Books on Estonia
Update No: 313 - (25/01/07)
The highly sensitive issue of Estonian-Russian relations has
suddenly been gravely inflamed, with incalculable consequences. Relations
between Tallinn and Moscow have never been worse since 1991.
Local Russians are still seen as relics of colonialism and their presence is
deeply resented. This issue is fertile soil for the nationalist radicals that
are currently in power in Estonia.
The Second World War is still alive
The Estonians have a very different attitude to the Second World War than the
Russians. The former were 'liberated' by the USSR in 1944, according to the
latter. As far as the Estonians were concerned they were enslaved anew after the
initial rape of their country in 1940, consequent on the Nazi-Soviet Pact of
August 1939 that set off the war in the first place. Most Russian migration into
Estonia took place in the postwar period under occupation of the Red Army with
an Estonian puppet government in place as a constituent republic of the Soviet
This is a tangled story; Stalin was within his own borders acting in self-defence
against the most aggressive regime imaginable, but his advance into the Baltic
states was the result of the earlier 'carve-up' with the Nazis. The Estonians
were appallingly treated as a conquered people before WWII broke out, during and
after the war. Some were unwise enough to fight with the Nazis who first
represented themselves as liberators from the communists, whom they drove out.
The Estonians had a pretty grim choice, Hitler or Stalin, and some backed the
The Estonian Parliament on January 11th took a decision on the "protection
of wartime burials." Despite its respectable-sounding name, this
legislation permits the removal of fraternal graves and the dismantling of
monuments to Soviet soldiers who died in the fighting against the Germans
throughout Estonia, in September 1944.
There are nationalists and radicals in Tallinn who cannot wait to do this, who
happen to be in government. Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has promised to
send bulldozers to the burial sites in May. He does not conceal that the new
law's first and foremost victim will be the monument to the soldier-liberator at
Tonismagi in downtown Tallinn. There are plans to move this impressive sculpture
of a Soviet soldier to some God-forsaken place, and probably even dismantle it:
head with a casque, machine-gun, and knee-high boots.
The Bronze Soldier may not be the only victim of humiliation. There are 265
burial sites of Soviet soldiers, including individual and common graves. All in
all, 168,855 soldiers were buried in Estonia. In order to erase the memory of
the exploits of these soldiers from what is now a foreign country, Tallinn will
have to spend years on an enormous construction and landscaping project. It is
all very sad as the Russian period cannot be erased as a part of their history
and after all, some respect is due to the dead, even the soldiers of what is
construed as an enemy power.
In Russia, these plans have caused a mounting wave of indignation. The
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, immediately condemned the new law as
Sergei Mironov, the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, said
that this decision on the removal of monuments was a historical mistake.
"This law is a disgrace for Estonia and for the Estonian people. Fighting
against monuments is counterproductive and immoral, all the more so with the
monuments to those who freed Estonia and Latvia from the Nazi yoke," he
The State Duma intends to make a special statement on response measures.
"We should give a timely and tough answer. Among other things, we should
not maintain contacts with those politicians who have initiated and passed this
law," Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said.
Head of the Duma committee on international affairs Konstantin Kosachev has gone
even further. He suggests applying the Russian law on economic sanctions during
emergencies. In this case, Estonia would not be able to use Russian air space
and ports, while customs tariffs and duties paid by Tallinn could be raised.
Discrimination against Estonians of Russian origin
The Russian response is so emotional because bulldozing the Bronze Soldier
is not the only caprice of the nationalist radicals. It is yet another symbol of
the glaring suppression by the Estonian authorities of the rights of the Russian
minority, which accounts for around one fifth of the total population. Recently,
an Amnesty International report with the unusually imperative title
"Linguistic minorities in Estonia: Discrimination must end" has drawn
public attention to this aberration in the centre of the European Union (EU).
The document states that hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking
"non-citizens" are deprived of access to jobs and higher education.
Here is just one telltale example: in 2005, the unemployment rate was no more
than 5% for ethnic Estonians, but it was 13% for Russian speakers. The
Russophobic Estonian authorities have been quite resourceful: they have deprived
the Russian speakers of the right to be covered by the law on the cultural
autonomy of national minorities - and hence the EU framework convention on the
latter's protection - using the excuse that this law only applies to Estonian
You are not a citizen? Then you are not entitled to a job or education in
Estonia, or any EU democratic rights for that matter.
