Bringing out the dead

The Russian response to Estonia's decision to move the so-called Bronze Soldier, a statue depicting a Red Army soldier, and the remains of dead Red Army soldiers buried underneath from a busy city square to a quiet cemetery has been scarily over the top. There's the rioting in the streets of Tallinn, of course. Judging by the rioters' targets, Estonian shop windows are apparently the primary tools of oppression used by the fascist state. The reaction is understandable. I know that when anyone speaks ill of the dead, I smash up windows and steal everything I can to bring home the point the dearly departed should be respected. After all, what better way is there to show your respect for the dead than to help yourself to some free booze? It's what they would have wanted, I'm sure.

The rhetoric emanating from Moscow is almost as objectionable. The move is not "inhumane" or "blasphemy", as the Russian foreign minister claimed. It's not "barbaric", contrary to what the chairman of the international affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament said. It doesn't justify calling the Estonian government "supporters of Nazism", like the chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament did, nor does it make Estonian officials "provincial neo-Nazis", as they were described in a parliamentary resolution that passed unanimously. It doesn't amount to the "mockery of the dead and the victory in the Second World War".

The thing is, the Red Army occupied Estonia. It's damned difficult to be grateful to foreign occupiers, especially foreign occupiers that incorporate your country into their totalitarian dictatorship. Such an occupation, accompanied as it is with murders and deportations, is likely to create some hard feelings. I don't expect the Russians to adopt the Estonian point of view on the issue, but at the very least they could acknowledge that it exists. If they adjusted their analysis of Estonia's actions accordingly, maybe they wouldn't feel compelled to fling crude insults. It shouldn't be impossible to understand that from the Estonian perspective, moving a statue and the remains of dead soldiers that to a cemetery where those who want can go pay their respects isn't the most heinous act in the world.

On this side of the Gulf of Finland, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said (fi) that the matter was Estonia's internal affair and that foreign powers shouldn't get involved in it. Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva announced that he would be visiting Estonia next Wednesday. Presumably he won't be getting involved.


Martin-Éric said...

It's quite simple really:

If Russia is gonna have the nerve to stick their nose into the affairs of foreign countries, they should also find it perfectly normal for others to get involved into Russian affairs.

Seeing as they insist that Chechnya, media takeovers and the Hodorvski emprisonment are nobody else's business but Russia, they should also consider everything that happens outside their borders to be none of their business.

At any rate, the bullshit has to stop; they cannot have it both ways.

Ari said...

I tend to agree with the hypocrisy charge. It also shows in Russian politicians calling Estonia, a country that's much closer to the liberal democratic ideal than their own, "fascist".