Books on Estonia
Update No: 317 - (30/05/07)
History, famously said Henry Ford, is bunk. Well in Estonia it
is an ever-present reality.
A running spat with Russia is having big consequences on the economy, as the
first cyberwar in history between states unfolds and Estonian-Russian trade is
being disrupted. The mood in Russia is very belligerent at what is seen as a
desecration of Soviet war graves no less.
The Balts against the Bear
The Estonians are the most Western people of the FSU, along with the Latvians.
The Baltic republic became independent in 1991 and is a member of both Nato and
the EU. Protestant very early on, Nordic, indeed almost Scandinavian
geographically, sober and hard-working, maritime and with a great civic pride,
they could not be more different from the Russians, perceived as Eastern, prone
to drink, slovenly and crime-infested denizens of the vast Russian hinterland.
They disdain them as gross inferiors and interlopers.
The greatest indignity was to have to endure Soviet occupation in 1940. The
Tsarist occupation was civilised by comparison. Russia denies the Soviet years
amounted to an "occupation" of Estonia. This is hogwash. Estonia was
occupied by the Nazis in World War II and then ruled by Moscow for five decades.
Thousands were deported to Siberia under Stalin. The constant reminder that it
was under occupation is the one quarter of their population that are Russian -
and the emblems of the same.
It is hardly surprising that they have long wanted the removal of the latter,
the constant proof of their past subjection.
The exhumation and the removal of a statue to Soviet soldiers who fought against
Nazis in 1941-1945 triggered violent protests largely among the Russian-speaking
population and acts of vandalism in the Estonian capital at the end of April.
One person died and 153 were injured in the unrest, and more than 1,000 were
Estonia has closed its consulate in Moscow after pro-Kremlin youth groups
attacked diplomats in protest at the relocation of the Soviet war memorial.
Estonia's foreign ministry said there was an attempt to physically assault their
ambassador at a news conference. It said the incident amounted to a violation of
Estonians of Russian origin rioted after the controversial statue of a Soviet
soldier was moved away from the centre of Tallinn. Estonians say the soldier
symbolised Soviet occupation; Russians describe it as a tribute to those who
fought the Nazis.
Russia and Estonia in continued spat
Russia has protested about plans by Estonia to criminalise displays of
Soviet symbols. A Russian foreign ministry spokesman said it was
"blasphemous" to equate the hammer and sickle with Nazi emblems.
The Estonian government in an assertion of independence has put a bill before
parliament calling for fines or jail terms of up to three years for those who
display such symbols. War veterans in the large Russian minority in Estonia
often wave red Soviet flags when marking Soviet-era anniversaries.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said that "recently the
Estonian side has been obstinately taking provocative steps aimed at seriously
aggravating our relations". He added: "The Estonian authorities are
continuing their blasphemous attempts to rewrite the history, bracketing Nazi
crimes with the feat of the Soviet people, who made a decisive contribution to
the liberation of Europe from fascism."
Estonia is the predatory victim
Estonia is not responsible for the lack of constructive dialogue with Russia
over the removal of the Bronze Soldier monument from the centre of Tallinn, the
Estonian ambassador to Russia said on April 2nd.
Speaking at a press centre of the popular Russian newspaper Argymenty i Fakty in
downtown Moscow, Marina Kaljurand said that: "A constructive dialogue had
not taken place as Russia's [State Duma] delegation had made statements before
their visit to Estonia which could be considered as interference in Estonian
She also said that the delegation members, who returned to Moscow on May 2nd,
"declined to take part in events planned for them by Estonia," and
"the Estonian Foreign Ministry called such behaviour as shameful."
The start of the press conference was disrupted as several young men charged
into the newspaper's building, spraying mace (tear gas) while chanting
"Down with fascism!" But Anastasiya Suslova, a spokeswoman for
Russia's pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi (Ours), said later that the mace was
sprayed by the Estonian Ambassador's guards.