By means of actions such as the law on dismantling monuments to Soviet soldiers,
the nationalists are accused by the Russians of pursuing narrow, selfish
interests: protecting their political positions and lucrative jobs. This is what
prominent Russian political scientist Sergei Markov said about them: "They
are the same as the Ku Klux Klan, which could occupy positions in American
government agencies only as long as inequality between blacks and whites
existed. As soon as equal rights were established, all Ku Klux Klan members were
thrown from bodies of power. This is why the Ku Klux Klan was interested in
The Bronze Soldier and the common graves of Soviet fighters will eventually find
a place where they will be revered. Konstantin Titov, governor of the Samara
Region, declared the other day that his region was ready to accept the monument
and pay all expenses for its transportation. The Kremlin has charged the Defence
Ministry with taking care of Soviet military graves abroad.
Estonian premier praises relations with Ukraine
In fact there were Ukrainians who came to Estonia in the wake of the Soviet
liberation of the country. But they are not resented anything like as much as
the far more numerous Russians.
Estonian Premier Andrus Ansip has praised the current state of
Ukrainian-Estonian relations. "Political relations between Ukraine and
Estonia are very good. We have 50 agreements, [and have] formed the legal basis
for the development of economic relations," he told reporters in Kiev on
According to the head of the Estonian government, the volume of trade between
the two countries in 2006 grew 85% year-on-year, which was a surprise for
Estonia. The investments of Estonia into Ukraine last year reached US$100
million, he added.
Relations are excellent - in stark contrast to those with Russia!
Estonian cooperation agreement signed with Georgia
Estonia and Georgia have endorsed their commitment of strengthening bilateral
tie through a new agreement. The Ministries of Defence of Estonia and Georgia
signed an agreement on bilateral cooperation in 2007 on December 21st, New
The Estonian delegation landed in Georgia earlier in the day. The nine-member
delegation was led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Urmas Paet,
accompanied by the representative of the Estonian Defence Ministry, Hanes Hanso,
and Ambassador of Georgia to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, David Aptsiauri.
David Kezerashvili, the Minister of Defence of Georgia and Levan Nikoleishvili,
the First Deputy Defence Minister, received the Estonian delegation. According
to an earlier briefing by the Estonian defence ministry, one of the major goals
of the visit was sharing of the Estonian NATO integration experience with
Georgia. The Estonian side promised to help Georgia in this direction.
During the meeting, the sides discussed the process of Intensified Dialogue with
NATO, Georgian-Russian relations, military cooperation between Estonia and
Georgia, ongoing reforms in the Georgian Armed Forces, future perspectives and
plans. After the meeting, Defence Ministries of Estonia and Georgia signed the
Bilateral Cooperation Plan for 2007.
Estonia's Minister of Foreign Affairs met with his Georgian counterpart, Gela
Bezhuashvili, and deputy chairperson of the parliament.
At the press conference held after the meeting, Georgia's First Deputy Defence
Minister, Levan Nikoleishvili, said: "Estonia has a serious experience in
cooperation with NATO and the most important of all- their benevolence towards
Georgia. They are ready to assist us at any stage from ID including MAP."
"This is actually every day cooperation between our and the Georgian
Ministry of Defence and we share our experiences when we were in the process of
joining NATO and we are very satisfied with this cooperation," said the
Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet. "I hope that our
experience is useful for building up the Georgian Army and making those needed
changes and reforms to be ready for MAP and after that for membership in
NATO," he added.
Baltic states face energy threat in 2006
In the Baltic states, 2006 will be remembered as the year in which the three
countries woke up to the danger of relying on Russian energy. From the moment
Gazprom cut gas supplies to Ukraine at the new year in 2006 in an argument over
tariffs, Baltic reliance on Russian supplies has been the region's overriding
Despite their membership, since 2004, of the EU and NATO, the Baltic states are
physically far more closely linked with Russia than with the West. Their energy
grids are connected to Commonwealth of Independent States grids, but not EU
ones, making them an "energy island" within the EU, Deutsche-Presse-Agentur
The agreement between Germany and Russia in 2005 to build a gas pipeline linking
their countries under the Baltic Sea strengthened that feeling of isolation,
with Baltic politicians alleging it would allow Moscow to cut them off, as it
And events in 2006 have fed suspicions that Russia intends to use their
isolation, pressurising politicians and businesses in order to increase its
influence in its former satellites.
