Tuesday, 19 August 2008

In the Shadow of the Bronze Soldier

In May, 2007, I wrote a paper on the nostalgia for the Nazi-era collaborators in the Baltic States, especially as manifested in Estonia by the ex-prime minister, revisionist historian and Milton Friedman prize-winner, Mart Laar. Since Mr Laar acts as an adviser to the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, as well as a propagandist on his behalf in the American media, it seemed appropriate to republish the paper, In the Shadow of the Bronze Soldier: Estonia Removes Red Army Memorials and Restores SS Graves. Mr Saakashvili's racist rhetoric about Russians as a race of "barbarians" has filled the airwaves in the West. It is not surprising Saakashvili's Georgia has imitated Estonia in building an occupation museum recalling "Russian occupation" under Stalin-Djugashvili, Ordzhonikidze, Enukidze, Beria and many other "Russians" presumably operating under Georgian aliases! (Sadly, the museum is routinely closed during the power-cuts which plagued Tbilisi before the current crisis.) Georgia also imitated the "freedom-loving" Baltic States by broadcasting TV documentaries sympathetic to the few Georgian Waffen SS collaborators who fought to defend their country from Soviet occupation in Holland in 1945 just as Dutch, Belgian and Scandinavian "volunteers" defended their homelands in Estonia in 1944. In reality, many Balts resisted the Nazis as did so many Georgians, but in the New World Order their service to the defeat of Hitler is at best ignored but at worst and increasingly it is denounced as treason to the New Europe, whose leaders assembled alongside Mr Saakashvili in Tbilisi included the American-Lithuanian President, Valdas Adamkus, who has the distinction of being the last European head of state to have fought in the Second World War - in German uniform.

In the Shadow of the Bronze Soldier:
Estonia Removes Red Army memorials and Restores SS Graves

“Their goal was to sweep away all traces of the
‘former world,’ starting by destroying monuments…”

Mart Laar[1]

An uneasy calm has descended on Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, and other cities since two nights of rioting, at the end of April led to hundreds of arrests, scores of injuries and one death.[2] The disorder was sparked by the sudden decision of Prime Minister, Andrus Ansip, to remove the Soviet war memorial, the Bronze Soldier, from a traffic island in Tallinn.

The Prime Minister had promised to leave the statue undisturbed until after the 9th May anniversary of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender. When officials of the Estonian Ministry of Defence suddenly moved to dismantle it on the night of 26-27th April, this enraged members of the Russian minority in particular since they saw the statue as symbolising the defeat of the mortal enemy of Slavs like themselves as well as genocide against Jews. Ansip’s action ignored warnings from representatives of the Russian minority, including MPs like Vladimir Velman, who predicted, "There's going to be trouble as soon as the shovel touches the ground."[3]

In addition to the protests it provoked in the Russian minority regions across northern Estonia, the removal of the statue also enraged official Russia. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, called the Estonian decision to move the statue and exhume the war dead at the site “blasphemous” while President Putin most likely successor, Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, called for Russia to take counter-measures to punish Estonia at the very least economically by speeding up the construction of ports on the Russian part of the Baltic coast to take away transit traffic from Tallinn’s harbour.[4] Oil supplies from have been interrupted, officially for “maintenance” reasons.[5]

The Bronze Soldier in Tallinn was by no means the only war memorial to become the focus of controversy in Estonia in recent years. It is true that in the run up to the Estonian general election on 4th March, Ansip’s Reform Party and the radical nationalist Res Publica movement had made removing the Soviet memorial a key rallying point in their campaigns, but both neo-conservative nationalist parties had already made clear that if they back anti-Soviet iconoclasm they had much more tender concerns about the fate of monuments glorifying Estonians and other collaborators who took Hitler’s side in the Second World War.

Pitting the Estonian majority against the Russophone minority was a successful political ploy in the general election in March The election results enabled Ansip to ditch the less nationalistic Centre Party from his coalition and bring into the ruling coalition the Res Publica movement, whose leader, Mart Laar, has been the chief ideologue of an anti-Soviet historical revisionist movement which denigrates even the anti-Nazi struggle of the Red Army and presents the Estonian Waffen SS troops as “freedom fighters.”[6]

As the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany approaches on 8-9th May, Western European governments must consider the implications of the Estonian government’s decision to pull down the local symbol of the Red Army’s victory of Nazism. What should Mr Ansip’s rush to remove the Bronze Soldier tell Old Europe about its new partner’s attitude to Europe’s darkest period, the Second World War? What are the implications of a sudden revival of anti-Soviet but also anti-Russian feelings in NATO and the EU’s new member, Estonia? Many West Europeans failed to see that Tallinn was not just going to be a “stag party and piss-up” stop where the over-paid sexual inadequates of London and Frankfurt could buy cheap “tossage”,[7] it was also going to be in the front line of a united Europe’s relations with its neighbour, Russia, Western Europe’s major gas supplier and also a nuclear armed super-power.

Official Estonian rhetoric as well as the Estonian media slide between anti-Soviet justifications for the removal of the Bronze Soldier and anti-Russian slogans, so that the battle over the monument is not just about the Communist past of Estonia and how the country should deal with relics of the Soviet occupation, it is also about how Estonia sees its substantial Russophone minority – at least 25% of the population, probably close to one-third – and how it sees itself in relation to neighbouring Russia.

EU and NATO states should not be comfortable with the nationalist arguments coming from official Tallinn, which often involve rehabilitation of collaborators with Hitler and provocative acts towards Russians at home and abroad. The EU has repeatedly committed itself to an ideal of an anti-Fascist Europe where neo-Nazi apologetics and xenophobia were anathema, but Estonia is only today’s acute case of how some of the recent members of EU and NATO see partnership in “New Europe” as an occasion for historical revisionism which would risk putting its proponents in prison in Germany or Austria, for instance.

The Bronze Soldier was not the first controversial war memorial

“When a nation cannot face up to its history, it
will live like a human being suffering from a
permanent neurosis.”

Mart Laar[8]

From the huge Waffen SS cemetery and memorial at Lestene in Latvia to the reconstructed battlefield and war graves of the mixed Estonian, Nordic and Benelux Waffen SS men at Sinimäe in north-east Estonia , a wave of commemoration of the men who fought for Hitler more than sixty years ago is sweeping across the Baltic States. When Flemish veterans of the Waffen SS and their skinhead admirers gather at this time of year to hail Hitler’s volunteers, it is scandalous if any Belgian politician joins them,[9] but in the Baltic States official figures defend the reputation of their own veterans of the Waffen SS.

Arguing that Latvians and Estonians were “conscripted” and only fought to defend their homelands, locally-produced books and museums present a rose-tinted view of the “black legions.” While demanding that Russians to face up to the crimes committed by their Communist forebears, the Waffen SS in the Baltic States are presented as freedom fighters. This ignores the fact that the Waffen SS units core membership came from locals who collaborated enthusiastically with the Nazis in attacks on the Jewish minority as the German armies advanced in 1941. These so-called police units often went on to serve in other parts of the occupied USSR as Jew- and partisan-hunters before returning to provide the core personnel for the Waffen SS units which Hitler only authorised in 1943 after his army suffered catastrophe at Stalingrad. Even then Nazi Germany did not offer the Balts even a Vichy-style Quisling status as an collaborationist state, but kept them firmly occupied. Even if it is true that most members of these units only joined up as the tide of war turned against Germany and was coming towards their home territories again, this means that they served when the Holocaust was intensifying as Hitler stove to annihilate defenceless enemies inside his Reich as his dreams of conquest failed. In reality, Baltic SS-men were found defending Hitler’s bunker in April, 1945, or fighting deep inside Germany like Alfons Rebane, whose reburial in Estonia in 1999 was authorised by Mart Laar’s government.

Although most Western media have ignored the growing tension over the glorification of German collaborators in Latvia and Estonia, at least until the removal of the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn provoked disorderly protests on 26-28th April, in fact in the issue of monuments to war dead from the Second World War has been simmering for almost five years.[10] In the run-up to the admission of Estonia and Latvia to NATO and the EU the issue of the ghosts of both Soviet and Nazi pasts was ignored by the West even though diplomats and journalists in the Baltic States cannot have been in ignorance. Many of the books glorifying the local “freedom fighters” in the Waffen SS have been translated into English and are prominently displayed in bookshops in Tallinn and Riga.

The Bronze Soldier was not the first monument to Estonia’s war dead which has been the subject of fierce political controversy. In fact it was a memorial to Estonians who fought in Hitler’s Waffen SS which first provoked disorder and vandalism in Estonia almost three years ago. Already in 2004, the re-erection of a monument from Pärnu honouring Estonians who fought in the Waffen SS on Hitler’s side in the village of Lihula had provoked outrage on the part of anti-Fascists in Estonia, both Russophone and Estonian, as well as in neighbouring Russia. The removal of the Lihula SS monument in September, 2004, in turned provoked outrage among Estonia’s dominant right-wing political elite – and provoked the fall of the government which had authorised the Lihula monument’s removal.

At first sight, the action of the Estonian authorities to remove a monument commemorating Estonian volunteers in the Waffen SS from the graveyard in the south-western village of Lihula on 2nd September, 2004, was a clear sign of commitment to the anti-Nazi principles of the EU. Estonia was facing up to the shadow side of its past and not giving an alibi to its Nazi collaborators by insisting on the unique evil of Stalin’s Soviet Union. But it was the very voices calling loudest for Russians to face up to the past, which screamed out fury at the desecration of the Waffen SS memorial.

The police faced violent resistance from sympathisers with the “freedom fighters” of 1944 to their action in removing the monument: seven out of eleven police vehicles deployed at the cemetery had all of their windows smashed, for instance. Tires were punctured and vehicle bodies dented. A Soviet-era Estonian-language war memorial in the same Lihula cemetery was vandalised and number of acts of vandalism obviously stimulated by the events in Lihula took place across Estonia over the next few days.[11]

The monument had originally been erected in the nearby coastal town of Pärnu two years earlier. Then the soldier carved on the stone wore the collar flashes and helmet runic symbol of the SS. That version of the monument was soon removed. The SS runes were scratched off and the bowdlerised monument was re-erected in Lihula at a ceremony attended by about 2,000 people, some in modern Estonian military uniform. The monument’s patron, Tiit Madisson, is a resident of Lihula where he is deputy mayor. Mr. Madisson has had a chequered career, enjoying the unique distinction of being imprisoned for his views under both the Soviet regime and in the new Estonia after independence was restored in 1991.

