Scandal erupts in Tallinn over statement made by Russian ambassador about expelling Nazis from the Baltic states
Estonian political figures didn’t leave without spiteful attention the words of the Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Petrov – that the inhabitants of the republic remember and honour the feat of the Soviet soldiers during the years of World War II. The Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu and the former Prime Minister Mart Laar burst into angry tirades.
Their indignation was caused by Aleksandr Petrov’s statement to the correspondent of TASS. The ambassador said that, since the day of the liberation of Narva on July 26th, in Estonia a number of events devoted to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the republic from fascist aggressors are held. Their organisation is carried out in close contact with veteran organisations, search clubs, and associations of compatriots.
“We must remember what price was paid for the expulsion of Nazis from Estonian land,” said Petrov. “The monument to the soldier-liberators at the Tallinn military cemetery reminds us of this. Tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers gave their lives in the hardest battles on the territory of Estonia. It would be desirable to especially note that in the ranks of the Red Army Estonian soldiers heroically fought alongside representatives of many other ethnic groups and nationalities. The rank of Hero of the Soviet Union was given to one of them — Arnold Konstantinovich Mari — in August 1941”.
Commemorative events were also held in Tartu. They took place also in Tallinn, Paldiski, Haapsalu, and other cities. “It is symbolic that in honour of the liberation of the capital of Estonia a 21-gun salute will thunder in Moscow within the framework of the ‘Memory of the Victory’ program,” said Petrov. This happened on September 22nd.
The ambassador noted: “It is no secret that today many attempts are made to falsify the history of the Great Patriotic War, including to distort the role of the Red Army in the liberation of Estonia from the German aggressors. And here it is extremely important that veterans take an active position and tell the truth about those historical events”.
His words about falsification were immediately confirmed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia Urmas Reinsalu, who by the way is the former Minister of Defence of the republic. “It is necessary to remind that when on September 22nd units of the Red Army occupied Tallinn, German troops were no longer in the city and resistance mainly came from Estonian volunteers who had returned from Finland,” said Reinsalu at a press conference on September 19th. “On the Pikk Hermann tower the blue-black-white flag was lowered and a red one was raised”.
This is a half-truth, and in fact a lie. Nobody lowered the blue-black flag of Estonia. When on September 22nd Soviet tanks entered the city, the flagstaff on the tower was shot at from a machine gun, and the flag fell. But this is a detail, but a lie in concealment: along with the Estonian flag, a Nazi flag with a swastika, larger in size, fluttered on the flagpole. It also fell.
The Germans by that time carried out evacuation and, as it were, delegated power to the nationalist pro-Hitler government, but a part of the servicemen of the Wehrmacht remained in the city. Should it be added here that the Estonian SS division, which battled against the Red Army, operated in the republic? This is a fact of common knowledge.
And yes, there was the Hero of the Soviet Union Arnold Mari, who after the collapse of the USSR was subjected to repression in Estonia. The 8th Estonian Rifle Corps created in 1942 acted as a part of the Red Army. It participated in the Narva, Tallinn, and Moonsund operations, in battles in Courland, and engaged with troops of the Estonian SS division. And here, judging by the words of the current Foreign Minister of Estonia, he is wholeheartedly on the side of his native SS men, i.e., the Nazis.
However, the minister also doesn’t hide this. Back on July 14th 2012, in the city of Kuressaare on the island of Saaremaa at a “Union of Freedom Fighters” – this is how in Estonia they call veterans of the Estonian SS division – meeting, Reinsalu, being then the freshly-baked Minister of Defence, expressed gratitude to the elderly SS men. Stated that their “contribution, which was based on the principle of legal succession, was crucial for the Republic of Estonia and at the same time saved the honour of our people”.
The SS and the principle of legal succession … It seems improbable. But this is what he said. Well, what kind of objectivity concerning the Red Army, which liberated Estonia from Nazis, can be expected from an admirer of SS-men? And what instructions will he give to our ambassador? Yes yes, instructions. “In the near future the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will call the Russian ambassador and will present to him his explanations and instructions concerning the view of the Republic of Estonia in relation to these matters,” said Reinsalu.
Mart Laar, the former Prime Minister, former Minister of Defence, and former adviser to the president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, who once frightened his population with a Russian army tank deployment to Tallinn that did not happen, couldn’t stand aside. For some reason, Mart Laar is now called a historian. And here is how he, a historian, evaluated the feat of those who liberated his country: “Estonia remembers their acts undoubtedly — how cities were destroyed, villages were burned, and women and children were killed”. Yes, Mart Laar is not referring to the Nazis, but Soviet soldiers. What happened in his head after a stroke is hard to say, but it cannot be unheard.
It is the same as claiming that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was carried out by the Soviet Union. Well this is already being said! It is known that some young Japanese who are subjected to wild propaganda believe in such an “interpretation” of tragic events. In Estonia too some residents may well believe that what Mart Laar spoke about was done by Soviet soldiers, and not the Nazis.
It is no secret that the politicians of the Baltic States call the entire Soviet period “Soviet occupation”. And so one needs to contrive in order to alter history as Mart Laar did.
But since April 2007, when the Estonian authorities decided to remove a monument in a cemetery in honour of soldiers-liberators from fascism — “Bronze Soldier” – from the center of Tallinn, there is nothing to be surprised at all. I will remind: they dispersed protesters in the most cruel way.
There is nothing to be surprised at, but it is also impossible to be silent. “We oppose any attempts to glorify Nazi criminals and their accomplices, as well as the aspiration to put liberators and aggressors on the same level,“ said Aleksandr Petrov. “The initiators of such provocative acts should be reminded of what would have befallen Estonia if the German Reich had won — an unenviable fate when the name Estonia would disappear from the map of Europe as result of the total Germanisation of the Baltic land. We are convinced that only an objective assessment of our tragic common past is capable of saving Europe from a repetition of past mistakes”.
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