Speech in the National Philharmonic Hall in Vilnius on August 23rd, 2007
MART NIKLUS,(Estonian Union of Former Political Prisoners)
Mr. President of the Republic of Lithuania,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Permit me to greet you and to congratulate all of you here, as well as the Lithuanian people as a whole on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the meeting that for the first time condemned the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in public, on behalf of Estonian freedom-fighters and former political prisoners, as well as on my own behalf.
I am one of the former Soviet prisoners of conscience who has been kept behind bars and barbed wire together with my Lithuanian companions in misfortune. Since 1979, I have been one of the signatories of the Baltic Appeal. Besides, I am merely a graduate, but by no means a “professor at Tartu University”, as I have respectfully been titled in the program of this solemn gathering. True enough, in some pseudo-sciences and in some countries, academic degrees or titles have been assumed without much effort in recent times. Being a participant in the Estonian national resistance movement, a zoologist of my schooling, now a pensioner, the status makes me behave and express myself differently from present-day Estonian political adventurers and vicars of Bray.
But joking apart. It’s an honour and pleasure for me to have been invited to the capital of Lithuania where I have repeatedly been before (lastly in January 2007). Both national and internationally interesting events regularly take place in the city of Vilnius, where I have lots of friends and people holding the same views. During my former visits to Vilnius I have witnessed Soviet frame-ups against the participants of your dissident and national resistance movement. After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence and statehood, it was here that I was awarded your Order of Merit. And it goes without saying that each time I come to Vilnius I enjoy a warm welcome by the Vilniusites.
I really feel glad that a lot has been accomplished in your country within the recent past in our common interest. To mention only a few items: The Anti-communist Congress and International Public Tribunal “Evaluation of the Crimes of Communism”, Vilnius 2000, with its corresponding publications (also partly translated into Estonian); celebration of the 5th anniversary of the above-mentioned event with corresponding publications (2005); publication of “Freedom of the Baltics. Responsibility of Europe” by Arvydas Anušauskas and Birut? Burauskait? (2003); publication of the two volumes of “Lietuvos Helsinkio grup?” (1999, 2006); conferences “The Helsinki Group of Vilnius. Meeting after 30 years” (January 2007).
These events, facts, and publications show that the Lithuanian people are not afraid to scrutinize the near past of their country. This proves that Lithuanians do not fear to publish the results of political, juridical, and historical investigations. It demonstrates, in turn, that such investigations, publications, translations into other languages, conferences, etc. are encouraged and supported both by the Lithuanian government and by your compatriots abroad.
To my knowledge, the present solemn meeting has also been arranged and supported by the Government of Lithuania. This is the attitude that we Estonians can only be envious of.
Let us return to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939. As is generally known, the existence of this agreement and its secret protocols between the Stalinist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany was wrapt in mystery or denied altogether by Soviet authorities for decades. The cat was let out of the bag in 1979 when 45 (or more) citizens of the then occupied Baltic States (mostly Lithuanians), in defiance of the terror of the KGB and running the risk of their personal freedom and welfare, had made up their minds to celebrate the notorious “Jubilee” in their own way. They signed a document which later on became known worldwide under the title The Memorandum of 45 Baltic Nationals or simply The Baltic Appeal. The initiators of the idea were Lithuanians. In August 1979, Mr. Antanas Terleckas and the Rev. Julius Sasnauskas (hardly more than a youngster at that time!) visited us in Tartu. Here the elaborated final version of the text was composed and thereafter sent to the Free World via Moscow’s leading dissidents. This Memorandum or Appeal was then discussed in the European Parliament, and on January 13, 1983 the same authoritative international organisation passed a resolution concerning the situation in the Soviet-occupied Baltic States. Particulars on the course of events, the names of the signatories, their supporters, spokesmen, etc. can be found in the above-mentioned book by A. Anušauskas and B. Burauskait?.
