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Russia, Estonia: The Monument

Estonia‘s parliament voted last week to relocate from the center of the capital Tallinn the Soviet-era monument to the Red Army soldiers who died in World War II. The bronze statue of a soldier was erected in 1947 and is considered by many as a symbol of Soviet occupation. The parliament's decision sparked protests by the country's ethnic Russians (25.6 percent of Estonia's total population of 1,324,333), as well as some officials and lawmakers in Russia, who see the monument as a symbol of liberation from the Nazis.

Giustino of Itching for Eestimaa (who is relocating from New York City to Tartu this month) mentions some other symbols and realities of the conflict:

[…] You see, Estonian men, to Russia, should be grateful eunuchs, kneeling before the “Soldier Liberator” of Tallinn with his tough expression, flowing cape, and leather boots. Any attempt by Estonian manhood to assess their fathers’ actions by themselves, without dictation by Moscow, is akin to “glamorization of Nazism” or “glorification of fascism.” […] For those who are scratching their heads over Estonia's latest row with Russia, I would suggest to remember that Russians are not used to being told off by a bunch of roly-poly guys with names like Mart, Andrus, and Urmas. […]

An emotional posting (RUS) by LJ user tukmakov (Denis Tukmakov, journalist for Aleksandr Prokhanov‘s ultra-nationalist Russian newspaper Zavtra) – titled “Yes, the occupiers we are” – basically confirms Giustino's observations:

The “Judge for Yourself” show has just been on on [the Russian] Channel 1. They were arguing about the Estonian government's decision to liquidate the monument to the Soviet soldiers who liberated [Tallinn] from the fascists.

For a long time, the group that was there to defend the monument – let's call them the Russian patriots (Prokhanov was among them) – was forced to make excuses and come up with a pile of arguments, trying to prove that the Soviet Union didn't really occupy Estonia, and even if it did, then Russia was occupied by it and was its victim as well […], etc. Naturally, their opponents, some incoherent Jews, were rubbing salt into this favorite wound of theirs in all kinds of way, demanding that Russia repent for the occupation of the [Baltic states]. Estonians who participated in the show – the ambassador and a lawmaker – were happy.

I don't understand it. Why none of the patriots got up and said calmly: yes, we did occupy Estonia. And we'll occupy it again, if need be. Because we are a great country, capable of slicing Europe up whenever we feel like it. And Estonia is a piece of [expletive omitted] that keeps [sucking up to] those who are on a horse [superior]. No one said this. [Oscar-winning Russian filmmaker and actor Nikita Mikhalkov] seemed to have an urge to insert something like this, but he didn't.

It is that difficult – to be an imperialist? […]

For a while, tukmakov‘s post was in the top 30 of the most popular texts of the Russian blogosphere (according to the Yandex Blogs portal). Among the diverse responses it has drawn (and continues to draw), there's even a video of the humiliating army practice known as dedovshchina, with older Russian soldiers treating their younger fellow-servicemen cruelly in the middle of the night.

Below is a selection of comments, translated from Russian:

origen_72: I think [the Russian parliament] has to develop a law (Russian, for now) that would ban changing the results of World War II. The Jews’ example should be used – when they ban discussion of the Holocause, and who does it, goes either to jail or to Interpol. Criminal prosecution. And catch a few jerks and jail them for five years or so for denying Russia's liberating role in World War II.

[…]

radiotv_lover: I feel sorry for the remains of our soldiers that no one in Russia is willing to bury. While lawmakers-[expletive omitted] and LJ users, who've never seen anything in their lives except a computer, are attacking Estonia, there are HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS UNBURIED SOLDIERS that no one needs in Russia. […] And such [a mess] is taking place all over the country of the fake patriots. They see a straw in Estonia's eye, but don't notice a log, or even a baobab, in their own.

[…]

rimona: This isn't your first post after which I feel like deleting you from my [LJ] friends list. Each time I was stopped by the thought that I'm not picking personal friends in LJ, that it's important to know different points of view, as long as I'm writing on politics. But my patience is up, and I've decided to delete you, after all. Of course, I cou;d've done it quietly, without any declarations. But I do feel like writing this, somehow. Keep up what you're doing, but from now on I won't shudder from reading your thoughts. And I'm glad about it.

[…]

lipkovich: And I feel like adding him [to LJ friends list]. It's a normal reaction of the dying-out nation.

[…]

sceptique_lj: If “we are the occupiers” – then they are right to demolish monuments to occupiers-“liberators.” Nothing to be offended by. Why would the capital of a state have monuments to its former oppressors? I've never seen monuments to Napoleon or [Batu Khan]… […]

[…]

poison_fan: It's not a big deal to fight with monuments. Why does it bother them? As for “We'll occupy again, if need be” – we should restore order in our own country and then [pose proudly as] a great state. Are these guys going to do the occupation? [A 17-minute, 33.2 MB video of Russian soldiers serving in the army unit #3419, so far viewed 2,150 times by RuTube.ru users].

