During last days World news agencies have reported riots and vandalism in Estonian capital Tallinn in connection with removal of Soviet occupation monument from one Central square to war-cemetary. To understand why Estonians – as Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles and others lived under communism – do not like communist occupation, we must look back how the II War World started and how Estonia got occupied by Soviet Union.
On August 23, 1939 so called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed in Moscow between Nazi-Germany and Communist-Russia. The treaty was supplemented by a secret protocol that contained an agreement between Hitler and Stalin to carve up Eastern Europe into spheres of influence. Finland, Estonia, and Latvia (and, later, Lithuania) were incorporated into the Soviet sphere. Poland was divided between Hitler and Stalin, and the Soviet interest in Bessarabia was recognized. Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was the perfect blueprint for aggression that constituted a license for Hitler’s and Stalin’s war against much of Europe. Each of the signatories was now free to assault its neighbors without hindrance from the other. On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland and World War II started. On September 17th, Red Army troops poured across the Polish border and completed the conquest. Poland capitulated on October 4, 1939, and was divided between the two aggressors. The occupation of Poland by both Nazis and Soviets provided the rest of the world with stark evidence of the terror that totalitarian powers were capable of inflicting. In late September 1939, the Soviet Union began exercising liberties it had been granted by Hitler in the Baltics. First, it issued an ultimatum to Estonia to sign a treaty allowing the deployment of Soviet military troops on Estonian soil. Although most of the population wanted to reject the Soviet demands, Estonian political leaders decided in favor of the peaceful solution. After signing the treaty, the Red Army marched into Estonia in October 1939, occupying bases allotted to it and promising not to harm the independence of Estonia. In succeeding months the Soviet Union signed analogous pacts with Lithuania and Latvia.
Finland, however, rebuffed Soviet demands and defended its decision in the Winter War of 1939-40. Despite its heavy territorial and human losses, Finland succeeded in retaining its national independence. Finland thereby avoided the fate of the Baltic States and kept its place in the Western World. In June 1940, the Baltic countries were completely occupied. Under Soviet orchestration and the protection of Soviet tanks, legal governments were replaced by Soviet puppet governments. After Soviet-style ‘elections’ in which all candidates except Communists were removed from the ballots, Baltic countries ‘voluntarily’ joined the Soviet Union. Most Western states never recognized the legality of the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union. The Baltic countries were sovietized and massive terror and deportations started. As a result of Soviet occupation only Estonia by-example lost nearly 20% of its pre-war population.
When in 1941 the war broke out between former allies Hitler and Stalin, the Baltic countries were occupied by Nazi-Germany. Attempts to restore independence failed. The next attempt was made in September 1944 when German forces started to retreat from Estonia. On 18 September 1944 Estonian underground started uprising in Tallinn, declaring Estonian Republic restored, build the legal government under leadership of Otto Tief and raised after the fights with German units Estonian national flag over Estonian capital. Unfortunately the Soviet’s did not recognized the Estonian government. Tallinn was conquered on 22. September, members of government were arrested and sentenced, some of them were shot, other send to GULAG. No battles with German forces were held during the “liberation” of Tallinn in 22.September 1944. Tallinn was “liberated” from legal Estonian government. The soldiers of the Red Army tore down Estonian state symbol, the Estonian blue-black-white tricolour, and not the Nazi flag, from the tower of Toompea Castle. Red Terror, deportations and violence started with the new strength.
In this context it is clear that for Estonia as for other Central and Eastern European nations the end of Nazi occupation was connected with the (re)start of Soviet occupation. Estonia is a free and democratic state, where the glorification or rebirth of fascism is unthinkable. At the same time the crimes of communism must be condemned exactly at the same way as the crimes of Nazism. It is sad that Russia has not yet found strength to deal with its history, declare Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact null and avoid and apologize for the losses and terror created by this. German government has done this soon years ago.
Russia’s understanding of history is demonstrated by the propaganda war held against Estonia in connection with so called Bronze-soldier monument in Tallinn. This monument for “liberators” of Tallinn from Estonian national government was during the Soviet occupation one of the most hated monuments in Estonia. In 1946 it was actually blown up by Estonian resistance-fighters. 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 fallen. And it is not correct to the independent Republic of Estonia and people who almost fifty years suffered under the Soviet occupation.
When You want know more on Nazi and Soviet occupation, I suggest to visit the sites of international commission on history of Estonia: http://www.historycommission.ee/temp/index.htm
or site of Estonian Parliament commission