May 17, 2007

The Rising Naziism Of Statue Relocation

The Russians have either gone a little stir crazy or they're looking to have an excuse for something in the Baltics. One of those two scenarios has to explain the pre-school meltdown they have indulged ever since Estonia had the unmitigated gall to relocate a monument to the brutal Soviet occupation of almost 60 years to a Russian cemetery:

A day after promising to temper the inflammatory rhetoric damaging East-West relations, the Kremlin returned to a familiar theme yesterday.

Dashing hopes for a constructive start to an EU-Russia summit tomorrow, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, a senior Kremlin official, attacked Estonia's decision to relocate a controversial Soviet war memorial last month as "barbaric" and gave warning that the European Union's "solidarity" with the Baltic state was akin to tolerating fascism.

Moscow's vitriolic reaction to the transfer of the monument, seen in Estonia as a symbol of Soviet occupation, has baffled many in the West. Frequently accusing it of resurrecting Nazism, Russia has threatened Estonia with sanctions.

I keep thinking that there has to be a rational reason for this temper tantrum, but I can't fathom it. Are they looking for a pretense to re-invade Estonia and the other Baltic countries? They couldn't possibly be that foolish. Is it a calculation to divide the EU and NATO? Vladimir Putin knows the West well enough to understand that this reaction will have a good chance of backfiring on the Russians with Europe and make them more determined than ever to unite against him.

The answer must be that Russia has gone slightly insane. How else can one explain anger over moving a monument to a cemetery for Russian soldiers, where it probably belongs? The shock should be that Talinn left it in the city square for more than 15 years after the end of the Soviet occupation, not that they finally eliminated the reminder of their oppressors. As I wrote earlier, Russia should consider it a favor that the Estonians didn't melt it down or crush it in a scrapyard.

Up to now, Putin has seemed coldly rational about his consolidation of power and his orbit of extortion victims. This latest madness deviates from that progression and suggests a hint of megalomania has entered the Kremlin. When the Russians equate a statue relocation with resurgent Naziism, it says a lot more about the Russians than it does the Estonians.


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Comments (11)

Posted by DFEyres | May 17, 2007 7:09 AM

There are two parts to the Russian behavior.

The first is that the Soviet Union and its Russian successors have made a cult of its victory in the "Great Patriotic War". Every town and city has its moments to WW2 soldiers and its Victory Street. For the Russian government, moving a Soviet war memorial is a lot like a BDS sufferer admitting that yes, Dubya was right about Iraq.

Second- the Russian government has decided to take the blunt force approach to diplomacy. Whether through experience or inclination, the Russian state's approach to diplomacy is to threaten rather than negotiate. If they can browbeat a NATO member- so much the better.

Posted by Cybrludite [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 17, 2007 7:18 AM

It could be that he's pushing to see if the US/EU rift is deep enough to let him get away with a land-grab. He already knows that the liberals here will be yelling "No blood for, um, er, whatever they produce over there!" (If I gave them credit for actually being informed, I'd have typed "No blood for machinery and paper products!") Were I to don a tin foil chapeau, I'd wonder if Estonia isn't being held hostage by Putin to keep us from doing anything against Iran.

Posted by dave rywall | May 17, 2007 7:41 AM

Don't forget that hundreds of thousands of Russiana were "relocated" to Estonia after WWII to help make the population more Russian and hopefully (ridiculously) merge Estonia into the Russian family of puppet states.

So 60 years later, Russian-Estonians are understandably upset they were moving a statue that saluted the Red Army's defeat of Nazi troops in Estonia in 1944. (It's an odd thing to consider that Russians also saw the defeat of the Nazis as an important thing to be proud of even though the end result of the victory was the USSR.)

Estonian Estonians hated the statue because it symobilzed Estonia getting sucked into the Soviet Union.

It was a statue nobody much thought to until someone tried to move it, and it was like reopening an old wound. Next.

Posted by Olddeadmeat | May 17, 2007 7:52 AM

It's a Russian sort of madness that grows out of that odd combination of cynicism, pride, nostalgia, xenophobia and paranoia.