Kontrafakt: Dedovshchina (33.19Mb)

[…]

roman_shapiro: Russians in Estonia live better than [Russians] in Russia. They aren't really willing to leave. […]

[…]

tukmakov: It's not about how Russians live in Estonia now. It's about Estonia holding SS marches and tearing down monuments to the Russian soldiers, with Europe staying completely silent about it. Actually, let them march and let them be silent. I want only one thing – I want Russians to stop being silent about it, I want them to react and I want to people to “regain subjectivity,” to stop being [indifferent toward everything]. […]

[…]

cyril_spb: Tell me honestly… if at Tallinn's main square they erect a monument to the Liberator Warrior ten times bigger [than the current one] – are the lives of Russians going to improve?

If not, then what [the hell]?..

17 comments

  • here in warsaw, poland there stands the soviet-era palace of culture and science, a gift from stalin to the poles…some say it is still the tallest building in warsaw — though there are lots of new up-and-comers challenging (or surpassing) it…the poles i speak with struggle over whether to remove it or not…it occupies prime real-estate in the center of warsaw which is becoming a developer’s haven it seems…it has been refitted with movie theaters among other things and is quite beautiful inside — the struggle over symbols continues here as well…i think for the young generation it’s a kind of cool retro architecture without the historical residue…

  • In Budapest they took away the star symbol of one of the main soviet monuments last year. During the protests against the government. And they were not ‘extremists’ as western media called them:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/34854585@N00/248165937/

  • Maris

    So Vladimir Pozner in his regular discussion program claimed that the Soviet soldiers commemorated by the monument were dying for the freedom of Estonia. Tell that to the Estonians.

  • John

    In Estonia there is i fascist regime now despite the fact they are in European Union. Estonia violates the human right in trems if citizenship. And this example with the monument proves that Estonian authorities still excersize the possibility to make a little pain to Russia without understanding that Russia is big and Estonia is nothing. Also, Estonia forgot that the Russians liberated it from fascism and a lot of Russian soldiers had lost their lives. It’s a shame for Estonia to do that and even living in Australia people know that. Unfortunately, the history can not go back. I would like those soldiers to be alive and Estonia to be under that German occupation with Hitler in power. In that case they would understand what is better.

  • Keijo

    What kind of human rights Estonia violates? Can you bring any examples? Why international human rights organisations do not find any violations in Estionia? The only one who is whining about human rights violated in Estonia is – SURPRISE! – Russia who has still not accepted the idea that Estonia is not under Soviet occupation any more but independent country.
    And at the same time Russia is known everywhere in the world as the violator of human rights.

    Funny – if it is so bad here and human rights violated so badly, how comes nobody is trying to escape from here?

    You can stop your idiotic Soviet propaganda because you will not succeed in fooling the world. The world sees what is going on in Estonia – ethnic Russians, supported by certain groups from Russia, promoting hatred and anti-Estionian slogans, vandalising in the city, threatening Estonia (independent country) with Russian invasion and war.

    But you will learn your lession the hard way.

  • Angel

    As a reply to the previous post – I would highly recommend the person to set his facts straight.
    I am forgetting that the Russians freed us from what? Fascism? Well – apparently your homework has been done VERY poorly.
    The German forces left Estonia days before the Communist Russian forces even crossed the border. The new goverment of the Estonian REPUBLIC was being formed (I’d like you to read it again – yes, a democratic goverment, just like in your country, that is so very fascists free). So, thanks a lot for “freeing” us, instead of leaving us to form our own goverment.
    Thank you for repressing Estonians by sending off half the nation to Siberia whereas the other half was shot, tormented and brainwashed.
    You wanted Estonians to choose between occupations? Here’s a newsflash – neither occupation was desireable, to any degree! Both were outright evil. Clearly, you’re utterly oblivious as to what kinds of crimes the Soviet Union has commited — The victims outnumber those who died during the Hitler’s power.
    It is obvious that you haven’t even sniffed the air of the communism, what it REALLY was about. Thus, I would highly recommend you to think before you post anything like this again. If you don’t know what it was like, there’s no point in playing know-it-all and embarrassing yourself with comments which are only indicative to a very profound lack of knowledge on the topic at hand.

