Monday, April 30, 2007

The Lone, but Undefeated Soldier

The European edition of the Wall Street Journal today came out with an opinion article boasting the editorial's love for facts and historical as well as cultural research. Usually, I would blame such articles on the general political direction of a newspaper, but I could not find such support here. The background of the story was covered in an earlier post and relates to the Russian and Estonian dispute over the location of a memorial dedicated to the memory of Red Army soldiers who freed Estonia from Nazi occupation. The WSJ writes:

The Estonian government transferred the bronze statue of a Red Army soldier and exhumed remains of Soviet troops to a military cemetery near the capital. Estonians are generous to keep them at all. The Soviets annexed their country in 1940 and only let go 51 years later. France doesn't have a memorial to the Nazi occupation.

Indeed, France does not celebrate Nazi occupation. But is it a paradox that some Estonian citizens do; not without governmental support? On May 8, 2005, right before the May 9th Victory Day in Russia, and on VE day celebrated by the majority of EU members and the United States, Estonia unveiled a monument to the Wehrmacht soldiers and the 20th SS division who fought for the "freedom" of Estonia. The memorial was unveiled near a Memorial Complex to Soviet soldiers.

Just over a year later, on June 29, 2006, the North-Eastern Estonian city of Sinimae saw the erection of another monument dedicated to veterans of the Estonian (and Baltic) SS divisions. Despite protests by Russia's Jewish Community Federation to the European Union, Estonia saw no real sanctioning or serious warnings with regard to its actions. To top off the history of memorials commemorating SS members (note that there is a stark difference between being a regular Wehrmacht soldier and an SS division member), on numerous occasions Russian authorities have notified the European Union regarding annual marches of Estonian SS veterans celebrating the Nazi movement in the capital Tallinn.

Many historians would argue that Estonian nationals joined the Wehrmacht and SS divisions to free their country from Bloshevism and create an independent Baltic republic or Baltic states under the protectorate of Nazi Germany. Yet, looking through the Resettlement plans developed by Nazi Party officials before their Eastern campaign, the fate of the Baltic states, including Estonia, was to be incomparably worse than that which the Red Army brought along. Two thirds of the population were to be deported, while the remaining were to be exterminated within ten years. There are numerous document on the issue, but I cite the work of two Polish historians on the resettlement issue to clear myself of a bias toward a Russian interpretation of World War II events:
The Plan stipulated that there were to be different methods of treating particular nations and even particular groups within them. Attempts were even made to establish the basic criteria to be used in determining whether a given group lent itself to Germanization. <...>The Plan considered that there were a large number of such elements among the Baltic nations. Dr. Wetzel (author of Nazi resettlement plan - RTTT note) felt that thought should be given to a possible Germanization of the whole of the Estonian nation and a sizable proportion of the Latvians. Himmler's view was that almost the whole of the Lithuanian nation would have to be deported to the East. Whatever happened, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were to be deprived of their statehood, while their territories were to be included in the eastern area of German settlement. This meant that Latvia and especially Lithuania would be covered by the deportation plans, though in a somewhat milder form than the Slav - "voluntary" emigration to western Siberia.

Denial and revision of history in most cases leads to the development of ultra-nationalistic tendencies in society; the Germans have, to the great tragedy of the world, learned this in 1945. In a way, revisionism and denial of history took its toll on the Soviet Union. As I stipulated previously, it is up to Estonia to revise its own history, and erect, displace, and ultimately destroy monuments to anyone it wants. But its behavior must be noted by the European Union, in particular Germany, holding the EU presidency. The fact that Estonian shows of revisionism occur right around the Victory Day celebrations in Russia show the deliberation the Estonian government is showing in trying to mock Russia and its history.

Even if the small Bronze soldier monument will some day disappear, the story of the millions who gave their life to the altar of Nazi defeat will be remembered honorably by the majority of the World's citizens.


Estonia in World Media (Rus) said...

In your position I'd take with a bit of salt the information from a portal with the name "Regnum" (Ruler or King in Ladin). It may surely pose itself as a ruler over the territory it covers - the former USSR countries as listed in the portal's subdivisions - but the others certainly don't and this does not help to improve Russia's 156th position out of about 200 in the Reporters without Borders raiting of Press Freedom.

Thinking that WSJ could be biased would not help. The quote from WSJ is opinion, but the Russian press is frequently falsifying the news.

nikolay i. said...

