Estonia: “A Russian Rebellion”

As Tallinn seems to have entered the second night of rioting over the removal of a Soviet war memorial, here's a blogger's recap (with photos, RUS, by LJ user mrprophet) of what happened the previous night:

A Russian rebellion

Today I've been to a true Russian rebellion, senseless and relentless.

For those not following the events: Estonian government has decided to begin excavations at the burial site of the Soviet soldiers and the Warrior-Liberator monument at [Tonismagi] Hill in downtown Tallinn today. In the afternoon, the police fenced off the monument and surrounding areas and covered the monument with a non-transparent cloth. Something like this has long been expected, so around 5 pm a predominantly Russian crowd started gathering near the National Library, located right by the monument.

I learned about it around 6 pm, when one of my friends called me. When I arrived at [Tonismagi], 2 to 3 thousand people were already there, chanting “Shame!” and “Fascists!”. The crowd was slowly but consistently growing, though the demonstration was extremely unorganized, due to the spontaneity of it all. Most people came to the square after learning about what was taking place from friends, over the phone, on the internet or in forums. Most people were young, but in general the crowd was pretty diverse.

In the meantime, the police cordoned off the whole square with a circle of OMON [riot police]. Nothing was happening for a long time. There were no speeches, people just stood and yelled slogans in defense of the monument to the fallen in the Great Patriotic War. The police and OMON acted calm. I witnessed only a couple of fights, when someone either threw himself on the cordon or something like that. They were using tear gas in response, but it didn't lead to mass aggression. At around 8 pm, the protesters spontaneously blocked [one of the streets adjacent to the square], and in response the police demanded that everyone disperse.

A helicopter was hovering above the crowd, some extra cordon fences were delivered, a water cannon arrived. From the crowd flew bottles, eggs, insults. The police didn't really react to that. No incidents happened while I was there – people, instead, were trying to stand there in an organized manner and to prevent provokers from throwing bottles into the first rows of the crowd. The first rows were comprised of all kinds of folks, from schoolkids to elderly people.

The truly tough stuff started happening around 9 pm. The police must've gotten tired of yelling into their megaphones for the rally to disperse, and OMON moved forward on the protesters. We were being pushed from the crossing near the library quite crudely. They were beating [us] with [rubber] sticks, and washing [us] lavishly with tear gas. Here's when the decisive moment came. The crowd got wild and the real Paris Commune began. The crowd was retreating, but all kinds of things were flying from it toward the police: stones that were ripped from the pavement, garbage containers, street poles. Everybody was yelling, “Fascists!” and “Russia!”

Here was when I decided that my life was more valuable than the lively photography, and so I moved away from the front rows. In front of me, OMON was fighting the retreating crowd. By that time, everyone had already been pushed from the square in front of the monument and OMON had begun using rubber bullets. The crowd ran, then stopped, shattering everything in its way. Ironically, at [Tonismagi] Street, where it was all taking place, there's the HQ of the ruling Reform Party, whose leader is Estonia's prime minister and whose initiative it was to start excavations at the Warrior-Liberator monument.

Finally, the people reached the turn to Parnu Highway (there's a small square there) and blocked the traffic completely. There were no police in this area at all, and so the crowd was overwhelmed by the real thugs. The protesters gone mad blocked all the paths with barricades made of sidewalk fences that they tore out, they started breaking windows, lighting fires and breaking into shops and kiosks. They nearly set on fire one of the houses near the highway, but the cooler heads, fortunately, extinguished the fire soon.

I stood behind this chaos a bit longer and went home. Police sirens became audible to me only when I was already far away from the place where it was all taking place. The police turned out to be absolutely unprepared to what took place after OMON began to push the crowd out. Pogroms went on for 20 more minutes before I left the square, and I'm not sure they've stopped already. The unrest continues.


The conclusions offer no consolation, of course. The police started dispersing the demonstration in a rather harsh way for no reason (whether it was needed or not isn't for me to decide), and the demonstration didn't want to be dispersed, so it responded even more harshly. Those who stood around me weren't thugs, but they were ready to fight till the end and to respond to every blow of the law enforcement forces with a blow twice as strong. The police were absolutely not ready to what happened as a result, when chaos prevailed.

It's crazy. The people have shown that they are capable of [fighting back] the authorities completely spontaneously, without the support of parties and movements. And it was just the first day. Can you imagine what's going to happen there on Victory Day, for which many people gather even without such reasons?

Anyway, I'm scared for my country. I'm scared because those reasonable people I saw at the beginning of the rally were beaten up during the rally's dispersal – and, very suddenly, they were replaced by the demented thugs. It all began as a spontaneous attempt to defend the monument. And it ended… the way it ended.