With two colleagues I observers visited Lihula on 31st August, 2004. They had arranged to see Tiit Madisson at 3pm. When they arrived at the mayoral offices they were asked to wait fifteen minutes to twenty minutes. When they returned they were informed that Mr Madisson was in fact in Tallinn for a ceremony at the new Occupation Museum in the Estonian capital and would not return until late at night (“after 10 pm”). However, two Estonian journalists from the Centre Party’s newspaper, Kesknädal, who were also waiting to interview Mr. Madisson about his monument admitted that they had been asked to wait until the “English” had gone!

Although he is also the author of a book about the New World Order - Maailma uus Kord – which seems to rehash the argument that Jewish influences steer US foreign policy, it may be appropriate to dismiss Mr. Madisson as a marginal small-town politician, one of life’s recidivist awkward squad of nay-sayers whose views, even if objectionable, are hardly typical. However, Mr. Madisson was not alone in his desire to see the reputation of the wartime Estonian SS Legion defended. If Madisson is a decidedly minority taste even in Estonia, then former prime minister, Mart Laar is a very different figure.

Mr Laar used the decision to remove the SS memorial from Lihula to attack the Estonian Prime Minister, Juhan Parts, for doing so. Mr Parts had explained the decision to remove Mr. Madisson’s memorial: “The government’s decision was right. We had to protect the Freedom Fighters from any kind of Nazi [associations]. But – and I say this in the Estonian press – this was a difficult decision that inevitably caused a lot of emotions.” The distinction between Freedom Fighters and Nazi associations is not an easy one to make when so many of those praised in Estonia as “freedom fighters” against Stalin’s Soviet Union wore SS uniform. Premier Parts proposed a suitable monument would be ” the erection of a memorial – Freedom Statue – to the people who fought and died for the independence of the Republic of Estonia and the victims of the violence of foreign powers which would be government-funded.[12]

Mr Parts proposal for a less provocative memorial to Estonians who fought Stalin in the 1940s regardless of their uniform drew a swift rebuke from probably Estonia’s best-known politician in the wider world, Mart Laar. Mr Laar came to prominence in the late Soviet period as the author of a book about the anti-Soviet resistance in Estonia, War in the Woods, an account of how ex-Waffen SS soldiers fought the occupying Soviet forces as partisans or as the Nazis called them “werewolves.”

In 2004, Mr. Laar “recommended that the prime minister apologize to the freedom fighters for what has happened” at Lihula. As far as Laar was concerned it was the removal of that monument which drew bad publicity for Estonia. He referred to “the problems that have come after the removal of the monument – I mean the wave of cemetery vandalism that has really given Estonia foreign political problems.”

For Mr Laar leaving Madisson’s monument in place would have been the better solution since “If the Lihula monument itself was relatively unknown in Europe, then news about the post-removal reaction has definitely reached Europe and does not provide any positive publicity for Estonia.” It seems that if a pro-SS monument could have remained in place without drawing adverse comment in the rest of the EU, Mr.Laar would have left sleeping Nazis to lie.

Laar argued – correctly as it turned out - that “the authority of the government and prime minister has been severely damaged and it is difficult to say whether it can be restored.” Mr. Laar’s verdict on the importance of nostalgia for men who fought in SS uniform sixty years ago for current Estonians is a depressing one. He seems to suggest that the widespread impoverishment of many living Estonians at the hands of the country’s current political establishment of which he has been a leading member since 1991 is less relevant to Estonians than symbols from a dark past.[13]

A web search quickly reveals, for instance, that North American white supremacists and their global brethren were outraged by the removal of Madisson’s monument. The international neo-Nazi website Stormfront hosted many contributions to the cult of the Baltic SS legionaries.[14]

Modern white supremacists are a little more subtle than their heroes of yesteryear. If they can find suitable quotations (in or out of context) from members of ethnic groups they normally despise, then they are happy to cite them. For instance, Nuxxs, an Estonian member of the Stormfront web-discussion group contributed the argument: “It is interesting but even the local Estonian jews [sic.] understand why Estonians fought in SS and they have expressed their understanding and support.”[15]

Presumably Nuxxs was referring to declarations like “Estonia’s Jews are loyal to Estonia” by Elhonen Saks published in the Centre Party’s newspaper, Kesknädal, on 25th August, 2004.[16] Many readers might well feel it somewhat unsettling that an Estonian Jews should feel it necessary to issue a public loyalty declaration. It is not exactly the norm in today’s “Old Europe” to require minorities to declare their loyalty to the state – though maybe it is coming to us from the New Europe.

New Europe’s Old Demons

"The difference between them was that the Germans
enslaved us and took our land. But the Russians
destroyed the Estonian nation. They opposed - and
still oppose - Estonian independence."

Alfred Karmann (Forest Brother)[17]

Self-pitying and self-justifying claims that the Soviet regime was genocidal towards the Estonians are exaggerated. Stalin’s regime was undoubtedly cruel, but compared with the complete deportations of the Crimean Tatars or Chechens for instance, the scale of deportation in the Baltic States was surprisingly modest. It cannot be compared to the pretty near complete extermination of local Jews by the Nazis. Yet the myth of a “deported nation” still is widely peddled in the West. In fact, Stalin found many willing collaborators in the Baltic States and local Balts held high office throughout the period of Soviet occupation.

Yet selling the myth of the Estonians as uniquely victimised and of their Waffen SS volunteers as premature foot-soldiers of NATO is not just the work of eccentric extremists like Tiit Madisson.

As a former Estonian prime minister, associate of the Western great and good from the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, who once boasted he was “Mrs. Thatcher’s grandson”, Mr Laar is not a wayward outsider like Madisson giving vent to resentments on the margin of a remote Baltic society.[18] Mr Laar is an astonishingly productive historian of the Waffen SS and its post-war underground resistance group, the Forest Brothers. He may sometimes be criticised for saying that before he introduced “shock therapy” to Estonia in the 1990s he had read only one book about economics – Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose – but he certainly knows his Waffen SS regimental histories. But Mart Laar is also an assiduous networker and proponent of Estonia as a bastion of Western institutions like NATO and the EU Mr Laar is one of the key figures in the “New Europe”. Mr. Laar is a politician with Euro-Atlantic profile. Recently he received the US$500,000 Milton Friedman Prize from the Washington Cato Institute.[19] Back in July, 2003, he took part in the American Enterprise Institute’s celebration “Ronald Reagan - The Legacy for Europe”.[20]

Perhaps it was President Reagan’s controversial visit twenty years ago to the war cemetery at Bitburg with its Waffen SS graves at the end of rows of ordinary Wehrmacht tombs that symbolised Reagan for Laar. The influential neo-conservative Republican think-tank, the Heritage Foundation invited Mr Laar to give its prestigious Krieble lecture when he assured his audience, “Estonia has changed beyond recognition. Sometimes it is hard even for us to remember how this country looked under the socialist system. Estonia is now a modern and vibrant young country, integrating with Western structures like the European Union and NATO with astonishing speed” before advocating a crusade to spread similar effects around the world, ending by appealing to his American audience’s nationalism by quoting the 9-11 passengers who defied the Islamic hi-jackers over Pensylvania, “Let’s roll”![21]

Mr Laar certainly knows how to tailor his message to the audience: no nostalgia for SS-era freedom fighters crosses his lips in Washington where Jewish members of the Friedman prize jury might be less forgiving towards volunteers from across Europe who died in the Waffen SS in Estonia delaying the Red Army’s advance westwards towards Auschwitz, for instance. However, anti-Russian sentiments are still acceptable there. More recently, Mr Laar was a signatory of the anti-Russian “Open Letter” published on 28th September, 2004, by 100 Euro-Atlantic grandees and ideologues denouncing President Putin’s response to the Beslan massacre.[22] Russians may not have been encouraged by Mr. Laar’s claim in mid-September, 2004, “Our joining NATO and the EU have created real preconditions for… relations [with Russia] to improve.” Mr Laar boasted that “The European Parliament actually welcomes the Baltic States’ expertise regarding Russia”![23]

Under the headline “New Europe won’t ‘keep quiet’ until all Europe is New”, Mr Laar wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in February, 2003, enthusiastically backing the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and denouncing Franco-German reluctance to take part.[24] In 2003, Mr. Laar was one of the most prominent former Soviet bloc politicians in the ranks backing President Bush’s war against Iraq and decrying doubters in Western Europe. He also ignored the reluctance of the ordinary public in “New Europe” to back their regimes’ willingness to send token contingents to support the invasion of Iraq along with Tuvalu, Azerbaijan, Georgia and other "model democracies".

The rhetoric of a “New Europe” and for that matter of a “New World Order” is not so novel in Europe east or west. For many in the region it will have uncomfortable echoes of the language used by proponents of Hitler’s anti-Russian as well as anti-Communist New Order in Europe.

Under the new government led by Mr Ansip a number of monuments glorifying Estonia’s 70,000 strong Waffen SS contingent have been erected in the battlefields in eastern Estonia where Dutch and Belgian SS volunteers fought shoulder-to-shoulder with their Estonian comrades against the Red Army (including its own ethnic Estonian contingent). Generous EU-funds subsidise the restoration of these memorials to pan-European Nazi brotherhood-in-arms (though Estonian Red Army dead get no Brussels-subsidised graves). In effect, not only is a historical site being restored to its wartime appearance but the network of trenches and bunkers near Sinimäe and the war graves there are being made into a Mecca for neo-Nazis, especially from Belgium and Holland rather than just military history buffs. The official guide to the “Blue Heights” illustrates the “monuments to the Flemish, Norwegian, and Danish volunteers” who fought side by side with the Estonians against the Red Army in 1944.[25] The battle honours of the “Regiment Danmark” include “Croatia, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Courland, Pomerania, Berlin”![26] When apologists for the Estonian Waffen SS argue that the “volunteers” were fighting to protect their homeland against the Soviet Union, they ignore such battle honours. Hitler’s Bunker was defended to the end by Waffen SS troops from across Europe including the Baltic states.

