Today was one of those days that I wished Priit Aruvald was still with us. He was the long-serving and active General Secretary of EKN, the Estonian Central Council in Canada, and also a voice of reason during the late 1990’s when I worked at Meie Elu. Priit's office was next door to mine at the Toronto Esto House, and I would often use him as a sounding board whenever I came across KGB provocations, outright falsehoods in the media, propagated by a Soviet mentality, that to this day will not go away. Priit would usually answer with a mis sa sest sitast torgid, tead, et läheb haisema. But when it came to measured response, Priit was the first to spring into action, using the diplomacy and tact that I remember him for.
Today is the first day of spring, and after my morning digestion of the electronic media I would have welcomed a chance to muse about the latest ignorant agitpropaganda tactic. Ironically, an Alberta news item first captured my attention, followed by one from Tallinn. The irony is that Priit is perhaps best remembered outside political circles for writing the lyrics to “Tallinna teel”, set to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Alberta Bound”. Priit, an Estonian first, and then a Canadian, might have seen something in this juxtaposition.
The fact that the paint job of Alberta’s Wildrose Party campaign bus went viral on Twitter just underlines how media has changed with the internet – an advantage neither Meie Elu nor EKN had back in the day. Briefly, the Wildrose Party’s bus was painted featuring their attractive and dynamic leader Danielle Smith. Alas, her bust (indeed, that is what we call a head-and-shoulders photograph) was placed above the real wheels of the bus. Wags suggested immediately that the party wanted to emphasize Ms. Smith’s pair – important in politics if you are a male, perhaps an impediment if you are a woman.
The unfortunate placement of the leader’s bust on the bus was rectified, and it was just a smile story for most outlets, certainly welcome among the tales of entitlement, corruption and simple ignorance that mainstream media downloads on the naïve subscriber, who has perhaps even forgotten the power of independent reasoning in those social networking era.
The true boobs, however, are in Tallinn. Ott Tammik wrote today on ERR News, the English language site of Estonia’s national broadcaster, that “activists” are planning an “advertising” campaign that involves the placement of a portrait of Joseph Stalin as an advertisement for the upcoming Soviet holiday of May 9, Victory in Europe Day, on public buses in Tallinn and Riga. Rather than paraphrase, Tammik’s article is available here: http://news.err.ee/politics/c0... (Strange, I could not find any reference to this story at ERR’s Estonian language site. Wonder why? Or is it that the target audience – Russians, one presumes, - are more likely to read English than Estonian…?)
Priit would most likely have shrugged of this as yet another moronic attempt by the seltsimehed yearning for the safety and reassurance of Soviet rule. But we would most likely have moved on to other topics, such as why do these types of provocation attempts take place in spring? Is Stalin like a perennial, ready to bloom in full glory by May, and the work of his gardeners and the necessary sõnnikuvedajad, manure-spreaders, must begin in March?
I recalled today also that another organization, the Wiesenthal Centre is very active in spring and in fall, knowing that in winter people work and sleep, in the summer party and make hay. Their desire to place ads seeking information about not collaborators but “active Nazis” in the Baltics during WW II have been rejected by ethnic media abroad.
But Priit would have remembered that in 1999 Estonian media worked hand in hand with the Department of Justice, Canada. (We knew who was behind that action as well). At that time ads ran in the biggest Estonian dailies , most interested in information about Estonian National Guard and Police Unit activities during the German occupation and active battle war years in various Estonian cities. “Meie Elu” refused to run the ad, for it was obvious from the text who would benefit.
Toomas Merilo, who had succeeded the late Tönu Parming as chairman of the Toronto Eesti Selts, did not let the issue lie, and contacted Peter McKellar, Canada’s Ambassador to the Baltics about this ad. Mr. McKellar replied that the ads had been placed as “part of the investigation of specific allegations against a resident of Canada having participated in crimes in Estonia during World War II. No further identification, and as far as I know, no follow up to the investigation. Unfortunately, in a democracy, allegations often suffice to justify a witch-hunt. McKellar’s response did not even identify the nationality of the resident of Canada. Let us remember that Estonia saw soldiers of many different nationalities during WW II on her soil. But using Estonian language media sure made it seem that it had to be an eestlane. Evidence? Trial by media? You decide.
(Perhaps Toomas Merilo, as a regular EWR online commentator, has more on this topic to illuminate me. Better yet, I smell another opinion piece coming…)
No-one in their right mind would think that the Stalin portrait would be accepted as advertising in Tallinn or Riga. Then again, who could have predicted the aftermath of the removal of Aljosha, the Bronze Soldier in the spring (there you go again) of 2007? The drunken looters were maybe to be expected, but the cyber warfare that shut down Estonian ministries and newspapers online, the attacks on the present Estonian Ambassador to the USA and Canada, Marina Kaljurand, who at the time was posted to Moscow, were certainly not. It is fair to say that the Kremlin still has many tricks up its sleeve. And far from being paranoid, but the Soviets had their viisaastakud, or Five Year plans, and it has been 5 years since the Tõnismäe uprising, which many Tallinners saw as a real putsch attempt.
And then there is Putin’s risible and purported fear of an attack by Estonia on Russia that made the news earlier this month. (Apparently, Putin had a male relative who was slain by Estonians during WW II. Some say uncle, some suggest grandfather, but I have yet to see any written evidence supporting this as a reason for his seeming hatred of Estonians.)
The FSB slash KGB background of the Russian President should, however, not be forgotten. Another link, which was earlier available at EWR as well:
http://www.delfi.ee/news/paeva... Although from Delfi, where the anonymous commentators belong in a barn, a specific line from that interview is important when we consider inroads made by the FSB and their forerunner the KGB abroad: “inglise keelt räägitakse ka igal pool. Inimene ehk ei teagi, kelle jaoks ta töötab, mis riigi lipu all.”
The above is not the type of researched, reasoned opinion piece that Priit always encouraged me to write. I fear, however, if I had let the breezes of spring divert me from the return of Stalin I might not have written these lines. For this elecetronic era it may be blog-esque, but certainly better than a mindless Twitter. That I already get from the birds outside.
Spring? Stalin can’t be far behind (5)