  • David Montgomery

    Western countries will always find violation of human rights in Russia even in case if they do the same in their own countries. Implementation of democracy by the US is a bullshit invented just for spreading their interests around the world.
    So, Estonia is just one example of that. It is like a prostitute because initially, as you said, there was a Russian so called occupation. Now you have a NATO occupation and you will always have someone who will occupy you. Because Estonia is nothing. But what’s the difference between the Russian occupation and the US occupation? The US does not do anything just for nothing. Think about that. I see that brainwashing policy works well in Estonia now artificially creating a threat which is Russia because there is nothing to do for the government. This method is used everywhere in the world. Now it works well in Georgia where the economy is dying but to maintain the popularity the government created a fascist atmosphere. Same in Estonia.
    It’s a fascism to destroy the war monuments. Even Germany has them and maintains them. It’s a pity the Russians died in your country. I wished you to live under German occupation with Hitler in place up to now, in that case you will kiss the ass of the Russians to liberate you.
    Also, it’s a human nature to forget good things and remember not good. Now you are talking about Russian occupation and kiss the ass of the Americans. Tomorrow, when you are fed up with them, you will kiss someone else’s ass to get rid of the Americans.
    So, do you homework mates.

  • Angel

    We are kissing the ass of Americans now? Oh no no!! It’s is lot useful to do so with Russians. And sure, we are the only ones doing so. What hypocrites we are. Shame on us.
    There wasn’t a so-called occupation? It was an occupation. What else do you call it? Do I have to start describing everything in greater detail – what the daily life looked like in Estonia during the year 1956? Or what my grandfather happened to go through in Gulag? Or why my greatgreandparents got shot? Or why their neighbours and their neighbours and their neighbours were sent off to Siberia? Do I have to remind you why no such thing as the opposition existed in the Soviet Union?
    It is still the same principal – if you weren’t/aren’t a communist – then you are something they call a fascist – they don’t use the term about just one group of people but as a general term about everyone – who, in their eyes, are enemies. Including you.
    For your information (that you actually seem to lack of) – the monument was just 15 ms away from the bus-stop, on a busy cross-roads. But yes, seemingly as it is the best place for people to be buried. The Tallinns goverment has constantly ignored that fact. Until it went into the court and became the matter of the Estonian government. Not Russian. Or anyone else.
    They just do like to make a huge fuss of it. Especially when they need a new enemy – as they are in too good relationships with the States right now, they need something more convenient to take the eyes of the world away from their internal affairs. Have you got any idea what is going on in Russia? The free media has been eliminated – maybe you have heard about the deaths of those newspaper reporters? Not just one. There isn’t even an exact account.
    This just makes me wonder WHY were the monuments dedicated to the men who fought for independence of Estonia destroyed during the Soviet occupation. Shall I remind you – it happened in 1918, when the world didn’t even know Hitler? Or shall I go through once again about the facts that if you weren’t with them, you were against them and thus, belonged to destroying. No such thing as individual rights existed. A human life was worthless. Still is.
    I’ve done my homework.

  • Keijo

    I have not seen UN nor NATO threatening Estonia with war. I have not seen UN nor NATO killing innocent Estonians nor deporting them to Siberia. I have not seen them attempting to destroy our culture, our language, our land. I have not seen UN nor NATO soldiers pillaging Estonian villages and raping our people.

    Russians have done all that.

    We have done everything to help ethnic Russians integrate into our society. We have integration programs, language learning programs, etc. We have Russian newspapers, Russian schools… What else do you want? The result – many of these ethnic Russians have not learned even one single Estonian word during almost two decades! They still think that they live in Soviet Union.

    All these accusations in human right violations come from nothing else than such simple things that we, INDEPENDENT country, demand that people who want to get our citizenship or apply for a job in public services etc must meet certain requirements as for example being able to speak Estonian. What’s so extraordinary in these requirements? Russians who think they live in Soviet Union demand that we must communicate with them in Russian. We, independent free nation with our own language and culture in our own motherland must communicate in foreign language?

    Bronzeman symbolises the Soviet occupation. These were not liberators, these were the next occupants. During last years, every year old communists and supporters of Soviet Union were holding their meetings near Bronzeman, waving Soviet flags and shouting anti-Estonian slogans. How long did you expect we will tolerate that?

    And yet nobody wanted to destroy Bronzeman. It was to be removed to military graveyard (and it will set up there soon). Center of city is not place for graves. So what exactly is your problem, Russians?

  • from_russia_with_love

    Why would estonia remove the bronze statue in secrecy? If this was the peoples will, then everyone would support it, there would not have been any clashes, also the russians are mostly upset because of the timing the estonian goverment decided to remove the statue and burial site, they could have done it 6 months ago or 6 months from now, but not a few days from victory day may 9th. I belive this is all politically motivated, and in the end its the people that will suffer. But i do agree, estonia has the right to do as it wishes in it’s own country, but 300,000 russians living in estonia should mean something to the goverment and that should be taken in to account!

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