as an innocent victim in the fight of two ominous monsters, marks May 8 as the Day of Victory over Fascism every year. Several years ago I was in Paris on May 8 and saw that for the French people it is really a holiday, just like May 9 for us here. I also saw something I dont see here: a president laying flowers on the Eternal Fire.”

Yaak Allik, Peoples Union: “I dont comment on Lauri Vahtres statements, but I can say that we have different views of history.”

Mikhail Lotman, Res Publica: “I know the works of Vahtre and think that he and his supporters do not study history but create new myths. Of course, both Hitler and Stalin were tyrants, but this has nothing to do with the people who shed their blood in battle fields. The history of that war is one big tragedy and one must not use it for his own political aims, whoever high those aims might be.”

“Challenges to Estonia in 2050”

“Two years ago, before my moving to Estonia, I thought that the people who has gone through so many radical and dramatic changes is ready for as difficult future. Since 2004 many Estonians have begun to think that they live on the other side of ‘the end of history,’ in a world where radical changes are impossible,” Paul Goble says in Eesti Paevaleht. “The changes coming from the East and having impacts on Estonia can actually be dramatic. The Russian Federation is suffering from the post-Soviet syndrome and is trying to cure itself of a state that broke up in the 90s. Many refuse to admit this, but the memorable speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin has forced them to admit the collapse of the USSR. No doubt Russia will rise to its feet in the next 50 years and no doubt its neighbors like Estonia will have to overcome the related complexes and dangers.

”One can say that the tragedy of Russia is that the Russian state had become an empire long before the Russians became a nation. Thats why that regime has never been a national state. It was a state nation. On the other hand, the Russian Federation is not Russia. It is 22 peoples owning 53% of the territory. This annoys the Russians, who are facing demographic degradation. Many experts say that by mid-XXI Russias population will halve, the Russians will become a minority, while the Muslims a majority. The Russian Federation is not a federation. There is no agreement on who does what. This provokes conflicts between Moscow and local elites. Russia does not even have a normal infrastructure. Russia is not just a failed state who is trying to rise to its feet but a new failed revisionist state and will remain one. Neither Moscow nor the Russians have so far recognized the events of 1991.

They are constantly speaking about restoring partial or full control over the former Soviet empire, discussing how Moscow should treat the so-called unrecognized states, which the Russian continue calling “near abroad.” Such positions are very dangerous. For the Baltic states these dramatic changes may be crucial. On the one hand, the US is getting increasingly less active in Europe, on the other hand, the EU of mid-XXI will be different from what it is now. And if nothing changes in Estonia, these two circumstances will pose plenty of problems to the Estonians. Meanwhile, Estonia may face quite dramatic changes: reducing population and growing wish to live better will create tensions the Estonians will not be able to overcome.

In 50 years the Estonian state may turn into three-four small towns, with the rest just deserted land. The towns will be populated by immigrants from regions who will be far from the present cultural experience. Brain-drain to the West and dependence on external forces will also give them lots of problems unless they deal with this today. The Estonians should understand what challenges they may face in the future. In order to become successful they should react to these challenges rather than deny them," says Goble.

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