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Friday, January 26, 2007

Crazed Russian Nationalism on the Rampage

The Moscow Times reports on yet another explosion of crazed nationalism in Russia, this time aimed at tiny Estonia's desire to remove a monument (pictured below, right) to Russian soldiers from it's main city. This is like the French objecting to Russia removing a monument to Napoleon from downtown Moscow on the grounds the Napoleon heroically tried to free Russians from their evil Tsar (who, after all, Russians would soon depose on their own initiative). Note the comment by the Russian Duma that Estonia's action "will obviously lead to ... the further alienation of the peoples of Russia and Estonia." They say it like they think Estonians would consider that a BAD thing. Pictured above right are members of the pro-Kremlin youth cult "Nashi" ("us Slavic Russians") dressed up in World War II soldiers' unforms and protesting the Estonian "outrage." Ah yes, the idealism of youth. Today's Russians seem every bit as detached from reality and hell-bent on self-destruction as were their Soviet counterparts.

Russian lawmakers launched a scathing attack on Wednesday against the Estonian government's plans to relocate Soviet soldiers' graves and a monument to the Red Army in downtown Tallinn. "Estonia is meddling with victims and memorials. This is a historic mistake," Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said after the upper house voted unanimously in favor of a resolution condemning the relocation, Interfax reported.

In its resolution, addressed to the governments of all former Soviet republics and European countries the Federation Council called a law permitting the relocation of military graves "an attempt to legalize fascism."

"This will obviously lead to ... the further alienation of the peoples of Russia and Estonia," the resolution stated.

Lawmakers were not alone Wednesday in blasting Estonia's intention to move the graves and a Soviet-era bronze statue of a Red Army soldier that hails the Red Army as liberators of Estonia from German occupation. On Manezh Square, hundreds of members of the United Russia party and the pro-Kremlin youth organizations Young Russia and Nashi protested the proposed move. "The removal of the memorial amounts to the destruction of the memory of the liberators," Nashi spokeswoman Anastasia Suslova said. Suslova said that if the statue were removed, a member of Nashi would stand in place of the statue as "a living monument to the liberator."

In Tallinn on Wednesday, the Estonian parliament considered a bill on the "removal of forbidden structures," which would have given authorities the right to move the Red Army statue, where many people gather to celebrate Victory Day each year. Raivo Jarvi, a member and acting spokesman of the Estonian Reform Party, said by telephone Wednesday that the bill would also ban "structures that glorify the occupation of the Republic of Estonia," such as the Red Army statue. Jarvi insisted the statue would not be destroyed, however, but moved to a Soviet-era seaside military cemetery. "People are offended by the presence of the monument in the center of the city," he said. The bill failed on a second reading, however. "The bill was rejected in its present form," Estonian parliament spokesman Gunnar Baal said. Baal denied that Russian protests had influenced the outcome of Wednesday's vote. "A few more details need to be added before it comes up for another vote," he said.

Estonia's parliament did give preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would forbid the public display of Soviet and Nazi symbols, Interfax reported.

Also in Tallinn, members of various Russian organizations submitted a petition to Estonian President Toomas Hendrich signed by some 17,000 residents who oppose the removal of the Red Army statue, Interfax reported.

The remains of several Soviet soldiers are believed to lie in unmarked graves under a bus stop located a few meters away from the statue at a busy intersection in central Tallinn.

On Jan. 10, Estonia passed into law a bill on the protection of military cemeteries, which allows for the transfer of the remains of buried Soviet soldiers to clearly marked cemeteries.

The Geneva Convention, which came into force in 1950, forbids the burial of war victims in unmarked graves. The convention was ratified by Russia in 1954 and Estonia in 1993.

The conflict over the proposed removal has been escalating for several weeks. During a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Sunday, President Vladimir Putin said: "Estonia wants a seat in the front row and to gain some kind of advantage."

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, have also voiced their outrage in recent days.

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip weighed in Wednesday, criticizing Russia for using the threat of economic sanctions to solve political spats. "The Estonian people will decide for themselves how to arrange their affairs in their republic," Ansip said, Interfax reported. "Russia's threats cannot influence the decisions of a democratic sovereign state."

Also Wednesday, the Council of Europe -- one of the addressee's of the Federation Council's resolution -- entered the fray. Terry Davis, Secretary-General for the Council of Europe, said in e-mailed comments that Red Army soldiers deserved "respect and gratitude" for fighting against the forces of Nazi Germany. "On the other hand," Davis continued, "the Soviet Army was an occupying force in Estonia, which is the reason why some Estonians object to the monument." Davis called for the fallen soldiers to be treated with "dignity and respect."

At the heart of the dispute is the role that Soviet forces played in Estonia after German occupation ended in 1944. Russians take pride in the victory over the Nazis by the Soviet Army, which was hailed as a liberating force. Many Estonians, however, view 1944 as simply a transition between two occupying armies that marked the start of decades of oppressive communist rule.

As Russian-Estonian relations have cooled in recent years, the statue in central Tallinn has been the site of sometimes-violent clashes between ethnic Russians and Estonians. Demonstrations there have been banned. "Russian young people gather and wave the flag not of Russia, but of the Soviet Union," Jarvi said. "For Estonians, the Soviet flag is the same as the Nazi flag. Both occupations were by the same kind of totalitarian regime."

5 comments:

Sergej Varsjinskij said...

Americans take pride in the victory over the Nazis by the US Army in France, which was hailed as a liberating force. Many French, however, view 1944 as simply a transition between two occupying armies that marked the start of decades of oppressive American rule which ended the day DeGaulle kicked 'the Yanks' out of the country. Maybe we should suggest to the French to remove American war graves and memorials as well, after all this 'French bashing' from the USA.

Kim, what do you think, how would the Americans feel when such a stupid thing would happen ? They would probably be as 'pissed off' as Russians are where their graves and memorials in Estonia are concerned.

La Russophobe said...

SERGEJ: First of all, I think you can't find one single Frenchman who believes that America ever exercised the kind of power over France that the USSR did over Estonia, nor can you find any who see a monument erected in France by America as one to the rape of France by America. What you say sounds like Soviet propaganda. The total lack of source material for your claims exposes you as a neo-Soviet propagandist.

Second of all, if the French DID raise such concerns, there would be PLENTY of people in America who would ask: "What did we do to the French, and how can we fix it?" Where are such people in Russia today?

Third, Russia is a totally failed society with a declining population and a $300/month average wage. Comparing yourself to America is just plain silly. If you think Russia can afford to (again) alienate and polarize the entire world and fight a second cold war, you are a fool.

Fourth, Russia is guilty of horrendous crimes in Eastern Europe, starting with the murder of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn forest (then trying to blame it on the Germans). Eastern Europe has every reason in the world to hold Russia accountable for those outrages, and I applaud them for doing so.

Fifth, did Russia ask the people of Estonia whether they wanted a Russian monument in their country? How would Russians like it if, after Russia lost the Cold War, America forced Russia to build a monument to liberty and the thousands of Americans who fought against Hitler in Red Square?

Instead of looking for reasons the Estonians are wrong, you should be looking for reasons that Russia is wrong. That's how a country improves. But Russians can't. That is why they are doomed.

Sergej Varsjinskij said...

Kim you are absolutely right. I am a neo-soviet propagandist :-) What else could I possibly be ?

I love to be one, as much as you love to be a Russophobe. I love to read your blog and your wonderful comments to the contributors. I enjoy reading your rants and your blog brightens my day every single time I visit it. Thumbs up, please keep up the good work ! ;-)

From Russia with Love ! :-)

La Russophobe said...

SERGEJ:

Gosh, does it really brighten your day to learn that hundreds of European Russians are stricken with pestilence and hemorrhagic fever? Did you dance a jig when you found out Russia had been convicted of torture in Chechnya? I must have you all wrong then. You're clearly one of the world's biggest Russia haters. Those things make even a hardened russophobe like La Russophbe feel awfully sad.

But in any case, we aim to please! Thanks for reading La Russophobe! Be sure to tell all your friends and neighbors.

PS: By "rant" I assume you mean a statement you don't agree with. What's your word for one you like, for instance the pronouncements of the malignant troll Vladimir Putin? Witicism?

Sergej Varsjinskij said...

LR. Yes, you have me all wrong. My views on Russia are completely different from yours and I am convinced that most of your views are wrong. But that's not a problem for me. Every one of us is entitled to have his / her views and to express them. You 'assume' wrongly by thinking that I take statements I disagree with for being rants. In my view a rant is an offending, insulting and derogatory comment on other people's views and oppinions and the use of foule language.

And yes, most of your comments on the contributors of your blog are rants.

By commenting in such a way 'the ranter' displays a weak spirit and the lacking of culture. By ranting one reflects poor credit upon oneself, not upon the view one comments on.

No, I don't think that Valdimir Putin is a troll (or what ever label you might use) and yes, I do like him and support him. And I also take pride in the words 'I am a Russophile'.

Yes, you brighten my day. But not for the reasons you 'assume'.

Have a nice day :-)