Arvamus 01 Jun 2016  EWR
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Recently an opinion piece appeared in Estonian Life, posted here at EWR that stated that very few ex-soldiers of Estonian heritage are seen to join their Russian comrades in victory day celebrations there.

My immediate reaction was that this was probably because the ranks of World War two veterans from both sides naturally has shrunk considerably over the past seven decades. In the case of Red Army veterans certainly the abysmal hardships they endured during the war such as lack of proper clothing and food and medical care would have taken their toll in later life. As well, post war life in the Soviet Union, even for a highly decorated veteran with his special access to "deficit" goods could not have been that great and its probable that many simply drank themselves into an early grave to escape from the hell that was actual soviet style socialism.

I then started thinking about why Estonian veterans still alive might not wish to participate in these celebrations. After all there were well known ethnic Estonians such as Arnold Meri (yes he was closely related to the guy who became president of Estonia) who along with about 16 other Estonians were awarded the gold star, USSR's highest decoration for extremely bravery on the battlefield. Mr. Meri's award may have been for political reasons rather than actual merit, but its reasonable to assume that at least half of the others won theirs for genuine battlefield heroism in the face of the enemy. This being the case, since only 4 Estonians won the equivalent award the Knights Cross of Nazi Germany, one could conclude that Estonian men in the Red Army were at least twice as competent as those in the legion in their roles as battlefield warriors. It would have required quite a bit of motivation to risk their flesh performing heroic feats something that would have been unlikely to have been done by soldiers merely being compelled to do so by NKVD troops forcing them on from behind at gunpoint.

I also wondered how one could ascertain how people in Estonia, would be able to tell which participants in the victory celebrations were ethnic Estonians. I certainly have trouble with this identification during my trips to Estonia when I run into Russians that speak better Estonian than I do. Perhaps the ethnic Estonians at these celebrations wore some type of easily identifiable mark or clothing and refrained from smoking "mahorka", waving vodka bottles and singing and dancing the "hupka" to accordion music. After spending the war years in the red army and the next half century under occupation most would have no problems speaking good Russian so language would not be determinative.

As far as the Russians in Estonia are concerned several fought in Estonia's war of independence and were highly decorated, one whose mother was Russian became Head of State, and many Russians fought against the Soviet Union.

Problem is that the half Russian Head of State allowed the Red Army to come in almost without a shot being fired. History has a way of repeating itself. Lets hope it doesn't happen again.

The older I get the more I realize that Estonia has an incredibly complex convoluted history and at present an uncertain future.
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