Russia, Estonia: The Monument

Global Voices Online
Friday, January 19, 2007

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 users].


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]?..

No comments: