Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The June Armada

Daniel Pipes, on The Soviets’ Six-Day War:
Moscow devised a complex scheme to lure the Israelis into starting a war which would end with a Soviet attack on Dimona. Militarily, the Kremlin prepared by surrounding Israel with an armada of nuclear-armed forces in both the Mediterranean and Red seas, pre-positioning matériel on land, and training troops nearby with the expectation of using them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gordievsky: expel the Russian ambassador

From [my tr.]:

London has already told Moscow on several occasions that it won’t extradite the people whom the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office believes are criminals. What might be the consequences of a possible refusal by Russia to extradite Andrei Lugovoi to Britain?

Oleg Gordievsky: There will be no consequences. The British are well aware, as are all the NATO countries, that the Russians don’t extradite their murderers, and will hide them. Of course, he’ll be blacklisted for travel abroad, but nothing will happen. Because that’s just the way it is.

Won’t it have any effect on Russian-British relations?

Oleg Gordievsky: Yes, it will. All relations will be deep frozen. I am personally going to insist that the Russian ambassador is expelled for six months, and that the main KGB operatives, namely the resident and head of Line N (i.e. the illegals), are deported. Because this operation was obviously done with the help of the illegals. And they have an employee. Those are the two people who must be deported. And the ambassador - as a demonstrative gesture

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bukovsky to run for Russian presidency

Prima News reports that the famous Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovsky is to run for the presidency of the Russian Federation in 2008. The report includes a declaration by Bukovsky himself:
Dear Friends,

I am very grateful for your faith in the future of Russia and in my possible role in that future. To tell the truth, I have long lost that faith. The recovery of our poor country seems less and less likely the further we get from 1991. At a given moment I stopped hoping for such a recovery. Too many opportunities have been lost, too many Soviet myths have returned to the people’s minds.

Today, however, we are no longer talking about a recovery, but about salvation. Once again we have political prisoners in Russia, which, given our history, is a symptom of a lethal illness. Mikhail Trepashkin, an asthmatic, is suffocating in his prison cell; a number of scientists have been jailed simply for having contacts with their Western colleagues; disobedient businessmen have been sent to labour-camps; for the sake of the self-assertion of the KGB regime a small Caucasus nation is being destroyed; political assassinations have become the norm.

The threat of a return to the Stalinist era was what led us, the young boys of the 1960s, to protest against the regime. I am becoming old, but I cannot betray the principles of my youth.

I am a prisoner. It is my nationality, my biography, my faith. I cannot allow someone to suffocate in prison. If my nomination for President will help to stop at least that, I agree to it.

I cannot promise our people happiness. We all have an exhausting, difficult road to recovery ahead of us. Maybe we will not be able to complete it. But if this nation still has the strength to call on people like me, we are prepared to try. You and I will face great obstacles. For the last ten years I have been banned from coming to Russia even as a tourist, thought there are no legal foundations for this ban. Maybe it is Polonium-210 that awaits me, but this does not stop me. As long as it does not stop you.

Our favourite toast in the old days was: “for our hopeless cause”. Today this cause seems hopeless. This is precisely why I agree to take part in it.

For our freedom and yours!

Vladimir Bukovsky
27th May 2007

Litvinenko suspect "might hand himself over"


May 28, 2007 — A Russian wanted in Britain on charges of murdering Kremlin critic Aleksandr Litvinenko has said that he does not rule out handing himself over to the British Embassy in Moscow.

But Andrei Lugovoi said in a May 27 interview on Russian television channel NTV that the British would have to “make a gesture” toward him before he considers handing himself over. He did not say what sort of gesture he had in mind.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rolling across Europe

In the Sunday Times business section, the Hudson Institute’s Irwin Stelzer says that Russia must not be allowed to turn gas into a new weapon:
A nuclear umbrella prevented the Soviet army from rolling across Europe, but it is no match for supply cut-offs that can throw western economies into recession.

Russia achieved this dominant position for two reasons. The first is that the world’s capitalists behave as Lenin knew they would: “They will furnish credits . . . supply us materials and technical equipment which we lack . . . restore our military industry for our future attacks against our suppliers.” The West has supplied Russia with the technical skills and capital needed to exploit oil and gas resources and sold important bits of western energy infrastructure to Gazprom, chaired by Dmitry Medvedev, who is first deputy prime minister of the Russian federation. Never mind that Russia will not allow such foreign investment in its infrastructure, or that it is using its oil and gas wealth to beef up its military. “Our military is the second most powerful force in the world after America’s,” a Russian official trumpeted this month.

The second reason Russia has gained such a dominant hand in its negotiations with energy-dependent countries is the inability of the West to forge a common strategy, the necessary ingredients of which are clear: increase storage facilities as insurance against gas-supply interruptions; finance pipelines that avoid Russian-controlled territories; refuse to sell infrastructure to Gazprom; construct terminals that can receive liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Africa and the Middle East; unite to create countervailing buyer power.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lugovoi "must face justice in UK"

Via BBC:

The attorney general has told his Russian counterpart that the suspect wanted for the murder of a former KGB agent must be extradited.

Lord Goldsmith said Alexander Litvinenko's murder was "grave and reckless" and Andrei Lugovoi "must face justice in a UK court".

Friday, May 25, 2007

Estonia Press Statement

Estonian State Prosecutor’s Office denies allegations of the Russian Foreign Ministry

The accusations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation claim that the Estonian Prosecutor’s Office has refused to answer queries regarding the death of Dmitri Ganin and that related investigations are ungrounded. To date nobody has turned to the Prosecutor’s Office through official channels regarding this matter.

The prosecutor in charge of the given criminal case has met with the representative of Dmitri Ganin’s mother, who did not have any complaints for the Prosecutor’s Office.

The Estonian Prosecutor’s Office has stressed on several occasions that the death of Dmitri Ganin cannot be associated with the activity or inactivity of the police. The ambulance arrived to the scene in a matter of minutes even before the police.

The Prosecutor’s Office has released as much information as possible concerning the investigation.

In accordance with article 224 of the Estonian Code of Criminal Procedure, the parties can become acquainted with the dossier only after the pre-trial procedures have been completed. Estonia observes the rule of law. Therefore, The Prosecutor’s Office assures all parties that applicable laws are strictly followed and that all criminal cases are processed accordingly.

The investigation of the circumstances of the death of Dmitri Ganin is under vigorous scrutiny of the Estonian authorities and no effort is spared to clarify all aspects of this crime and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Kristiina Herodes
Head of Public Relations Division
Office of the Prosecutors General
Phone: + 372 613 9415
Mobile: + 372 511 1528

Thursday, May 24, 2007

European Parliament expresses solidarity with Estonia

European Parliament expresses its solidarity with Estonia and condemns economic pressure and negative rhetoric from Russia.

A Resolution expressing solidarity with Estonia and calling on Russia to cease its economic and verbal threats was adopted today (24.05.2007) by a very large majority of the European Parliament. One of the initiators of the resolution, Tunne Kelam MEP, expressed his satisfaction with the cross party support from all the Parliament’s main political groups for the resolution.

The resolution was adopted 460 - 31 - 38.

“The key message is that Estonia is a test case for EU solidarity,” Kelam said. “My political Group (EPP_ED) was right to remain true to the position of supporting Estonia in this case - just as at the Samara Summit by Chancellor Merkel and by Commission President Barroso who also declared that EU solidarity was being tested by the targeting of one EU Member State,” Kelam commented.

The resolution as adopted “reminds the Russian authorities that the indiscriminate and hostile rhetoric used by the Russian authorities against Estonia is in sharp contrast to the principles of international behaviour and will impact on EU-Russia relations as a whole”.

The resolution also calls on the European Commission and all the Member States to assist in the analyses of the cyber-attacks on Estonian websites and to present a study on how such attacks and threats can be addressed at EU level.

Further information from EPP-ED Press Office: Kaja Sorg, Tel. 00 32 476 54 10 13

Considering the future

From Paolo Guzzanti’s recent interview with Vladimir Bukovsky [my tr.]:
Is it your view that, as Michael Ledeen says, we are on the eve of a great tragedy which no one wants to see, as in the 1930s?

“It depends. I don’t think there’s an intention to unleash a war. Russia wants the wealth and technology of Europe, intends to dominate Europe and is already doing so with some success. No, I don’t think there’s a military catastrophe in the offing - just a democratic one.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Media in Russia today

At RFE/RL, an interview with Russian Journalists’ Union head Igor Yakovenko on censorship, blacklists and the current state of Russian media. Excerpt:
RFE/RL: Finally, some people here and in the West point to the example of the Ekho Moskvy radio station — how can there be no media freedom in Russia if a radio station like this exists that can be rather critical of the government?

Yakovenko: Even in the most stagnant days of the Soviet Union, in the 1970s, there were so-called “air vents,” which allowed some freedom of speech. They were like pipes that allowed the steam of disgruntlement and criticism to escape, little islands for lovers of freedom and pluralism. And in the Soviet Union, this “little island” was “Literaturnaya Gazeta,” which was granted permission, from on high, to print the sorts of things that were forbidden to everyone else. This newspaper was able to carry out investigative journalism. They even made comments on the mafias that existed at the time in the Soviet Union. And so these air vents, these oases in the middle of a desert of censorship, are now in the hands of Ekho Moskvy radio and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. And they really do enjoy relative freedom. One can say that Ekho Moskvy undertakes about 90 percent of the journalism in this country, because it has employed all the people who were sacked from state television channels, who have now become presenters. Journalists of all inclinations have flocked there. It really is the only free, pluralist radio station in Russia, you could say a quasi-social channel, I mean in terms of content.

EU Commissioner supports Estonia

From Postimees (23.05.2007 10:23) [my tr]:

During a discussion of the forthcoming European Parliament resolution on Estonia, EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner expressed support for the country. The EU Commissioner called the blockade of the Estonian embassy in Moscow and also the cyber-attacks on the servers of Estonia’s state institutions “unacceptable”, the EC’s press service said.

According to Ferrero-Waldner, there have been no violations of human rights in Tallinn. and the relocation of the Bronze Soldier statue was done with due consideration for all of Estonia’s obligations.

The EU Commissioner said she was aware that the relocation of the statue had become a “sore issue” for Estonia, adding that she regretted the protests in Tallinn had ended in the wrecking of shops and kiosks.

“People have a right to express their views, of course, but not by such means. For example, the blockade of the Estonian embassy in Moscow is unacceptable,” Ferrero-Waldner said.

“I’m concerned about the cyber-attacks on Estonia. We have voiced our concerns to Russia, and will do so in future,” the EU Commissioner added.

According to her, the EU will continue to follow what happens in the sphere of trade between Estonia and Russia.

On Thursday the European Parliament is planning to adopt a resolution on Estonia.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bronze Soldier - familiar old Russian approach

Bronze Soldier - Familiar Old Russian Approach

Author: Pekka Erelt (17.05.2007)
Eesti Ekspress
(Basic translation by Juta Ristsoo; edited and revised.)

The story of the Bronze Soldier is remarkably similar to the events that preceded and followed the Soviet organized Communist armed putsch of 1924 in Estonia.

Organized mayhem on the streets of Tallinn, demonstrations in front of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, a shrill anti-Estonia propaganda war-it seems like something similar has already happened to us before. The Bronze Soldier affair dramatically evokes the beginning of the 1920s, when the young Estonian state had to endure incessant negative propaganda and pressure from its large eastern neighbor. History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

New tactic - a propaganda war

Estonia declared its independence on February 24, 1918 and fought the War of Independence against Soviet Russia from November 1918 - February 1920. The Republic of Estonia succeeded in thwarting the military invasion by Soviet Russia whose leader Lenin regarded the independence of the three Baltic states as an obstacle on the road to world revolution. Faced by an imminent Soviet take-over, all political forces in Estonia - from socialists to center-right parties - united in defense of the nation’s independence. The only exception was Viktor Kingissepp’s Estonian Communist Party, which was in fact a branch of the Russian Bolsheviks. In November 1918, the Estonian Communists played the role of fig leaf for the Soviet invasion. Their task was to return Estonia to Soviet Russia under the guise of the Estonian Working People’s Commune, formed with the support of the Red Army. The latter was defeated and the plot failed. With the 1920 Tartu Peace Treat (the first international treaty concluded between Soviet Russia and a foreign country), Lenin had to recognize “unconditionally and for all times” the independence of the Estonian Republic.

Any sympathy that the Estonian people felt for the Communists in 1917 rapidly disappeared. By 1920, only 700 Communist Party members were left. After the independence of Estonia was confirmed, the Estonian Communist Party separated formally from the All-Russian Bolshevik party to form an independent party that joined the Communist International. Its official goal remained the overthrow of the Estonian “bourgeois” Government and establishment of Soviet rule. Already in the spring after the conclusion of the Tartu Peace Treaty, the Security Police rooted out several underground Communist organizations.

In circumstances that had quickly turned against Russian plans of expansion, the latter started to employ a new tactic against Estonia. Vehement anti-Estonian propaganda was set in motion and hostages were taken. Whenever Estonia caught an important Communist, the Cheka arrested some Estonians in return, who were then accused of spying or speculation. In this way Estonia was forced to make an exchange with the Russians.

A great uproar broke out in Russia, when during the night of May 2-3, 1922, the underground leader of the Communists, Viktor Kingissepp, was finally apprehended in Tallinn. He was tried by a field court and executed for treason. In this case Russia did not have the opportunity to exchange him for anyone. The only thing left was propaganda. As the first reaction, the Russian Embassy in Tallinn lowered its flag to half-mast as a sign of mourning.

Estonia was immediately vilified in Russian newspapers. The Krasnaja Gazeta cursed “the Estonian band of White Guard executioners, who call themselves the democratic Republic of Estonia”. The Estonian-language Edasi in Petrograd called for violence, “We will answer the actions of the butchers with new assaults; we will answer every killing of a worker with the killing of tens of members of the bourgeoisie. The Estonian butchers should remember that we have a large number of their hostages.” Edasi also agitated to create combat groups to destroy the “Estonian gendarmerie”.

While the newspapers were carrying out a large-scale attack, meetings and demonstrations were organized in front of the Estonian missions in St. Petersburg and Jamburg (a Russian provincial town not far from the Estonian border). These meetings resulted in resolutions, for instance, demanding the shooting of hostages-”a hundred ignoble souls of the Estonian bourgeoisie for the life of a workers’ leader!” The uproar ended on May 17, 1922, with a demonstrative decision to rename Jamburg Kingissepp.

In March 1923, when another leader of the underground Estonian Communists, Jaan Kreuks, was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police, a new wave of hostile propaganda was launched in Russia, culminating with plundering of the Estonian Consulate in Petrograd.

In January 1924, the Estonian Security Police uncovered an underground network of Communist organizations that continued to prepare for overthrow of the constitutional Government in accordance with the Communist International plans. The pretrial period saw a dramatic increase of political pressure on Estonia.

A new word employed by Russian propaganda was none other than “fascism”. In the summer of 1924, articles started appearing in Russian newspapers, describing a secret fascist organization operating in Tallinn, which was supposedly planning a coup. In July 1924, Estonian Security Police arrested a man by the name of Reinkubjas whose purportedly fascist organization claimed to work for the overthrow of the Government. However,
investigations revealed his real ties to the Communist Party. Nevertheless, in the shadow of this uproar, preparations for a real coup were being made.

Children were hustled to an anti-Estonian meeting

In November 1924, the trial of 149 seditionists was held in Tallinn, which significantly reduced the striking power of the Communists. Russia reacted to the trial with a new propaganda avalanche. Throughout the country,
especially in the military district of Petrograd, protest meetings were held among the troops. The objective was clear-to stoke anti-Estonian hysteria in the army to prepare for an invasion of Estonia. At the meetings, “boycotts of the murders’ republic” and the “shackling of all Estonian bourgeois who dwell in Soviet Russia” were called for.

On November 17, 1924, genuine propaganda fireworks took place in front of the Estonian Consulate in Petrograd. For half a day, troops, workers, state officials and even schoolchildren organized incitive meetings. Demonstrators carrying placards marched past the Consulate and shouted anti-Estonian curses on command.

“Children were hustled to the demonstration directly from school, and to prevent them from going home to eat, lunch was organized for them and they were promised free tickets to the cinema. Placards were hung in the university proclaiming, “Who turns out to be a scoundrel and does not go to the demonstration, we will beat up,” described journalist Eduard Laaman.

The Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat wrote, “nearby militia units took no steps to control the raucous crowd. All this indicates that the whole show was carried out with official permission, perhaps even at official orders.”

The next day’s Leningradskaja Pravda editorialized, ” Tiny Estonia’s dwarf bourgeoisie is doing its work, hoping it will succeed because strong supporters are backing it up. It is all the more urgent to strike a counterblow immediately. This is the duty of the international proletariat and the Soviet Union whom the Estonian white guards are mocking.”

At the end of November, four age classes of the 56th Territorial Division were mobilized on the border of Estonia and Latvia. The Russian Army’s own newspaper later wrote that the mobilization was so unexpected that rumors of impending war started to spread.

This blitzkrieg was being prepared in Moscow by one of the Russia’s leaders, Grigory Zinoviev himself. After his failure to bring about “world revolution” in Germany in the fall of 1923, he needed a new victory to rehabilitate himself before the party. Zinoviev summoned Janis Berzins, the head of the Russian Army Intelligence and told him, “We will not operate as we did in Germany. We need new methods-no strikes, no agitation. The only thing we need is a few strong monolithic groups, led by a handful of Red Army commanders, and in two, three days we will be the masters of Estonia.”

The necessary shock troops were quickly mobilized in St. Petersburg and Berzins handed them over to the command of Rudolf Vakmann, the Secretary of the Petrograd Office subordinated to the Russian Foreign Commissariat.

Shock troops from Russia

By the end of November 1924, preparations had been completed and on November 28-29, shock troops crept across the Estonian border. Weapons and other battle equipment were brought along in backpacks. According to the Estonian language History of the Estonian SSR (Tallinn, 1987, p 131), by November 1924 there were about 1000 men in underground battle groups.

In addition to Zinoviev, a large number of leading figures of the Comintern and Russia participated in the preparations, such as Otto Kuusinen, Lev Kamenev, Vyacheslav Molotov and even Joseph Stalin. Of military personnel, for instance, Mikhail Frunze, Chairman of the Military Council, J. Unschlicht, head of supplies for the Red Army, and others. In Tallinn, the local forces were organized by Russian Ambassador M. Kobetsky, at the order of Zinoviev.

Although the rebellion was not totally unexpected, a lack of coordination and confusion reigned in Tallinn in the early morning of December 1. The insurgents succeeded in capturing several important institutions and they murdered 21 people, including Minister of Roads Karl Kark. “At that moment, the fate of Estonia hung by a thread,” said Colonel Karl Laurits, long-time head of military intelligence. However, due to the spontaneous resistance by the Estonian police and military, the putchists failed to achieve their main goal - to establish a Communist Government which was supposed to appeal to Moscow for help. As a result, Soviet Russia decided at the last minute to pull back from the operation. The pending invasion of Estonia by Russian forces was averted.

During the suppression of the rebellion, a Russian Embassy employee, courier J. Maritov, was caught with Erich Vakmann. Maritov confessed his part in the organization of the putsch, betrayed a number of the leaders of the rebellion and the location of the headquarters on Tõnismägi and confirmed that the leaders and weapons of the shock troops that attacked the Tondi military barracks in Tallinn were from Russia. In addition to Maritov, a number of other Russian Embassy employees directly participated in the putsch. Five of them were also caught.

If the December 1924 rebellion would have succeeded, there would have been terrible consequences for Estonia. Lists of Estonians who were to be killed after the coup were already compiled before the rebellion. In Pärnu alone, where 18,000 people lived at the time, 1,800 were to be liquidated. In all of Estonia about 60,000 people or the entire elite were to be killed.

Would anyone have come to our aid?

Europe’s press reacted actively to the December Rebellion. Sympathy in this battle between David and Goliath was clearly on Estonia’s side. “The Estonian people deserve our total sympathy in the current times of tribulation. With its gallantry and determination, it has saved itself from great danger. The revolutionary propaganda that is being prompted from Moscow and St. Petersburg is worldwide in its aspirations and the Tallinn rebellion is a noteworthy warning. It sheds a bright light on the recent development in Soviet politics,” wrote The Times.

“That the Russians are involved is clear. The leading Communists are not only indirectly responsible through their propaganda, but assisted directly in the performance,” accused the British socialist newspaper, The New Statesman.

“This is a danger of common character which must be combated. Since revolutionaries operate internationally, the battle against them must also be organized internationally,” said Le Temps from Paris.

The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung called all of Europe to action. “Europe dreams that Russian Communist Party has abandoned its plans for world revolution. The Tallinn rebellion must wake Europe from this dream.”

Moscow Pravda, however, claimed on December 3, 1924, that the Estonian authorities had provoked the coup themselves by putting 149 Communists on trial. In the following period Russia continued its efforts to show the Baltic States in a negative light. Or as British Intelligence Officer R. J. Meiklejohn asserted-the Russians wanted at minimum to create an uproar with December 1st and to show Estonia as an unstable country, where it is risky for Western businessmen to do business.

Today’s Estonia, having survived the Bronze Soldier shock, should learn from this story. The Russian historian Boris Sokolov is of the opinion that some planners close to the Kremlin developed the idea to use the defense of the Bronze soldier to consolidate the Russian-speaking community in Estonia into a half-autonomous entity that would then ask Russia to defend then just as has happened in the case of Abkhasia and Trans-Dnistria. According to Sokolov, destabilization of the Estonian state and its authority was seen as a minimum goal. Declarations of support from foreign journalists and politicians are welcome and heartwarming, but one should not get carried away by them. Assistance will only be provided to those who can protect themselves.

The 1924 failed coup in Tallinn was the last in a series of post 1917 October Revolution attempts by the Soviet Russia to export its revolution to European countries by violent means. More than a dozen years of relative stability followed while the Soviet Union officially proclaimed the so-called policy of collective security. However, a new change that had a fatal effect on all countries neighboring the Soviet Union culminated with the Hitler-Stalin pact signed on August 23, 1939. Two months later, Soviet troops marched into Estonia on the basis of a “mutual assistance treaty”. In June 1940 the Estonian Government was toppled and a few weeks later in August 1940, Estonia was incorporated into the Soviet Union. After a 16 year delay, the dream of Viktor Kingissepp was realized. At least for the next half century.

Additional sources used:
Eesti Ajalugu; Kronoloogia, by Sulev Vahtre. Tallinn, Olion, 1994
Eesti NSV Ajalugu, by Juhan Kahk & Karl Siilivask. Tallinn, Perioodika, 1987.
“Riigipöördekatse eelmäng;Propagandasõda Eesti vastu novembris 1924″ by Alo Lõhmus. Postimees, May 5, 2007.
Enamlaste riigipöörde katse Tallinnas 1. detsembril 1924 by J. Saar (Eduard Laaman), 1925.
Article by Dr. J. Vilms Vaba Sõna, 1925, nr 1.
“За родину, против Таллина”, by Boris Sokolov, on website:

Via Mari-Ann Kelam

Monday, May 21, 2007

A European Problem

The Washington Post has a strong editorial on the assault that the EU state of Estonia has endured from Russia during the past three weeks. Excerpt:
Mr. Putin was clearly hoping that instead of defending their allies, Germany and France would blame them for causing trouble with Russia. Instead, at an E.U.-Russian summit in the Russian city of Samara yesterday, Western leaders stood up to the Russian bully. At a news conference with Mr. Putin, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso forthrightly declared that “we had occasion to say to our Russian partners that a difficulty for a member state is a difficulty for the whole European community. . . . The Polish problem is a European problem. The Lithuanian and Estonia problems are also European problems.”

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Crying Sun

Chechen filmmaker Zarema Mukusheva’s documentary Crying Sun: The Impact of War in the Mountains of Chechnya is now available on Google Video.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cyber-attacks on Estonian sites continue - III

Now ABC News has a report on the cyber attacks. (Hat tip: Leopoldo)

Cyber-attacks on Estonian sites continue - II

As this blog has observed in the past, the small European state of Estonia is one of the most wired nations in the world, with almost all of its government, media, financial and municipal institutions run in large part via the Internet and Internet-related resources. This has, of course, rendered it vulnerable to attack, and the last few weeks have shown evidence of this. Now international media are beginning to pick up on this -

The IHT writes that
The Estonian defense minister, Jaak Aaviksoo, said Thursday that there was a possibility that the Russian government was involved in recent hacker attacks against Estonian Web sites.

Aaviksoo said there was not enough evidence to prove “a governmental role, but it indicates a possibility.” He said more than one million computers worldwide had been used in recent weeks to attack Estonian Web sites since the removal of a disputed Soviet statue from downtown Tallinn, the Estonian capital.

Officials said that Russian-language instructions on how to cripple Estonian Web sites were circulating on the Internet at the same time that Estonia fell victim to massive cyberattacks that some officials compared to an act of war. Earlier, the Estonian government had said that some of the attacks could be traced to computers in the Kremlin.

“If let’s say an airport or bank or state infrastructure is attacked by a missile it’s clear war, but if the same result is done by computers, then what do you call it?” said a Defense Ministry spokesman, Madis Mikko. “Is it a state of war? Those questions must be addressed.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Estonia is a member, sent a cybercrime expert to Estonia to help fight the electronic attacks amid concern that the military alliance might also be targeted, an official from the Brussels-based organization said Thursday.
And the Telegraph reports:
Estonia urged Nato to develop a unified strategy against “cyber-terrorists” yesterday after suspected Russian hackers launched a third wave of attacks on leading government, banking and media websites this week.

The three-week cyber-offensive, which has been linked to a furious diplomatic row between Russia and Estonia, is believed to be the first time that a single state has come under concerted attack by hackers.

Some officials in Estonia, one of the most wired countries in the world, have suggested that the Russian government was behind the campaign.

The Baltic state has suffered serious electronic disruption since it decided to relocate a controversial Soviet war memorial, a move that prompted Russia to threaten sanctions.
The FT notes the wider repercussions of the attacks:
A top US official on Thursday warned that cyber-attacks against governments and institutions were likely to increase in future following a series of assaults over the past month in Estonia.

The attacks, which Estonian officials say originated in Russia, began after April 27 when Estonia removed a Soviet second world war memorial from its capital, Tallinn.

“We need to prepare ourselves because this is likely only to become more of an issue in the future,” said John Negroponte, deputy US secretary of state and until recently the US director of national intelligence. He did not comment on allegations that the attacks were linked to the Russian government.

Mr Negroponte said cyberterrorism was becoming an increasing concern “as familiarity with these technologies grows and more and more actors get involved in information technology”.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Peres in Estonia - II

President of the Republic

At the opening of the Jewish Synagogue

16 May 2007
Dear members of the Jewish community of Estonia!
Dear Shimon Peres, Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, and Rabbi Yona Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel!
Dear friends!

The Bible tells us how Moses delivered the children of Israel through the Red Sea, back to their promised land. In the same way, figuratively speaking – through turbulent seas – we, Estonian and Jews, have come to our own country.

We do not ask for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders – thus goes a Jewish saying.

Among alien corn or under foreign powers, we both – Estonians and Jews – have hung on to our language, our culture, our customs, in order to shape them finally into a country of our own.

Estonia has been a good and safe home for the Jewish people

The Republic of Estonia was the first country where the Jewish people created cultural autonomy, and in gratitude, they entered the Republic of Estonia into the Golden Book of the Jewish National Fund. In 1940, before the cultural autonomy was liquidated by the Soviet occupation, over 30 different Jewish organisations were active here – all of those were closed down by the occupying power.

The occupations were a grievous and tragic experience for both our nations. The victims of those hard times shall never be forgotten.

And today, we can see once more that in free Estonia, the Jewish people are firmly keeping their traditions alive. The synagogue, which is opening today, is another confirmation of this. It will, in a way, replace the synagogue in Maakri Street that was burned by the Soviet bombs in the final year of the Nazi occupation. In the course of the same bombing also one of Estonia’s national symbols – the Estonia Theatre – was burned down.

I assure you that the Estonian Jewish community has always been a good and creative contributor to Estonian statehood.

Congratulations and my best wishes to you on the occasion of the opening of this beautiful new synagogue!

Shalom vehhag sam´eahh!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Peres in Estonia

From Mari-Ann Kelam in Tallinn:

“BNS and Estonian TV reported that in response to a question at the press conference, Mr. Peres called the relocation of the so-called bronze soldier an Estonian internal matter. “Your government handled it with great care and great wisdom.” He added that “foreigners” should “take care” in commenting on the topic of the statue. Mr. Peres also compared Estonia and Israel, noting that both nations are small in size, but great in achievements. Both nations got their freedom, but Estonia has peace, Israel still does not have peace. He said that the opening of the new synagogue was very moving for Jews. Mr. Peres laid a wreath at the Holocaust memorial in Klooga and took part in the ceremonies opening the synagogue. He met with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. (Summary translation of BNS report by MAK. The quotation is from the evening news on Estonian TV.)”

Russian transport blockade of Estonia

Foreign Ministry summons Russian Ambassador

On Wednesday, 16 May, the Foreign Ministry summoned the Ambassador of the Russian Federation Nikolai Uspenski in connection with the blockade by Russia of cargo vehicles crossing the Estonian-Russian border in Narva.

The Ambassador’s attention was drawn to the fact that the Russian side has to abide by the intergovernmental agreement between Estonia and the Russian Federation on border crossing points on Estonian-Russian state border. The agreement says that the other side must be informed of traffic restrictions or the suspension of traffic at least 90 days in advance.

According to Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, the border bridge is the property of the City of Narva and no works that could block traffic have been planned in the near future.

Russia must abide by bilateral treaties and generally accepted norms of conduct,” Paet emphasized. “Unilateral steps that impede traffic on the border bridge are unacceptable,” he added.

Russia has not notified Estonia of any restrictions. Ambassador Uspenski claimed that he did not possess any official information regarding restrictions concerning the border crossing in Narva.

The Ambassador’s attention was also drawn to the statement attributed to Vladimir Chizhov by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti. According to Ria Novosti, the Russian Ambassador to the European Union, Mr. Chizhov said at a news conference on Tuesday that Estonia was grossly violating the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and had prevented the Russian Consul from meeting the Russian citizens detained during the mass riots in Tallinn. Uspenski affirmed that was not the case and consular co-operation between the Russian Embassy, the Consular Department of the Foreign Ministry and Estonian law enforcement agencies was good.


Forward, generation of Putin!

LiveJournal blogger publicoffender has posted an English translation - with full illustrations - of a Nashi (Putin Youth Group) brochure distributed on the streets of Moscow about a month ago. With its its strong anti-Americanism and futuristic design and content, it very much resembles Italian fascist literature of the 1930s.

Update: the item has now been given “protected” status on LiveJournal - so it can’t be accessed by most people. However, Google Cache still has a copy.

Hat tip: Kalle Kniivilä

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The "Other" Nashists

In an interesting article published - somewhat incongruously - in the pages of the RIA Novosti website, Leonid Radzikhovsky has commented on the irony of the fact that the actions and ideology of one of Russia’s principal opposition movements, the National Bolshevik Party, differ little from those of its opponents, the government-controlled Nashi youth movement. He notes that
the opposition is essentially identified with the most aggressively anti-Western part of [Russian] state ideology. Only “minus the corruption”…

Monday, May 14, 2007

Babel Caucase members refused entry to Russia

The members of the France-based “Babel Caucase” Caravan, which is currently in Azerbaijan, have now been refused entry to the territory of Russia. On May 4 the Caravan’s activities were forbidden throughout Russia, and now the country’s military authorities have imposed a complete ban. The Caravan’s 54 members had obtained all the necessary visas and permits in advance after informing the Russian embassy in Paris of the programme and route of the project. Permission for entry to Chechnya was not obtained.

See also in this blog:
Babel Caucase banned in Russia
Caucasian Babel

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lithuania may block Samara talks

Itar-Tass reports Lithuania’s President Adamkus as saying that his country may block the talks on the signing of a new treaty of cooperation between Russia and the EU scheduled for next week in Samara, Russia, unless agreement is reached with Russia on the problem of the resumption of supplies through the Druzhba pipeline to Lithuania’s Mazeikiu Nafta oil refinery, the only one in the Baltic states.

Update: Estonia and Poland may accompany Lithuania in blocking the summit talks, some Russian media reported. However, in Vilnius on Tuesday May 15 Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet said that “dialogue is always preferable to the absence of dialogue”, and that Estonia will not exercise any veto on the talks aimed at a new EU-Russia agreement.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

British store pulls "ethnic cleansing" T-shirt

Via AP:

One of Britain’s largest menswear stores has pulled a T-shirt off its racks after realizing it bore a slogan similar to those used by Russian right-wing groups to promote ethnic cleansing, the company said Saturday.

Burton stores stopped selling the T-shirts on Friday in response to concerns raised by a Russian-speaking staff member, a week after 6,000 of the shirts went on sale, a spokeswoman said.

The slogan written in Cyrillic script translates to “We will cleanse Russia of all non-Russians!” The company said it thought the slogan meant “Be proud of Russia!”

Russian bombers approach British airspace

On May 10, the Times reported that
The Cold War has made a surprise return in the form of two Russian Bear bombers. The aircraft flew towards British airspace during an exercise off Scotland to snoop on Royal Navy warships.

RAF sources said yesterday that it was such a rare occurrence that two Tornado F3 air defence aircraft were scrambled to see the aircraft off.

During the Cold War, Soviet Bear and Bison bombers regularly flew close to British airspace to test out Britain’s defence systems. RAF aircraft had to scramble every week to force the pilots to turn away.

However, the habit had largely died out since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The two Bears were spotted on radar heading towards the Outer Hebrides during Exercise Neptune Warrior, which took place between April 22 and May 3.

The exercise involved multinational warships, submarines and aircraft and included live firing.

Accomplishing the impossible

Today, May 12, is the tenth anniversary of the signing by Presidents Yeltsin and Maskhadov of the treaty “on peace and the principles of Russian-Chechen relations” that was meant to bring an end to the 1994-96 war and preclude a resumption of armed conflict. RFE/RL’s Liz Fuller looks at The Turning Point that Wasn’t.

Discussing Chechnya

At the website of London’s Frontline Club, a video of Tony Wood and Tom de Waal discussing Wood’s new book on Chechnya and the Chechen conflict with Tom Fenton.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Estonian-Georgian parallels

Via EDM:

by Vladimir Socor

At the height of Russian bullying of Estonia, the country’s President Toomas Ilves flew to Georgia to tell that country — which also borders on a hostile Russia — that “Georgia is not alone.” Ilves’ decision to proceed with the previously scheduled, three-day official visit despite the Russia-orchestrated crisis demonstrated, first, confidence in the capacity of Estonia’s government and society to cope with the situation effectively; and, second, the futility of Russia’s intimidation tactics, notwithstanding which Ilves resoundingly endorsed Georgia’s goals to join NATO and the European Union.

The May 7-10 visit was Ilves’ second in eight months as president — a reflection of Estonia’s and the other Baltic states’ policy priority to support the anchoring of the Black Sea region to the institutional West. The Estonian former prime minister Mart Laar, architect of that country’s free-market reforms, has in the last two years served as economic adviser to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. A delegation of some 40 Estonian businessmen accompanied Ilves on this visit for an Estonia-Georgia investment forum.

In the meetings with Saakashvili and other Georgian leaders, Ilves endorsed Georgia’s goal to obtain a NATO Membership Action Plan soon, based on Georgia’s successful performance on military reforms.

The discussions focused, however, on Estonia’s experience of economic transition and ultimate accession to the EU — a process in which Georgia now finds itself at a stage comparable with that of the Baltic states in the early 1990s. Estonians are, for example, advising Georgians on introducing a system of standards and certification for their goods to correspond to EU requirements and qualify for export to Western markets.

The analogy extends to trade with Russia. The latter practically closed its market to Estonian products during the 1990s as a punitive measure (through the discriminatory doubling of customs duties), as it did in 2006 with regard to Georgia (through transport blockade and “sanitary” measures). Georgia’s response, following Estonia’s example of the previous decade, is to accelerate the reorientation of exports toward markets other than Russia’s. Georgia has adopted Estonia’s view that the closure of the Russian market worked as a blessing in disguise, spurring competitiveness and modernization in the target country. With the reorientation of trade, Russia loses some of its leverage — a point illustrated albeit in reverse by the Moldova, which has failed to diversify exports and remains vulnerable to Russian political leverage through the commercial embargo.

Addressing faculty and students at Tbilisi State University, Ilves noted the parallels in Estonia’s and Georgia’s histories as “nations subjugated militarily by the same empire,” experiencing national awakening at the same time, state independence in 1918, and Soviet Russia’s wars of aggression, which wiped Georgia off the map in 1921, then Estonia in 1940, followed by half a century of occupation. The parallelism continues in a shared freedom that Russia regards as a threat to itself: “As small nations without the benefits of oil or gas, we have managed something that our mutual neighbor has not: We have freedom, free speech and press, free and fair elections …. Democracy on Russia’s borders is perceived as a threat while a lack of democracy is perceived as stability. Our success is a counter-example to the ideology of ‘managed’ democracy. And as long as we thrive, we will be regarded as a threat.”

In other remarks during the visit, Ilves urged stronger involvement by the EU in efforts to settle the unresolved conflicts. He called for new approaches and innovative thinking to change “the existing format of ‘peacekeeping,’ which has failed for almost 15 years.”

During Ilves’ visit, the Georgian parliament adopted a declaration of support to Estonia in connection with the recent riots by Russian rowdies in Tallinn and threats from Moscow, following the relocation of the Red Army monument from Estonia’s capital. The declaration asserts that relocating the monument is Estonia’s sovereign right, and it was exercised in dignified conditions; it condemns the “disorders and hooliganism” in Tallinn as well as the officially encouraged siege to the Estonian embassy in Moscow, fully supports the Estonian authorities’ handling of the situation, and defends every nation’s right to decide how to treat events in its own history.

(BNS, Civil Georgia, The Messenger, Rustavi-2 Television, May 7-10)

–Vladimir Socor

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Closing the TACs

At Prague Watchdog, Liza Osmayeva examines the complexities of the housing crisis that has emerged in the Chechen capital since the city’s restoration began. In an effort to emphasize that the republic is returning to normality, the authorities are closing down the temporary accommodation centres (TACs) for refugees that were established during the conflict, and trying move their inmates into municipally funded accommodation that is mostly newly built. But the result is far from reassuring.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cyber-attacks on Estonian sites continue

Cyber-attacks by federal Russian government hackers on Estonian government, municipal and media websites are continuing with renewed intensity today. The foreign ministry’s site is inaccessible again, as have been those of several Estonian newspapers.

Such denial of service attacks launched by one state against another are unprecedented in the history of the Internet.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Moscow's Europe offensive

Via EDM:


By Vladimir Socor

Russia’s ongoing political offensive against Estonia -- and implicit challenge to the European Union -- constitutes the first serious attempt to reverse the post-1991 status quo in Europe. Moscow seems to be targeting Estonia as a first test case of such a process.

Further Russian challenges to the existing European order are likely to ensue if European governments and institutions tolerate, as seems mostly to be the case thus far, the assault on Estonia.

Ostensibly reacting to the relocation of the Red Army monument (Bronze Soldier) from downtown Tallinn, the Kremlin is actually targeting Estonia’s state sovereignty, its internal political stability, and its links with the EU. This campaign can only make headway if the EU or at least some major member governments act as passive onlookers. Such seems almost to be the case at the moment, nearly two weeks into the crisis.

Moscow’s first goal is to dilute or negate Estonia’s sovereignty. Russian high-level authorities pressured Estonia to revoke the sovereign decision of its democratically elected parliament (to relocate the Bronze Soldier) and are now denouncing Estonia for noncompliance with that demand. They have also called openly for a change of government in Estonia. The Kremlin’s IT units have hacked the Estonian government’s computer systems -- an unprecedented act in international relations. Russian state television channels seek to inflame inter-ethnic relations in Estonia while lionizing local Russian rioters as “political” protesters. Kremlin-created rowdy organizations besieged Estonia’s Moscow embassy in yet another negation of that country’s sovereignty.

Apart from the inflammatory TV broadcasts, all the other methods are being implemented for the first time since 1991. Their sudden combined deployment against Estonia suggests that the Kremlin may be testing here a strategy of political entry into the sovereign spaces of other states, so as to erode their sovereignty.

A full-fledged strategy in this regard will use control over energy supplies as a tool. For now, Russia has imposed temporary restrictions on railroad transport as well as petroleum products and coal deliveries to Estonia (BNS, May 3).

The second prong of Russia’s campaign aims to fragment the European Union by neutralizing EU support for a threatened member country in the East. Moscow hopes to demonstrate that Estonia (or some other new member country next time around) will receive only limited support from EU authorities and major West European governments, if Russia initiates a confrontation with such an insubordinate country.

The Kremlin seeks to create a perception of the EU divided into first-class (old) and second-class (new) member countries in terms of the EU’s security and economic priorities. Such a perception could, if created, lead to tacit acceptance of special Russian interests with regard to the EU’s new member countries.

Related to this goal is Moscow’s systematic use of the term “fascism” to mislabel democratic Estonia. Such usage is part of classical Soviet political-warfare techniques (undoubtedly studied by the KGB alumni who are now in charge of Russia) to singularize a designated opponent while attacking it, so as to inhibit general solidarity with that targeted opponent.

The third aspect of Moscow’s offensive aims to mobilize Russian “compatriots” in Estonia on the basis of residual Soviet values -- in this case the Soviet “liberation” of the Baltic states from “fascism.” Furthermore, Moscow now seeks for the first time since 1991 to justify that “liberation” and stigmatize the opposite viewpoint at the international level.

The Bronze Soldier’s relocation from downtown Tallinn is not only a pretext for assailing Estonia. By defending this Soviet symbol and the whole legacy associated with it, the Kremlin rejects coming to terms with Russia’s recent history of communist crimes against its own and neighboring nations.

To resist such coming to terms at home, Russian authorities apparently feel that they must resist that process in neighboring countries as well. By stirring up enmity within Russia against Estonia over the Bronze Soldier, the Kremlin seeks to immunize the public against any Russian form of Vergangenheits-Bewaeltigung (Germany’s post-Nazi comprehension of its history) so as to avoid internal challenges to the Soviet-successor ruling elite.

The European Union collectively and its current German presidency in particular, do not seem to have thought through the implications of Moscow’s strategy in this crisis thus far. Instead of dealing with Russia’s assault on Estonia as an EU problem, most member governments and most authorities in Brussels treat the crisis as a bilateral Russia-Estonia problem.

The EU has chosen to concentrate its efforts on a derivative aspect of the crisis -- namely, the siege of Estonia’s embassy in Moscow with multiple breaches of the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations. However, the EU has thus far avoided involvement with the core issues at stake in this crisis: Russian bullying of an EU member country, Estonia’s right to sovereign immunity, and EU political solidarity. The EU’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security policy, Javier Solana, did address these issues in a supportive telephone call to Tallinn early in the crisis, but this turned out to be a rare exception (BNS, April 29). Other Brussels authorities have declined to speak up on those issues, as have most of the EU’s member governments other than those in the Baltic Sea region.

Germany, current holder of the EU presidency, has positioned itself equidistantly between Tallinn and Moscow on the core political issues. In a spirit of moral and political relativism, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank Walter Steinmeier have urged “both sides” in equal measure to show “moderation.”

Meanwhile, Berlin brokered a “compromise” solution to the siege of the Estonian embassy in Moscow. There the situation came to a head on May 2 when activists of the Kremlin-sponsored organization Nashi tried to jostle Estonia’s Ambassador Marina Kaljurand, who was rescued by her bodyguards. On May 3, Steinmeier and Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov agreed among themselves that Kaljurand would return to Tallinn “on leave” while Russian authorities would lift the siege at the Embassy (DPA, May 4). Rowdy demonstrators followed Kaljurand all the way to the airport where they staged another “unauthorized” demonstration against Estonia.

(Interfax, BNS, April 30-May 5, 8)

--Vladimir Socor

Al-Zawahiri "trained by FSB"

Via Axis News (May 7):
Northeast Intelligence Network’s Sean Osborne in his today’s report refers to the late Russian Federal Security Service ex-agent Alexander Litvinenko’s statement to the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, cited in its issue dated Saturday, July 16, 2005, that Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri had trained at a Federal Security Service (the former Russian KGB) base in Dagestan in 1998.

According to Osborn, the latest statement of al-Zawahiri available in a video release mocking the American war effort echoes Litvinenko’s warnings “which have been resonating in the ether for the past two to eight years now”. He cites Litvinenko’s writing that after training in Dagestan Ayman al-Zawahiri was transferred to Afghanistan where he became Osama Bin Laden’s deputy. “I was working in that section at the time and I can confirm the fact Zawahiri was not the only link between the FSB and Al-Qaeda”, Litvinenko is quoted by the Northeast Intelligence Network.

Statement on Estonia


Today is Memorial Day for the victims of World War II

Joint statement of the President, Speaker of the Parliament and Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia

8 May 2007

The battles of World War II in Europe ceased sixty-two years ago. Although guns were silenced, it seemed that some countries would never again be reconciled. The two world wars that left Europe exhausted and insecure, together with the former hostility, seemed to be too much for generous forgiveness and restoration of confident relations.

Yet countries reconciled and forgave, which is why Europe Day on 9 May is also the day of reconciliation. The European Union, a member of which Estonia is, was born to avoid any further violence between European countries and Europeans and to establish a solid foundation for the welfare, stability and peaceful future of all countries and their citizens.

Today in Estonia we have a reason to repeat: all of us who live in this country continue to be Europeans. Dignified. Free. Caring for and respecting each other and our country.

The anniversary of the end of World War II makes all of us think about a victory over a certain totalitarian regime. The pain and horrors of war did not care about nationality. Everyone who was thrown into the turmoil of war suffered. We mourn all the people that we lost in war.

For many, the end of World War II means the victory of freedom over tyranny, and for many it means that one violent regime was replaced with another.

History is not learned and taught in the streets. Estonia knows how valuable a free and democratic society is; here everyone can celebrate their victories and commemorate their lost ones. However, a precondition for that is dignity towards oneself and others.

We believe in the wisdom and rationality of Estonian citizens and their desire to protect their country.

We have a common future. Our people in Estonia. Estonia in Europe.

President of the Republic Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Speaker of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

Monday, May 07, 2007

The bully and the neighbours

In the Washington Post, Fred Hiatt writes about the Monument crisis in Estonia. An excerpt from a thoughtful article which explores the reasons why Russia seems to be unable to become a normal country:
Why such a fuss? To Russians, the statue was a tribute to their overwhelming losses in World War II — which they know as the Great Patriotic War. To Estonians, it was a reminder of a half-century of Soviet occupation during which the Kremlin shot thousands of Balts; sent hundreds of thousands to Siberia; moved hundreds of thousands of Russians in to take their places; and tried to eradicate their culture, their language and any memory of independence.

The trouble is that Russia has never acknowledged this history, and under Putin it grows less and less willing to do so. The passing of the Soviet Union is mourned, the old KGB is celebrated — imagine if Germans continued to honor the Gestapo — and the current independence of former Soviet states is treated as a transitory error. Neither Putin nor even his foreign minister has deigned to pay a bilateral visit to independent Tallinn. Virtually every neighbor — Georgia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, even Finland — has been subjected to bullying.

“It seems they cannot tolerate any democracy on their borders,” Estonian President Toomas Ilves told me in a phone conversation late Friday night. He sounded weary after a week of crisis, but hopeful that tensions would ease, particularly after Estonia had received support from the West, including an invitation that day from President Bush for Ilves to visit the White House in June.

Democracy in Estonia or Georgia, Ilves suggested, calls into question Kremlin claims that “Western-style” democracy won’t work in that part of the world. An absence of democracy at home, in turn, makes it awkward to face history, “because if you start saying the Soviet Union was bad, well, what was at fault? One-party rule, a lack of human rights?” — it’s all too familiar.

Russian leaders dwell inordinately on the lack of respect paid them — but the more they stifle democracy at home, the less cause others have to show respect and the more the Kremlin ends up having to demand respect in a Soviet way. “Now Germany commands a tremendous amount of respect,” Ilves told me, “not because people any longer are afraid of it, but because it is a thriving and effective country.

White tulips

The White Tulips Estonia-Russia initiative mentioned in Mari-Ann Kelam’s dispatch from Tallinn now has a blog.

There is also a multi-lingual version of the page here.

Chechen-Swedish parallels

At Evrodiaspora - the unofficial website of Chechens living in Europe - a poster has compiled a list of some words that the Chechen and Swedish languages have in common. Examples:

Töntig - awkward, clumsy - Тентаг
Ute - outside - Уьт1е (yard)
Barn - child - Бер
Kasta - to throw - Кхосса
Padda - toad - Пхьид - frog
Tall - pine tree - Талл
Sinne - чувство - Са
Damm - dust - Дам - flour
Darra - to tremble - Дарр аьлла вегош
Adel - aristocracy, nobility - Ад(ам)-эла
Adjö - farewell, goodbye - 1адика-йойла ( adika jöjla!)
Bår - stretcher - Барм
Tyda - to interpret - Тида
Gå - to go, walk - Г1о
Var - was - Вар
Vagga - cradle, to lull - Ага
Usel - wretched - Осала
Kyla - chill, cold - Шело
Ort - place, locality, village - Юрт
Stjälk - stalk, stem - Шелкх
Sin - one’s (own) - Шен
Dekis - seedy-looking person - Декъаз
Dag, Dan - day - Де
Folk - people, nation - Халкъ
Låg - low - Лог1а
Sirlig - graceful, elegant - Сирла
Kol - coal - К1ор
Rask - quick, speedy, rapid - Расха
Mark - ground, land, territory - Мохк
Modd - mud, slush - Мода - mud
Land - land, country - Латта

The article also contains an interesting discussion of the origins of the words “Valhalla” and “Valkyrie”.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Letter from Tallinn - III

Some interesting history

by Mari-Ann-Kelam

Deja vu? An article by Pekka Erelt in the May 3, 2007 Eesti Ekpress describes the removal of a statue of Peter the Great from the center of Tallinn in 1922. The big bronze statue (5 meters - 15 feet plus a 50 ton granite pedestal) had been erected with pomp and ceremony by the Russian government on September 29, 1910 on what is now known as Vabaduse Plats (Freedom Square). Peter the Great’s statue soon began to irritate Estonians and after the end of the War of Independence there were increasing calls for its removal. But the majority of the Tallinn City Council was opposed. In February 1922, just before Independence Day, the topic was again on the Council’s agenda along with a proposal to rename the square. The statements pro and con are remarkable similar to those made about the Soviet monument that recently stood in Tallinn. When the proposal to remove the statue of Peter the Great was defeated 28 - 17, the Tallinn City government decided the issue was actually in the competence of the Ministry of the Interior.

But before Government had time to do anything, a group of about 50 soldiers in the Corps of Engineers began to take it down one night. Although they had the equipment to do the job, the police stopped them before they had gotten very far. On April 29, 1922 Interior Minister Karl Einbund (later Kaarel Einpalu) issued the order for removal. Preparations were immediately begun and the actual dismantlement began in the wee hours of the morning of April 30. It took two days and nights to complete the job and then the statue was laid down near the house of Peter in Kadriorg. At first there was a plan to re-erect the statue in Kadriorg Park, but this was deemed inappropriate due to its size. After some years the legs of the sttue were removed and in 1928 the left leg was melted down to make pennies.In 1934 the statue was further shortened so that all that remained was a 2 meter high bust which then disappeared without any record in the second half of 1940 when the Soviet Union occupied Estonia.


Today, May 6, a group of about 20 young Estonians and Russians made a proposal that all people should lay white tulips or other white flowers at the time and to the place of their choosing. If people do not have a site that seems appropriate they should give each other white flowers. The flowers traditionally associated with Soviet monuments have been red carnations. According to BNS, the people making this proposal work in various NGO’s, IT firms or theaters. One of the NGO’s involved is called Heateo Sihtasutus (Good Deed Foundation)founded in 2003 by Urmas Klaas, Aavo Kokk, Kristina Mänd, Ilmar Raag, Artur Taevere, Hannes Tamjärv ja Linnar Viik. In 2005 they received the Estonian Foundation of the Year Award.


What May 8 (re-opening of the monument in its new location) and May 9 will bring remains a worry. Russian language internet sources are full of very aggressive calls to action - things like threats to teach the Estonians “a real lesson as to who is in charge of this country”. I am still impressed with the work of the police and the security police. MAK

Russian scientists clash with Kremlin

Last month, a full meeting of Russia’s Academy of Sciences passed an almost unanimous vote for a charter that would preserve its autonomy. Now the Kremlin is trying to challenge that decision on the grounds that the scientists and their work are needed to develop the country’s commercial and industrial base, The Sunday Telegraph reports:
Prof Vitaly Ginzburg, who is 90 yet still academically active, said Mr Putin’s Russia was worse than Stalin’s Soviet Union. “Of course, in Stalin’s times the Academy was under the control of the central committee of the Communist Party,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.

“But in those days you could come up with an idea and create - that’s how we put the first Sputnik satellite into space. Now the government thinks science must bring only income and profit, which is absurd.”

He added: “Of course it is about Putin. Our democracy is far from ideal.”

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Monument War

Via Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

Russia: Monument Dispute With Estonia Gets Dirty

By Victor Yasmann

May 4, 2007 (RFE/RL) — The dispute over the removal of a war memorial in Tallinn has become a dirty war. Hacking, violent protests, intimidation of diplomats, all with the hand — or at least the blessing — of the Kremlin.

Estonia has suggested that the Kremlin and its security services were behind the two days of violent protests by local Russian youths in Estonia. At a press conference in Moscow on May 2, Estonian Ambassador to Russia Marina Kaljurand said that she believed that both protests in Tallinn and Moscow were directed by the Kremlin.

Official Russian Disruptions

If it wasn’t behind the protests, the Kremlin certainly wasn’t a calming factor. On April 30, a delegation from Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament, visited Tallinn to investigate the events around the removal of the Bronze Soldier memorial.

The delegation was headed by Nikolai Kovalyov, the former director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and currently the head of the Duma Veterans Affairs Committee. While in Tallinn, Kovalyov called for the immediate resignation of the Estonian government. Many Estonians protested the statement as an intervention in their internal affairs.

In the last few days, several Estonian government websites went down, including the sites of the Estonian president, parliament, cabinet ministers, and the Foreign and Defense ministries. The website of Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, who many consider to be behind the removal of the Bronze Soldier, was also hacked.

Estonian Justice Minister Rejn Lang said on April 30 that the Internet-protocol addresses show that the attack was carried out from Moscow state institutions. “The aim of the attack was to paralyze the republic’s information infrastructure. That proves that some forces in Moscow have completely lost their prudence,” Lang said.

Youth Group Provocations

If the Russian state wasn’t responsible, it could have been Nashi, a pro-Kremlin youth group. Konstantin Goloskov, a Nashi activist, told the Rosbalt news agency on May 2 that he personally took part in cyber-attacks on Estonian websites. But he denied that Moscow state offices were used. The hacking, he said, was done from the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniester. Estonian websites weren’t the only ones targeted. The Russian daily “Kommersant” and the Ekho Moskvy radio station, which were critical of the Kremlin for its handling of the situation, also had their websites hacked.

Nashi isn’t just operating in cyberspace. Since April 27, around 600 members of Nashi and a number of other pro-Kremlin youth groups organized a protest outside the Estonian Embassy in Moscow.

On May 2, the group’s activists disrupted a press conference held by Estonian Ambassador Kaljurand. They also attacked the car of a Swedish diplomat in which they suspected Kaljurand was hiding.

These aren’t just the spontaneous actions of young, radicalized young people. Nashi, along with other national-patriotic organizations, enjoys almost open political and financial support from the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin, deputy presidential-administration head Vladislav Surkov, and First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov have already met several times with these organizations’ activists.

Politics By Other Means

Such seemingly state-sponsored actions have some precedents — albeit circumstantial. In summer 2005, Polish citizens, including diplomats and journalists, in Moscow were harassed by “unknown attackers.” The attacks followed an attack in Warsaw on the family of a Russian diplomat, and Moscow expressed its displeasure at the way the Polish investigation proceeded. But when Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski called on Putin to stop the attacks, the assaults on Poles in Moscow abruptly ended.

Another case of directed physical and psychological pressure was when Georgians were expelled from Russia in October 2006 after relations deteriorated between Moscow and Tbilisi following a spy scandal. Russian police raided Georgian businesses, and rounded up and deported many Georgian citizens, who were working illegally in Russia.

There have been suggestions from many Russian politicians and commentators that the Kremlin take matters further. The Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, on April 29 voted to break diplomatic relations with Tallinn.

Other Russian politicians have proposed economic sanctions, a transport blockade, a tourism boycott of Estonia, and banning those Estonian officials responsible for the removal of the memorial from entering Russia.

Speaking on RTR on May 3, Sergei Lopatnikov, a visiting professor at the University of Delaware, suggested adopting a law that would prosecute “people revising the results of World War II, regardless of their diplomatic status and territorial jurisdiction.” His comments were carried by most state-controlled television and radio stations

Moscow’s Weapons Limited

However, the Kremlin knows its limits. Breaking off ties with Estonia is unlikely to be popular with the government and the public, as it would have negative consequences for the ethnic Russian community in Estonia, which makes up around one-third of the population.

Moreover, trade between the two countries is worth less than $300 million. Estonia, especially with European Union backing, could easily find other partners in the case of economic sanctions. It is also possible that the Kremlin will soften its campaign against Estonia, fearing that further pressure would consolidate the West against Russia.

In fact, already the United States, NATO, EU, the Scandinavian countries, and the Baltic states have all backed Estonia. Only China, Kazakhstan, and Belarus have expressed their official support for Russia.

