February 18, 2007

The Victory Symbold

Mari-Ann Kelam comments on the recent and current controversy surrounding the removal of the Soviet war monument in the Estonian capital, Tallinn:

So often the media emphasis is on what Estonia is or is not doing with the Soviet victory symbol. The focus should be on Russia and its behaviour in this situation. With its vacillating the current Estonian coalition government (Reform, Center and People’s parties) has not handled the problem at all well. But when you really think about it, why should a huge country like Russia raise such a protest, threaten a small neighboring sovereign nation to retain one Soviet statue, a reminder of 50 years of occupation?

Absurd on the face of it, but this shows clearly how today’s Russia is still very much living in and glorifying its Soviet past. Putin’s Cold War style speech in Munich just confirms the situation. The late and greatly mourned Alexander Yakovlev wrote in his book “A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia” (in 2002 even before many of Putin’s undemocratic moves): “And today’s Bolsheviks are still capable pf curtailing the country’s democratic development and throwing it back into the cesspool. I am convinced that only a consistent de-Bolshevization of the state and society can save our people from final ruin, both physical and spiritual.”

In his book Yakovlev indicts the Soviet system from its inception, focussing chapter by chapter on different groups of victims, including children, peasants, the intelligentsia, the churches and religious believers, forced laborers, Mensheviks, and Jews. In all he estimates that 60 million citizens were killed during the Soviet years and thay millions more died of starvation – an incredible overview of the Soviet Union’s years of terror.