A set of pogrom pictures by Flickr user neoroma is here. (Update: Unfortunately, the viewing mode for this set seems to have been set to “private” at some point, so the link no longer works.)


A rather heated English-language discussion of the situation in Tallinn is currently taking place at Itching for Eestimaa – in the comment section to this post (131 comments so far).


  • […] Veronika posts an Estonian reporter/blogger’s account of how a protest against the removal of a Russian Monument in Estonia escalated into seriously destrucive mob-violence. […]

  • Hard to say anything about the bone of contention which in this case is the Bronz Soldier. On hand there is the past with all those fallen heroes under it, another hand there is the suverenite of the indepent independent country.
    With all respect to the estonian regime I would to say that there is no one who wholly is able to undertand what the men without country of their own relly means.
    I cannot say exactly how large is the population that occupid the Estonian whom one could very well call as ‘men without a country’.
    In genera they are called as estonia russian, majorite of them russian by origin yet estonian by born and the plain truth remain, tha they are not russian nor estonian either. They belongin in Russia as poorly as the roma belongin in Intia.

    It’s very hard to ge the people who cannot feel being conected anywhere. Who are not citizen of any country or land. Then there coulld be suitable , even a obscure hint as a monumen to be joint somewhere.

    I could recommend to read the book ‘The man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut.

  • calugula

    When Christians fight, Zionist’s jews celebrate, this whole thing is ‘made in Israel” read Douglas Reed’s “Controversy of Zion”, you’ll get it then. Behind Communism, Nazism and other “isms” is Zionism !!! Educate yourselves and stop being “goyas”

  • Sickle

    They had no right to beat people senseless for standing on the streets, not even talking about the murder of a 20 year old boy. If we were Putin – would send the troops into Talinn, as they cant even handle their own ‘independence.’
    In Estonia Hitler is coming back to power…

  • Marco Ekco

    As an American married to an Estonian and living in Estonia and unfortunately deal with a large number of Russians via business, I must say, screw all things Russian in Estonia and remove the the Russian population to their homeland. They are generally not welcome, civilized or of an independent mindset and should waste their energies on the moronic Russian government rather than create problems in a wonderful country. Furthermore, the statue in question should be shipped back to mother Russia.

  • Michael

    Estonia, which has recently joined to EU and NATO, officially practices Apartheid policies and does its best to rehabilitate and legalize Fascism, for years. EU, US and other democracies preferred not to pay attention on that till now. However, it doesn’t cancel the fact that Estonia carries out a policy of Ethnic Discrimination against ethnic Russians, who constitute a third part of its population. Most of these people were born in this country or live here for 30-40 years, but they were not even provided citizenship and are treated as second class people. Moreover, Estonia officially glorifies legionaries of Hitler’s SS troops that exterminated Jews in Fascist death camps in Estonia during the Holocaust. Government sets up monuments to these Fascist butchers. They are allowed to march in the downtown of the capital, Tallinn. They are invited to official events; the Estonian President shakes their bloody hands, and calls them heroes of Estonia.

    At the same time, Estonian government aggressively fights with any memories of millions of the Soviet soldiers, who paid with their lives to free Europe from the plague of the Fascism and to save dozens millions of Europeans of the death. And democratic countries – first of all EU and US, prefer to dissemble this again. But recently Estonian regime overstepped the limits, which makes it absolutely illegal from the point of view of common human values. On April 26, Estonian authorities have decided to finally erase the memory of the victory of Russian soldiers over the Hitler’s Nazism by destroying the main World War II memorial to a Soviet warrior-rescuer, Bronze Soldier. For those Russians who live in Estonia, demolition of the memorial is not just a removal of some architectonic construction. This is the most painful insult of the memories of their fathers and grandfathers, who died in battle with the Fascism to bring freedom to the Europe.

    Thousands of offended Estonian Russians came to a peaceful protest demonstration, demanding from Estonian officials to stop the vandalism. But instead dialogue Estonian authorities sent special police forces to suppress the protest. With no reason they started to fire in the protesters rubber bullets, water cannon and tear-gas, throw flash-bang grenades, and baton women and teenagers. During the massacre the first ethnic Russian was killed, dozens were injured and hundreds were arrested just because of their Russian ethnicity. Those arrested were thrown into in a harbor warehouse as they were livestock, and there they were beat by police within an inch of their life. Just think – in the heart of the Europe an Apartheid regime kills, injures and arrests hundreds people just because of their ethnicity! However, almost all of the European and American media keep hypocritical silence or even worse call this “pacifying gangs of drung vandals”.