And the “monument war” has already soured relations between Russia and the EU. Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has urged the EU to boycott the EU-Russia summit to be held in May in Kaluga, in central Russia. The European Union has also called on Russia to guarantee the safety of Estonian diplomats on its territory.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the crisis with Estonia will have a negative effect on Russia’s relations with NATO and the EU because “they accepted Estonia as a member of their organization, and, therefore, are responsible for its behavior.”

Away from the political drama, the real losers in this crisis are likely be Estonia’s ethnic Russians, who have become further ostracized in their own country.

Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar has said that all the good work done by the Estonian government, with the help of the EU, for the Russian ethnic minority has now been ruined.

Or as Vladimir Belozeartsev, a Tallinn University professor, told RFE/RL’s Russian Service, “As Moscow and Tallinn settle accounts with each other, the [ethnic] Russian Estonians have found themselves caught between two fires.”

Friday, May 04, 2007

Babel Caucase banned in Russia

An announcement on the Babel Gazette website says that
The activities of the Babel Caucase Caravan, which left France on April 15, 2007 to organize cultural and friendship meetings in the Caucasus and make a planned stop in Grozny, have been banned throughout the Russian Federation. An official note handed to the French embassy in Moscow by the Russian foreign ministry said that the events planned by Babel Caucase on the territory of the Russian Federation were “impossible”… The group has decided to continue its journey to the North Caucasus nevertheless, and at least meet local people and distribute gifts to schools, NGOs and hospitals.

Letter from Tallinn - II

From Mari-Ann Kelam:

NB: Cyber attacks continue. People are reporting that the websites of the President of Estonia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the newspaper Postimees are down. A group of youth have gathered at the Estonian Embassy in Moscow again. A tent city was set up near Narva on the Estonian-Russian border. The young people there seem intent on blockiing traffic. EU Representation in Moscow has been put under increased security. News reports keep coming that a number of Russian market chains have stopped stocking and selling goods produced in Estonia - I have no idea how significant this may or may not be as I do not have information as to what and how much these chains bought and sold. Also I do not know how large these enterprises themselves might be.

The picketing at the Estonian Embassy has been discontinued, quite certainly in response to international criticism. It may be that Russia is now resorting to less visible forms of pressure on Estonia - cyber, economic, transportation, etc - which they hope will bring less attention and criticism. Calls for the violent overthrow of the Estonian government continue to circulate via mobile phones and internet. The security police seem to have this well in hand.

The streets of Tallinn are peaceful and it is reassuring to see lots of policemen patrolling on foot - they look professional and not at all negatively intimidating with their yellow reflector vests. Only about 300 people, mostly Russian-speaking, attended Center Party’s forum today according to radio reports.

Minister of Education Tonis Lukas met this week with the history teachers in the 28 Russian schools in Tallinn. A few of them commented positively on the meeting on the TV news, but it was clear that most of them do not themselves speak Estonian. Many of them have been teaching for twenty to thirty years - Estonia’s independence was restored 16 years ago.

Thank you, everyone who is concerned and helping. It is making a difference! Please continue to circulate information, write letters to the editor, comment on blogs, contact your elected officials. And do not forget to pray! Hoia, Jumal Eestit. As the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament put it - “call on the Russian authorities to fulfil their international obligations according to the Vienna Convention and guarantee the protection of the EU Member States Embassies in Moscow and refrain from any interference in the internal affairs in Estonia.”


See also in this blog: Letter from Tallinn

Russia suspends CFE cooperation

Via Interfax:

May 3 2007 6:30PM

CFE suspended until ratified by partners - Sergei Ivanov

BRYANSK. May 3 (Interfax) - Russia will stick to its moratorium on the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) until it is ratified by other signatories, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters in Bryansk on Thursday.

"We have introduced a moratorium and will no longer inform anyone about troop movements on our own territory. We will stick to our moratorium until our partners ratify this treaty," he said.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

NATO and the US support Estonia

Via the BBC:

“Nato is deeply concerned by threats to the physical safety of Estonian diplomatic staff, including the ambassador, in Moscow, as well as intimidation at the Estonian embassy,” the statement said.

“These actions are unacceptable, and must be stopped immediately; tensions over the Soviet war memorial and graves in Estonia must be resolved diplomatically between the two countries.”

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Estonia’s decision to move the statue had “led to seriously negative consequences for Russian-Estonian relations”.

In a phone call to his Estonian counterpart Urmas Paet, he said the Moscow protest would be kept within the law.

On Wednesday, Estonia’s foreign ministry said there was an attempt to physically assault their ambassador at a news conference, as members of the Russian youth organisation “Nashi” tried to disrupt it.

It said the incident amounted to a violation of diplomatic conventions.

Reports said Russian police also scuffled with activists outside the Estonian embassy, arresting one person as protesters attempted to prevent diplomats entering or leaving the building.
The Swedish foreign ministry has meanwhile submitted a formal protest to Russia after its ambassador’s car was stopped and damaged by a crowd outside the Estonian embassy in Moscow.

Following the disturbances, the European Union said it would send a delegation to raise concerns with Russia over the increasing violence.

A European Commission spokeswoman said the EU “strongly urged” the Russian authorities to implement their obligations under the Vienna Convention for diplomatic relations.

US State Department spokesman Tom Casey called on the Moscow authorities to do everything they could to reduce tensions.

More than a quarter of Estonia’s 1.3 million people are ethnically Russian, and speak Russian. However, half of them do not have Estonian citizenship.

During the years of Soviet occupation after the war tens of thousands of Estonians were killed. They say their country was effectively colonised, with many Russians being brought in as workers and military personnel.

Russia's political assault on Estonia

Via EDM:


by Vladimir Socor

The violent rioting by several thousand Russian youths in Estonia on April 27-29 obscures the larger fact that hundreds of thousands of Russians in the country have not in any way become involved in illegal behavior or political protests, despite continuing incitement from Moscow.

Although many local Russians in various age groups identify in some way with the Soviet Union and resent the relocation of the Red Army monument from downtown Tallinn, a larger number — including some of the Soviet-nostalgic ones — by now link their future with Estonia and Europe. The Kremlin seeks to reverse that correlation in order to destabilize Estonia and is conducting a political assault against it, as part of Russia’s tactics to fragment the European Union into first- and second-class countries.

Estonia takes the position that the relocation of the Bronze Soldier monument and law enforcement against violent rioting are matters for Estonia to handle, while Russia’s coordinated offensive against Estonian sovereignty is an international matter that by definition requires an EU response.

Addressing the country on May 1, President Toomas Ilves used his trademark term, “our compatriots,” with reference to Russians in Estonia. This usage turns the tables on Moscow’s peculiar use of the term “compatriots” [sootechestvenniki], which implies a right of manipulative “protection” of Russians in the Baltics and other former Soviet-ruled countries. As president of Estonia, Ilves takes the position that local Russians are the compatriots of Estonians, rather than the Kremlin’s.

Thanking the great majority among local Russians “for being on Estonia’s side, on the side of order and public safety,” Ilves expressed confidence in his address that “Estonians and Russians are not as naïve as to allow the hate-mongers to manipulate us against each other.” By the same token, however, Estonia shall handle all illegal actions “without hesitation in accordance with the law.” The president reminded Russia, “It is not European behavior to demand the resignation of the democratically elected government of another sovereign country, to use government computers for cyber-attacks against another government, or to violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by threatening the embassy of a small country. These are the ways of countries somewhere else, not in Europe.”

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip summed up the government’s position regarding the Red Army monument in his May 2 address to the parliament. Ansip characterized the monument as divisive of society: symbolizing occupation and mass repression in the eyes of the majority while gratifying the nostalgia of another section of society for a totalitarian state that has disappeared.

Relocated outside the city to a military cemetery, the monument takes on a different meaning as a memorial to those killed in war, rather than an obtrusive reminder of Estonia’s subjugation.

Ansip’s speech to parliament as well as a press conference statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet described Russia’s “coordinated assault” against Estonia’s sovereignty in all aspects of that operation, continuing unabated since April 26. They listed: inflammatory propaganda via Russian state-controlled television, as part of “active measures” to destabilize Estonia; sabotage of the Estonian government’s electronic communications from Kremlin electronic servers; public calls for changing Estonia’s government, a democratically elected body; and the siege of Estonia’s Embassy in Moscow by Kremlin-sponsored youth organizations.
In view of this situation, Ansip and Paet appealed to the EU to respond appropriately, since a challenge to the sovereignty of a member country amounts to a challenge to the EU as a whole. The EU needs to “demonstrate maximum strength” for a “straightforward response to Russia’s systematic attacks” on Estonia, which in targeting Estonia are thereby also targeting the EU itself. Should Russia persist with its assault, Estonia will ask the EU to consider suspending the current negotiations with Russia [on a follow-up to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement] and to postpone the EU-Russia summit that is scheduled to be held this month (BNS, May 2).

Estonian authorities are holding dozens of suspects for pre-trial investigation, following the plunder of shops in downtown Tallinn. Rioters whom Russian state television lionized as “anti-fascist” protesters actually looted such shops as Armani and Hugo Boss, computer and camera stores, as well as bars for the liquor.

The one rioter killed during the rampage, identified as “Dmitry,” was stabbed by a fellow-rioter; stolen merchandise with price tags was found in their pockets. In Moscow, the “Nashi” movement’s Kremlin-appointed chief Vasily Yakemenko declaimed on Russian Television’s Channel One that Dmitry had “died while defending the Bronze Soldier. We are holding a memorial rally to honor the Russian hero, who died for us, who like our grandfathers died for what happened 62 years ago.” Near the besieged Estonian embassy in Moscow, Nashi and other Kremlin-sponsored demonstrators have unfurled placards inscribed with the warning, “You will answer for the death of the Russian hero.”

