Friday, April 27, 2007

Recent rioting in Estonia

The fellow looting to the left is likely part of Estonia's 1/3 ethnic Russian minority. There have been riots in this small, typically frozen and usually safe/mellow country recently owing to the removal of a World War II monument to Soviet soldiers and the disinterment of some of their remains. So far one person has been killed.

I've been to that monument, having done a short period of contract work in Tallinn, the capital, back in 1999. It's a strange and incredible little corner of Europe. The old town is a thousand years old and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It "looks like Europe" more than anywhere else I've been.

The issue has brought a number of uncomfortable social forces to a head. A lot of ethnic Estonians sided with the Nazis during the war. There were thousand year old ties with Germany, and frankly the average Estonian, who is related to Finns, probably thought of themselves as better people than your average Russian. Many still do. When the Soviets kicked the Nazis out of the Baltics, they incorporated the Baltic States into the USSR whether people liked or not. (For the most part "not.")

Ethnic Russians moved to the port cities of Estonia, which shares a border with western Russia, and although a minority everyone had to learn Russian to get ahead in school and in careers. Resentment ran high. When the USSR fell apart, about a third of Estonia became an ethnic minority overnight. Laws were changed to make Estonian the official language and the language of school and commerce. Suddenly the Russians became disadvantaged, and ended up with the crappier work and salaries. I noticed that my Estonian phrasebook wasn't always useful; there's a good chance that your bus driver or waitress speaks Russian.

Now we come to deciding to remove a monument to the people who liberated Estonia from the Nazis... and incorporated the country under Soviet/Russian control. You can understand how the mutual resentment has boiled over.

Hopefully this will blow over at some point, and you can visit this cool little country some day soon when the tear gas clouds dissipate.


martin said...

your information and facts are pretty wrong and you should check the history again!!

I liked the pivture though.

martin said...

your information and facts are pretty wrong and you should check the history again!!

I liked the picture though.

Jaan said...

As Martin said you should check the facts before you post any information -otherwise those with no knowlage of Estonian history will get the wrong picture.
With your permission I would like to clear some things: 1)The main issue which led to the removal of the memorial was that the statue was a symbol of the russian occupation for estonians -30 000 people were taken to syberia my own relatives included...
Russia has never apologised for the deportation of our people and keeps calling the event as a liberation.
2) Very few estonians joined the German or Russian army volentaraly-
most of them were forced to...
And there were just as many estonians fighting in the red army as there were in the nazi army...
Entire companies of the red army consisted of estonians infact a rifle divison was formed of estonians in the red army during WW2. Therefore it isnt right to state that estonians considered germans or themselves better than russians -they were both occupiers and we were caught in the middle...

Anonymous said...

You got the gist of the Moscow-orchestrated riots right, but it should be pointed out that Moscow has been muscling Estonia and the other Baltics (which it persists in calling its "Near-Abroad") continuously since they broke away from Mother Russia. Putin has repeatedly threatened the Estos in particular.
As for the thousand years of Esto-German amity: well, the Teutonic Knights came as conquerors, their descendants remained as alien and oppressive landlords for 700 years, ensuring the sort of 'amity' the Irish felt for the English, seven centuries referred to by Estos as the "Orjaaeg" [Time of Slavery].

If there was ANY preference shown by Estonians during World War II for either shade of gray, it would have been only because the German invasion in 1941 brought to an end a year of unspeakable slaughter and atrocities by the Soviets (June 1940 - July 1941) which culminated in the deportation of 11,000 men, women and children during the single night of of June 13/14, 1941.

Estel said...

Yes, that's right. You should check the facts before you post, Jaan. You say russian occupation, deportation of estonians. But haven't you thought about how many russians were killed and taken to syberia, solovki, gulag, etc? By whom? Who was the ruler?
Joseph Stalin (Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, georgian,
Lavrentiy Beria (georgian,
May be you know Iron Felix, who lived before: (Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, polish,
This list can continue much much further, and there will be many nations mentioned.
That doesn't mean there are no russians responsible for anything, that just says not only they are responsible. Think about it, may be you should ask Georgia, not Russia for apology? Or may be some other country? I think everyone has something, and you too. Waffen SS is not a fairy tale (

Jaan said...

Thank you I am well aware that Stalin was georgian and that millons of russians were also deported -my regret extends to them as well...
Besides i personally dont feel that there is any actual need for apalogies by either russians ,georgians or anyone else for that matter... that wont change whats done.
However that also doesnt change the fact that these events accured in Estonia in the early 40-s and that there influence is whats triggering the events in estonia today (yet Stalin has been dead for more than 50 years.)
I wish to be clear on one thing- I do not wish to accuse anyone or rewrite historical events. I only wish to clarify that the current events (or the events of WW2) are not the result of hate towrds russians but a reaction to decades of direct and indirect opression from russians and i am not saying that there were no other opressors-yes there were!!! But the other ones are not rioting and looting in our capital-that is also no FAIRYTALE!!!

Estel said...

"For local ethnic Russians it is one insult too many, the BBC's Richard Galpin says, after what they feel has been years of discrimination against them by the majority Estonian population."

"Thirteen soldiers who lie there never learned about the occupation as they were killed by the Nazis on a field of battle"
Galina, Gaithersburg USA
BBC News website reader

What do you want after that? And what you get? Just hatred.
What do you want from nations in Russia and other countries looking at such a "civilized" Europe? Russians really trusted Europe and USA in 1991, now its too hard to trust further. However, russians believe that will change sometimes and Europe and Russia will be allies and friends.

P.S.Looting and rioting, of course is not the answer and is a crime. But, after investigating many mass media in the world, I'm not sure about connection between monument supporters and looters. What we see in many videos (Euronews for example) is that police injure ("One Russian protester was killed during the violence and 153 people were injured and some 800 arrests made." BBC) ordinary people standing near the monument and they do almost nothing in response. And then we see some other people who are looting and rioting. Isn't it strange?

Anonymous said...

As far as I know that one person killed was a russian stabbed by another russian. #

Estel said...

Sorry, I don't say all injured or killed were injured by police. That's just a summary. About the person killed there is no clear, proved information. Some mass media say he was killed by another protester, some other say he was killed not by knife, by police and then it was made like he was killed by knife. In this situation we cannon say for sure, it's too tricky. Actually, no official information about this incident that was requested by russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is presented by estonian officials at the moment.

Anfisa said...

Thanks to the author for more or less realistic picture of what's going on, apart from the one-sided state of mind of "frozen" estonian people. Somebody said them once a story and since then they have continued repeating "your information and facts are pretty wrong and you should check the history again!!" I would advise them to read something more than a history book by Maart Laar (the first president of "free" Estonia)

Anonymous said...

"When the Soviets kicked the Nazis out of the Baltics, they incorporated the Baltic States into the USSR"

Actually, and this is important detail (because explains why some Baltic folks joined German ranks) the Soviets "incorporated" Baltics into USSR already BEFORE the war - in 1940!

Go and read: Occupation of Baltic states and Horrible Year, 1940-1941 !

QuizMasterChris said...

This will come as some shock to the people who started fighting the war in 1939.

Why don't you go review any basic history of WWII and then get back to us.