back to article Estonian/Russian statue riots spill online

Civil unrest in Estonia over the removal of Soviet era memorials has been accompanied by attacks against the Baltic nation’s internet infrastructure. Several Estonian government websites remain unavailable whilst others, such as that of the Estonian Police, remain available only in text-only forms as a result of sustained …

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Anonymous Coward

Monument singular, not plural

Err, it's one monument not "monuments", and it's being re-erected at a Red Army cemetery on the outskirts of the city. According to friends in Tallinn, most of the rioters have been drunken ethnic Russians who have concentrated on looting shops. Most of the Russian minority in Estonia were settled there after World War II, when the Soviets annexed Estonia for the second time (the first time being in 1940). This resettlement was a common policy across the Soviet Union to undermine any separatism in non-Russian regions. The mass deportation of Estonians shortly after both annexations meant there were already villages for the settlers to be relocated to. This alteration of the ethnicity of regions was followed by an outlawing of educational or official use of languages such as Estonian, and imposition of monuments such as the Red Army statue in Tallinn. The Estonians, with ample jusification, see the statue as a reminder of Soviet occupation rather than liberation. The fact that they haven't just destroyed the statue (as happened with many non-Russian cultural symbols in the Soviet Union) shows some sort of restraint. Pity the drunken Russian mob, stirred up by Putin's increasingly xenophobic MP's and media can't show the same restraint.

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SS veterans

Incidentally Estonia also honor SS veterans, considering them heroes of national resistance against Russia.

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about SS veterans and others

About the SS veterans: the ones who are generally respected are veterans of Waffen-SS or front troops who were officially given special status in Nuremberg Process. Mass murderers from both sides (Nazi and Communist) are definitely not respected. The problem is that while Germans have openly admitted and condemned the crimes committed by Germans during the WWII, Russians have never done that.

To clear another issue: the statue (singular indeed) has been relocated and was opened to the public yesterday. On May 8, a public ceremony celebrating the end of WWII is planned there with invitations to all anti-Nazi coalition members to participate.

While some people like to tout the statue problem, then how about these:

* Russians haved blocked the Estonian Embassy in Moscow. The building has been stained with everything possible, lately the flag was torn down.

* Russian Parliamentary delegation started its visit to Tallinn with demands of removing the Prime Minister. As already pointed out by many, not terribly diplomatic. As a result, Estonian ministers gave up their plans to meet the delegation.

* The damages in Tallinn amount to about 4 million Euros. Many stores were looted by Russian mobs (on Saturday I saw some youngsters peddling toothpaste from a sack half-price in a market - most probably looted from some shop).

* Russian state servers are being used to DDOS Estonian infrastructure, this has been on for a couple of days already. Also check Wikipedia, where articles covering Estonia are blocked for editing due to some Russian activity there.

* Russians spread the online letter calling up to destroy property and start 'armed resistance' (aka terrorism). See e.g. kavkazcenter.org for some English materials.

Not terribly civilised, I'd say.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: SS veterans

Well, strictly speaking the Estonian SS members were resisting the Soviet Union (as distinct from Russia). Many members of the SS came from non-German ethnic groups, mostly motivated by a deep dislike of Bolshevism. These motivations are little understood or ignored thanks to the primary association of the SS with the crimes of the Nazis. Some of the non-German SS units definitely took part in such crimes, most notably the Ukrainian divisions, but I am not aware of the Estonian units doing so. They, much like the Finnish and Latvian divisions, were frontline units motivated by their experiences of Soviet actions at the start of the war (it's is often forgotten that after the occupation of Poland by the Soviets and Germans, and up until Barbarossa, the Soviets were not considered an ally by the British and French).

Regardless of this, the existence of an Estonian SS does not mitigate what the Soviet Union did to Estonia. The annexation at the start of the war was followed by mass arrests and deportations of political, business and cultural figures. This pattern was repeated at the wars end. This was not liberation, but reimposition of a repressive occupation. This was followed by many years of sporadic guerilla resistance, with small bands of Estonians attacking the Soviet forces from hideouts in the forests.

Finally, before apologists for the Russian minority in Estonia try to divert attention from the real issues, it's worth noting that in the last week the Russian government has requested taht foriegn students stay indoors in the run up to the date of Hitler's birthday. Why? Because Russian skinheads are yet again expected to celebrate the occasion by beating up foreigners.

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Forgot to add

the website http://tuvasta.politsei.ee - this is used to gather photos (both official and from citizens) to recognise the looters, but it makes a good explanation too.

