Sympathies and contradictions
The following is a condensed translation of Imbi Paju’s article in the most recent edition of “Maailma Vaade” (View of the World). Paju is an Estonian journalist, author and filmmaker living in Finland.
For the last nine years I have concentrated on the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union and crimes against humanity. As a result I have personally felt the reverberations of totalitarianism.
Estonia has enjoyed freedom for nearly 20 years and it is now a European Union and NATO member. I have researched and analyzed Soviet totalitarianism in the Baltics and how it weakened our spiritual and moral values. But people often find this incomprehensible in Finland and Estonia.
Exposing the pathology of Soviet totalitarianism oftentimes summons aggressiveness in others. This type of research is often labeled as “russophobia.” This is typically motivated by economic considerations because everyone wants to cook their spaghetti with Russian gas. Or as a young Finnish journalist told me: “I was raised to believe that the rule in the USSR was genuine.” The collapse of the Soviet Union was a catastrophe for him, because his parents’ teachings and Finnish TV had proved to be false. He’s making a documentary film on this theme.
When Estonia ascended to the European Union five years ago, Finland published a book entitled “10 New Member States” in which a Finnish historian was quoted as saying the “EU is gaining three new Russophobe members states,” alluding to the Baltic states. It was added that Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians had themselves to blame for becoming occupied, a fact they don’t want to acknowledge. This Russian-pleasing notion has received support by blog postings of former Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja.
Edward Lucas, in his introduction to [Paju’s] book “Memories Denied”, which focuses on totalitarianism, says: It is fashionable in some quarters to say that Estonians are neurotic about their history. Yet the real cause of neurosis is repression.”
Lucas is right. It causes us concern when Russia and Germany agree to place the Nordstream gas pipeline on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, at a time when Russia hasn’t come to terms with its violent history and is reviving Stalinism. Or when a western statesman like the former social-democratic Prime Minister of Finland, Paavo Lipponen, becomes salaried by Nordstream and sternly blames the Baltics for not knowing how to deal with the Russians and having foreign policies which ignore Russian needs. It seems that the Finnish pragmatism of the cold war era is a factor that is increasing in importance in the Russian equation.
This is mirrored in the press: Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians are Russophobes (when faced with the Nordstream project which these countries basically oppose). This is especially true of the Finnish press. Only in the recent past has the press started to cover the legitimate ecological concerns the Baltic Sea countries have expressed about the placing of a gas pipeline on the bottom of the sea.
(To be continued.)
Translated by LAAS LEIVAT
The reverberations of Soviet totalitarianism in Finland