The Corner

Estonia/Russia

There’s another somewhat below-the-radarscreen-story international story out there on which it’s also well worth keeping an eye. To put it very briefly, a major row has now developed between Russia and Estonia, complete with rioting (and looting) by ethnic Russians in the streets of Estonia’s capital, Tallinn. The real source of the trouble, of course, is the difficulty that Russia has had in coming to terms with the idea of an independent Estonia, together with the resentment that many Estonians feel over Russia’s inability to acknowledge what was done to Estonia in the course of the brutal occupations that followed the arrival of Soviet troops in 1939/40 and then their return in 1944. The latest flashpoint in this saga is the decision by the Estonian government to remove the statue of a Red Army soldier that has stood in central Tallinn since the late 1940s. Compared with most Soviet war memorials, it was a relatively modest construction, and the location, although central, was less prominent than it might have been. Nevertheless, to many ethnic Estonians, the statue’s continued presence was as offensive as, say, a statue of a Wehrmacht soldier in Paris would be to the French. When the Red Army arrived in Estonia in 1944, it did so as a conqueror, not a liberator. Under the circumstances, the actions of the Estonian government are not only understandable, but correct. History matters.

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