The bitter but also complex history of Estonian-Soviet relations goes back to the collapse of the Russian Empire after 1917 and the creation of both independent post-imperial states like Estonia and the Soviet Union under Lenin. Stalin’s incorporation of Estonia and the other two Baltic States, Latvia and Lithuania in 1940 was the prelude to the kind of brutal Sovietization already accomplished further east. Yet it is striking that in early autumn, 1991, when Estonia’s independence was restored after decades of Soviet occupation, neither the newly-independent authorities or any large scale public movement sought to demolish or desecrate the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn marking the main Red Army war memorial and the burial site of a number of soldiers killed fighting the Germans. It was more than a decade later before nationalist parties in Estonia took up the issue of war graves and monuments both to the Red Army and local Estonian members of the Waffen SS who fought on Hitler’s side as an electoral battering ram.

The present prime minister of Estonia, Andrus Ansip, came to power in April, 2005, on the crest of nationalist backlash against his predecessor, Juhan Parts, who had tried to rein in the nostalgia for the Waffen SS expressed by the increasingly dominant neo-conservative right in the country. It was Mr Ansip who fastened on the Bronze Soldier as an issue to re-energise Estonian nationalism as an election-winning force.

The Bronze Soldier

"This is not a monument to the victors of the war
but a monument to the destruction of the Estonian
Mart Laar.[27]

Designed by the Estonian sculptor, Enn Roos, the Bronze Soldier was erected in September, 1947 to glorify what the Soviet authorities proclaimed to be the liberators of Estonia from Nazi rule. No doubt, the Soviet myth of Estonia’s willing entry into the USSR was never accepted by most Estonians but many more Estonians fought in Stalin’s armies and served him after 1945 than current nationalist history allows.

The derogatory attitude to both the statue and Red Army soldiers expressed by the current Prime Minister no doubt represents one school of thought, but whether his views are statesmanlike is open to question. Already in May, 2006, Andrus Ansip responded to Estonian nationalist vandalism of the Bronze Soldier by calling for its removal: “Central Tallinn is not the place for symbols of Soviet power and occupation,”[28] A few days before the Bronze Soldier was removed on 27th April Ansip speculated at question time in the Estonian Parliament that the bodies buried at the site were of drunken Soviet soldiers run over by one of their own tanks![29]

Talking to foreign news agencies, Ansip strikes a poser of equidistance between Nazism and Stalinism. In January, 2007, he declared, “Both the swastika and the hammer and sickle are symbols of occupation regimes in Estonia."[30] But domestically his government and supporters have presided over an Estonia which celebrates the Waffen SS and desecrates or at least puts out of sight Red Army memorials.[31]

As far back as May, 2006, Ansip declared at a press conference in Tallinn that the presence of the Bronze Soldier in Tonismagi Square, overlooking the Occupation Museum with its SS legionary exhibits irritated him “personally”: “I see it as a symbol of the occupation, not a monument to war victims, and the sooner the monument is removed from Tonismagi, the better.” Knowing the remarkable capacity of the Western media for turning a blind eye to anti-anti-Fascist attitudes in enthusiastic new NATO member states like Estonia, the Prime Minister correctly noted that “there is no cause to worry that the world community will misconstrue” any removal of Soviet war memorials and war graves.[32]

Although the Estonian foreign minister accused Russia of stage-managing the protests, this is implausible. None of the characteristics of a stage-managed popular event applied in Tallin in late April. The Western media were not on hand nor did studio anchors have a convenient “back story” to hand. Rolling news channels like CNN waited until 28th April to cover the events – very briefly. The protestors did not have multi-media devices to broadcast their heroics nor did they perform suitable funky “people power” antics for their camera-phones nor for the media. If anyone had calculated a benefit from the disorder which followed the surprise removal of the Bronze Soldier it was the Estonian government.

After the removal of the statue and the riots it provoked, one Estonian-blogger admitted the events were not staged by the Kremlin nor to Russia’s advantage. Nor were they to the advantage of Mayor Edgar Savisaar, the Centre Party leader, who warned against removing the statue. The answer to the question: Cui bono? was clear: “Ansip now has a carte blanche. Even Savisaar appears to be stunned by the extent of the riot, and his ‘I told you so’ is rather muted. Ansip's personal success at the elections has given him a carte blanche, and obviously his coalition partners aren't likely to protest any measures aimed against the Russians.” [33]

Estonia’s independence was restored after the failure of the anti-Gorbachev coup in August, 1991. Yet at the time no crowds assembled to pull down the Bronze Soldier and dig up the bodies interred beneath him. It took more than fifteen years for the statue’s provocation to Estonian patriotism to set off this crisis. The removal seems to be the latest climax in the rolling anti-Russian campaign pursued as part of Ansip’s election campaign until March, 2007, but now carrying on in power.

Achieving the removal required the mobilisation of all police resources and security volunteers. The Estonian police blocked residents of the country from coming into Tallinn especially from Narva in the east which is almost 100% Russophone. Anti-Fascists from the fellow EU state, Latvia, were also held at the frontier and turned back as were Russians.

Strikingly, West European anti-Fascist organisations have been silent about the cult of the Waffen SS in the Baltics and the issue of whether the Soviet-era war memorials and war graves should be dismantled and/or moved. If we remember the indignation at the desecration of British war graves and memorials from the First World War in southern Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s regime, then it is possible to get some idea of the sensitivity of the issue for those who feel related to the dead Red Army soldiers buried around the Bronze Soldier.[34]

What could be more totalitarian than re-writing history? After the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union in 1991, in Moscow itself Yeltsin, who in 1977 as regional Communist Party boss had destroyed the Ipatiev house in Sverdlovsk where Nicholas II and, his family were butchered, to prevent it becoming a shrine, now tore down statues of Lenin’s henchmen like Dzerzhinsky. Ironically, today in Estonia it is a government led by a former Soviet Communist Party activist from Tartu, Ansip[35], which is now bent on following this Bolshevik model of iconoclasm.

Although Mr Ansip argued, “My position has not changed. Memorials should unite people. But this specific monument in this specific place divides society, and I am convinced it should not be there,”[36] it is not clear that before the riots Estonians had been homogenised into a nationalist laager. Centre Party leader and Tallinn mayor, Edgar Savisaar had pointed out that 57% of the capital’s residents were against removing the Bronze Soldier.[37] This suggests that a significant number of Estonians don’t agree with the removal of the statue.

Apologists for moving the statue and digging up the dead soldiers argued that the square would make an ideal children’s playground. But far from being a suitable children’s playground, the Tonismagi square where the Bronze Soldier stood is in fact a busy traffic island. No responsible parent would let a small children play so close to speeding cars and lorries and in the midst of fumes, especially not as a well-equipped children’s playground is situated in a quiet setting only a few metres away! There were only political reasons for dismantling the site. Unfortunately, those political justifications were rooted in a sixty-five year long underground struggle not just defeat Communism but to re-legitimise those who collaborated with Hitler as forerunners of an Estonia in the vanguard of a New Europe.

Freedom Fighters or Stormtroopers of a New Europe?

“We should not forget that the European idea
first found its realisation in these troops and
bonds were tied between the European nations
that have not been broken until today.”

Panzergeneral Heinz Guderian on the Waffen SS[38]

Donald Rumsfeld famously made the distinction between Old and New Europe in February, 2003 – to the former Communist new NATo states’ advantage. But whether the US Defense Secretary knew it or not, “New Europe” and the “New World Order” were not such new concepts in Eastern Europe. As Hitler’s former chief of staff, Guderian tried to argue at the time of West Germany’s rearmament and entry into NATO fifty years ago, the pan-European Waffen SS before 1945 was the prototype of an anti-Communist army. That kind of reasoning was rejected then by democratic politicians in Western Europe and America, but it rears its ahead again in the Baltics States today.

On 8th May, 2006, the Estonian Defence Minister, Juergen Ligi, told SS veterans ““Your struggle in 1944 was a struggle for Estonian freedom”.[39] On 3rd September, 2006, Ligi said, “History was such that Estonian sympathies were with Germany, which lost the war, rather than with Russia. It was not Nazi Germany that destroyed our independence, but ‘Red’ Russia, which did more harm to our land. With time, this feeling has become stronger.”[40] What would have become of Estonia in a victorious Nazi New Europe is never fully-explained but Hitler never offered any independence even to collaborating Balts. So Stalin was not the only one bent on extinguishing Estonia’s independence.

Balts fought for bad rulers on both sides. The hero of Mart Laar’s account of the Waffen SS as freedom fighters sponsored first by Hitler, then by the post-war British and American intelligence services is Alfons Rebane. Rebane was still fighting the Red Army on 9th May, 1945 but on Czech soil not in his homeland. He then made an adventurous journey to receive the Knight’s Cross awarded him by Hitler in his bunker from Admiral Doenitz’s shadow Nazi regime in Flensburg! The Baltic SS did not stand and fight only on their home soil, they were deployed and fought courageously for Hitler wherever he sent them until the bitter end _ and even a few days beyond it![41]

The Latvian-born Canadian historian, Modris Eksteins, notes, “Among the last defenders of Hitler’s Reich Chancellery… were eighty Latvian soldiers from the Fifteenth Battalion of the Fifteenth Waffen SS Division. The last commander of this battalion, Lieutenant Neilands, would act as interpreter for the talks on German surrender between the commander of Berlin, General Krebs, and the Soviets. Yet another Latvian, the Soviet Colonel Nikolajs Berzzarins, would become the first commander of Russian-occupied Berlin.”[42] But today only one tyrant’s Baltic soldiers are treated as heroes.

