Saturday, April 28, 2007

Estonian "Terror" or a Badly Organized Protest?

The events that have been unfolding in Estonia, highlight Russia's attempts to stir public opinion in Europe through the use of its youth groups, particularly the "Nashi" folks, and the local Estonian organization "Nochnoi Dozor" (Nightwatch); perhaps for the first time Russia is exporting its youth groups abroad. However, the way the protests were organized gives little reason to believe the protests will have any effect in Europe, and will certainly not position Estonian law enforcement agencies as repressive. The New York Times reported:

Police arrested 600 people and 96 were injured in a second night of clashes in Estonia's capital over the removal of a disputed World War Two Red Army monument, the police said on Saturday.

Russia has reacted furiously to the moving of the monument. On Saturday, it said police used excessive force to crack down on protesters and demanded Estonia investigate the death of a Russian citizen in the riots.

Despite the fact that Estonia's actions to move around the monument of the Soviet Soldier is undoubtedly its internal affair, and legally does not interfere with anyone, it is also clear that Germany has had the decency to separate Soviet memories from the memories of the soldiers of all races, and backgrounds who fought to free Europe from fascism, and thus has not taken action to remove monuments dedicated to Soviet Soldiers from the prime locations in and around Berlin. Such decency is depicted in the amount of money that the German government provides to keep intact the burial sites of Soviet soldiers in Germany; much more money than the Russian government usually dedicates to the graves of Soviet soldiers in Russia.

And finally, numerous times media reports in rural Russian villages show how very old veterans, their children still continue to preserve the graves of German soldiers who fought and died in the Soviet Union. No matter what the history of the country, no matter its suffering, it must have the decency to separate the state from its peoples, and the actions of the state from the beliefs of its people. Unfortunately, the officials and a lot of the citizens of the Baltic states and to a lesser extent Polish officials do not have this decency.

With regard to the actual protests, as a support to the local "Nochnoi Dozor" youth movement, Russia sent its pro-government youth group "Nashi", which has also been organizing massive protests around the Estonian consulate in Moscow. This was probably the right thing to do, especially since Estonia's population is 1/3 Russian, and strong links should exist. But, as usual with ex-Soviet republics using foreign non-violence tactics, they turned violent and followed with drunk rampage through stores, streets, and unfortunately by a death, which arose in a violent fight (most likely not inolving the Estonian police). in its covergae of the events reported that the protesters were throwing "rocks and glass bottles in the direction of the police" and later referring to the Moscow channel TV3 the youth protesters "emptied out two retail stores <...> one liquor store <...> and broke several glass windows in the City HQ building". So in reality, Estonian police really had all the pretexts to arrest over 600 people, and dissolve the demonstrations using usual equipment.

Despite Russia's attempts to use the arrests as a pretext to intenraionalise the issue, it will most likley have little support. The EU in the past has wanted little to do with sanctioning its Baltic members for indirect support of pro-fascist groups. The New York Times also reports that:

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his concern about removing the monument and the police crackdown on riots in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who holds a rotating chairmanship in the European Union.

``In response, Merkel spoke in favor of finding a prompt solution to the situation and of both sides exercising restraint,'' a Kremlin press release said.

The issue has a lot of fun moments. Kommersant reports of Vladimir Zhirinovski, the leader of the LDPR party, a rag-tag group of nationalists and buffoons which always manages to get into the Lower Parliament of Russia, appearing at the rally by the Estonian consulate in Moscow. He threatened Estonia that "the Pskov Paratrooper division will be conducting military exercises close to Estonia's border, and will accidentally get lost in the woods. They will carry out a night of hell there". The always politically correct Mr. Zhirinovski is of course ramping up potential votes for his party.

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