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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

  • Angel

    The statue was removed so it could be relocated and set up as fast as possible – so the veterans could celebrate the 9th of May going to the monument they are used to.
    The poll was carried out by a firm that asked people of merely over a thousand. It does not show the will of all the people in Tallinn. Actually, this monument was not problematic before the actions which took place last year. It is a wrong place to honour the dead and it has been constantly pointed out. Now they took action. The timing might of been wrong – but why doesn’t anyone of the so-called “Russian” side (some of them are Estonian citizens, thus, Estonians) think of the high risk of getting that monument blown up by some idiotic Estonian ultra-nationalist? It was a great hazard, and the government couldn’t risk getting the entire place blown up.
    I have to agree with the president – those who participate in the marauding have nothing to do with honouring the dead but are simple criminals that have to be punished, despite the nationality.
    Russia was offered the monument and the remains. Russia was offered to participate in the excavations and have their own participant here. Russia declined.

  • Thomas

    Someone actually know the beginning of the story I guess nooo. Lets see how it got started.

    Russians where celebrating/memorializing at the monument(most of them where old people, also some russian flags and symbols etc). A Estonian man came with Estonian flag to show the respect to the soldier(monument). Then all russians got aggressive against the Estonian flag and russians tried to take the flag from the estonian man with power(aggressively). It’s great that the man is still alive thanks to the Estonian Police who helped him and also protect the flag of Estonia with the respect. there was no point to get to the monument, there where so many agressiv russians and so the man with the flag had no other chance to get into police car to protect him and Estonian flag.

    This was the first conflict.

    I know this because i am the nearest source for it. Actually some RU reporters interviewed some Estonians? Sorry for that maybe Russia can be democracy country in future, but the Ru media talks, like they are speaking about something else but not from the situation.

    The real thing is that Russians doesn’t care the monument they just want to fight with Estonia. Most of the people who actually are making the mess in Tallinn really doesn’t know anything about the monument.

    Most Estonians just think that this is LOL, but they really(Russians) starting to do so stupid things.

    I do not want to say that Russians are bad and Estonian are heavenly good, but i know that most of the people all over the world also included russians from russia doesn’t know the all story.

    i know the monuments mess from the start and if you really don’t know it 100% -ly do not act like it(russians).
    this is the first mess in Estonia(20years)

    noone in the world doesn’t care about the monument, just the fight the opportunity to fight seems to be so important. Why so many Russians hate Estonians. We just can’t take the russian language to our national language, our only national language is Estonia, you need to learn the language. Why England’s or Germany’s should take estonian language to theyre second language? Because there are some estonians? where is the meaning?

    Just Russia do not try to rule over Estonia because we never give up.

    I hope you all can understand the situation.

    Thank you,

    Thomas K. from Estonia (c)

  • No RPropaganda

    Russia is igniting internal conflicts in neighboring Estonia

    This has happened never before in Estonia, small peaceful country in
    Northern Europe, member of NATO and EU since 2004.

    A Bronze Soldier, the statue in Soviet Red Army uniform standing until
    last Friday on small green square in centre of capital Tallinn, was for
    Estonians the symbol of harsh Soviet occupations from 1940 – 1941 and 1944
    to 1991. Ten’s of thousand people were deported without court decision to
    Siberia or killed in Soviet state-terror during that regime as a part of
    ethnic cleansing.

    But part of the Russian community, migrated here within same Soviet
    occupation in search of better and European-style life, is following
    cold-war time Soviet history concept. For them these events and statue
    meant memorial of “liberation” of Baltic States Estonia, Latvia and
    Lithuania, as well as whole Europe in WW II.

    Nazi equals Soviet

    The problem is that Baltic States, but also Poland have suffered both from
    Nazi-Germany and Soviet occupations in WW II. And defeating the
    Nazi-Germany did not mean that Baltic countries were liberated, but that
    German occupation was changed by other, Soviet occupation, which in some
    cases was even worse.

