(A summarized translation of Jüri Saar’s article from Sirp, November 30, 2007)
Finally, let’s consider those Estonians who abandoned all their possessions and managed to escape the communist terror regime (or the prison camps). Jaak Allik (a former prominent communist) accuses them and those that fought high-casualty battles at the end of the war against the Red Army, of a creating a population vacuum, which the Soviets quickly filled – an opinion that is extremely cynical.
It is undeniable that Estonians abroad helped those in Soviet occupied Estonia to maintain a belief in some better future and also sent material aid to relatives in need. Indeed, it was the significant support of Estonians in the west that made our life as “inmates” somewhat bearable and their fight for freedom played an enormous role in the eventual outcome. Allik, as a loyal communist, and others of his ilk are convinced of their immunity from punishment and continue to sneer at former victims of communism. Those publicly accusing people fleeing certain death or labour camps should be held accountable and at the very least offer a public apology.
One cannot negate that for many, their important personal milestones – first love, career successes, etc - fell within the Soviet period. Similarly with cultural achievements and scientific breakthroughs. It was not the communist system that nurtured important events, they occurred in spite of the Soviets. Just imagine if a former Nazi were to brag about the accomplishments of the Nazi regime, and how it enjoyed the support of the whole population. Communists are a tougher breed than Nazis, as shown when considering today’s Germany. Germans have an analogous problem in coming to terms with the communist past of East Germany because of their own red apologists.
Ex factis ius oritur (facts have a tendency to become law) is a legal axiom in international relations that has been exploited by the communists. It refers to the legalizing of de facto situations that have endured over time. In international relations such processes are acceptable, but only on three conditions: victims of occupation must be in agreement; the territory has been under foreign control over an extended period; and the process has gained international acceptance.
Looking back, it is obvious now that Gorbachev’s perestroika was meant to legitimize the status quo. Estonian communists tried to create such a situation prior to the attempted putsch of August 1991. They pushed for a new confederation treaty that would have given legality to the Soviet occupation of Estonia and its legacy.
It seems that Estonia’s decision to democratically choose people of different pasts in non-confrontational coexistence and to universally accept certain historical facts was the right path. Since the essence of every democracy holds some universally recognized values, some historic themes cannot be debated nor compromises found. It is difficult to establish a meaningful dialogue with those for whom the collapse of the Soviet Union was the 20th century’s greatest tragedy and those that see it as a prerequisite for Estonia’s rebirth. In essence it would be a review of Estonia’s current legitimacy.
With some exceptions, most of the former “prison guards” do not openly join the debate. Let us remind ourselves that we were all captive subjects in the big communist experiment. This might give us a common frame of reference. Jaak Allik’s approach to interpreting the recent past cannot possibly be of assistance in helping us find a mutually acceptable tomorrow.
Interpreting Estonia’s recent history (conclusion)