The Ukrainian gas crisis was followed, in spring, by a bitter legal wrangle over
the ownership of the Baltics' only oil refinery, Lithuania's Mazeikiu Nafta
The dispute pitted MN's owner, defunct Russian oil giant YUKOS, against YUKOS'
main creditor, Russian state oil firm Rosneft. In May, a New York court gave
Yukos the right to sell MN: a few days later, a deal was announced with Polish
refiner PKN Orlen.
But two months later, the sole pipeline feeding oil to MN sprang a leak in
Russia, and was closed. Five months later, it has not yet been reopened, with
many in the Baltics calling the shutdown punishment for allowing the Poles to
buy the refinery.
As well as gas and oil, alarm bells also rang this year over future supplies of
electricity. Much of the Baltics' power is currently generated in the
Soviet-built nuclear power station of Ignalina in Lithuania - a twin to the
ill-fated Chernobyl reactor.
According to the terms of Lithuania's EU accession treaty, the Ignalina reactor
has to close by 2009. The closure is expected to lead to a serious shortfall in
Baltic generating capacity - something which all three states now view with
However, if 2006 became the year in which energy security leapfrogged to the top
of the Baltic agenda, it was also the year in which the first steps were taken
to secure it.
In February, the Baltic governments agreed in principle to build a new nuclear
reactor on the Ignalina site - a project hailed by local analysts as a critical
step towards energy independence.
In summer, Lithuania and Sweden agreed to study the feasibility of constructing
a power cable linking their countries. In December, Poland and Lithuania signed
a landmark deal providing for the construction of an energy link between their
Also in December, Estonia and Finland inaugurated an electric cable linking
their countries - the first bridge from the Baltic "island" to Europe.
The project was funded by all three Baltic power generators, in collaboration
with two Finnish firms.
Diplomats have also begun to look for energy. This year, the Baltics have pushed
for closer ties with states such as Kazakstan and Azerbaijan - seen as potential
alternative sources of supply.
But despite all this activity, the Baltics still face serious energy questions.
At the earliest, a new nuclear plant could only come online around 2013 - four
years after the Ignalina closure.
Any new gas and oil pipelines from Central Asia to Central Europe would also be
the work of years to construct - to say nothing of the massive investment they
And with Russian gas a major source of Baltic heating and electrical generation,
Moscow's dominance of Baltic energy sources looks set to remain for years to
2006 was the year the Baltics awoke to the energy problem. It will not be
remembered as the year in which it was solved.
Finland-Baltics energy bridge open to commercial use
A ground-breaking power bridge between Finland and Estonia opened to commercial
use on January 4th, linking the Baltic states to European grids for the first
time. "The cable was opened at midnight, and everything is going very well.
So far, the link has been running at 80 per cent capacity from Estonia to
Finland," Iveri Marukashvili, spokesman for Estonian power company Eesti
Energia, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
"Power also started moving from Finland to Estonia this morning: the cable
can work in both directions at once," he added. It was not clear which of
the Baltic states had bought the power, he said.
The construction of the cable has been hailed in all three Baltic states as a
major breakthrough in energy security. Hitherto, the trio were only linked into
Russian and Belarusian energy grids. Relations have not been easy with either
state, leading many observers to warn of a threat of energy shut-offs should a
political crisis arise.
"The importance of the project lies, primarily, in the improved security of
electricity supply in the Baltic states. It provides an alternative electricity
purchase channel to cover potential deficits in generating capacity," a
press release from ABB, the firm which constructed the cable, stated. The double
cable, known as Estlink, runs 105 kilometres under the Gulf of Finland from
Espoo, in southern Finland, to Harku in northern Estonia. It was inaugurated on
December 4, but problems in testing led to delays in commercial exploitation.
The project was co-funded by the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian national power
firms and two Finnish power companies.
It is the first in a number of international links designed to break the Baltics'
energy isolation. Talks are under way concerning the construction of a subsea
cable linking Lithuania and Sweden, and a land-based "energy bridge"
from Lithuania to Poland.