(BNS, Postimees, Interfax, Russian Television Channel One, May 1-2; see EDM, January 12, 26, March 9, 27, April 27, May 1, 2)

–Vladimir Socor

Moscow creates a crisis

Via Eurasia Daily Monitor:


By Vladimir Socor

The Kremlin’s assault on Estonia is intensifying on four levels of varying sophistication. These include: cyber attacks from within Russia’s Presidential Administration against the Estonian presidency’s and government’s electronic communications; political demands, backed by economic sanctions threats, to change the Estonian government; siege laid by Kremlin-created organizations to the Estonian Embassy in Moscow; and instigatory coverage of the April 27-29 violent riots of Russian youth in Tallinn by Russia’s state television.

Moscow seeks to create an atmosphere of international crisis over the relocation of the Soviet Army monument, the Bronze Soldier, from downtown Tallinn (see EDM, April 27, May 1). Moscow’s response seems affected by contradictory impulses: unrestrained fury toward Estonia, calculated wedge-drawing tactics in Europe, and residual-resurgent proprietary feelings about the insubordinate country.

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov denounces Estonia for “spitting of these values” [evidently Soviet ones] and behaving “disgustingly.” The Duma’s International Affairs Committee chairman, Konstantin Kosachev, accuses Estonia of “barbarism” and “lying.” These and other Russian officials mix the bullying language with the familiar neo-Soviet mysticism that defends “sacred” objects [the Bronze Soldier as a substitute icon] against “blasphemy” [by Estonian unbelievers in this case]. Those two key words are recurrent in Russian officials’ statements during this crisis.

Officials in Moscow are also publicly asking the European Union, NATO, the Council of Europe, and other international organizations to censure Estonia over “pro-fascist” inclinations and “discrimination” — now also “repression” — of local Russians. Such accusations against Estonia or Latvia hardly ever convinced any international organization. However, Moscow’s operational goal is not to elicit condemnation of Estonia or Latvia. It is, rather, to portray these Baltic states as irritants to the West’s relations with Russia and to induce Western governments to remain silent, instead of supporting the Baltic states against such bullying. Moscow hopes to draw wedges among Western allies through protracted application of this tactic.

In a move potentially repeatable against other countries, top-level Russian authorities are sabotaging the Estonian state’s web servers since April 27. According to Justice Minister Rein Lang and Foreign Affairs Minister Urmas Paet, the cyber attacks on April 29 and 30 were traced to IP addresses in Moscow owned by the Russian presidential administration and government (Estonian TV, Eesti Paevaleht, April 30, May 1). The attacks have perturbed the entire information network of Estonia’s state administrations, government and presidency. The effects are particularly disruptive on a country like Estonia, a European leader regarding the generalization of electronic governance.

Top officials in Moscow seem to be of two minds regarding possible economic sanctions against Estonia. First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, and Moscow mayor Yurii Luzhkov are among those urging economic sanctions, such as reducing Russian transit operations via Estonia and cutting the import of Estonian goods to Russia. Apparently at the authorities’ behest, the popular newspapers Komsomolskaya pravda and Moskovskii Komsomolets have published lists of Estonian goods to be boycotted by customers or pulled off stores’ shelves.

Other officials, such as Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov and the Federation Council’s International Relations Committee chairman Mikhail Margelov, are cautioning against “emotionalism” and economic sanctions. Russian Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Union (RIEU) president Alexander Shokhin deems economic sanctions undesirable, calling instead for political actions against Estonia, urging Russia’s business partners in Estonia to oppose the removal of Soviet monuments, and promising to follow the Russian government’s policy if sanctions are ultimately imposed (Komsomolskaya pravda, April 28).

The debate on economic sanctions is not only déjà vu, but more irrelevant than ever. Barely one tenth of Estonia’s export trade goes to Russia at present. Russia had doubled the customs duties on Estonian goods during the 1990s when Estonia was largely reliant on the Russian market. Estonia then reoriented its exports toward Europe faster than it would otherwise have done. Russian threats to reduce transit flows via Estonia are also more than a decade old and have little credibility. In this case as well, Moscow’s political statements seem to ignore Estonia’s rapid economic advancement, which has drastically reduced the share of Russian transit in Estonia’s GDP and national income.

(BNS, Interfax, Itar-Tass, Russian Television Channel One, April 28-May 1; BBC Monitoring, Russian TV and radio highlights, April 30-May 1; see EDM, January 15, March 26, April 27, May 1)

- Vladimir Socor

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Estonian diplomats' families not evacuated from Moscow

The families of Estonian diplomats have not been evacuated from Moscow to Tallinn, according to the Estonian embassy in Moscow.

Earlier, Interfax reported that

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told the parliament on Wednesday that the staff of the Estonian embassy in Moscow has come under psychological and physical attacks. “In these conditions we were forced to evacuate the families of the embassy personnel,” the foreign minister said.

In a related incident today, the car of Estonia’s ambassador, Marina Kaljurand, was blocked by Nashi supporters who also tore the Estonian flag from the vehicle, Helsingin Sanomat says. The police did nothing to stop the Nashi attacks.

Estonia has now closed its consular section in Moscow.

Cyber attacks continue

Cyber attacks on Estonian websites are continuing. At present the Estonian President’s official website is unreachable. Read more about the problem here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Minority Manipulation

Via Eurasia Daily Monitor:
The city of Tallinn is assessing the damage after two consecutive nights of violent rioting by gangs of mostly young local Russians. The third night passed relatively quietly. Ostensibly triggered by the expected relocation of the Red Army monument (the Bronze Soldier) from downtown Tallinn, the protests turned into a rampage, with drunkenness and plunder overriding the political or ethnic motivations.

Compared to the first night of rioting, April 26-27 (see EDM, April 27), the night of April 27-28 featured even younger mobs, partly under 18 years of age, looting shops in the downtown Viru Street and Vabaduse Square, after having devastated the shops on Tatari Street the preceding night. They particularly sought out sports clothes and liquor. Rioters holding bottles of alcoholic drink became the iconic image of both nights. They also smashed windows at the Estonia Theater, the Estonian Academy of Arts, and the governing Reform Party’s offices.

In a rare political gesture, a large group of secondary-school students demonstrated outside the parliament building under the slogan, “USSR Forever.” Occasionally during both nights, rioters waved the Russian flag or shouted “Russia, Russia;” but such episodes were isolated and uncharacteristic of the events as a whole.

Youths arriving from the Russian-settled northeastern towns of Narva and Sillamae rioted in the nearby Estonian-majority town of Johvi. There they set on fire the monument to Alexander Tonisson, commander of Estonia’s successful defense against Soviet Russian forces in 1918, who was killed after the 1940 occupation by those same forces.

According to Interior Minister Juri Pihl, speaking after the second night, the rioting did not seem to reflect organized preparations, planning, or clear leadership, but for the most part a mob spirit and spontaneous dynamic. The red-brown group Nochnoy Dozor (Night Watch) was clearly an instigator, but did not seem capable of controlling the events. Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet, noting that most rioters were “Russian-speaking” youths, stated that the police also detained some Estonian youths who had joined in the looting. The police had to bring reinforcements to Tallinn from elsewhere in the country as well as volunteers from the civil-defense league (Kaitseliit).

The police was outnumbered and in difficulty at critical places and moments. Ultimately it used light and sound grenades, tear gas canisters, dry powder extinguishers, and water cannons to contain the rampage. During the three nights it detained almost 1,000 rioters, although it promptly escorted many under-18s to their parents. Forty-six persons, half of them non-citizens, remained in custody for pre-trial proceedings as of April 30. Approximately 120 rioters and some 30 policemen were treated in hospitals for injuries. One rioter, identified as “Dmitry,” was stabbed to death by another rioter, initially identified as “Oleg.”

Russia’s state-controlled television channels misleadingly claimed that the monument had been “cut to pieces,” whereas it is actually being transferred intact to a military cemetery on the outskirts of Tallinn. The Russian channels reported very little about the vandalism and drunkenness. Instead, they blamed Estonian police for “brutality,” characterized the gangs as “Russian school pupils,” “monument defenders,” and “anti-fascists,” and ran archival footage of Soviet-era festivities around the monument. Russian TV generalized that “British MPs” disapproved of Estonia, only to produce the eccentric leftist George Galloway expressing that view.

In remarks broadcast to the country on April 27, President Toomas Ilves commented, “The criminals who struck last night were not united by ethnicity, but rather by the wish to rampage, demolish, and plunder.” He characterized the actions as ordinary crime and the participants as liable for criminal prosecution under the law. Vandalism has nothing to do with honoring the memory of soldiers killed in the war, Ilves noted, implicitly answering Moscow’s attempts to politicize and ethnicize the events.

The rioters’ social profile is extremely unrepresentative of the Russian/”Russian-speaking” population of Estonia and specifically of Tallinn. That population on the whole did not become involved in any protest activity, although many of them clearly resented the removal of the Bronze Soldier. The hard-core protest constituency that had recently assembled at the site consisted largely of Soviet-era veterans, with a sprinkling of politicized Russian youths. The rampaging groups, however, burst as new entrants upon the scene. Their activity seems at least in part to fit French sociologists’ description of Arab youths’ riots in France as “émeutes ludiques” — rioting for the excitement of it — barely, if at all, related to political grievances, but subject to manipulation by political forces.

On the other hand, a sense of Soviet nostalgia does seem to be emerging among some local Russian secondary-school students in Estonia and Latvia from age cohorts with no experience of Soviet rule. This development reflects the impact of Russian television channels presenting the Soviet Union in an attractive light. Local Russian hardliners and Moscow can politicize and misuse this particular segment as a protest constituency. However — as former prime minister Mart Laar and others pointed out — 99% of local Russians stayed away from these protests despite instigation by Moscow’s television coverage and politicians.

(BNS, Interfax, Russian Television Channel One and NTV, Reuters, AP, April 27-30)

–Vladimir Socor