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SS and others

It's maybe worth noting that not everything is as clear as it might seem. It is well-known, for example, that Finland fought with the Germans in WW2, against the Russians, who had previously occupied them. Finland had to pay reparations (and indeed, to this very day, is the ONLY country on the losing side of WW2 which has repaid its war reparations in full). However, Finland did not support the Nazis; they allowed them in and accepted their support because "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" - they were holding the Soviets at bay but couldn't be expected to do so indefinitely. What isn't generally known is that there are no trees in all of Lapland because the retreating Germans set fire to them all during their retreat from Russia to Norway. Neither country was Finland's friend, but what can a small nation do?

The situation in Estonia is the same - mixed (and mutually antagonistic) races and cultures, and the story isn't always as simple as it's made out to be. The first poster made a lot of good points about the removal (not destruction) of the memorial (singular).

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Re: SS and others

In general I agree with what you say. However, Finland has never been occupied by the USSR - they lost the Continuation War (although making the enemy pay dearly - the losses were about 10 to 1 in manpower) and had to give away some territories (just as Estonia lost its part of Ingermanland and what is currently Petseri/Petshory region). Plus, they had to pay huge war reparations - but compared to Estonia, they were saved from the 'Soviet paradise'. But even then, some hard feelings remain until today (as I witnessed in Finland last week when talking to people).

In the current case, I admit that a number of things could have done in a better way from Estonian side. However, this does definitely not justify the uncivilised ways Russian tend to practice - invasion threats, embassy blockade and ransacking the city are not quite European understanding of political protests. And while entries about Estonia in Wikipedia were closed down due to wide-scale vandalism, nothing similar has happened to Russian entries.

One more comparison - the 'Singing Revolution' that ended with re-establishment of Estonian independence in 1991 was a period of huge political protests and manifestations. The 'Song of Estonia' event in autumn 1988 gathered 300 000 people, one third of the nation. However, it went absolutely peacefully - even though these people had at least as serious things to protest against as there are now. Even the 1991 Russian crisis and subsequent dissolution of the USSR was solved without fighting. Nowadays... Just see the link I provided earlier.

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Anonymous Coward

No trees?

".....there are no trees in all of Lapland because the retreating Germans set fire to them all during their retreat from Russia to Norway."

Excuse me?

What piffle.

It's been how long since WW2 ended?

How long does it take to grow a (fir) tree?

The reason there are SO FEW trees in Lapland is because of its geographical location. The further North one travels the fewer trees one sees. Go to the extreme North and you see NO trees.

This is similar to why there are no trees on top of very tall mountains. Its not so much the cold its the altitude.

Travelling overland northward works in much the same way, the further North you go the harder it is for trees to survive (and the smaller they get, until there are none at all).

I have travelled to the extreme north in both Scandi and Alaska/Canada - the trees get smaller as you drive further north, until....

Works the same in the extreme South.

...burnt all the trees indeed LOL

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Anonymous Coward

I like Estonia!

It is a nice country, nice breakfasts, nice beer. I loved touring the ancient meteorite-remains on fascinating Saaremaa Island. The worry I have is that the current spat between neighbours might be an eddy of our old friend "the cold war". I haven't met the Estonian President but his biography reads somewhat like a President Bush diplomatic appointee than an elected official of a newly independent nation. Quote from somewhere (possibly biased) on the Interweb:

"Toomas Hendrik Ilves was born in Stockholm, Sweden; his parents were Estonian refugees. He grew up in the United States and graduated from Leonia High School in Leonia, New Jersey in 1972. He attended and received degrees in psychology from Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Career: During the 1980s, Ilves worked as a journalist for Radio Free Europe and became actively involved in politics prior to Estonia's independence in 1991"

Actually, Lithuania also has a former U.S. Citizen as current President, who was in the US Army Intellgence many years ago (and tangentially , President Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga of Latvia grew up in Canada - not the USA) What with 3 north american Baltic presidents and the Polish Radars and Czech anti-missile missiles - one could almost imagine another 'successful' Bush eastern foreign policy initiative!??

My wife is Estonian and HAS suffered recent discrimination in Tallinn, due to her language and culture, she IS demonstratably not a supporter of the Soviet Union. I hope and pray that the May 9th 'celebration' will be peaceful and that eventually 'young' Estonia will be at least as settled as the bipolar Belgian nation!

