Friday, July 08, 2005

Back to the Past - II

As the statements from Moscow on the Estonia-Russia border treaty grow increasingly ugly and increasingly similar to those that emanated fron the Kremlin in an earlier age, before the Second World War, it may be salutory to recall what happened at Tallinn Harbour in the autumn of 1939. The report clearly shows that everything that took place was known to the U.S. and the Western democracies, and still it was allowed to happen.

Tug of Power

Monday, Oct. 23, 1939

Brawny jack-tars of the Red Navy this week entered the harbor of Tallinn, Estonia's capital, on a hulking grey-snouted cruiser and ten smaller Soviet warships. To statesmen this was grim business, the physical establishment of the Red Navy on a base dominating Estonia and commanding the Gulf of Finland in accordance with the treaty which Dictator Stalin recently forced Estonia to sign (TIME, Oct. 16), but for the sailors it was a lark, an adventure into the strange world of Capitalism.

They crowded to the rails, rubbernecking eagerly as the towers of the City Hall came into view, and then the long, squat shipbuilding yards and factories of Tallinn. Like Cook's Tour lecturers, Communist political commissars on the Soviet warships pointed out the sights, reminded Red Navy tars that in Tallinn once lived that popular Old Bolshevik gaffer Mikhail Kalinin who today is frontman for secretive Joseph Stalin in the role of Soviet President. "Look there, comrades!" cried the political commissar, "Over there you can see where Mikhail Ivanovich once worked as a mechanic."

The Red sailors grinned as Nazi steamers, busy in Tallinn harbor taking aboard Germans for evacuation to the Reich (see p. 21) , dipped their swastika flags three times in salute to the Soviet flotilla which replied with three dips of the hammer & sickle. Orders then cracked, Soviet gunners leaped to their positions, and a Red salute of 21 guns belched out over Tallinn, smartly returned by shore batteries.

As the ships dropped anchor, Estonian naval officers came aboard and Soviet captains offered them large glasses of smoking hot Russian tea. Immediate question was what to do with 300 Red Army troops who were now sailing into the harbor aboard the Soviet transport Luga. These were only the first instalment of 25,000 Soviet soldiers who are being brought to Estonia under the Treaty to garrison Stalin's bases. The Estonians agreed to billet these troops in private homes. Since most Estonians speak or understand Russian, since every Red Army soldier is well drilled in Communist propaganda, this billeting seemed clearly a Soviet opening wedge. Moreover the Red Fleet brought quantities of Moscow newspapers, immediately put on sale in Tallinn kiosks, and curious Estonians promptly bought them up. Off the Soviet cruiser stepped ace Communist Propagandist Vsevolod Vishnevski, announcing that in Tallinn he will deliver a public lecture on "The Soviet Union."
(from TIME magazine's archive)

See also: Back to the Past

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