About 150 activists of Nashi continued a picket of the Estonian embassy in
Moscow. Some 20 members of Nashi blocked a highway near the state border with
Estonia in the Leningrad Region stopping five Estonian trucks. "We have
blocked five Estonian trucks on a highway from the city of Ivangorod, but we are
letting other cars pass by," a spokeswoman said adding that the police
later dispersed the picket and detained 11 activists.
Kaljurand said that picketers and protesters were possibly acting with the
permission of Russian authorities, and Estonia had information that numerous
hackers were conducting attacks on web sources of the Estonian authorities from
Russia. The Estonian ambassador also said that Russia had refused to send
observers to the exhumation and identification procedure of the 12 soldiers
buried near the monument. "We proposed sending an observer to monitor the
excavation process, but Russia refused," she said adding that
"Estonia's readiness for dialogue is again rejected by Russia."
The European Commission called on Russian authorities to fulfil their
obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. An EC
spokeswoman said the commission was concerned about growing tensions around the
The protesters announced earlier that their rally would last indefinitely or
until Estonia apologizes for what it has done to the monument in Tallinn. It in
fact seems to be petering out.
Russia has repeatedly drawn the European Union's attention to attempts by
Estonia, which declared its independence from the Soviet Union in the early
1990s and joined NATO and the EU in 2004, to glorify Nazi Germany, including by
allowing parades by former Nazi SS fighters.
The first interstate cyberwar in history
Estonia says Russia is behind hack attacks which all but closed government
and business sites across the country.
Its government compares the events to an act of war, says The Wall Street
Journal, but, "The Kremlin has denied any Russian government
involvement," says the story.
The "cyber-offensive" has been, "linked to a furious diplomatic
row between Russia and Estonia" and is believed to be, "the first time
that a single state has come under concerted attack by hackers," according
to The Telegraph, which continues:
The presidential administration's website was inaccessible for six days late
last month while those of most cabinet ministries suffered reduced connection
speeds after they too were targeted.
While there has been greater preoccupation in Tallinn with more tangible
assaults on Estonian interests, including attacks by pro-Kremlin youths on its
Moscow embassy and the disruption of fuel supplies, officials said the
cyber-attacks set a worrying precedent.
The attack started on April 27 after Estonia took down a Soviet statue in
Tallinn. It had commemorated Red Army soldiers killed in World War II, says the
WSJ, going on, "The incident inflamed relations between the two countries.
In Moscow, pro-Kremlin youth groups blockaded the Estonian embassy and harassed
the Estonian ambassador. Estonia, with a population of 1.3 million, was formerly
a part of the old Soviet Union."
Estonians say the statue reminds them of 50 years of Soviet occupation.
A Nato spokesman said the organisation was giving Estonia technical help, says
"In the 21st century it's not just about tanks and artillery," it has
Nato spokesman James Appathurai saying. "We have sent one of our experts at
the request of the Estonian authorities to help them in their defence."
Some of the earliest attacks were linked by Estonia to Russian government
computers, "including one in President Vladimir Putin's office," says
The Telegraph, but it points out there's been no hard evidence to connect the
campaign to the Kremlin.
"This is because the hackers used robots to infiltrate hundreds of
thousands of computers around the world without their owners' knowledge,"
it states. "The infected machines would then have flooded Estonian websites
with bogus information in what is known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
attack. It is believed that hackers have infected up to a quarter of the world's
computers, making tracing the true culprits almost impossible."
Said The Times Online soon after the cyber attacks began in April, Russia
threatened to punish Estonia for the "blasphemous and inhuman" removal
of a, "monument to the Red Army."
"The Estonian Government moved the bronze statue of a Soviet soldier in the
dead of night after the Baltic state's worst violence since independence more
than 15 years ago," says the story, adding, "One man died and 57 were
hurt, including 12 police, during six hours of clashes on Thursday night that
left the streets littered with glass."
Most Estonian ministry sites are now online again, but some banking and media
companies say they're still having problems, say reports.
Russia to cut Estonia fuel transit amid statue row
Deliveries of Russian oil products to Estonia may be disrupted, Russia's state
railway operator said on May 2nd against the backdrop of a furious political row
with the Baltic state over a World War Two monument.