The issue does not concern the freedom of press in Russia, although I do admit that TV coverage of the event is biased greatly against Estonia. Newspapers, particularly Kommersant, give a more balanced picture. The facts taken from the sources such as Regnum relate to events that have happened, and are taken for that specific purpose. The opinion portion in those articles I have not used. If you can provide me with different information, I would gladly modify my post.

The quote from WSJ is opinion, but even opinions must take into consideration facts, especially opinions of well-known publications. Such opinions with clear outrage at the issue are just as good as falsifying the news; although maybe not a lot in the West give a damn about the Bronze soldier.

Anonymous said...

The model for the statue has been told to be Kristjan Palusalu, an Estonian wrestler who won two gold medals in the German 1936 olympics. In 1941, before the Germans arrived to Estonia, he was arrested by the occupating Russians and taken to Russia where he has to decide whether to die or to fight against the Finns. Naturally he arrived to the Finnish side as soon as he could do this. And from Finland he could then return safely to the then by the Germans occupied Estonia. But in 1945 he was again arrested by the Russian KGB, but because of then already being an Estonian national hero, not being simply shooted by the Russians. So there is more than a little weird humour in the statue of Kristjan Palusalu standing upon those died soldiers who helped to "liberate" Estonia.

Meanwhile Russia never managed to "liberate" Finland from the "fascists" they claimed here being somewhere. Ok, one or two such was a very good reason for the paranoid Stalin to attach their smaller neighbours then.

Generalissimus Stalin was the best ally of Finland when taking care about there being not many experienced officers on that "dark side of the power". Stalin was just as bad as Hitler, if not even worse when maybe killing even his own people (Georgians), not only the millions of Ukrainians, the Russians, the Belarus people, anything he didn't like. Or he sent them to be killed by the Finns in the cold Finnish forests by the experienced Finnish (deer) hunters. Maybe he tried to liberate Finland by making the defenders mad from all the killing they had to do, there are stories about how some men really became mad after killing tens of those stupid attaching liberators coming on something like the ice upon the sea during the winter...

The Russian liberators were from the "dark side" just as those German ones, no difference at all between these two what becomes to Estonia and Finland:

nikolay i. said...


Your information about the background of the Bronze soldier is very interesting, I have not really come across this in the press. Should I take your word for that information or is it also available somewhere?

As for your point of Germany and the Soviet Union being members of the "Dark Side" with regard to Eastern Europe and Finland, I would have to disagree.

Although the Soviet Union in the late 1930-s and the start of WWII was not a spotless member of the international community, I would be surprised if you could point me to a nation in Europe that was.

You refer to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which divided interests in Finland, Baltics, Poland, Romania amongst Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. But if you look back at the events preceding the signing, particularly French-British steps to avoid alliances with the Soviet Union; them leaving out the USSR out of the negotiating table of the Munich "Conference" (along with the Czechs by the way), you come to the conclusion that in Summer of 1939 the Soviet Union was faced with two options.

1) Ally itself with the British and the French and commit to a defense of Poland (which the Poles did not want) in September of 1939; which would engage the Soviet Army to begin a full-scale war with Germany, a war it was certain to lose, as it was much less prepared than in 1941, when victory was scratched out of you know where.

2) Stay neutral, and create uncertainty over the soon-to-be established border with Germany (after Poland was wiped off the map). The uncertainty would have likely caused Germans to provoke the Soviets to a military conflict in the Spring of 1940

3) The option chosen was to ally with Germany, thus postponing the war for the Soviet Union for what then seemed at least 3-4 years. Soviet rearmament programs were to end in the summer of 1941, at which point it would have been ready for a conflict with Germany. Eastern Europe was divided into spheres of influence, Finland was one of them, and the Finns to their credit managed to put on a show for the USSR.

Yet the way the USSR exploited its spheres of influence is questionable. However, it differed significantly from the exploitations of Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union did not perform ethnic cleansing on the mass-execution scale of Germany; it did not have plans to relocate entire nations to the outskirts of Siberia.

The reason for the overwhelming hate for the Soviets in the Baltics, is because they staid there for a longer period of time. If the Nazis were to occupy Estonia for longer than 10 years, I would assure you there would not be even and Estonian minority in Estonia, they would be living in the Urals or serving Schnapps und Appel Strudel to SS officers in Talinn.

pantxo petate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pantxo petate said...

It is so funny to see how terms as freedom, freedom of the press, liberty, free enterprise .... are a monopoly of the US. As far as last century's history, I'd be delighted to see the US bases installed in my country, by the way granted by one of Hitler's allies -General Franco- go the way soviet bases in eastern Europe are gone. History is not a Hollywood movie, a clearcut struggle between good an evil. There is plenty of both on all sides. Regards.