2007-06-10

Direct challenge to Russian democracy

Giustino at Itching for Eestimaa wonders, "The Finnish example certainly poses a direct challenge to Russian democracy, yet for whatever reason the Russians choose to ignore it [...] So it interests me why Finland is continuously ignored from the man on the Russian street, while Estonia is paid attention."

I'll speculate.

Differences between Finnish and Russian economies can be explained as being the result of the Soviet period. While Soviet Russia and Soviet Estonia weren't identical, the real point of divergence between the countries didn't come until, to quote Vladimir Putin, "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century", the collapse of the Soviet Union. A common justification for Putin's repressive policies is that the Western-backed liberalization of the 1990s was a failure. The Estonian example challenges that account. It suggests that maybe the problem wasn't the policies per se, but the horribly corrupt way in which Russian politicians and officials implemented them.

I think a number of other reasons contribute to the difference in Russian attitudes on Finland and Estonia. Some of the causes of conflict between Russia and Estonia don't exist in the case of Finland. The Russian-speaking minority in Finland is much smaller and not inclined, as far as I can tell, to riot. Finland doesn't belong to NATO, which greatly lessens the military threat from this direction. Also, there are historical reasons for why Russians may view Estonia as a part of their "near abroad" and Finland as a part of the West. Finland hasn't been a part of the same state as Russia since 1917, whereas Estonia freed itself in 1991. That's a gap of 74 during which the Russians have gotten used to Finland being very different than the society in which they live.

PS: Max Jakobson's take on Russia is worth reading, as usual.

4 comments:

Juan Manuel said...

I think they lost Finland much longer ago, so they have had more time to get used to it. Also, trade with Finland was very lucrative for Russia during the soviet era.

Anonymous said...

"...whereas Estonia freed itself in 1992." In 1991, to be more accurate.

Ari said...

Thanks, anonymous, I've corrected it now.

bunseni_lamp said...

Actually, Estonia was occupied by USSR in 1944, 1944 to 1991 makes 47 years, not 74. Significant difference there, as Estonia was already on its way of getting used to being independent state, since Feb/24/1918.