May 27, 2007

Behind Putin's Estonia Complex

The Moscow Times
Friday, May 25, 2007. Issue 3664. Page 8.

By Lynn Berry



Nothing seems to make President Vladimir Putin angrier these days than Estonia.

Once it was Chechnya that inspired blustery speeches and sent sparks flying at news conferences. Journalists who dared to question the war were met with bursts of hostility. One, a French reporter, was famously invited to Moscow to be circumcised.

Criticism of Kremlin policy in Chechnya still makes Putin steam, but Estonia is the new hot-button issue.

During a joint news conference with European Union leaders in Samara on Friday, Putin twice diverged from the question he was asked to return to the issue of Estonia. Both times he talked about the stabbing death of an ethnic Russian during rioting last month over Estonia's decision to move the Bronze Soldier war memorial out of central Tallinn.

Putin did not focus on the stabbing, which may well have been the work of other ethnic Russians. Instead, he complained that the protester had received no medical help and been allowed to bleed to death on the street. "This constitutes a willful crime, and we demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice," Putin said.

Two days earlier, he had criticized Russian human rights groups for not speaking out against Estonia. "I did not see any flurry of activity coming from rights groups when the remains of Soviet soldiers were being relocated in a neighboring country. Where are our human rights groups?" Putin asked.


Putin seems to have taken personally Estonia's decision to move the memorial to fallen Red Army soldiers. This may be because he sees it not only as an affront to his country but as an affront to the memory of his father. As Putin once told it, his father was betrayed by Estonians during the war.

Before he was first elected in 2000, Putin gave a series of interviews to three Russian journalists for a book called "First Person." In the first chapter, he talks about his father. During the war, he was in an NKVD sabotage battalion operating behind German lines and was sent as part of a group of 28 people to carry out an operation in Estonian territory. They succeeded in blowing up a supply train and were able to hide in the woods, but eventually they ran out of food and turned to the local population. Estonians brought them food but then gave them up to the Germans. Only four people in the group survived, including Putin's father, who hid in a bog, breathing through a reed, to escape detection by Nazi soldiers who were searching for them with dogs.

The story of his father continues with him joining the regular army in Leningrad. He was badly wounded, but saved by a fellow soldier and former neighbor who carried him across the frozen Neva River under enemy fire to a hospital. For Putin's father, the war was defined by moments of contemptible betrayal and unswerving loyalty.

Putin's feelings for Estonians were revealed two years ago at a news conference, again following a meeting with EU leaders. When an Estonian television correspondent asked him a question, he made fun of her by mocking her accent in Russian. Undeterred, she continued with another question, asking why it was so difficult for Russia to apologize for the occupation. If Russia were to apologize, she said, "We would be able to live together very easily."

Putin responded by launching into what in the end amounted to a convoluted defense of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the 1939 agreement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany that divided up Eastern Europe and gave Estonia to Stalin.

Putin first said the Congress of People's Deputies had dealt with the pact in 1989 by saying it did not reflect the view of the Soviet people and was legally invalid. "What else can be said that would be more specific and clear?" he asked the Estonian journalist. "Or do you want us to do this every year? What else do you think has to be said? We consider this question closed. That's it. We will not return to this again. We said it once and that's enough."

He went on to explain that there had been no occupation of Estonia because Germany had given the territory back to the Soviet Union in 1939. "This means that if in 1939 the Baltic countries had joined the Soviet Union, then in 1945 the Soviet Union could not have occupied them, because they were already part of the Soviet Union," he said and then added this colorful note: "I may not have studied very well at university, because I drank a lot of beer in my free time, but even so I still remember something. Something remained in my head. We had good teachers."

One thing his Soviet teachers most likely did not tell him was that before the Estonians had betrayed his father's NKVD-led group, the NKVD had begun arresting the Estonian leadership and anyone else who opposed Soviet rule. Prominent Estonians were being executed or sent to labor camps.

For Putin, history is still the history taught in the Soviet Union. It is the history of the country where he grew up and of the man who survived the war to become his father.


Lynn Berry is former editor of The Moscow Times.

10 comments:

Concerned said...

