Aleksei Lotman, member of Estonian parliament, prominent in Green party, whose family heritage reaches back into Russia, is known for his original, politically independent observations on issues germanine to Estonians. The following are his recent thoughts on Russia’s hman rights record.
The historic importance of August 20th (the day in 1991, when the Estonian Supreme Soviet confirmed the indepenence of Estonia) has been hotly debated for 19 years. The Supreme Soviet was a constitutional entity within the USSR, not an Estonian institution and for many, not the proper body to re-establish Estonia’s independence.
But history consists not only of juridical developments. The August 20th resolution immediately prompted international recognition and the re-establishment of diplomatic ties with an independent Estonia, whose Soviet annexation had never been recognized de jure by the West.
That August 20th declaration coupled with the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia enabled the country to distance itself from the Russian sphere of influence. Other captive nations,, who didn’t enjoy such an historic and legalistic legacy, have had difficulty emerging completely from the Soviet shadow.
To the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly Lotman recentl;y said: in North Caucasus lawlessness, terror and impunity rule. … The terror is carried out from two sides – the government (installed by Moscow – ed.) is killing, abduct and torturing at will, while insurgents have turned in desperation into ruthless terrorists. Human rights activists simply disappear. In Cechnya women suffer the most. ‘Bride abductions’ are commonplace. In fact Moscow’s local puppet states in public that women can be kept as slaves. Thus gender-based slavery is openly justified by one of Russia’s local administrators and the ombudsman, while Russia is a member of the Council of Europe representing Europe’s collective conscience on respect for human rights. Russian journalists who have attempted to investigate the issue have been killed with the help of Moscow’s officials.
While Moscow tolerates the blatant violations of human rights in even one Russian region, the Kremlin cannot argue that Russia honours the rule of law. Every year, journalists critical of Moscow’s behaviour are killed. The recent attacks on the public gatherings of the political opposition, the imprisonment of businessmen who refuse to be entrapped by corrupt government officials – the slogan ‘killing justice in Russia’ is an approriate catch-all for this and the title of an open letter on the issue signed by internatioanl figures such as Vaclav Havel, Desmond Tutu and Grigori Yavlinski.
Rights to assemble advocates have taken the 31th day of appropriate months to protest the refusal of Moscow to honour paragaph 31 of the Russian constitution which details the right to assemble. These gatherings are systematically disbursed by force.
The constatnt demonization of Russia is unproductive. It would be effective to personally witness the developments in Russia and to be open to any positive aspects of Russian life, But one must also be wary of the false and fraudulent.
How does this affect us? Brutallity in domestic polictical breeds aggressiveness internationallty, demonstrated by the annexation of Georgia’s and Moldava’s territories. That Estonia has not suffered Russia’s overt agression could be attributed to Estonia’s decision of August 20th, 1991.
Russia is our huge neighbour and multual friendship is in our own interest. But this does not mean the praising of Russian undemocratic practices. Friendly relations include support for democratic movements and the criticism of government. A true friend of Russia is a friend of Russian democrats and human rights activists.
Lotman: Who is Russia’s true friend?