When you reflect on it, WW2 was the last great thing the Russians have to be proud of - they won the war, and to their mind, GB and the USA only scored an assist.

Anything that tampers with that pride really strikes at the heart of what they have left to hold onto.

Posted by TomB | May 17, 2007 8:10 AM

How we would feel, if French suddenly decided to move US military cemeteries from their present locations in Normandy to some newer places? I think this is what happens in Russia. They really don't think of themselves as occupiers, probably more like common victims of Communisms.

Posted by JackOkie | May 17, 2007 8:13 AM

Cybrludite: Good point. Or could something else be cooking below the radar, such as energy or pipeline arrangements that would adversely affect Russia's goals?

Olddeadmeat: I've come to believe that from the scale and savagery of fighting, and the national resources committed, the Eastern Front was the main event. The aid we provided and the second front in the west were major factors in defeating Germany, but just looking at Stalingrad and Kursk - geez!

Posted by chsw | May 17, 2007 8:31 AM

Dave Rywall beat me to my post - the statue is a symbol of the ethnic divide between Estonians (Finns) and Russians. Never undersestimate Russians' xenophobic policy pretensions. Russia was the protector of Serbs in WW1 as well as during the Yugoslavia breakup and civil war. Russia/USSR also used its "protector" line to justify occupying slavic countries after WW2. Now they will claim that they are protecting Russians from Estonian aggression.


Posted by Anthony | May 17, 2007 8:34 AM

No one is going to stop Russia from invading Estonia.

Posted by lvc.iii | May 17, 2007 12:05 PM

Based on the events of the last year or two, Putin appears to be strongarming his way towards exerting Russian hegemony over their neighbors and trading partners. The UK Guardian is reporting (,,2081438,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront) that Estonian governmental and political bodies are under internet attack from Russia, and although it can't be pinned on the Russian military or government, it does appear to be coordinated. The pattern, as it appears to me, is that defiance of Russian will is being met with rhetorical and material reprisals. Russia is creating a reputation as an aggressor which is easily provoked and prone to escalate a disputed matter into a costly crisis. These are effectively the state equivalent of temper tantrums, with red-faced crying and yelling, and the occasional thrown object.
Militarily and economically weak former satellite states of the Soviet Union like Estonia are put in a bind because they don't have the means to retaliate in-kind or use brinksmanship to create favorable outcome. The EU (aka "the Eurowussies") are passive and determined to resolve disputes with diplomatic solution, but their positions lack the serious possibility that a failure to reach a diplomatic resolution might have economic or military consequences; Putin is therefore safe in assuming that his provocations have little chance of resulting in a materially negative outcome for Russia.
The former satellites states of the Soviet Union have been (wisely) partnering with the United States to offset their own financial and military weaknesses, and the harder Putin tries to forcefully (rhetorically or otherwise) exert influence, the more these states back away from Russia and edge towards the U.S. We've seen that play out with the current manufactured controversy over the anti-missile shield now in development. In short, Putin is a thug, but it's not working out well for him - or Russia. Long may that continue to be the case.

Posted by anon | May 17, 2007 12:49 PM

dave rywall, it's worse than that.

"The statue was modeled after Kristjan Palisalu, an Estonian wrestler who won two gold medals in the Berlin Olympics. When USSR occupied Estonia in 1940, he was deported to Soviet Union. When USSR became really involved in the war, he was drafted to the Red Army and sent to the Finnish Front, where he defected to the Finnish side. Finns then allowed him trip back to his homeland (which was under German occupation at the time). In 1944 he was captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia. It was during his time as a prisoner that he was used as a model for the statue.

So the "heroic Red Army soldier" depicted in the statue is no such thing. He was Estonian who refused to serve in the Red Army and was sent to Siberia because of that. The statue is a big lie. Everything about it is a lie." - quoted from Janne, of Ars Technica Forum

Posted by OC-Chuck | May 17, 2007 3:52 PM

What is under the statue?