Lynn Berry you are full of s**t. Mr Putin never mocked the Estonian television correspondent’s accent in Russian; he did quite the contrary and complimented her on her knowledge of the Russian language. He actually stipulated because her Russian is so good she should read the document referring to the Soviet legislature in 1989. Mr Putin stated that the pact with Nazi Germany was a personal decision by Stalin that contradicted the interests of the Soviet people; Soviet Union's Congress of People's Deputies had condemned the annexation of the Baltic States, making a new Russian denunciation unnecessary. This is a disgusting article, not quite sure what Lynn Berry edited in Moscow, but her language skills are obviously not up to scratch, very disappointing!

Concerned said...

If you speak Russian please watch this you tube video and voice your opinion on the misrepresentation by Lynn Berry.
http://ru.youtube.com/watch?v=DFYfOfowEHk

Anonymous said...

I have seen this video many times since it came out.

Totally agree with the first comment above, he commented on her Russian so it can be inferred that she could document that he was referring to in his answer.

The rest of it is true too, the Estonian people were a small people and were passed around like trading cards. That was the way it was back then, right or wrong. From the 21st century point of view it seems very wrong, but that's history. Remember the land the Estonians now have was Russian land for nearly 300 years until the Bolshevik Revolution.

wholesale air jordan said...

Air Jordan shoes Air Jordan shoesjordan shoes
Air Jordan shoesjordans shoes
Cheap Jordans
wholesale jordan
Air Jordan shoes
wholesale air jordan
Nike Jordan Shoes
Nike Shoes Wholesale

Anonymous said...

He definitely did not insult her Russian; he said, "You speak such good Russian that you probably read as least as well" and then referred her to the 1989 invalidation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pack.

costa rica hotels said...

hi guys ... I was very pleased to read the information in this article ... was of great interest and would love to get a lot more information about
Behind Putin's Estonia Complex

Anonymous said...

Long live Estonia!!!

K said...

Anonymous is brainwashed too. :(

K said...

Sorry, Concerned is brainwashed, as well. Anonymous and Concerned, who clearly are brainwashed enough to miss the irony of his words.

Anonymous said...

[p]Earrings, rings, necklaces, and brooches are also [url=http://www.llinksoflondon.co.uk]wholesale links of london[/url] available to complement the signature Pandora bracelet jewelry . Beginning, is committed to [url=http://www.linksoflondonbraceleted.co.uk]links of london sale[/url] the creation of high quality sterling silver jewelry unique style . We can easily find that this jewelry set contain three different style beads篓C lovely beads, vintage beads and fashion beads, but all of them combined so well . Did you also know that sterling silver straight tube and curved tube beads are also available?


Do you know that sterling silver beads that are engraved and/or have other designs on them are also available? There are letter block beads used to spell out names and words out there . The worth of Thomas Sabo is about [url=http://www.linksoflondonringuk.co.uk]links of london bracelets[/url] $100 million . Pandora bracelets, rings, necklaces and earrings are a dream for many . These pieces are and can certainly animation everywhere you go . And some women have gone on [url=http://www.linksoflondonbraceleted.co.uk]links of london bracelet[/url] to create other Pandora bracelets jewelry to add to their collections.[/p][p]By sending them to family members, pals, or self, you are taking a step away in the cold difficult necessities of life and sending a reward that screams 隆掳luxury隆卤!
Irrespective of whether you隆炉ve a bold character, or you happen to be a lot more quiet and unassuming, tailor your selections for the requirements in the recipient, and forever get pleasure from the glimmer it brings to life!
When it truly is fair to say that fine jewelry is high expenses, Thomas sabo charms, gems not often fall in to the category of fine jewelry . A great way to discover what the popular trends are is to see what strangers, colleagues and friends are wearing . Pc training courses Christmas or Valentine隆炉s or any other wedding day that you want celebrate, a thomas sabo onlineshop reward could be just right for almost any event . what ever the importance of connecting with silver supplements may perhaps be the variables that, possibly, value, [url=http://www.linksoflondonringuk.co.uk]links of london ring uk
[/url] and intended to convey a lasting generations . Usually the Pandora bracelets could be systematically made from the most recent kinds of jewellery instruments and methods in order to enhance their elegance plus grace [url=http://www.llinksoflondon.co.uk]links of london charms[/url] for the focus on oriented customers . If you are looking to buy genuine Pandora bracelets or rings online, it is a good idea to know about all those things which will help you purchase the genuine thing . Mit klassischen, saisonalen und extravaganten Modellen bietet THOMAS SABO eine gro?e Auswahl an hochwertigen Schmuckst篓鹿cken.[/p]