Image: Stuart Miles/Free DigitalPhotos.net
Monday, 11 June 2012 02:53
Laas Leivat - Estonian Life No. 23 2012
A 2011 study by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington concluded that 71% of Estonia's native Russian youth "want to end discussions of the repressions of the Soviet era". This also includes the mass deportations of Estonians into Siberia.
Some 43% of the respondents of a survey of people aged 16 to 29 indicated that placing the issue of repressions on the public agenda would be "harmful to society".
These figurers are in sharp contrast with just 43% of respondents living in Russia who insisted that an ongoing discourse of Soviet atrocities should be left in the past. Only 18% attributed harm to their country as the reason for ending debate about repressions.
Ethnic Russians in Estonia who were polled, reveaed various opinions on related subjects which dovetail with the above results. Fully 60% of ethnic Russians in Estonia agreed with Vladimir Putin's assertion that the collapse of the Soviet Union was "the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the twentieth century". Fifthy percent of those asked stated that all-in-all, considering everything, Stalin did more good than bad.
This, not surprisingly, is in stark contrast with native Estonians responding to related questions: 85% agreed that Russia should apologize for occupying their country. (A very deeply rooted difference of historical interpretation between Moscow and Tallinn involves exactly that issue. In fact the Russian Duma refused to ratify a carefully written Estonia-Russia border treaty a few years ago because Estonian parliamentarians had added a short note to the treaty's preamble. It made mention of the historical fact of Soviet occupation and the consequent repressions.)
A different understanding of recent history would also explain why 85% of Estonians insist that Russia should apologize for occupying their country; only 8% of Russians in Estonia agree with this. Curiously the study also indicated that Russians in their homeland are more inclined to agreeing to an apology from the Kremlin.
Fully 70% of ethnic Russians in Estonia agreed with Russian official policy that gives Russia the responsibility and self-mandated authority to intervene if the human rights of Russians in Estonia are seen to be violated.
The study coordinators found that the wide differences between Russian youth in Russia and Estonia on the question of continuing a public discussion of Soviet repressions can be logically explained. Russians in Estonia have a greater knowledge of (and also of the devastating effect it had on Estonian society) the repressions. In Estonia they are discussed in the context of the occupation. In Russia, it's a discourse based strictly on situations in the past.
While holocaust denial is considered illegal in many countries (at the very least, a taboo), no stigma is attached to "Soviet repression denial". In fact it's encouraged in Russia as a sign of patriotism. This perhaps helps to explain the knee-jerk reaction of Russian authorities labeling anything as pro-Nazi or fascist in the Baltic countries they deem to be anti-Soviet. This may explain why the relocation of the Soviet statue in 2007, the periodic gathering of WWII veterans who were in German uniforms and yes, the reminding of Soviet era atrocities etc., as the official encouragement of a fascist sentiment amongst Estonians.
To others, the facile branding of Estonians as Nazi-sympathizers is a convenient way for Russia to extricate and distance itself from blame for the past offences of the USSR to which Russia is the self-proclaimed successor.
A failure to remember one's past is to deny one's identity: come to the annual Commemorative Service of the June 14, 1941 Deportations, at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Mt. Pleasant and Eglinton, Thursday, June 14, 7:00 pm.