The Memorandum/Appeal and the above-mentioned European Parliament resolution attracted deep attention in the world public opinion. Both the said Memorandum and the Resolution may well mark the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Communist Empire. Athough several signatories were subsequently arrested by the KGB and condemned to penal servitude in Soviet prisons and labour camps, the process which had been started could not be hindered or barred any longer. In 1987, the Estonian Group for Publication of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement (MRP-AEG) was founded. In 1988, the full text of the Baltic Appeal was also published in Estonian in Looming Magazine. Thereupon, in 2005 a video film and tape under the title of Baltic Appeal -25- (with subtitles in English) were produced by private concerns.
As I have just heard from your reports, the course of events in Lithuania had, in the late eighties, more or less taken the same turn as in my country. It is a pleasure to learn that you are already celebrating the 20th anniversary of the public condemnation of the notorious MRP and to herewith emphasize that all this is happening on Lithuanian State level!
I am aware that a public meeting or gathering dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Hirvepark Meeting in 1987 is presently under way in Tallinn. Mr. Donatas Jankauskas, Member of the Seimas of Lithuania, is one of the speakers who has the floor there. Public meetings in Tallinn on August 23 are usually sponsored by certain firms or private persons. In past years, the “International Black Ribbon Day” meetings are regrettably rarely attended by Estonia’s high-ranking state officials...
On the contrary, a couple of days ago when the 16th anniversary of the restoration of Estonia’s independence (August 20, 1991) was celebrated, our former “builders of communism” became very active and pompous again. They are being praised to the heavens by our mass media. But in reality, our independence has remained only seeming or imaginary. There has been no desovietization, no decolonisation, no derussification in present-day Estonia. Not a single word is officially mentioned about Soviet power, the Soviet system, anti-Soviet activities, collaborationism, quislings, or the Estonian national resistance movement, etc. (as if such notions had never existed!). It is only the colours and labels that have been exchanged. The state is often governed by dilettante and profane persons who only pursue their own interests and who don’t care about the fate of Estonia or of the Estonians at the least. Under the guise of “integration of aliens into the Estonian society”, a Putinist Russian state is presently being constructed right in Estonia. In the course of the past 16 years post-Soviet Estonia has not dared to behave like a real, self-respecting state, which it ought to have done. The result of such political unconcern is that, together with the rebirth of Stalinism in Russia, the local anti-Estonian elements are becoming more and more active and aggressive which, in turn, may again lead to the loss of our statehood.
Up to now we have fortunately escaped the type of massacres which took place in Vilnius on January 11-13, 1991. But communist imperialism, red filth, and Russian chauvinism have not disappeared in the world, and this makes us very concerned and watchful. Fresh evidence of anti-Estonian developments is witnessed by Putinjugend and their allies’ riots in Tallinn and in some cities of Northern Estonia of late April 2007 when a coup d’état attempt was planned from Moscow (to say nothing about the Kremlin’s hysterical anti-Estonian propaganda campaign that is going on to the present day).
The present speaker, a former Estonian political prisoner, has not fought and suffered for such an Estonia where the inheritance of the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement of 1939 and the Soviet system have successfully survived all their transmutations and the so-called reforms, and where former freedom-fighters are almost forgotten by those who make their power felt.
As an exception to this, Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia, in his public address in Tallinn on August 20, 2007, dared to mention a few names of resisters to “evils of totalitarianism” (Postimees, August 21, 2007). Strikingly enough, this bold attempt coincided with the 49th anniversary of the first arrest of the present speaker!*
Despite all, I still feel extremely happy to be in this beautiful hall and in your company today. I wish the Lithuanian people much success in developing your state order and in the fulfilment of your national, social, and democratic dreams. Thanks also to the arrangers of this festive meeting, to the organizers of the exposition in the adjoining room and, last but not least, to the musicians for their beautiful recitals, and to the interpreters for their very careful and professional work.**
* Mr. Ilves was also present and took the floor at the Hirvepark open-air meeting on August 23, 2007 (Postimees et al., August 24, 2007) – an unprecedented appearance in the history of those meetings.
** Following this report, the speaker presented a small gift describing the situation in Estonia to Mr. Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania.
HAVE THE REMNANTS OF COMMUNISM BEEN ELIMINATED BY NOW? (1)