Such is the mood created by ministerial endorsements of wartime collaboration that it encourages a festive attitude to Nazi symbols. In 2006, the art historian, Edward Lucie Smith, drew attention to the iconoclasm promoted even by Centre Party politicians, born long after the war, who liked to cavort in Nazi uniforms. In the coastal town of Pärnu, the modern art museum was under threat from the mayor, Mart Visitamm, who had become mayor at the age of twenty-five. Lucie Smith called him the “recently elected mayor of Parnu with Neo-Nazi connections,” adding in case anyone doubted his claim, “I attach a photograph as proof that this assertion is not made lightly. Herewith is an article from an Estonian paper of August 24, 2004 with the headline: ‘One of the Leaders of Centrist Party Wears a Uniform of the Nazi Army for His Birthday Party.’ This features Mart Visitamm….”[43]

This glorification of old Nazis is almost entirely ignored by Western media. Even George Soros’s Open Society Foundation in Estonia which devotes many web-pages to alleged human rights abuses in neighbouring Belarus ignores nostalgia for the Waffen SS on its own doorstep and the implicit division even of the citizenry of Estonia intro ethnic Estonians and others like the small Jewish minority.[44] The Open Society Foundation in Latvia is mute on the glorification of Hitler’s Legionaries there too and in the past even co-sponsored an apologetic film about the Latvian Legion of the Waffen SS.[45] The Military Museum in Riga sells records of the marching songs of the Waffen SS.[46]

Mart Laar, the chief ideologist of the New Estonia argues that, though the German mobilization of 70,000 Estonian men was a “violation of international law” because their country was occupied, “we have to mention here that, differently from the Soviet mobilization of July-August, 1941, the mobilization of 1944 was supported by the bearers of continuity of… the Estonian Republic.” Laar demands rhetorically, “But surely we can treat… the mobilization of 1944 as the manifestation of their will to fight against another Soviet occupation” and so “the men who followed it can be regarded as freedom fighters.”[47]

In February, 2000, President Lennart Meri included nineteen SS veterans in his honours for those “who contributed to restoring the independence of the Estonian Republic, the consolidation of Estonian society, the fortification of common democratic values and a European cultural climate”![48] In December, 2002, Meri insisted that the Estonian Waffen SS fought for the national interest, but that is not how German strategists deployed them.

The glorification of the Waffen SS legionaries from the Baltic State but also from elsewhere in Occupied Europe is ignored in the mainstream Western media which normally picks up on the smallest manifestations of neo-Nazi nostalgia. The EU is helping to fund a project to restore the trench system near Sinimae in eastern Estonia where Leon Degrelle and the Nazi volunteers from Belgium and the Netherlands fought. Estonian and Latvian spokesmen and their Western media apologists endlessly peddle the line that the Baltic SS soldiers were “conscripted” and unwilling to fight for Hitler, but they fought alongside similar units from Western Europe. Who says Degrelle and his men were not ideological soldiers? Hitler infamously declared that if he had a son, he would like him to be like Degrelle. If the graves and monuments of dead soldiers from the Nazi totalitarian side are to be restored and respected, why should only Red Army monuments and graves be taken down and moved around?

It is difficult to believe that a historian as thorough in his researches as Mr Laar is not aware of the post-war obdurate Nazi sympathies of some of the non-Estonian warriors about whose exploits on the Estonian front he writes so admiringly.: “Junker bombers led by the renowned Major Rudel were sent against Soviet units… Degrelle’s battalion was especially remarkable… By a miracle Degrelle was still able… to stop the [Soviet] breakthrough. He was greatly assisted in this by Rudel’s Stukas, which inflicted heavy losses on the Russian [sic.] tanks…. Degrelle was the first foreigner to be awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves” by Hitler personally![49]

On 27th January, 2006 – International Holocaust Day – candles were placed on the graves of the 780 German soldiers buried in Parnu on the Baltic coast. What message was that gesture supposed to send? Oddly enough it was a message which was only picked up outside Estonia by the Russian media.[50] It seems politically incorrect in the West to note neo-Nazi nostalgia in the “New Europe”.

The “forest brothers” were part of the Nazi leave-behind resistance in both Eastern and Western Europe which the German propaganda called “werewolves.” For instance, the current president of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus, was sent back by the German military in late 1944 to Soviet-occupied Lithuania to try to make contact with anti-Communist resistance there – a futile and short-lived adventure.

The extremism of some of these “forest brothers” is encapsulated in an interview with an elderly SS veteran shown in the video archive section of Tallinn’s Occupation Museum.[51] With a taste for Goetterdaemmerung worthy of his German sponsors, the man tells how after 1945, he had hoped for a Third World War between East and West – but sadly was condemned to decades of occupation. That kind of all-or-nothing mentality is not conducive to a moderate foreign policy.

The kid gloves treatment accorded by Western media to the nationalist nostalgia for wartime heroics in the Baltic States contrasts with the international media’s vigilance towards any manifestation of neo-Nazism in Germany. Estonian politicians, too, are alert to nostalgia for the totalitarianism of the past, but only abroad.


“Can you imagine that the [German] Federal Agency for the
Protection of the Constitution or the Federal Intelligence
Service [BND]saw the foundation day of the Gestapo as their
Foundation day?”
Toomas Ilves[52]

Of course no-one can imagine contemporary Germany honouring the Gestapo, but what President Ilves, the child of Nazi-era émigrés from Estonia seems incapable of grasping is that modern Germans cannot imagine their state-sponsoring monuments to the “heroics” of the Waffen SS and dismantling or sidelining the graves and memorials of the Red Army or the other Allied forces who defeated Nazi Germany. Ilves may be right to point out that President Putin’s own career in the KGB and his publicly-expressed respect for the Chekists does not comfortably with Westerners, but the role of Nazi collaborators as so-called Freedom Fighters in the Baltic States, sponsored by the CIA, MI6 and even their old German controllers now in the BND after 1945 leaves many Westerners with a bad taste in the mouth too.

Germany today may be ruled by the children and grandchildren of Nazis or ay least of those who did noting to oppose Hitler, but modern Germans and the German state thoroughly reject the Nazi heritage. Compare the attitude of today’s Germany towards the war memorials and war graves of the victorious allies, especially the Red Armies with what prevails in Tallinn and Riga.

When neo-Nazis desecrated the Soviet war memorial in East Berlin which is undoubtedly a monumental expression of victory over Nazi Germany (unlike the modest scale of the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn), nobody in authority in Germany doubted that the site should be restored. Whenever Soviet war graves have been vandalised, the authorities have not used neo-Nazi agitation as an excuse for declaring the graves a source of “controversy” and removing them from public view. Yet in New Europe, the children of the collaborators (some of parents who served Hitler, some of parents who served Stalin, many of parents who collaborated with whoever seemed set to be global hegemon).

When former German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, criticised the decision to move the Bronze Soldier and exhume the Red Army soldiers as “without pity or grace” and “contradicting every standard of civilised behaviour”[53], his meetings scheduled for 8th May with President Ilves and Premier Ansip were cancelled.[54] Estonia’s authorities are opposed to the planned gas pipeline from Russia under the Baltic to Germany. Mr Schroeder chairs the oversight board of the company constructing the pipeline. For many, the former Chancellor epitomises Russo-German reconciliation – his father was killed by the Red Army in 1944 – for neo-0conservative critics of his business and family links to Russia – he has adopted two Russian orphans – Schroeder is a new Ribbentrop.[55] Ironically, on 6th June, 2000, during the first ever visit by a German Chancellor to Estonia, Gerhard Schroeder had expressed his “great respect” for the country’s treatment of its Russian minority![56]


“Latvians have been asked to knit mittens as gifts to
delegates at a NATO summit later this year - but
without a traditional swastika motif.”

Laura Sheeter[57]

Some of the Nazi nostalgia in the Baltics is is so kitschy it seems sometimes more comic than sinister. But the use of the swastika as a fire-symbol in Latvia, for instance, when it was chosen by the inter-war fascist Thunder Cross (Perkonkrusts) movement as its symbol is hardly innocent folklore.

The expensive development of new Waffen SS memorials in Latvia contrasts with the sorry state not only of Soviet war memorials there, but also of the sites of Nazi atrocities in the country.

When I last visited the most important Nazi concentration camp in Latvia at Salaspils, south-east of Riga near Ogre, in the run up to the NATO Summit in the Latvian capital, there was only one over-worked member of staff who had simultaneously to clean the site and distribute what little information was available. Weeds were growing up outside among the monuments and cobwebs were visible inside the display cabinets. Its run down state was in sharp contrast with the Latvian-American historian, Andrew Ezergailis’s description of the place under Communism: “In the broader context of Soviet-Latvian historiography one must also include the Salaspils memorial park, which is one of the most grandiose in Europe. Although the park was not built to commemorate the Jewish victims alone, the Jews certainly were subsumed under the victims of Nazism. Even during the darkest days of Brezhnevite anti-Semitism the tourist guides did not fail to mention that Jews were killed in Latvia.”[58]

Early collaborators in the murder of local Jews often had a chequered past. Some of the most notorious collaborators with the Nazis had a Communist past. There were multiple turncoats, like, for instance, Viktors Arājs (1910-88) who started out as a nationalist law student joining the “Letonia” fraternity, only to switch to Marxism-Leninism earning a Soviet university diploma in March, 1941. Although he was anxious to make a career under Communism, Arājs turned out to have a black mark in his record as far as the Stalinists were concerned – his service as a policeman in independent Latvia. The Nazi invasion saved him from a dead end job in Soviet Latvia and enabled his sadistic ambitions to be fulfilled after all. Later on to their shame Western intelligence agencies regarded such a creature as an ally in the Cold War.[59] Yet Arājs has apologists today even if most Latvian historians tend to concentrate on their Waffen SS members who joined up in 1943 and after.

Even Andrew Ezergailis uses the argument that collaborationist Latvians only joined up in Hitler’s forces after the murder of Jews was completed: “ Soviet propaganda has attempted to link the Schutzmannschaft battalions to the killing of the Jews, but it must be noted that the first of these battalions were organized only in late 1941 and early 1942, when the Jews of Latvia were already dead.”[60] Yet many of the first para-military units organised to aid the Nazi occupiers in Latvia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union had taken part in “spontaneous” anti-Jewish atrocities immediately after the German invasion in June, 1941.

