In 1965, the system of national economic councils was replaced by a firmer ministerial management system: Estonia's economy was subjected to all-Union Ministries. However, this concept of “developed socialism” did show signs of retardation, particularly in the machine building and metalworking industries. Estonian products lost competitiveness; the export capacity lessened; obsolescence of products increased gradually. There was also influence by the USSR internal market where the consumer accepted anything, due to the lack of competitiveness.
Agriculture was also affected. In the 1980's it was not able to produce enough food products for Estonian people; even milk and meat were partly produced with the use of imported fodder.
The Estonian economy was closed. During the years of occupation, Estonia's economic relations were limited to those with the East — there was an isolation from the world market. Curiously, as the unitary economic system of the USSR did not recognize the existence of individual Soviet republics, the corollary was that there could not be any economic relations between Soviet republics... It was simply an ideological fiction, non-existent even for official statistics! Soviet economics 101...?
In the same spirit, because the economic relations between the Soviet republics were not clearly defined, the matter of balance of imports and exports became a field of ideological speculation. The mutual “sisterly assistance” was in play. Ago Kriisa comments: “Fulfilment of Moscow's plans is, however, of no benefit to the Estonian people, as Moscow prescribed what and in which amount Estonia may import.” Eduard Poom states that in 1970 the central authority left only 32% of the national income produced in Estonia, while the Kremlin expropriated the remaining 68%.
The previous comments indicate that it is quite difficult to assess the real cost of the Soviet occupation and damage caused by the economic colonization. “Like the economy of the USSR, that of the Estonian SSR was also surrealistic by its very nature.” High natural production figures contrasted the increasing shortage of every kind of resources and consumer goods. It was a production based on central planning; production for production sake. Production was marketed to bottomless and all-accepting closed internal market of the USSR.
The paper makes a concluding statement regarding the economic cost of the occupation of fifty years. “We have to conclude that the damage done to Estonia's national economy in 1940-1990 cannot be ambiguously assessed either on the basis of the value of nationalised, collectivised, confiscated, exported or destroyed assets, or on the flows of money and goods in the USSR (either in rubles, or in reichsmarks or dollars). Rather, the damage manifests itself in the present-day backwardness of Estonia's economy, as to compared to the economies of other Nordic countries.”
This concluding statement sums up the trials and tribulations of the Estonian economy during the Soviet occupation, with succinct commentary, thorough statistics and academic discussion.
There is no doubt that this document by the Commission has an important role in the aims to record and explain the tragic historical events during the occupations 1940-1991, for the present, and in particular, for the future generations. Indeed, it could be a classic textbook for history classes in the schools. One can say that without the past there is no present; without the present there is no future. Each country needs to look towards the future in order to continue to maintain and improve the quality of life of its citizens. Estonia cannot be an exception. It is hoped that the experiences of those hardships suffered by the Estonian nation would contribute towards a successful reconstruction of a free and democratic Estonia, where the awareness of the historical background would be essential to obtain this goal. Therein lies the importance and significance of this White Book.
Indeed, the crimes committed by the occupying powers in Estonia could be deemed to belong to international crimes against humanity in modern times.
In this category, besides the well publicized Jewish holocaust, two other should be mentioned: 1) Armenian holocaust of 1915, when their Turkish overlords deported and massacred about 1.5 million Armenians. This is well remembered by the Armenian community, in terms of an impressive memorial in Yerevan, with associated commemorative visitings. (Ref.: a recent CBC documentary aired in February, 2006). On the whole, the world is not well informed of this event. 2) The famine-induced holocaust in Ukraine by the Soviet Union 1932-33, with an estimated 7 million deaths and 2 million sent to Soviet concentration camps. Eric Margolis writes in his article “Seven million died in the “forgotten” holocaust” (Toronto Sun, Nov.16, 2003): “...this titanic crime has almost vanished into an historical 'black hole'”. So has the extermination of the Don Cossacks by the Communists in the 1930's, the Volga Germans in 1941, and mass executions and deportations to concentration camps of Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Poles. At the end of Word War II, Stalin's Gulag held 5.5 million prisoners, 23 % of them Ukrainians and 6% Baltic people. We still hunt Nazis who were killers, but not communists who were killers.
This illustrates that an international “black hole” of non-recognition exists in regard certain crimes committed by communists against humanity.
How does it relate specifically to the Estonian situation? In the White Book, only one paper proceeds beyond the historical description of crimes. Chapter IV “Present Health Damages” concludes, bringing up the matter of responsibility for crimes: “It is apparently necessary to claim for compensation from Russia who is the legal successor of the Soviet Union and also bearing the whole responsibility for all damages. It is natural and predictable that Russia has to feel sorry for the caused damage and ask for Estonia‘s acceptance of their apology.”
(to be continued.)
The White Book: A summary with observations (12)