Friday, April 27, 2007

Historical Revisionism in Estonia



Yesterday’s violent clashes in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, due to the government’s intention of removing a war memorial to Red Army soldiers, and the defence of the monument by Estonia's Russian speakers, has thrown light the plight of the Russian minorities in Estonia and Latvia. (The other Baltic republic, Lithuania, does not discriminate against Russians)

Russians comprise 25.6% of the Estonian population and 29.2% of the Latvian population, but in both countries they are denied citizenship rights, and are not allowed to vote. New language laws also exclude non Estonian and Latvian speakers from certain jobs. Yet only 14% of Estonian Russians speak Estonian (a phenomenally difficult language to learn being Finno-Ugric), and only 23% of Latvian Russians speak Latvian.

Estonia is the darling country of the European Union (EU), with a successful market economy, and is supposedly a liberal democracy. The systematic discrimination against the large Russian minority is due to the state not recognising anyone as a citizen if they cannot establish descent from someone who was a citizen of Estonia in 1940. The Estonian government has also refused to cooperate with the Simon Wiesenthal centre in bringing to justice Estonian’s Nazi war criminals. In 2006 the Estonian state prosecutor, Heino Tonismagi, described the Nazi collaborator Harry Mannil, who personally murdered several civilians in Tallinn in 1941, as “one of the most outstanding Estonians” and cleared him of any criminal responsibility, on the ludicrous grounds that the Estonian authorities had no responsibility as the country was occupied at the time.

Significantly the EU has made no complaint about the denial of citizenship by Estonia and Latvia, and systematic discrimination against significant minority populations. Nor have voices been raised against Estonia’s protection of Nazi war criminals.

In 2002 a war memorial was raised in the Eastern city of Parnu celebrating the Estonians who served in the Waffen SS, describing the Nazi invasion of Estonia as “a war of liberation for the fatherland”. The worrying current here is the equation between Soviet communism and Nazism as equally bad.

Let us consider an analogy. There is a difference between a reckless driver who kills 14 people in a road accident, and a serial killer who systematically hunts down and murders 14 people.

The Soviet Union during the Stalin era did see terrible crimes, but this was in the context of a very backward country seeking to industrialise, and operating in a hostile environment where other states were threatening it and seeking to undermine it. What is more the official ideology of the USSR was to promote the concept of human liberation, and the excesses and crimes were despite not because of what the USSR stood for.

In contrast, the crimes of Nazi Germany were deliberately planned and executed by a state who intentionally sought to engulf the world in a nightmare of barbarism. One of the most economically developed and cultured countries in the world established modern industrial processes to slaughter human beings by the methods of mass production. The victims were transported by the most advanced railways, the extermination was administered using the most modern IBM computers, the gas chambers were designed by professional engineers, and human beings were turned into soap and lamp shades.

Had Nazism triumphed, this would have represented a catastrophic and cataclysmic defeat for the soul of humanity. The values of compassion, solidarity and fraternity would have been stripped away, and we would have been engulfed in a maelstrom of darkness, torture and despair.

Did those Estonians who volunteered for the Waffen SS know this? Or were they simple misguided patriots? With the advancing German Wehrmacht into the Baltic states in 1941 came the Einstatzgruppen. Special detachments who individually hunted and murdered Jews, gypsies, trade union activist and communists. Even before these Estonians joined the SS they would have seen atrocities against Estonian Jews by German troops. Did they know? Everyone knew.

Every Estonian, every Latvian and every Lithuanian who wore the uniform of the Waffen SS was a fascist murderer. During Nazi rule the Baltic states witnessed pogroms, in many case with mass popular participation, where Jews were murdered in their thousands.

Of course the history is complicated by the absorbtion of the Baltic states into the Soviet sphere of influence in 1940 following the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and subsequent repression. But we need to understand the context that the USSR did not believe after the defeat in Spain that the Western demcracies would ever stand up to fascism, and was seeking to build a military buffer zone.

And when the Red Army entered these countries the second time they did so as liberators. They stopped the mass murders. They stopped the transportation to the death camps.

It was a crime to forcibly incorporate the Baltic republics into the USSR, a deviation towards Russian chauvinism, and a mistake by Stalin.

But the current attempt by the Estonian government to equate the Russian annexation of their country with the murderous and genocidal occupation by the Nazis carries the terrible risk of normalising and excusing the fascist barbarism, and covering up the role of Estonian Nazi collaborators.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

And when the Red Army entered these countries the second time they did so as liberators. They stopped the mass murders. They stopped the transportation to the death camps.

Nope. The Nazis left 2-3 days before the Red Army entered Estonia so there was no liberation to do. Also, liberators come and then leave, they don't stay for 50 years! And finally, more Estonians were sent to death camps by the Red Army and the USSR than by any other occupants.

AN said...

The Nazis left 2-3 days before the Red Army entered Estonia

The withdrawl of the nazis from estonia was presuamably therefore becasue they had changed their mind the, nothing to do with the war with the USSR?

Did the USSR run "death camps"?

You seem to be happy with the equation of Stalin's Russia with Hitler's Germany.



There was slave labour under appalling conditions in Stalin's Russia, which no one is defending, but there were no equivalents of the death camps like Auschwitz, where human beings were systematiclly slaughtered due to their ethnicity.

AN said...