Similarly, as the British historian, David Cesarini, reports, “In Estonia the Selbstschutz annihilated the small Estonian Jewish population for the Germans.” Although there was no sign of widespread public support for the mass arrest of local Jews by the Estonian collaborationists, when ‘all male Jews over 16, with the exception of physicians and the appointed Jewish Elders, were executed by the Estonian self-defence units under supervision of the [SS] Sonderkommando’, nor was there any partisan resistance to it or sabotage of it.” Estonians and Latvians were not alone in not sabotaging the Holocaust. That was a commonplace reaction to the Nazi targeting of Jews, even in the occupied Channel Islands. No-one can blame ordinary Balts for being no more heroic than ordinary people elsewhere. What is problematic today is the heroisation of those whose armed service prolonged the agony of the Second World War.

The Baltic Waffen SS legionaries are not alone in enjoying a re-writing of their history to exculpate them from the charge of serving the Holocaust by arguing that their military service only started after the extermination of Jews had been completed in their home region. Even Yale’s Tim Snyder makes the same case for the Ukrainian Galizien Waffen SS division: “The SS-Galizien was not used for any major actions against the Jews, because the Final Solution had already been carried out.”[61] In other words, these Waffen SS men did not make Western Ukraine Judenrein, they were just fighting to keep it that way! But as in Latvia and Estonia many of the most enthusiastic early recruits to the Waffen SS had earned their spurs as ideological soldiers in the anti-Jewish police units which helped the Germans from June, 1941.

In Ukraine nostalgia for the country’s collaborators with Hitler was encouraged by the Orange Revolutionaries. President Yushchenko might have presented himself at the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, but back home he had signed a letter defending a newspaper editor who had made the absurd claim that Ukrainian Jews fought for Hitler! The Orange regime also favoured full pensions for Waffen SS veterans and so on. At the height of the Orange Revolution, James Meek reported from Lvov, “Would the Jewish community be pleased to see the pin-up poster of a wartime Ukrainian soldier in SS uniform on the wall of the Memorial office”?[62]

In Romania on 20th February, 2007, a court rehabilitated the wartime dictator, Marshal Ion Antonescu, on the grounds that his invasion of the Soviet Union at Hitler’s side which recovered Bessarabia, now the independent state of Moldova, from Soviet control between 1941and 1944, did not constitute a “crime against peace” because the territory rightfully belonged to Romania![63] During the Romanian-German occupation of the region at least 500,000 Jews were murdered there.

Step-by-step the Nuremberg condemnation not only of genocide but “crimes against peace” is being watered down or set aside.

Occupation Museums, or institutionalised Russophobia?

“No man, no force can abolish memory.”

Franklin Roosevelt (1942)

It is one of the comforting myths of Western liberal civilization that history cannot be falsified and the truth will always out to confound tyrants and their collaborators. Desirable though it must be for truth to triumph, there is no iron law of necessity. Far from seeing unblemished history emerge from the ruins of lying Soviet communism, the post-Cold War world has seen new myths, propaganda and deceits on the march.

Tragically, even well-intentioned people can lose sight of objectivity or be deceived. Also people want to be deceived. Myths play so much a part in our self-perception that our devotion to them is very strong, if selective. When a myth no longer serves our self-esteem, too often we find new ones.

The history of the Baltic States is like a matrioshka doll. Recurrent self-serving myths hide inside each other, ready to pop up at the convenience of politicians as they swap their allegiances from one ideological colour to another.

The history museums in Baltic capitals covering the twentieth century, the epoch of occupation, are in many ways astonishingly informative but the dominant message extracted for popular consumption from them is a myth of unique victimhood, which ignores or plays down the role of some Balts in the tragedies and crimes of the era.

Riga and Vilnius as well as Tallinn have museums devoted to the era of Soviet Occupation and the Second World War. Indeed, they have started a trend in other post-Soviet republics for so-called Occupation Museums which act as centres for a new cult of the nation as victim of Russian Communism and a way of exculpating locals from their service to Stalin and his successors by emphasising that the “revolution came from abroad”, specifically from Russia.

The catalogue of the Latvian Occupation Museum baldly states: “Soviet rule was doubtless the lesser evil for the Jewish population. On the other hand, Nazi repression mechanisms could easily seem less brutal to Latvians after the terror of the Communist rulers.”[64] Since Nazi repression only affected the relatively few ethnic Latvians who defied German occupation, naturally the majority which passively or actively collaborated with Hitler’s local satraps were not as endangered as Jews were by virtue of their identity. Stalin was cruel to Latvia, but he did not seek to exterminate all Latvians, only those that posed a real or imagined threat to his regime. Hitler wanted to kill all Jews regardless of whether they resisted his regime or not. The Occupation Museum’s anonymous cataloguer cannot grasp the basic difference between the way in which the two occupation regimes treated components of the Latvian population. For instance, the catalogue lumps collaborators and victims together noting, “It is calculated that some 200,000 inhabitants of Latvia were outside Latvia at the end of the war… Among them were Latvian legionaires, forced labourers and inmates of concentration camps.”[65] Note the order in which the exiles are listed: the SS legionaries take priority over forced labourers and concentration camp survivors.

Latvia has, however, settled its border dispute with Russia, while Estonia still denies the legitimacy of the current post-Soviet border with Russia. Despite the routine denigration of the role of Estonians from neighbouring regions of the Soviet Union in post-1944 Estonia – routinely called “Yestonians” by Laar – Estonian nationalists insist on their right to Russian territory. The recently deceased Estonian president Lennart Meri “was particularly fond of a map depicting the Baltic region in the 17th century, when the Swedes were at the height of their power and the boundaries of Estonia stretched far inside what is now Russia. ‘It's my favourite map…But I always try to stand in front of it when the Russian ambassador comes to visit.’”[66] Note how Meri’s nostalgia for Estonia’s lost Lebensraum depended on the reality of Swedish imperial power three hundred and fifty years ago, just as today’s implicit demands on Russian territory rely on American influence if on anything to be achievable. Will the Estonian tail wag the Washington dog?

Estonian nationalists accuse Russia of neglecting even repressing the rights of the Finno-Ugric minorities in Russia. Mart Laar, President Ilves and others including Lennart Meri were involved in campaigning to protect the linguistic and cultural rights of the Mari people.[67] Estonian nationalists demand minority rights for their blood brothers which they deny to non-Estonians in their own country. In reality, Russia permits and pays for far more extensive minority language. Education and culture than in Estonia.

Anyone visiting Russian ghettoes in Estonia can see how discriminatory public spending policy is. As part of a silent process of ethnic cleansing, Russian districts have poorer roads, street lighting and general maintenance. This public policy discrimination compounds the economic disadvantages faced by non-Estonians – which are exacerbated by the Language Police’s regulation of economic exchanges even between Russophones.[68] It is not only in places like Paaldiski where Soviet-era “colonists” were settled that this double standard in public provision is evident. Even in districts inhabited by Russophone Old Believers for three hundred or more years, who therefore meet the criteria for Estonia citizenship without needing to pass tests because their ancestors lived there before 1940, are visibly less well-maintained than “pure” Estonian districts.[69]

Estonia’s main newspaper, Postimees wrote about “the Unknown Russian Scum” in its editorial on the rioting which saw the few looters as typical of the un-acceptable and un-wanted Russian minority:
“For 15 years, in Estonia, we talked about integration... Officials and politicians preached to us how loyal all these comrades whom we inherited from the Soviet Motherland were. And their kids, they are just like ours own, they study the language and all that. But when Estonian state has got just a bit tougher, has touched just a bit on the feelings of the retired Soviet servicemen, this so far unknown creature reared its true and ugly face. From behind the bronze mask an entirely new — or, more precisely, a forgotten old — face was staring at us. This wasn’t a soldier, nor any civilized human being at all. This was the Russian scum. And we have almost forgotten about his existence.”[70]

Such abusive language may have been masked in the decent obscurity of Finno-Ugric language, but enough Russians do speak the state language to read that message and pass it on.

Maybe the headline writer was over-reacting to the riots in Tallinn, but other more thoughtful Estonian voices explicitly blame Russians not Soviet Communists in general, nor Estonian Communists in particular, for the crimes of Communism and demand from the Russian people alone an apology.

Under the headline “When will Russia say ‘sorry’?” in The Wall Street Journal (Europe) on 20th August, 2004 Mart Laar holds Russians responsible for the crimes of Stalin. He does not blame “Germans” for Hitler’s atrocities, nor Georgians for Stalin’s.[71] Decrying the failure of Moscow to face up to the grim Soviet past, Mr Laar declared, “Worse yet : Russia refuses to say three simple words to the victims of communism: We are sorry!” Whereas he refers to the German forces attacking Warsaw in 1944 as “Nazis”, for Laar the Soviet forces are “Russians”.

By using explicitly anti-Russian rhetoric in attacks on the Stalinist past, racist propaganda masquerades as a demand for historical justice. The Estonian example is spreading across the old Soviet Union. It makes geo-political sense to isolate the Russians in a ghetto of responsibility for Stalin, at least from the perspective of those who want to smash any cultural let alone economic and political links between ex-Soviet populations, but constantly referring to Soviet-era bad guys people as “Russians” even when they were not Russians but belonged other ethnic groups is a sinister fiction not history.

The Vilnius Genocide Museum is a good example of this ethnically-cleansed and re-written history. John Czaplika reports that among the list of names of martyrs on the façade of Vilnius’s “Museum of Genocide” – “i.e. the genocide perpetrated against the Lithuanians” by the Soviet Union are “some of these heroes of the Lithuanian resistance against the Soviets [who] may have been at the same time Nazi collaborators who cooperated or took active part in the eradication of the Jewish communities in Lithuania.”[72]

The latest example of the vogue of Occupation Museums in conscious imitation of the Tallinn model is the Occupation Museum in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Apart from setting up an anti-Russian exhibit, anti-Russian and pro-Nazi sentiments can be heard in the post-Rose Revolution official Georgia media. In November, 2006, Georgian TV showed a documentary praising the little-known Waffen SS volunteers from Georgia in World War Two. The Georgian Waffen SS were double-turncoats. Based on the island of Texel in occupied Holland at the end of the war, they tried to curry favour with the victorious Allies by turning their German supplied guns on the surrendering Wehrmacht. In those days, British and Canadian officers did not appreciate such treachery and permitted the German soldiers to shoot back against their erstwhile comrades-in-arms.

