Monday, June 29, 2009

Estonian War of Independence Memorial is NOT a “Nazi” monument

This article is a reaction to some Russian media who claimed the recently opened memorial to the Estonian War of Independence is a tribute to Nazism.

I finally profited from the weekend to walk to the newly inaugurated monument to the “Freedom War” (Vabadussõda, 1918-1920) which now proudly stands and dominates renovated Freedom Square (Vabaduse Valjäk) to celebrate the independence of Estonia.

Do not get confused. If the monument literally presents itself as a homage to Vabadussõda (Estonian War of Independence), and thus celebrating the first independence of Estonia (1918-1940), the monument is dedicated to Independence (second in 1991) and Liberty.

The monument is a white transparent glass column on top of which stands the Freedom Cross. The monument is illuminated during the night. Part of the earthen wall of the Ingermanland Bastion has been removed in order to construct the monument and the section of the fortification wall contained in the bastion has been restored and put on display as part of the memorial. Additional archaeological studies began on the site in the middle of March.

Public discussions regarding the reconstruction of the memorial have lasted for years and several competitions for detailed plans have been held. Yet these debates are not comparable in duration or fervor to the arguments over the way the memorial commemorating endeavors for freedom should look and where it should be located, neither the harsh critics regarding the price and the look of the monument.

Some, particularly the eastern neighbor, have been more severe and showed their ignorance of History by judging the memorial as a tribute to Nazism.
This is maybe due to the fact that anything reminding them of the independence of Estonia makes them sick. Another explanation can be found in different visions of history and volunteer ignorance of the truth! Once again, they have missed another opportunity to shut up...

Indeed, a recent article explains how Estonia slammed Russia over the “Nazi” claims.

Russian media claims that a new monument in the Baltic state's capital was an homage to soldiers who fought on Nazi Germany's side in the Second World War.

The cross on top of the monument is inspired by the cross-shaped medal for Estonians who fought in the 1918-1920 war of independence as the Russian empire collapsed at the end of the First World War and has absolutely nothing to do with the Nazi swastika.

Russian media also have highlighted its subsequent adoption as the insignia of Estonian units that fought on the German side against the Soviets, and have claimed the monument "glorifies" the Nazis.

The medal that inspired the cross on top of the memorial is the Cross of Liberty, Estonian most distinguished award, created in … 1919, long before the Nazi era. The designer of the Cross of Liberty was the famous Estonian artist Nikolai Triik (1884–1940).

I would add that the adoption of that cross by Estonians fighers on the German side was probably for them the symbol of their past freedom, the belonging to their Nation (also a way to recognize your teammates in the crowd?).
Also, is it useful to remind people that most of these Estonian soldiers who fought on the German side were forced to fight and many Estonians escaped to Finland to fight in the Finnish Army rather than join the Germans.

The Soviets took over Estonia under a 1939 pact with the Nazis, and deported more than 10,000 Estonians to Siberia. The Red Army used the same methods as the Nazis when they needed Estonian blood to serve its armies.

Estonians did not really have the choice. They served on both sides, some battling the German occupation and others joining the Nazis to try to stave off the Soviets' return in 1944 which brought renewed repression.

Since independence in 1991, some in Estonia have argued that for the Baltic state, the Second World War was simply a choice between two evils. Communism or Nazism, did they really have the choice? Can they be blamed for that? No, they have already paid a huge tribute with many lives and deserve the right to celebrate their Freedom.

Russia, however, dubs any attempt to put the two wartime powers on an equal footing as "falsification" of history and an affront to the memory of Soviet troops who died to defeat the Nazis.

It is also important to note that anti-communist Russians also fought for the Nazis and adopted old insignia that Moscow has revived since the demise of the Soviet Union.
"We might as well ask whether the Russian white, blue and red flag or the St. Andrew's flag . . . used by such units fighting on the Nazi side became Nazi symbols as a result," says defense ministry spokesman Martin Jashko, as a provocation to show the absurdity of the Russian claims.

Wartime history is extra-sensitive in Estonia because ethnic Russians — mostly with Soviet settler roots — make up around a quarter of the population.
Relations hit a post-independence low in 2007 when Tallinn was rocked by clashes between security forces and ethnic Russians over the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the city centre. Estonia accused Russia of piloting the trouble, something Moscow denied.

The motif lifted from the centre of the most legendary and honourable Estonian marking of bravery, the Freedom Cross, became widely known during the First Republic (1918–1940) in every corner of our fatherland, as the men and women who had carried arms for national independence — but, most of all, for their homes and relatives — were in high regard among the people. It was therefore deeply symbolic for the Estonians fighting in the German Army in the 2nd World War to adopt the sign of the sword-wielding hand protecting Estonia as their insignia. In honour of all those who have participated in the armed fight for our homeland, this symbol has long been of pivotal significance in the iconography of Loits.

2 comments - React:

Joao Paulo said...

way to go estonia. wasting gazillions of people's money (mine and yours included) for insisting in living in the past. and with an extra bonus for destroying one of the best views of tallinn with that horrendous "monument". way to go...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Joao Paulo. This was another wasted opportunity to for once be forward-looking instead of digging down in the past once again, re-emphasising victimization as the national identity. And what an eye-sore; it looks like it was made from piece of Viru keskus which happened to fall off. Sad.