    This is disgrace! This is shame not only on those European and US governments that support this Nazi state. This is shame on every European and American who keeps silence today. Keeps silence, because somewhere inside he or she is confident that rehabilitation of Fascism, and Apartheid crimes committed against those “dirty Russian” at the heart of the European Union, provide “useful lesson” to Russians and Russia. But maybe you think that this is not your business? Then let me remind you a famous phrase by German priest Martin Niemoller he said about Nazis in 1945: “First they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew…. Then they came for me and by that time there was no one left who can speak up for me”. Today, new European Nazis came for the Russians, and the Europeans keep silence or, better to say, silently approve. Well, you can be sure – this is just the beginning, and some day yours home-grown Nazis, inspired by your silence of the crimes of the Estonian Fascism, will come for you. And there will be no one to speak up for you. Because Russians, once rescued the Europe from the Fascism, will never pay again with millions of their lives for those not speaking up today.

  • Michael

    Here are a couple of interesting facts regarding Estonia:

    Most wanted Nazi war criminals
    10b. Harry Mannil
    Arrested Jews and Communists who were then executed by Nazis and Estonian collaborators
    Status: Cleared by investigation in Estonia

    10a. Algimantas Dailide
    Arrested Jews who were then murdered by Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators
    Status: Deported from US; convicted by Lithuania, which has hereto refused to implement his sentence of imprisonment

    Not a single Estonian citizen who participated in the persecution and/or murder of Jews during WWII has been brought to trial by the Estonians, despite the existence of abundant incriminatory evidence in at least two cases submitted in recent years.

    A monument to an Estonian “Freedom Fighter” had been unveiled in a small town Lihula in Western Estonia. It showed a soldier in a German uniform with a Waffen-SS (combat SS) unit emblem, wearing a steel helmet and holding a machine gun.

    So, what should one think about this?

    1. Thousands of estonians were serving in Hitler’s Waffen-SS troops where they exterminated Jews, Russians, Beloruses, Ukrainians, and other “untermenshen” in death camps.

    2. No one Estonian was brought to trial for war crimes after Estonia become independent. Moreover, Estonia protects even most wanted Nazi criminals identified by Holocaust organizations.

    3. Estonia glorifies its Waffen-SS “freedom fighters” by setting up monuments to them. Meanwhile, Estonia destroys memorials to Soviet soldiers, who won Hitler.

    4. Estonia practice massive ethnic discrimination against Russians, Beloruses, Ukrainians today.

    You don’t have to be a detective to make a judgement: Estonia is a typical Nazi state. And if there were not only one million popolation, but 100 million with enough weapon, they would already repeat the Holocaust second time.

  • Peter Winterson

    Fact : Estonia is a free country which can decide for itself.
    It has a democratic gouvernment and a free press which is – a lot- more than can be said about Russia.

    Instead of reacting hysterically, the Kremlin should have considered a bit of Estonian history.
    What about the tens of thousands Estonians who died through the crimes of Stalin?
    What about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact?

    Furthermore, it should be noted that the Estonian government showed a lot of respect for the remains of the Red Army Soldiers.
    More than Russia did considering the remains of 6 war heroes in Chimki whose graves were recently carelessly destroyed by bulldozers when building a ‘new business-centre’.

    Hypocrisie…. :(

  • Draakon

    Michael, your posts show your lack of information.

    You don’t know practically anything about the history of Baltic states.
    De facto, Baltic states were occupied by Soviet Union in 1939, then conquered and occupied by Nazi Germany. In 1944. Nazis retreated and Estonian independent government took the power, but just for few days, until Red Army returned and OCCUPIED, not liberated Estonia.

    In WWII Estonian people had not much to choose. It was hard to avoid war and most of the men were enrolled to army against their will. Was it Nazis or Soviet army, didn’t really matter to them – both were equally disgusting.
    Soviet army had occupied Estonia and already murdered tens thousands of Estonian people in 1940-1941 and that was the reason why many Estonian men wanted to join German army. It wasn’t ideology or Hitler – they didn’t fancy that. It was a chance to fight against soviet murderers that killed and deported their faimilies.
    The crimes Soviet Army did in Baltic states were WAY MORE TERRIBLE than everything that nazis ever did in Estonia. So there’s no wonder that some Estonians chose to fight against Red Army.

    The Lihula monument you mentioned was erected to those man, who did fight against occupation army. They didn’t have a possibility to choose – there was no Estonian army at this time. They didn’t want to choose any sides between soviets and nazis. But they chose that seemed less evil of two evil forces.

  • Latimeri

    I totally agreee with Michel. The monument itself wasen’t the real reason to start the dispute which now is surfing back and fro.It rather seem that there have been long time desire to tear the primary knot open which is nothing but the question of the russen minority, and before all,to find the real reason to deport them by the same token as the nazi Cermany deported the jews.

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