Georgia’s endorsement of the myth of Russian occupation ought to face an insurmountable problem: who occupied Georgia in 1921 on behalf of the Soviet Union if not the Georgian Communists Joseph Stalin (born Djugashvili), Sergo Ordzhonikidze, Enukidze, Beria…?! Only a Stalinist mentality could re-write history so grotesquely and hope to impose such an absurd historical scenario on people.

By attributing Communism and its crimes only to Russians, the new Occupation myth is deeply racist as well as inaccurate. Russophobia is the only racism which it is not only safe but even chic to voice in the West today, partly because like all pervasive institutionalised racisms even those who don’t share the animus don’t notice anything unusual about it. For instance, the Economist’s Edward Lucas has a blog happily linked to the self-proclaimed xenophobe blog “La Russophobe”. Is it possible to imagine an Economist journalist linking to the “Anti-Semite” or even the “Islamophobe”?[73]

Back in Estonia, this Russophobe stance questions the validity of the citizenship of those ethnic Russians and other non-Estonians who take part in public life. In his history of Estonia, Laar implicitly denies the legitimacy of ethnic Russian members of the Estonian parliament, recalling that in 1992, “[Edgar] Savisaar’s government used the votes of Russian deputies”[74] to pass emergency economic legislation. Should only ethnic Estonians determine the economic fate of the country? Where else in Europe – apart from Latvia – could democratically elected members of parliament be regarded as illegitimate by a hero of the West? Or is the conclusion more alarming: where next in the New Europe - which is to spread to us all if Mr Laar has his way[75] – will duly elected members of parliament be de-legitimised on ethnic grounds?

Much of the myth of the Baltic States is predicated on their status as “plucky little republics” with languages “on the verge of extinction” under Soviet rule because of “massive” inward migration from Russia, but united in ethnic solidarity against Russian Communists overlords. But in reality, Estonian Communists ruled the roost.

For instance, in a Council of Europe-sponsored history of Estonia, readers discover en passant that the Estonian Comunist Johannes Käbin, became First Secretary of the Estonian Communist Party in March, 1950, while Stalin still had three years to live – and remained in that post until 1978! – yet Käbin is portrayed as someone who “did not prove to be a passionate Stalinist, nor a man to carry out extreme Russification in the Estonian SSR, as local Stalinists who had supported him had hoped.”[76] In other words, the only good Communist is an Estonian Communist.

In reality the mobilization of Estonian nationalism after 1989 as in Latvia and Lithuania depended on a “dialectical contradiction” – to use the Marxist-Leninist term relished by Western intelligence services at the time – that the Balts were over-represented in key functions in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In fact, compared with their share of their population Estonians held 134% of factory directorships, Latvians 124% and Lithuanians 115%.[77] As in Armenia and Georgia at the same time, suddenly the “red barons” turned into nationalists and their workers who were used to being bussed to Communist Party rallies on the say-so of the boss were now told not to chant long live the USSR but to repeat the new nationalist slogans instead. Similarly the “Singing Revolution” took place at festivals originally revived and sponsored by Stalin after the Second World War as part of the Soviet Union’s promotion of minority cultures.[78]

After the free market replaced the planned economy in 1991, the ex-local Communist elite kept in place – unless they were Russians. Anton Steen found that in the post-Communist elites in the Baltic States, Estonia had the highest percentage of membership in the Communist Party and Komsomol before 1991. 73% of the Estonian political elite (almost entirely ethnic Estonians) had belonged to these Soviet-era elite bodies. 70% of Estonia’s top businessmen had been Communists compared with 80% in Latvia where the percentage of ex-Communist political leaders was higher – 75% - than in Estonia but some of the elite in business are from the Russian or other non-Latvian minorities. Only 58% of the Lithuanian post-Communist elite had belonged to Soviet-era Communist organisations. Among intellectuals those fearless defenders of free thought, 82% of Estonian elite intellectuals had been Communists with 72% of Latvian intellectuals having belonged to the Party, but only about 50% of Lithuanians.[79]
In other words, precisely because the Kremlin under Brezhnev had promoted a generation of local young Communist opportunists to executive posts – as Mart Laar notes[80] – they were in a position to turn on their Muscovite patrons under perestroika when the West offered them a better deal. (Will they renege on the West if the price is right in the future?)

Ironically, in the run up to the restoration of their independence in 1991, neither Estonia nor Latvia faced a solid front of Russophone pro-Soviet resistance. Without the active support of some, and the tacit acceptance of many non-“natives” restoring independence would have been much more difficult if not impossible. The pro-Soviet Interfronts were never able to mobilise most of the “colonists” who were soon to lose their citizenship in independent Estonia or Latvia.

It is the peculiarity of the sudden turn of the newly-independent “nativist” political classes on their Slav minorities which requires explanation. Glib references to Stalin’s cruelties after 1945 rather miss the point that similar deportations and forced collectivisation had been imposed by his minions across the Soviet Union. Stalin’s injustice was even handed but now certain nationalists want to claim a unique martyrdom even when their own families collaborated with the Soviet regime or did not suffer under it.

The BBC’s “Russia analyst” Steven Eike says, “Seen from the Estonian perspective, the history of the country's annexation and occupation by the Soviet Union is simple. Soviet troops entered the country in June 1940, as a result of a secret agreement between Stalin's USSR and Hitler's Nazi Germany. Except for the three-year period in which they were ejected by the Nazis, they stayed right until the collapse of the Soviet state itself at the beginning of the 1990s.”

What went on during the period when the Red Army was “ejected by the Nazis” is ignored and then the conclusion is reached that what is provoking the tension and violence in Tallinn “is the striking, nationalistic rhetoric permeating coverage of the issue by Russian state media, especially television, which is the major information source for Estonia's Russians.” Certainly it is true nationalistic and anti-Estonian voices have been loudly protesting in Russia – and some of the loudest complaints have been made by Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov (President Putin’s most probable successor) and foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov – but to ignore the Estonian nationalist and revisionist rhetoric coming from high-ranking politicians in Talllinn is surely to miss the point of the growing crisis.[81] Russian-speaking residents of Estonia would surely notice the gulf between their daily reality and Moscow propaganda if it was so wide. After all, Russophones voted in large numbers for pro- independence candidates in both Estonia and Latvia 1990 because the Kremlin’s claims about the benefits of Soviet life did not match their experience. What has embittered them is the discovery that just being anti-Soviet did not make them worthy to be citizens of the newly-independent Estonia or Latvia which tossed them aside at independence. Nor did Russophones or many “native” rural dwellers benefit from the shock therapy practised by Mart Laar’s regime. Behind the myth of the booming Baltics lies poverty, depopulation and despair – splitting the people into “natives” and “colonists” helps divide and confuse them, while promoting an electoral bloc among the Estonians whipped up into a hysteria about the threat to them posed by the ghosts buried at the feet of the Bronze Soldier.

An Unnecessary Crisis

“NATO membership is the equivalent of buying
a suit of armour for 2% of income.”

President Toomas Ilves[82]

Estonia’s membership of NATO and the EU seems to have emboldened its leaders into pursuing increasingly aggressive nationalist and anti-Russian policies, confident that the United States and the rich West will back them up. Instead of extending a security umbrella to enable small post-Soviet states to develop their democracy and economies without fear of external aggression, NATO and EU membership risks becoming a way in which nationalistic elites can mask domestic unpopularity by playing up xenophobia. Was this what the Washington Treaty (1949) or the Treaty of Rome (1957) hoped to achieve for post-World War II Western Europe?
Everyone knows that relations between Russia and the West are souring. Given the resentment felt by many Russians towards the West for its support of the plundering of their country under the Yeltsin regime, handing a propaganda ace to anti-Western Russian activists hardly seems sensible. Western criticisms of President Putin’s regime will ring hollow in Russian ears if the same Western politicians and media who denounce “creeping dictatorship” in Russia can be heard and read apologising for the Waffen SS and backing today’s National Bolsheviks and Baltic nationalists. Can it really be in the interests of NATO and the EU to hand anti-Western opinion in Russia a propaganda ace by backing Nazi nostalgics in the Baltics? Do ordinary people in America and the old EU share the contempt for the dead Soviet soldiers expressed in Tallinn and Riga and by David Duke’s websites?

The almost complete silence in Brussels, Washington and other Western capitals about the officially-sponsored nostalgia for so-called SS freedom fighters in the Baltic States and revisionism elsewhere in the New Europe contrasts with the activism of Western governments, media and NGOs elsewhere when the odour of anti-Semitism or neo-Nazism emerges – or with their belligerence towards non-EU and non-NATO members. Silence implies consent. That Western silence is deafening for Russians and other potential victims of the New Europe’s politics of nostalgia .

The West’s silence also has the effect of marginalizing truly “Western” voices in countries like Estonia. People who challenge the ethics or merely doubt the wisdom of the state-sponsored new history face ostracism. Just before the Ansip government moved to remove the Bronze Soldier, twelve Estonian professors from four different universities published an open letter calling for the statue to be left in place and suggesting that no single official version of Estonia’s twentieth century history was adequate to meet the differences about the past in the minds of the country’s inhabitants.

The well-known economist and newspaper columnist, Rainer Kattel, and his colleagues argued, “The problem is not in the Bronze Soldier’s location, but in the widely different and in many respects contradictory treatments of history” which Estonians, Russophones and others held about the past, especially the period after 1940. The professors argued, “Estonia’s long-term interest is internal stability and being taken seriously internationally. Removal of the Bronze Soldier will damage both.”