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Anonymous Coward

Clarification on Finland and WWII

Jason Togneri, you are broadly correct about Finland's war experiences, however the Soviet Union only occupied a part of Finland's territory which was ceded at the end of the Winter War and again at the end of the Continuation War. The Lapland War which was fought by the Finns against the retreating German forces resulted in the burning of most settlements in the region. The forests were largley untouched (and yes, there are a lot of trees in Lapland regardless of the cold!).

For me, the interesting parallel between Finland and Estonia in their relations with Moscow is that political pressure has been exerted on both countries that influences their domestic politics. With Finland this was much more discreet, but during the time of Paasikivi and Kekkonen, Moscow was able to influence political appointments. With Estonia, the presence of a large Russian minority is being exploited by Moscow to try and reestablish the old Soviet sphere of influence.

While it would be good to see some resolution of the "single superpower" status of the USA, I don't relish the prospect of more superpowers be they Russia, China or anyone else. Some dilution of US power would be a much better option. As this is unlikely, perhaps the best we can hope for is that small countries succeed in resisting the demands of larger nations, something that Poland for example hasn't done over the missile siting issue.

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Anonymous Coward

monument

Since dissolution of Soviet Union, Estonia has a large Russian speaking minority: 34% of the country’s population. Majority of this people or their parents were moved into Estonia by Soviet government that was trying to sovietize the country. Soviet occupation, repression and sovietization of the country are grim and regrettable events. It is also irreversible. Just like Balkan countries are left with large Turkish minority from occupation, today’s Estonia is left with huge Russian minority. Today’s Estonia routinely discriminates and marginalizes its minority through Estonian language requirements and citizenship restrictions. All of which goes against acceptable practices in European Union. This discrimination effects both political and financial well-being of the 34% of the country’s population. It is no secret that Russian minority is at the bottom of financial ladder in Estonia. Movement of monument was a sensitive issue for years for those who fought and died in that war at side of allied countries. It is especially insulting for routinely discriminated Russian minority in Estonia. I hope this rebellion will bring some attention and spark changes to discriminative practices of Estonian government

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This is larger issue.....

Since dissolution of Soviet Union, Estonia has a large Russian speaking minority: 34% of the country’s population. Majority of this people or their parents were moved into Estonia by Soviet government that was trying to sovietize the country. Soviet occupation, repression and sovietization of the country are grim and regrettable events. It is also irreversible. Just like Balkan countries are left with large Turkish minority from occupation, today’s Estonia is left with huge Russian minority. Today’s Estonia routinely discriminates and marginalizes its minority through Estonian language requirements and citizenship restrictions. All of which goes against acceptable practices in European Union. This discrimination effects both political and financial well-being of the 34% of the country’s population. It is no secret that Russian minority is at the bottom of financial ladder in Estonia. Movement of monument was a sensitive issue for years for those who fought and died in that war at side of allied countries. It is especially insulting for routinely discriminated Russian minority in Estonia. I hope this rebellion will bring some attention and spark changes to discriminative practices of Estonian government

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Okay, fine...

Yes, I'll admit that I exaggerated the point about the trees (although that certainly wasn't the central point I was trying to make) and of course there are some now, but there really are a lot fewer than there used to be. I wasn't aware that there were so many experts on Finland - did you all rush to Wikipedia?

Yes it's true that eastern Karelia was occupied by and later ceded to the Russians, but also that Karelians on the now-Russian side don't consider themselves to be Russians at all - as I said, it's much more fragmented than that.

And thank you, anonymous piffler, but I too have travelled to Scandinavia - in fact, I live in Helsinki with my wife, a Finn, with whom I have been together for six years. I'll try to be factually accurate the next time I visit Lapland, and see if I can't count each and every tree I pass.

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Anonymous Coward

Anon Piffler here....

Jason, good for you and your wife. Lovely place to live.

While you are counting all the Laplander trees would you please also take stock of all the low bushes and (native) hedges. I would be interested to know how you get on.

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Recognition for the Russian minority!

The removal of the statue to a cemetary could be interpreted as a clear expression of the wish of what the Estonian majority would like to do with the Russian minority in Estonia. Moreoever, the statue stands for the sacrifices made by all soldiers at the eastern front during Word War II and is therefore not just an Estonian matter. It is fully understandable that Russia feels offended and the Russian minority in Estonian feels threatened by the removal of the statue. The delegation of the European Union should keep this in mind while discussing the matter with the Russian government. The Russian minority in Estonia is now a minority in the European Union and should be recognised and protected as such.

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