(A translated synopsis of a recent article by Eerik Niiles Kross)
On the eve of February 24th, 1989 (Independence Day of the Estonian Republic in 1918) a public statement was made by the Central Committee of the Estonian Communist Party. The party leadership promised to take into account the will of the people, but that Estonia will remain within the Soviet Union, as a socialist republic, albeit under a more favourable relationship.
(Already in 1987, at several public functions, Estonians had demanded the full restoration of independence)
The 1989 public statement includes a not so subtle warning which ex-top-communists still use today: by presenting a critique of the Estonian communist leadership’s mistakes and values, one also rejects the work of many generations for the homeland.
Similarly in the preamble to the 2005 Russian-Estonian border treaty (which was later rescinded by Moscow), Russia had inserted a reminder of the 50 years of friendly co-existence which had been of mutual benefit both in terms of culture as well as economic well-being. Not, then, a Soviet occupation but honest toil for the homeland.
A recent article, referring to Stalin’s era, declared that Estonian was then allowed to be used in schools and universities. That beside communist ideology, instruction sciences, technology and agronomy were also taught at a high level. This would not have been possible without the efforts of those now named as commies.
In a 1950 book ex-Nazi vice-admiral Kurt Assmann emphasized that a Nazi victory would have benefited that world. Hitler would have sooner or later died. The Nazi party and those who had worked diligently for the homeland would have changed the regime from within.
One is also reminded of the “Heidelberg myth”, of how Hitler era universities weren’t imbued with Nazi ideology, provided excellent technical education and were politically neutral. German historians have thoroughly discredited that viewpoint, which doesn’t mean that technical instruction wasn’t good – amongst other things, for the fabrication of dependable gas ovens.
I hope that the older generation understands that those who once wielded power now hide behind others who had to submit to that power. I hope that former pilots, teachers and collective farm supervising workers, who were mainly coerced into joining the party, realize that they don’t have much in common with those that forced them to join.
The resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe does not condemn the toil and activity of two generations. It condemns those that brought us misery and oppression such as the majority of pragmatic and industrious Estonians remember.
We can wish that Estonians chuckle at the continuing attempts by former top communists to equate the condemnation of communism with the condemnation of the achievements of the population in general. There is a very distinct boundary between work and collaboration and the time has not arrived to draw a line between that past and present.
[i](Eerik-Niiles Kross has been a diplomat, the national co ordinator of Estonia’s intelligence services, an advisor to the government of Iraq. He writes, makes films and observes that which surrounds him.)
Arbeit macht frei - (II) (10)