Russian state railways said planned maintenance on the railway link could lead
to disruption in the delivery of oil products. Russia has in the past been
accused of using its energy resources as a political weapon against its
neighbours. "We haven't imposed any economic sanctions against Estonia and
have no plans to do so. But from May 1, we plan repair works. We therefore plan
to change the delivery schedule," said a spokeswoman for Russian state
Russia supplies fuel oil, diesel and gasoline by rail to Estonia. Most of it is
then re-exported to markets in northern Europe from Estonia's Baltic Sea port.
The European Commission voiced concern and said the EU, of which Estonia is a
member, would raise the matter with Russia. "A dispassionate dialogue is
recommended in the highly emotional situation with regard to the Soviet war
graves in Estonia," the EU presidency said in a statement.
Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip discussed the protests in Moscow by
telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose nation holds the rotating
presidency of the EU. "This is a well-coordinated and flagrant intervention
with the internal affairs of Estonia," Ansip told parliament. "We have
turned to the European Union and we ask them to take immediate action. Attacking
one member state means an attack against the entire European Union," he
RZD Halts Exports of Oil Products To Estonia
Russian oil firms rushed on May 2nd to reroute one-quarter of their refined
products exports away from ports in Estonia after Russian Railways, or RZD,
halted the route amid the political dispute with Tallinn. The political crisis
between Russia and Estonia is fast threatening economic relations between the
two countries, with Russian calls for sanctions growing louder.
Oil traders said the state railway monopoly was not accepting volumes slated for
May shipment and they were looking now at Russian Baltic Sea ports and Ukraine's
Black Sea outlets as alternative destinations. Russian coal exporters also said
May exports of steam coal via Estonia had been effectively halted due to a
shortage of rail wagons after RZD told them they must use their own rail wagons,
not RZD's, but it had not been possible to find alternative wagons. Up to
900,000 tons of May exports could be lost as a result, they said.
"It was bound to happen given the recent political dispute. And there is
nothing new in the Russian reaction. Just look at the examples of the
neighbouring Latvia and Lithuania," said a trader with a Russian oil major.
Oil pipeline monopoly, Transneft, blamed lack of pipeline capacity when it
stopped oil flows to Latvia's Ventspils in 2003. Last year, Transneft cut
supplies to Lithuania, citing a pipeline leak but the move coincided with the
sale of the Mazeikiu oil refinery to a Polish firm and not to a Kremlin-backed
Estonian-Russian trade and entrepot trade
Russia ships one-quarter of its refined product exports -- or about 25
million tons of fuel oil, gas oil and gasoline -- via Estonia's ports of Tallinn
and Muuga for re-export to world markets.
RZD denied the move had any political motivation. "We haven't imposed any
economic sanctions against Estonia and have no plans to do so. But from May 1,
we plan repair works. We therefore plan to change the delivery schedule," a
The export of oil products through Estonia is controlled by Severstaltrans and
Gunvor, a Swiss company said to be linked to Gennady Timchenko, co-owner of Bank
Rossiya, Kommersant said on May 2nd.
The head of the National Meat Association, Sergei Yushin, on May 2nd reiterated
calls for a boycott of Estonian meat imports, and said such a boycott would help
Russian meat producers gain a bigger share of the domestic market. Supermarket
chains, including Sedmoi Kontinent and Kopeika, have stopped selling Estonian
Bilateral trade between Russia and Estonia was $2.75 billion from January to
November 2006, Kommersant reported, citing Federal Customs Service figures.
As far away as Kamchatka, stores have announced a boycott of Estonian goods,
hanging notices that read: "Estonian goods are not sold here,"
Some experts said, however, that imposing economic sanctions against a small
country such as Estonia was an exercise in futility. Dmitry Yanin, head of the
Moscow-based International Confederation of Consumer Federations, said that
Estonia could switch to other trading partners. "Whether you're talking
about Cuba or Georgia, sanctions have never been effective in limiting economic
growth," Yanin said.