    Therefore Bronze Soldier was a symbol of Soviet empire and simply could
    not been tolerated any longer in centre of capital of EU and NATO member
    country. Especially because within last years it was increasingly used by
    Putin propaganda-machine as a Russian symbol to generate tension in
    Estonia between whole society and less integrated smaller part of Russian
    community.

    So it was inevitable to relocate it from Tallinn city centre, leaving
    still chance for those, who have different opinions, chance to visit the
    statue on military cemetery in Tallinn, where also the remains of dozen
    Soviet soldiers will be reburied.

    Heavy violent propaganda and co-ordination from Russia

    Government planned to relocate the statue last week in peaceful manner
    with holy memorial ceremony. But about thousand people, demanding not to
    touch the monument at all as it was symbol of Russian power, started to
    attack police and throw the stones. This confrontation coordinated by
    Russian embassy in Tallinn and turned on heavily by numerous Russian
    TV-channels frequent and unbalanced emotional reports, widespread quickly
    and turned into street violence, vandalism and shop raiding, never taken
    place in Tallinn before. Almost everybody and everything, not being
    Russian origin, was labeled to be “fascist”. Also, the windows of Estonian
    National Opera and main square located St. John’s Church were stoned.

    Shouting: “Russia! Russia!” the shop raiders were stealing the alcohol,
    premium brand clothes (Hugo Boss, Giorgio Armani, Gucci shops were
    raided). About hundred shops were raided and stoned, dozens of cars
    beaten. As a result, almost 1000 people were arrested in three days,
    amongst them number of experienced criminals with long track record.

    Considering the situation, the Bronze Soldier statue was relocated on
    Friday morning and is standing now on Defense Forces cemetery where it’s
    accessible to everyone.

    But this has not stopped the propaganda war from Moscow.

    Massive hostile media campaign from Russia against Estonia has now reached
    advanced stage, accusing Estonia in re-evaluation of WW II results, of
    course not speaking a single word about Soviet-run mass crimes, killings
    and deportations in Baltic States during Soviet occupation. Also, shop
    robbers are shown in Russian TV as “fighters for our memory and against
    fascism” and Estonian government and police are accused by Russian TV as
    “state repressive organs, humiliating rights of Russians”. It’s No. 1 news
    topic in all Russian TV channels already for three days.

    The fact, that statue of Bronze Soldier has been removed and erected
    already in new place (Defense Forces Cemetery) where everyone can visit
    it, has not changed the attitude.

    Hysteric reactions from Russia

    Russian Parliament has demanded to place the statue back to where it was
    before, also that Estonian Government has to step down. Needless to say,
    this is clear interference to Estonian internal affairs by all means.

    The Russian state accusations by now (Tuesday, Wednesday) have become
    absolutely hysterical and expressing complete lies. The member of Russian
    Parliament, Gosduma, Mr. Kovaljev accused after seeing the monument
    yesterday on its new location, that “statue has been sawed and holy memory
    disgraced”. According to workers, giving an interview in Estonian TV,
    nothing such has happened as statue was relocated in one
    unit and as soon as possible.

    Also, massive scam and internet attacks against Estonian state
    authorities’ websites and media channels IT-systems have been
    started from Russia. “It’s identified now that in some cases IP-addresses
    are related directly to Kremlin-run organizations and structures related
    presidential authorities of Russia,” said Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign
    Affairs of Estonia, yesterday on press conference. Also, it’s proven that
    many people confronting police forces before events went violent, were
    paid by Embassy-run organizers a 80 EEK (app. EUR 5) per hour.

    Estonian embassy in Moscow is on under heavy 24h protest waves, psycho
    terror and attacks of Kremlin-supported youth organization “Nashi”,
    getting minimal formal defense from Russian Militia. Estonian ambassador
    Mrs. Marina Kaljurand was attacked physically today (Wed, May 2) while
    trying to give a press conference. “Nashi” even declared that demolition
    of Estonian embassy in Moscow will start on June 12!

    Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Vice Chairman of Russian Parliament said yesterday:
    “Russia should organize major military campaign next to border with
    Estonia. And some troops may be mistakenly happen to be in Estonia and
    demolishing many cultural and historic sites. After which we will
    apologize, of course.”

    It’s important to note that despite all of this, most of the people in
    Estonia are still calm and there are no cases of violence from Estonian
    community. The importance of situation is illustrated by fact that almost
    2000 people by now in Estonia have applied to become a member of Police
    Support Organization to protect the country from internal conflicts,
    coordinated from abroad.

    Soviet monuments not relocated, but demolished in Russia

    As a curiosity, Russian overreaction is hypocritical because on very same
    time, WW II monuments for Russian soldiers are demolished (not replaced)
    in Russia itself. It has happened in Moscow satellite city Himki a few
    weeks ago, also in Stavropoulos in southern region on last autumn.

    So all in all – it’s symbolic war against Europe and another clear
    evidence of former KGB agent Putin tactics to show the world that Russia
    has not changed and need to show a power.

    We hope that all people reading this information will make their move on
    their home countries by demanding Russia stopping interfering immediately
    to Estonian /EU internal affairs. Also passing this info to as many people
    and media channels as you can, because Russian (population 150m people) TV
    propaganda is exceeding Estonian (1,3m people) explanations.

  • elmer

    As pointed out above –

    Nazi = Soviet

    And today, some russkies are still acting like soviets.

  • polish view

    It tells a lot that all Central and West European countries that were libered by victorious Red Army share the same opinion about this liberation. Nevertheless they respect all Russian solidiers that died during march to Berlin with duly respect.
    It is a pity that many Russian soldiers that survived capturing Berlin were later on sent to Syberia (they saw too much). It is a pity that Russian Army brought not only a freedom but also occupation and oppresion (in contrast to US Army that truly liberated West countries). The history is both a matter of the facts as well as personal opinion, but as a Pole I must remind everyone that on 17st of September 1939 it was Stalin who attack my country alongside with Hitler. In a few months 1 milion Poles where sent to Syberia and 20 000 army and officers where shooted dead in Katyn, Starobielsk which is still unbeliaveble. Those two dictators closely cooperate untlil the day of Fasist agression in the area of intelligence, military and economic cooperation (Stalin was sending raw materials while Nazis fought in France etc). Who could undermine this facts?

  • Russian

    I’m Russian and am originnaly from Estonia. I currently live in the U.S. and was looking up information on this incident in Estonia. I just wanted to say that for Russians the monument is about the soldiers who gave their life, who died in the war … it’s not about the Soviet Times. I see German cemeteries all over Estonia … nobody demolishes or relocates them. History is history. What happnened … happened. We can’t return those who dies or undo all the hurt and suffering that people went through … but we can save history, save memorials that have a significant meaning to others.

    As far as human rights then as much as Estonians want to deny it there is descrimination in Estonia. I speak fluent Estonian and have 4 year degree but every time I applied for a job in Estonia my RUSSIAN last name did not get me anywhere. I did not even get a chance for the interview. I agree that people who live in Estonia need to learn Estonian but at the same time it is easier said than done. Yes, younger generation will easily learn Estonian langiage but what about older generation??? Try to learn all the terms related to specific field in Estonian when you are 55 years old. It’s not that easy. I think you guys should cut us some slack.

  • pille

    Dear Tukmakof,

    Soviet statues have been taken down because they symbolize Russian aggression for estonians. Should be clear enough, otherwise read Estonian history of years 1939-1944.

    About SS-marches. Many estonians were in Soviet army, some were in German army during WWII. I suggest you start realizing that both of them had NO OPTION WHATSOEVER. Thay just tried to liberate their country from occupants – russians or germans.

    Start seeing a little further than your own nose. Most of russians that live in Estonia today, have come to Estonia during Russian occupation 1944-1991. Russians’ homeland is actually Russia. Estonians have lived here for 10.000 years.

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