Anonymous

Add to which that under Nazi occupation they transported Jews to Estonia from other countries, in all 1500 Estonian Jews were mudered by the nazis, and 10000 Jews from other countries were slaughtered in estonia, and manyy thousands more transported there for slave labour (the children, weak and old being murdered)

Most Estonians who joined the SS did so in 1944, after they had seen the cattle trucks transporting Jews, and the pogroms had been taking place for several years. Did they know? everyone knew.

This was stopped by the Red Army. But you deny that this was a liberation. Do you just think Jews are expendible in the cause of Estonian independence?

Sergey said...

Report from Tallinn, Estonia. Photos tells the truth:

http://public.fotki.com/FotkiEstonia/2007/report-tnisme-action/

neprimerimye said...

Yes Andy the Stalinists did run death camps. How else do you think they liquidated the Bolshevik Party?

I note that the RCP, the Bolshevik Leninist organisation in this country at that date, called for the withdrawal of ALL the occupying armies and thereby supported the right of nations to self determination.

Scott said...

Okay, Sergey, photos tell the truth.

How about these photos?

Parade at Brest

These photos show Nazi and Soviet soldiers (and commanders) holding joint parade in Brest-Litovsk after carving Poland up like a roast in 1939. The Soviets got this particular city. They seem very cheerful.

An, how is slaughtering entire classes of people better than slaughtering entire ethnicities? Just because the Soviets "death camps," (and that's what they were for many Estonians) were more indiscriminate, puts the Soviet Union on a higher moral plane?

The Soviet Union was hardly a "reckless driver," in your analogy. And the total number of dead by the two systems was not equal by any stretch.

The Harry Mannil case, I had never heard about. I looked it up. The Wiesenthal Center made the accusation. You say that the Estonian govt. "refused to cooperate."

With 30 minutes of reading, I discovered that the Estonian govt. formed a commission to look into the charges. They could find NO documentary evidence in Estonian or GERMAN archives to substantiate them. The Wiesenthal Center said, well, maybe the Americans have something. The U.S. hasn't produced any documentary evidence of the sort, although the Estonian govt. REQUESTED that they do so. This is freely available information on the Internet. I'm not going to link it; you know how to Google.

So, we have an accusation. No evidence has been produced (although Mannil fled from Estonia to the West from Estonia in 1943!!; what about that extra year when he should have been helping exterminate Jews?).

If you have anything of hard evidence to base this accusation on, I'd love for you to produce it. As to your charge that the Estonians haven't prosecuted anybody for Nazi crimes; well, there was an occupation of the country. I'm sure the Soviets might have done something in that fleeting 50-year blur to stick it to the collaborators with their No. 1 enemy.

"Significantly," you say, "the EU has made no complaint about the denial of citizenship by Estonia and Latvia."

That's because Estonian citizenship laws are pretty liberal in European terms. To be a citizen, you have to have relatives that lived here during the Estonian republic of 1918-40. If not, you have to show a degree in efficiency in the local language.

If I live in Russia 30 years, and can't speak Russian, can I become a citizen?

But even if you can't speak Estonian, you can vote in the municipal (local) elections. Is it so much to ask that if you are taking part in the national political dialog, you speak the language that it is in?

"What is more the official ideology of the USSR was to promote the concept of human liberation, and the excesses and crimes were despite not because of what the USSR stood for."

Hey, you got to break a few eggs to make an omelet, right? ;-D

All the "official ideology" of the USSR did was "liberate" Estonia from 20 years of progress and growth that saw its GDP at the same level of Sweden, and higher than Finland. Even with the massive growth of the last decade, Estonia's GDP is half of Finland's.

"Every Estonian, every Latvian and every Lithuanian who wore the uniform of the Waffen SS was a fascist murderer. During Nazi rule the Baltic states witnessed pogroms, in many case with mass popular participation, where Jews were murdered in their thousands."

In other countries, you might have a point. But not in Estonia. And I quote from SS records:

"In Estonia there was no opportunity of instigating pogroms owing to the relatively small number of Jews."

That's from the situation reports of the SS, on the Jewish virtual library:

Report

As to "everyone who wore the uniform was a fascist murder" was not what the Nuremburg trials decided. The made a distinction between the Waffen SS units, mostly in border countries with the USSR, and the SS units that were carrying out the Holocaust.

And finally, the "Nazi" war memorial was not in Pärnu, but in Lihula. At the bare minimum, please at least, try to get basic, unarguable, FACTS STRAIGHT in your blogging.

The "fascist" monument -- all it did was depict an Estonian in a German uniform. No SS insignia. No paeans to Hitler. Just a memorial to the Estonians who fought against the Soviet regime with the Nazis, the only uniform available to them at the time.

The USSR, promoting -- how did you put it -- "the concept of human liberation", killed 2000 people in Estonia in 1940, including its politicians, police, military, and intellectuals. And this was BEFORE the Soviet Union and Germany went to war.

Here's a picture of the monument: Photo

And still, it was taken down by the 'fascist' Estonian government in days.

You know what's funny, I'm not even an Estonian. I'm an American, but I've lived in Estonia, which is probably more an An has done. And I can see BS when I read it.

Sam said...

They stopped the transportation to the death camps.

Uh-huh. And then started them up again, to "work camps" Russia. Look up the word "liberate" in a dictionary if you're not too busy.

Anonymous said...

So the fact the Soviets pretended to be be in favour of liberty it was all right for them to murder, install murderous regimes across Eastern Europe and rape their way across areas they conquored? I think those responisbile for the comments defending them Red Army are really being ironic. No sane person could defend Red Nazis any more than Hitler's variety.

Anonymous said...

http://www.pomnim.com/frm/viewforum.php?f=11