Urmas Paet: Today and history (The Baltic Times)

Urmas Paet

Estonia’s attempts to legally regulate questions related to war graves and war memorials have created a great deal of clamor recently. The initiatives of the Estonian government and Parliament have unfortunately aroused misunderstandings and malicious comments.

The Baltic Times, 15.02.2007

Estonia’s attempts to legally regulate questions related to war graves and war memorials have created a great deal of clamor recently. The initiatives of the Estonian government and Parliament have unfortunately aroused misunderstandings and malicious comments.

Estonia as a member of the European Union and Council of Europe is a free and democratic state, where the glorification or rebirth of fascism is unthinkable. In our society liberal world view and fidelity to the principles of human rights and political freedom are firmly set. We find that the participants of this long past war should bury the ax and remember the victims, while respecting the sufferings of the opposite side. There are several Soviet war cemeteries and memorials located on battle fields in Estonia. They are all protected in accordance with international conventions, and no one is planning to remove them or let them be relocated to Russia. The question surrounding the so-called Bronze Soldier located in the heart of Tallinn is a little more complicated.

For Estonia, World War II began with the Soviet occupation and Stalinist repressions at a time when the Soviet Union and Germany were still allies. Estonia remembers this time just as well as it remembers the victory over Germany at the end of the war. Whereas Estonia was never a participant in this War, it was several times the victim of foreign aggression. No battles were held during the occupation of Tallinn in September 1944. By that time Estonia’s capital had been independent for four days and under the administration of the government of the Republic of Estonia that had declared its independence in 1918. The soldiers of the Red Army tore down our state symbol, the Estonian blue-black-white tricolor, and not the Nazi flag, from the tower of Toompea Castle.

Thus, we consider memorials that are not located in cemeteries or battlefields as political monuments. The Bronze Soldier is not located in a cemetery or on a battlefield. Last year, this monument was the cause of unhealthy political passions – on one side was a group of anti-Estonian forces acting under the cover of congregating to commemorate war losses, and on the other side were those opposed to the monument. Physical clashes were prevented only by the police and a several month long ban of gatherings near the monument.

The political passions surrounding this monument prove that it is misplaced in one of the city’s central squares. It is unsuitable in relation to the victims of the war and the fallen. And it is not correct in relation to the independent Republic of Estonia and people who for almost 50 years suffered under the occupation. We cannot support the glorification of the occupying regime in our own capital, nor can we allow the abuse of our history and the memories of the victims of war for political goals. We hope to solve this problem in a civilized way and move the monument to an appropriate and calmer place.

The forces that have instituted a propaganda war against us know that Estonia is a democratic state and thus are trying to interfere in our domestic politics, influence our decisions, even trying to influence the results of the parliamentary elections – taking place in March. Unfortunately, Russia does not want to recognize a historical reality and internationally recognized fact – the Soviet occupation that stopped Estonia’s development. If this stays the same, we will continue hearing unfounded accusations and condemnations. Parts of Estonia became World War II battlefields, and it endured more than three years of Nazi German occupation. Human and moral losses during the war were tremendous – significantly larger than in several other occupied European countries. All people living in Estonia suffered – Estonians, Russians, Swedes, Finns and Jews. Here it must be emphasized that during periods where Estonia had de facto sovereignty over its territories, no ethnic persecutions or political repressions ever took place.

Estonia is not fighting with the dead, let alone with fallen soldiers. We are rather trying to do the opposite by ensuring their peace. Estonia is not hostile toward monuments; however, it is its duty to prevent the generation of hostility and hate around monuments. The Protection of War Graves Act is in conformity to the respective Geneva Convention on which it is based. The Act does not cover specifically a single concrete war grave or monument. All war monuments and cemeteries in Estonia, for all the victims of all nationalities of all wars, are still in their same locations like our culture and customs require. A significant majority of the sites are maintained with the money, care and labor of local governments.

Estonia in principle condemns all totalitarian and tyrannical ideologies. The noise-making draft bill banning the use of Nazi and communist symbols with the goal of provoking hostility does not call for the complete ban of these symbols, but rather only in the case where they incite hostility. The goal of lies and defacing accusations, that carry the character of anti-Estonian — propaganda, are to form a completely false image of Estonia. Estonia denotes negatively all totalitarian regimes equally! I am sure that all our friends already know this.


Liitu püsiannetajatega

Liitu Reformierakonna püsiannetajate kogukonnaga, et saaksime liberaalse maailmavaate veelgi enamate inimesteni viia. Anna oma pikaajaline panus, et Eesti jätkaks paremal kursil!

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