The Monument next to the Tallinn ‘Freedom Square’ and the City Hall would equal having a memorial close to the entrance to Tivoli in Copenhagen with a mourning Wehrmacht soldier to highlight the German sacrifices for ‘Neuropa‘ during the occupation of Denmark.
To move the bronze monument to the armed forces’ cemetary now instead of having it blown up in 1991 immediately after the end of the Soviet occupation was and is a sign of political maturity and real consideration for those who fought bravely for Stalin against Hitler, those who sacrificed themselves to replace one evil empire with a different, more robust, evil empire.
In most of Continental Europe, the Second World War became a civil war, where small and large nations were drafted, enticed or forced by lack of other options to fight for both totalitarian systems. No matter how courageously they fought for their comrades, their effort must be remembered as deeply tragic, as the Estonian have wisely chosen to do at the bloody ‘Blue Hills’ 1944 battlefield West of Narva.
Fighting for a totalitarian system must not be celebrated, but mourned.
Unfortunately the Russian leadership is far from realising or accepting this.
We in Western Europe could be grateful for the sacrifices made by the Russians fighting on the Eastern Front. They made it possible for the U.S. and Great Britain to invade the continent and liberate a space where we would get time to further develop liberal democracy. The Estonians and other East Europeans had nothing to be grateful for. They had to wait until the surviving rotting carcass of Stalin’s evil empire collapsed under the weight of its self-serving corrupt bureaucracy. They had their societies and individuals polluted for 50 years.
Europe is facing several problems, all of these related to the tendency to ignore those problems and thereafter reacting with a combination of civilized optimistic patience and appeasement.
The development in Russia the last 10 years is one such problem, a serious one for our common European future.
Instead of using the decade to move and develop into the 21st Century, picking up the Western political civilization of the post Second World War period, the Russian political leadership has chosen to regress 100 years to the ways of the pre First World War period.
The attitude of Russia to the World and especially to its neighbours is presently close to that of the general great power attitudes of that earlier period. It is built on a demand for ‘respect‘ for the country because of its size. Is it rooted in the geo-strategic and geopolitical attitudes tainted with Social-Darwinism that dominated the conservative elites of all other major European states of the period.
During the period 1905-14 the Russian elite separated itself from the European main stream by being more concerned with domestic reform than external matters and prestige. However, today’s Russia seems to try to compensate for the ‘failing‘ of that otherwise distant period.
The concern for its position in Kosovo is a pure regression into romantic Pan-Slavism. The Finnish role in that process ensures that any logical and legitimate Russian concerns are addressed.
The respect demanded from the small – and thus contemptible and ridiculous – states on the borders is similar in type to that demanded by a mafia ‘capo‘. Presently the focus is Georgia and Estonia.
As then everywhere, the writing of history in Russia today does not seek to present a balanced truth. Russian official history under Putin and Ivanov is written to reinforce the ‘Potemkin‘ image of greatness, to enhance the ego and self-confidence of Russians.
If necessary that is done by deliberate rejection or distortion of known truth and used as a tool of disinformation and propaganda domestically, among Russians in the near and far abroad and to confuse or misguide the increasingly historically illiterate European leaders and populations.
A necessary element in this is a total rejection of the fact that Communism and especially Stalinism was a criminal political and cultural disease similar in most ways to Nazism. Stalin must now be seen and respected as one of the Great Russian leaders. The massive crimes against his own people as well as the – in Russian eyes – second rate nations like Poles and the ridiculously small Baltic nations are seen and presented as justified and necessary.
The facts in relation to Estonia, partly or fully distorted by Russian as previously Soviet historians are fairly straightforward.
* got freedom of action through the Molotov-Ribbentrop deal
* used the framework of the deal to force the Estonians to accept massive Soviet controlled bases in the North and West of the country in the autumn of 1939
* used the newly established air bases (in formally neutral Estonia) in their air campaign – including the terror bombardment of Helsinki – during the unprovoked invasion of Finland in the Winter War, the act worsened by the Finns being the brother nation of Estonians
* used the strategic clarity created by the German victories in the West to invade and fully occupy Estonia in the late spring of 1940
* organised a fully Soviet controlled and rigged election to create a ‘popular wish’ to be able to justify annexation
* removed the leadership of the Estonian nation by deportation and physical destruction of the political, official and cultural elites – a process that drastically culminated in the massive, well-planned deportations just prior to the surprise German invasion of the Soviet Union
* carried out of a massive forced draft of young Estonian men in Northern Estonia for the Soviet Army and thereafter forced the mostly reluctant conscripts to fight, when they had no chance to desert from their hostage takers
* employed these Estonians at the end of the campaign in Estonia in 1944 to fight against, get killed by and kill other Estonians that had joined the German forces (the Waffen SS was the only organisation open to foreigners) during the previous year to defend against a renewed Soviet invasion – visit the soldiers’ cemetaries from the final fighting on the Sõrve peninsular on the island of Saaremaa (Ösel)
* carried out an extended campaign of terror and massive deportations to destroy the remaining resistance of the ‘Forrest Brothers’ and destroy the Estonian rural society by collectivisation
* colonised Estonia from other parts of the Union thus changing the ethnic balance of the country and especially the urban areas of the North
It took a few decades for Germany to move into the future by facing the ugly past. Japan and Turkey are finally in the process of moving. In Russia, the leadership has deliberately chosen a full return to ‘the big lie‘ and to a totally anachronistic view of the world.
Russia is no longer like an Upper Volta with nuclear weapons – and surplus natural resources. She has now regressed to become an early 20th Century spotwise economically developing authoritarian state with nuclear weapons and the surplus natural resources.
The states bordering Russia realise all too well what they see and are justly concerned. In Western Europe we are just worried about the energy supply and ready to appease and ignore to have a loaded promise and a share of the growing Russian marked.
Depressing and challenging.
Nationalistic self-brainwashing based on historical disinformation was the source of tragedies in Ireland, former Yugoslavia and the Caucasus.
When does this irresponsible nonsense stop?