It was striking that Joel Alas of The Baltic Times emphasised that Rainer Kattel and his colleagues were not the usual suspects – “Russian-pandering politicians within Estonia “ – but “all the signatories are native Estonians” – reason would not sound sweet, or possibly even be heard at all, if it was not “native”.[83]

Rainer Kattel and the eleven other academics had written a sensible and enlightened letter. But the Ansip government was not prepared to listen to Estonians who doubted the wisdom or the justice of removing the statue. Revenge for the humiliation of Lihula was required. If a new statue to the Waffen SS could not go up in peace, then no Red Army soldiers should rest in peace either, seems to have been the attitude.

If ever a crisis was unnecessary, it is the one over the Bronze Soldier. If the Estonian authorities had not chosen to make an issue out of it, no controversy would have arisen. For most of the year the Bronze Soldier stood unnoticed on his traffic island. Around the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany flowers were placed at the statue’s feet. If left alone, how many people noticed it, let alone felt affronted by it.

Removing the Bronze Soldier from the centre of Tallinn and rebuilding Degrelle’s trenches near Sinimae may seem to re-write history in a comforting way for Estonia’s current rulers and their fellow travellers in the West, but far from exorcising the totalitarian past, this obsession with re-shaping yesteryear shows how trapped by the Nazi-Soviet past New Europe’s frontline is today, trapped also by their personal and their families’ recent pasts too. This makes Estonia’s militant elite so different from Old Europe and even North America. Neo-conservative Russophobes and Milton Friedman’s militant admirers may overlook this but inside Estonia and outside the Baltics, digging up the war dead and juggling with monuments looks increasingly alien who hoped that the end of Communism meant the end of the re-writing of history, not just another round in the battle to control the future by controlling the past.

Estonia’s foreign minister, Urmas Paet – backed by his Nordic counterparts in Helsinki and Stockholm, has alleged that Russia’s responses to the removal of the Bronze Soldier “are a European Union problem." Mr Paet has made all sorts of allegations, which sound like the stuff of cheap spy thrillers but if true indicate how active Estonia’s KAPO secret police is. According to Radio Free Europe on 2nd May, Mr Paet, “alleged that Russian Embassy officials in Tallinn ‘met in very bizarreplaces, such as the Tallinn Botanical Gardens, with the ringleaders of the unrest,’ and that several cyber-attacks "against the Internet pages of Estonian government agencies and the office of the president ... originated from specific computers and persons in Russian government agencies, including the administration of the president ofthe Russian Federation"! (The FSB obviously has Estonian-speaking hackers since they put an apology on Premier Ansip’s web-page for his misleading statement that he would not remove the Bronze Statue until after 9th May.) Needless to say, Mr Paet knew that “demonstrations led by the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi outside Estonia's Embassy in Moscow are essentially holding embassy personnel "hostage," and that the demonstrators are being "paid 550-1,000 roubles [$21-$39] per day bythe Kremlin"! Minister Paet demanded that the EU respond "full strength," which "might result in the suspension or cancellation of negotiations between the European Union and Russia." Cancellation of an EU-Russia summit set to take place inthe Russian city of Samara on May 18 should be "seriously considered.”

Estonia may be becoming a problem for the EU. Brussels admitted a country with a problematic past, with an oppressive attitude to minorities and an aggressive attitude to its neighbour, Russia, without thinking through the consequences. Whatever Russia’s problems with her own past, the EU needs to tell its new members like Estonia, Latvia and Romania that re-writing their Nazi and collaborationist past breaks the spirit of the Treaty of Rome. It should not let the Baltic werewolves spook Europe’s future relations with Russians or our Slav neighbours in general for the sake of a misplaced solidarity which has no moral basis.

What the exiled dissident artist, Vitaly Komar, had to say about the anti-Soviet iconoclasm in Moscow after the collapse of the anti-Gorbachev coup in August, 1991, applies to today’s Estonian storm-troopers of a New Europe most had hoped buried long ago. Maybe many of Estonian nostalgics are trying to mask their Communist and Komsomol pasts with super-patriotism and Russian-beating but in that they are no different from the very Russian post-Soviet opportunists they denounce. After the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union in Agust, 1991, what the exiled Soviet Dissident Vitaly Komar remarked about the toppling of Communist icons in Moscow could apply to Tallinn today:

“Bolsheviks topple czar monuments, Stalin erases Old Bolsheviks, Khrushchev tears down Stalin, Brezhnev tears down Khrushchev… This is old Moscow technique: either worship or destroy…. Each time it is history, the country’s true past, which is conveniently being obliterated. And usually by the same people!”[84]


[1] For Estonia’s leading nationalist historian and politician on the sins of the Soviet occupation after 1944, see Mart Laar, War in the Woods. Estonia’s Struggle for Survival, 1944-1956 (Compass: Washington D.C., 1992), 45. Mr Laar shows no sign of a sense of irony when describing the totalitarian re-writing of history by Communists while providing the ideological justification for today’s ex-Communist Estonian elite’s anti-Soviet rewriting of history
[2] Demonstrations or rallies are banned in Tallinn until 11th May, 2007. See http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=11488690&PageNum=0.
[3] Quoted in Gary Peach, “Statue Symbolizes Grudges against Russia” AP (22nd April, 2007): http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070422/ap_on_re_eu/erasing_soviet_symbols.
[4] For the Russian responses, see http://www.tltnews.net/2007/03/24/russian-estonian-relations-to-be-seriously-damaged, http://www.baltictimes.com/news/articles/17684/ & http://www.metimes.com/%20storyview.php?StoryID=20070427-071031-9053r
[5] See http://euronews.net/index.php?page=info&article=420134&lng=1.
[6] Among his many publications presenting service in the Waffen SS as patriotic and “freedom fighting”, see Mart Laar, Estonia in World War II translated by Tiina Mällo (Grenader: Tallinn, 2005).
[7] See http://www.tallinnpissup.com/ for the Western civilization on offer in Estonia’s capital.
[8] See Mart Laar, ““When will Russia say ‘sorry’?” in The Wall Street Journal (Europe) (20th August, 2004).
[9] The Interior Minister, Johan Sauwens promptly resigned when caught at such a gathering in 2001. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1322388.stm
[10] A monument depicting an Estonian SS soldier was erected and then removed from Pärnu in July, 2002. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2148732.stm.
[11] See Aleksei Gunter, “Riot police help remove controversial WWII monument” in The Baltic Times (9-15th September, 2004), 1 & 3.
[12] See http://www.baltictimes.com/art.php?art_id=11020
[13] See “Problems arise when countries lack courage” in The Baltic Times (16-23rd September, 2004), 18.
[14] See David Duke’s website: http://www.stormfront.org/forum/showthread.php?t=149866&page=5&pp=10

