It’s not an issue that causes constant rhetorical confrontation. Some suggest that the question of reparations/compensation for the pro-longed Soviet occupation gets on the international agenda for reasons of the domestic politics of the various players. This fall it was raised once more.
Andrius Kubilius, Lithuania’s prime minister, recently stated that Lithuania could demand compensation for the occupation of Lithuania. The head of the country’s UN delegation also announced that Lithuania has not abandoned the bringing to justice of individuals culpable of crimes against the Lithuania people during the occupation.
Moscow’s response was predictable: Lithuania’s position contradicts “international norms of justice and principles”. Russia’s RIA Novosti added that Lithuania ignores the “lessons of history” by tolerating the activity of Neo-Nazis. This last accusation was made in spite of legislation by the Lithuanian parliament making it illegal to justify, deny or trivialize international crimes, including those of both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
A major irritant for Russia is the historical stance of Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Poles and others, which asserts that the two occupying totalitarian regimes carry equal guilt for similar brutality. Kremlin’s also accuses the same countries in rewriting history by downplaying the Red Army’s contribution in conquering the Nazis. Moscow insists that Soviet forces were “liberators” of the Baltic states in 1944, not occupiers. This last claim is based on their unwavering position that they did not invade the Baltics in 1940, but were invited by the respective peoples and that the three coerced annexations during that summer was the normal response to requests presented by the three parliaments to be part of the USSR. A crucial detail that Russia refuses to address are the parliamentary farcical elections controlled by the Communist party, elections totally devoid of any accepted electoral procedures.
Although a Russian governmental official, who heads a commission on the compensation for victims of political repression, has said that Estonia has presented its case for reparations, Estonia is not known to have done so officially. However Mihhail Mitjukov, in an interview to Interfax stated that all the Baltic states have had public and private commissions researching and compiling demands for compensation packages.
According to Mitjukov Vilnius’ total will reach $20 billion (US), Riga’s $200 billion (US) and Estonia will demand $4 billion (US) for ecological damages and $250,000 (US) for every victim of repression. He considers these proposals unjustified, adding that Russia itself suffered similarly from repressions, if not more. (This opinion contrasts dramatically with Vladimir Putin’s claim that the “collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century”.)
Lithuania’s Seim adopted legislation in 2000 in which the government is responsible for initiating talks on compensation which Lithuanian authorities have calculated at 80 billion Lits or 23.5 billion euros.
It was inevitable that Moscow would see the question of reparations or compensation from a totally opposite perspective, if for no other reason than to be on the offensive when feeling vulnerable. In the fall of 2004, a report of Russia’s Audit Chamber contended that Russia, as the legal successor of the Soviet Union is entitled to be compensated for having vacated the three Baltic States. It stated that the legal status of former Soviet property in those countries was an unresolved issue, necessitating “mutual recognition of property”. Therefore Russia could claim “compensation for assets that were left on the territories of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania”.
Laas Leivat (To be continued.)
Who has the right to compensation for the Soviet occupation of the Baltics?