I promised that I would not post on the trial of the four Bronze Soldier "defenders" until there was a verdict in the case, and today there was a verdict: not guilty.
The four -- Dmitri Klenski, Mark Sirõk, Maksim Reva, and Dmitri Linter -- had been charged with conspiring to foment the two nights of unrest in Tallinn in April 2007 in response to the removal of that statue to a military cemetery.
While some Estonians may have authoritarian impulses, the truth is that this country is as permissive as its nordic neighbors, and the BS riots were no exception.
The government didn't rip the statue out of the ground and dump it in the Narva river in indignation at the execution of almost all their predecessors by the Soviet state in the 1940s. No, they invited Lutheran and Orthodox clergymen to purify the ground and did DNA testing on the soldiers' remains to return them to their families.
The stone platform for Mr. Bronze was carefully assembled brick by brick in his new home at the military cemetery, only lacking the hammer and sickle halo that adorned the monument at Tõnismägi. "Careful with those bricks," Minister of Defense Jaak Aaviksoo perhaps muttered to his subordinates during the removal. "We want to make Härra Pronks' new surroundings as comfortable as possible."
The violence and alcohol-fueled looting that followed the removal has inspired many fingers to be pointed in a variety of directions. Some blamed the stubborn Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and his eager helpers Rein Lang and Jüri Pihl for stirring Tallinn's beastly youth to burn flags and steal Sprite.
Others blamed the nauseating 24-hour coverage by state-owned Russian TV news programs for creating an intense atmosphere of unease where any hiccup or sneeze near the monument was repackaged into propaganda and broadcast to the hungry masses.
I personally blamed demographics. The more Estonian Tallinn gets (55 percent of Tallinn residents identify as Estonian today), the less the city's residents wanted to deal with a May 9 celebration in the town center for eternity. They didn't necessarily want to remove the statue, but they also didn't necessarily care if it was gone either.
The state prosecutor's office, though, blamed Sirõk, Linter, Klenski, and Reva for organizing what was an extremely unorganized event. They had to put someone on trial, didn't they? They couldn't put themselves, ITAR-TASS, or the Estonian Statistical Office on trial. The four activists' path to the court room was clear.
If anything, they could have tried them for poor decision making or lack of organizational skills. But, in the end, the effort to tie recorded phone conversations and e-mails with urban anarchy didn't wash with the judge. In some ways, I am pleased that Estonia has demonstrated that it has a functional judicial system, where a citizen put on trial, even one as disliked as Klenski, can walk out of the court room with a big, clown-like smile on his face.
I am also pleased that this event/circumstance/situation, barring any appeals, has run its course. Sirõk can go back to school; Klenski can go back on ETV to crow in his overdone Estonian; and Linter and Reva can go back to doing whatever it is they did before. Your 15 minutes are up for now fellas, but don't worry, if Deep Purple can still get gigs in Tallinn, so can you!
Itching for Eestimaa, 5. jaanuar 2009.
if the glove does not fit (4)