[15] See http://www.stormfront.org/forum/showthread.php?t= 149866&page=1&pp=10

[16] See Elhonen Saks, “Eestis elavad juudid on Eeestile lojaalsed”in Kesknädal (25th August, 2004), 2.
[17] Quoted by a Swedish security analyst, Vilhelm Konnander, who shows Nordic solidarity with the Estonians but his argument that “Regarding that Estonian people reacts to have russian monuments to honour the russian soldier is in my mind very understandable, its like having a statue in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv honoring SS or Gestapo….” Would probably not lead Israelis to endorse the consequence of the sentiment that “For Estonians and other baltic people, even the Nazi occupation was better than the Russian” and therefore honour the Waffen SS. See http://vilhelmkonnander.blogspot.com/2006/05/estonia-stalemate-in-russian-relations.html
[18] See http://www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/encyclopaedia/hutchinson/m0010502.html for a brief outline of Mr. Laar’s career and policies.
[19] See http://www.cato.org/research/articles/cpr28n4-3.html.
[20] See http://www.aei.org/events/eventID.348/event_detail.asp .
[21] See http://www.heritage.org/About/Community/KriebleLecture.cfm
[22] For the text and cosignatories see http://home.earthlink.net/~nordicpress/arhiiv/VES40_04/
[23] See “Problems arise when countries lack courage” in The Baltic Times (16-22 September, 2004), 18.
[24] See http://www.aei.org/research/nai/news/newsID.16116,projectID.11/news_detail.asp
[25] For the West European pilgrims, see http://www.radionetherlands.nl/currentaffairs/est070501.
[26] See Die Blauen Berge, 1944 text by Mart Laar Suypported by the Defence Ministry of Estonia
[27] Quoted in Gary Peach, “Statue Symbolizes Grudges against Russia” AP (22nd April, 2007): http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070422/ap_on_re_eu/erasing_soviet_symbols. In 2002, Kristin Kalamees created a video installation, “Eternal Flames” recording the fantasy of a young Estonian girl of falling in love with the Bronze Soldier before turning against him and wanting to dynamite the statue to make way for a happier fantasy conclusion by dreaming about the statue of Estonian nationalist writer, Anton Hansen Tammsaare See http://www.flashartonline.com/OnWeb/GO%20EAST.htm
[28] See http://mosnews.com/news/2006/05/22/volunteerstallinn_.shtml.
[29] See “Estonian prime minister: Drunken looters are buried under the Bronze Soldier Monument” (24th April, 2007) www.regnum.ru/english/817953.html
[30] See Luke Harding, “Estonia keen to escape Soviet hangover” The Guardian (24th January, 2007): http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/archives/2007/01/24/estonia_keen_to_escape_soviet_hangover.html
[31] Because of the public controversy the Bronze Soldier though not the rest of the monument from Tonismagi has been placed in the military cemetery in Tallinn, but across Estonia and Latvia tourists can see the pedestals of Red Army memorials and damaged graves – sometimes close to the new SS monuments as in Lestene.
[32] See Regnum.ru (26th May, 2006).
[33] See Flasher, “Estonica Riot” (27th April, 2007): http://estonica.eu/.
[34] Coincidentally with the build up to the Bronze Soldier’s removal, Turkey celebrated the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings in 1915 with representatives of the former invaders from Britain, Australia and New Zealand suggesting that a controversial EU candidate country can teach some new members how to deal with the past.
[35] For Andrus Ansip’s Communist Party past as “head of the organisational department” of the Soviet Party in Tartu in 1988, see his official biography at the Estonian government website: http://www.valitsus.ee/?id=1466&tpl=1007.
[36] See “Estonian President approves Soviet memorial demolition law” Ria Novosti (11th January, 2007)
[37] http://en.rian.ru/world/20070425/64373816.html
[38] Quoted from his foreword to SS Obergruppenfuehrer, Paul Hausser’s Waffen SS im Einsatz in edited by the Anti-Fascist Resistance Fighters of the GDR, SS im Einsatz. Eine Dokumentation ueber die Verbrtechen der SS (Kongress: Berlin, 1957), 590.
[39] See Regnum.ru (9th May, 2006).
[40] See Regnum.ru (3rd September, 2006). Nobody in Britain needs reminding of the scandal which engulfed Prince Harry when he attended a fancy-dress party in an Afrika Korps uniform with added swastika arm-band.
[41] For Rebane’s war service, see the Waffen SS website @ http://www.ritterkreuztraeger-1939-45.de/Waffen-SS/SS-Startseite.htm.
[42] See Modris Eksteins, Walking Since Daybreak. A Story of Eastern Europe, World War II and the Heart of the Twentieth Century (Papermac: London, 2000), 218.
[43] See Edward Lucie Smith, “Springtime for Hitler? An Urgent Plea to Save a Small Estonian Museum From Neo-Nazis” in Counterpunch (7th February, 2006): http://www.counterpunch.org/luciesmith02072006.html
[44] See http://www.oef.org.ee/et/.
[45] See See http://www.sfl.lv/. The documentary film, Latvieš Leğions screenplay Uldis Neiburgs; editor Inara Kolmane.(1998) is available with English and German subtitles.
[46] E.g. “1943-1993. Ka Var Aizmirst. Legionaru dziesmas” (1992). When I bought a Novosti pamphlet, There’s No Going Back to the Past. On the nationalist demonstrations in Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius in August, 1987 (Moscow, 1988) in Collets in Charing Cross Road almost twenty years ago, I was inclined to dismiss as Soviet disinformation the claim by one anti-independence Tallinn resident that Tiit Madisson, led a crowd in Tallinn on 23rd August, 1987, in singing the words of the SS legionary song, “Our legion is marching and it’s step is firm. Our decision is death or victory,” but Mr Madisson’s subsequent activities confirm the charge that he was a always a dissident of the ultra-right rather than the human rights activists extolled by Western media. What is striking is that SS-swing can be openly sold in official buildings and not a peep from the West’s officially anti-Nazi establishments.
[47] See Laar, Estonia in World War II 30-31.Emphasis added.
[48] See Kommersant (16th February, 2000).
[49] See Laar, Estonia in World War II, 47-51. The “renowned” Rudel remained an unrepentant Nazi active among émigrés in Argentina and then in the neo-Nazi Deutsche Reichs Partei in West Germany until his dying day in 1982. See http://www.achtungpanzer.com/gen9.htm. For Degrelle, see Martin Conway, Collaboration in Belgium. Léon Degrelle and the Rexist Movement, 1940-44 (Yale University Press: New Haven & London, 1993).
[50] See Regnum.ru (3rd February, 2006). On 11th April, 2006, International Holocaust Remembrance Day saw the desecration of Jewish graves at Kalevi Liiva.
[51] See http://www.filmi.arhiiv.ee/index.php?lang=eng. The Tallinn Museum has toned down some of the more controversial aspects of its exhibition which is remarkably thorough, by, for instance, removing the life-size Waffen SS soldier with flame-thrower which used to greet visitors at the start of the exhibition.
[52] See Ilves’s comments on Russian President Putin’s KGB past and attitude to the Soviet secret police in Munich on 10th February, 2007: www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2352336,00.html. The Estonian State Security rejoices in the acronym: KAPO. See http://www.kapo.ee/.
[53] See NTV “Schroeder attakiert Estland” (27th April, 2007): Schroeder added that those who criticised Russia for not meeting Western standards should speak out about Estonia’s actions, “after all” Germany respected and maintained Soviet war memorials and graves. See http://derstandard.at/?url=/?id=2860851
[54] See www.regnum.ru/english/821191.html
[55] See the comments of the former Polish Defence Minister, Radek Sikorski, in 2006: http://euobserver.com/9/21486 & http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/02/05/news/poland.php.
[56] See http://www.internationalepolitik.de/archiv/jahrgang2000/september00/rede-des-deutschen-bundeskanzlers--gerhard-schroder--vor-dem-estnischen-parlament-am-6--juni-2000-in-tallinn.html. Schroeder also emphasised Germany and Estonia’s common interests in the fate of the Baltic Sea.
[57] See Laura Sheeter, “No swastikas' for Nato mittens” BBC News (20th August, 2006): http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5268950.stm.
[58] See Andrew Ezergailis, “The Holocaust in Latvia” @ http://vip.latnet.lv/LPRA/ezerg_intr.html
[59] See Margers Vestermanis, “Der lettische Anteil an der ‘Endlösung’” in edited by Uwe Backes, Eckhard Jesse & Rainer Zitelmann, Die Schatten der Vergangenheit. Impulse zur Historisierung des Nationalsozialismus (Ullstein: Frankfurt-am-Main, 1992), 443.
[60] See Ezergailis, “The Holcaust in Latvia” @ http://vip.latnet.lv/LPRA/ezerg_intr.html
[61] See Tim Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations. Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (Yale UP: New Haven & London, 2003), 166.
[62] See James Meek, “Divided they stand” in The Guardian (10th December, 2004) @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/ukraine/story/0,15569,1370514,00.html
[63] See http://english.hotnews.ro/What-the-newspapers-say-February-20-2007-articol_44345.htm.
[64] See Latvijas Okupacijas Muzejs, 1940-18991/Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (Riga, 2002), 75. This is a quasi-official document since it has a “dedication” by the President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga
[65] See Latvijas Okupacijas Muzejs, 1940-18991/Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (Riga, 2002), 85.
[66] See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news2006/03/30/db3004.xml.
[67] See e.g. http://www.ugri.info/mari/. Western activists include former CIA analyst, Paul Goble among others.
[68] The Language Police cannot, of course, regulate all exchanges but the possibility of its punitive intervention hangs over intra-Russian business activities, as the Amnesty International report showed.
[69] The 1999 Language Law was welcomed by the German EU Commissioner, Guenther Verheugen. See http://ec.europa.eu/comm/external_relations/news/2000/06_00/ip_00_626.htm.
[70] Emphasis added. Quoted by http://www.regnum.ru/english/821085.html.
[71] Maybe Mr Laar’s tenderness towards Georgians reflects his role as economics guru to President Saakashvili. See
[72] See John Czaplicka, “The Palace Ruins and Putting the Lithuanian Nation into Place: Historical Stagings in Vilnius” in edited by Daniel J. Walkowitz & Lisa Mayer Knauer, Memory and the Impact of Political Transformation in Public Space (Duke University Press: Durham & London, 2004), 181 and 188 note 29.
[73] See Edward Lucas, “Estonia is right and Amnesty is wrong”: http://edwardlucas.blogspot.com/2006/12/estonia-and-amnesty.html
[74] See Laar, Estonias’s Way, 268.
[75] See Laar’s “New Europe won’t ‘keep quiet’ until all Europe is New”, from the Wall Street Journal (20th February, 2003) which contains in a nutshell the ex-Soviet citizen-turned New European ruler’s dialectical profession of faith – “To survive and overthrow dictatorship, people here had to stand by values--even if sometimes that meant hiding them deeply inside yourself” - at the American Enterprise Institute’s website: http://www.aei.org/research/nai/news/newsID.16116,projectID.11/news_detail.asp. What remains hidden “deeply inside” such people from their Soviet upbringing and what crisis for the EU or NATO might yet reveal it?
[76] See Tannberg, Tõnu, Mäesalu, Ain, Lukas, Tõnis, Laur, Mati & Pajur, Ago, History of Estonia translated by Anu Õunapuu, Leelo Linask, Kristjan Teder & Ester Roosmaa (Avita: Tallinn, 2002 edition), 291.
[77] See Ben Fowkes, The Disintegration of the Soviet Union. A Study in the Rise and triumph of Nationalism (Macmillan: Basingstoke, 1997), 104.
[78] For Stalin’s promotion of minority cultures – as opposed to the Cold War Western propaganda based on Nazi émigré accounts of the suppression of the USSR’s languages to get sympathy in the United States and Western Europe - see Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire. Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-39 (Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 2001). Russian was promoted as the universal second language – like English in the United States or U.K. – as the language of inter-ethnic communication, so that Tajiks could read Estonian dissertations, and Estonians learn about Armenian literature without having to learn 16 different languages.
[79] See Anton Steen, Between Past and Future: Elites, Democracy and the State in Post-Communist Countries. A Comparison of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (Ashgate: Aldershot, 1997), 35 & 38-39.
[80] “The mid-1960s was still a time of hope for Estonia… Estonians started to join the Leninist Komsomol [Youth wing of the Communist Party] more actively.” This policy of entryism into the Estonian branch of the Communist Party was intended by these Estonian Young Communists to enable them “to take it over themselves by making a career in the Communist Party.” See Mart Laar, Estonia’s Way translated by Hanna-Helena Dunning (Pegasus: Tallinn, 2006), 191. Despite the constant threnodies about Estonia’s sufferings at the hands of the Soviet Union from 1944 until 1991, Laar the economist occasionally lets slip truths which a propagandist should keep silent about: “Throughout the whole Soviet period Estonia had received energy from Russia at subsidised prices…”! See Laar, Estonia’s Way, 268.
[81] See Steven Eike, “Views Diverge on Estonian History”, BBC News (27th April, 2007): http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6599145.stm
[82] Speaking to an audience in the Oxford Union (19th February, 2007)
[83] See Joel Alas, “Keep the soldier: Estonian professors” in The Baltic Times (26th April – 2nd May, 2007), 1-2.
[84] Quoted in Dario Gamboni, The Destruction of Art. Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution (Reaktion: London, 1997), 348 note 50.