How Russophiles Think (if that is the word).
By Dave Essel
In LR, we get to read plenty of what the small proportion of well-informed and thoughtful Russian intelligenty think and are sometimes able to say in the remnants of the free media in Russia. Sadly, this is to be found mostly on the internet, safely unavailable to the vast majority of Russia’s population.
Yesterday, it occurred to me that that it would be useful for non-Russian-speakers to see the sort of bilge that is fed to normal non-English-speaking Russians. To that end, today I took a look at Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of Russia’s mass circulation papers with the vague idea of analysing a day’s issue. It turned out that this would be trying to bite off more than I can chew and furthermore would require me to wallow in Soviet-style mindlessness for longer than would be fun.
However, since the general atmosphere in that paper was the same on whatever issue I read, a single example, selected more or less at random (and also because it caught my interest) can perfectly well serve as a general illustration of how the government press (there can really be no other description for it) presents matters to the Russian public, most of whom have no other source of information.
My example is the issue of the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn. My sources are the BBC, the official website of the Estonian Government, and the odious, as you will see below, Komsomolka.
In the centre of Tallinn there is a monument to the Soviet liberators. That last word alone is a prime example of Commie double-speak. I don’t think there is much to choose between a Nazi yoke and a Soviet one, although stuck between a rock and hard place, I would go for Soviet. Add rightful independence to the selection and it’s no contest, of course. Even with membership of the EUSSR thrown in.
Let us accept that, to put it mildly, this monument is contentious, bound to offend the natives but also, it would appear, pleasing to Russians in Estonia and even more so to great-power chauvinist Russians in Russia itself.
The monument itself is in the usual Soviet style, that is to say that its artistic value is not high. However, it also a war grave, having been erected over some human remains, possibly actually of Soviet soldiers, possibly killed during the ejection of the National Socialists and their replacement by Soviet Socialists.
Civilised people do not spit on graves. In France, German war dead from two world wars rest in cemeteries neighbouring on cemeteries for the fallen French and British. After death has intervened, respect is shown.
Quietude is a part of such respect. The Bronze Soldier in Tallinn rather contravenes this last point, since the monument stands in the centre of Tallinn and seems to rather spit in the faces of the locals, in an act of post-mortem political spite and in contradiction of the respect and quietude due to the dead.
It seems to me, therefore, entirely reasonable, to say that the relocation of such a monument and the remains beneath it to a more suitable place would be a generally good thing.
The Estonian Government says this on its website:
Estonia has a moral and international duty to safeguard war graves and accompanying monuments and to keep them sacrosanct and dignified places. To this end, the Protection of War Graves Act was adopted on 10 January of this year. The war graves committee was formed on the basis of the Act. Its function is to make proposals to the Minister of Defence with regard to protection of burial sites for war dead and possible reburials of remains.
The Minister of Defence formed the war graves committee at the beginning of this year, approved its rules of procedure, and appointed a chairman. The seven-member committee consists of the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Culture, an individual appointed by the Estonian War Graves League and two individuals appointed by the Minister of Defence.
On 27 February 2007, the Minister of Defence asked the war graves committee for an evaluation of the suitability of the location of the Tõnismägi war grave. In evaluating the suitability of the location, the Minister of Defence asked the war graves committee to take into consideration the disturbances that have occurred at the site as well as the political tensions and whether these could be considered consistent with the principle of allowing the dead to rest in peace.
On 9 March of this year, the war graves committee recommended to the Minister of Defence that the remains be reburied, noting that the dead cannot rest in peace in the current location. To ensure that they may finally do so, the committee proposed that the remains near the Bronze Soldier be relocated to Tallinn’s Siselinna Cemetery. The committee found this cemetery to be a worthy location for allowing the dead to rest in peace, honouring the principle of dignified treatment of war graves.
I could not agree more. Everything properly stated, explained. This is how grown-ups speak.
And this is how to train a nation to think stupidly, how to inflame passions where it is indecent to do so, how to be maundering and sickly-sentimental, self-loving to the point of egomania, how to abuse the war dead.
The Bronze Soldier in Tallinn Is No More
The Estonian authorities today demolished the monument.
On Thursday at 4:30 a.m., the Estonian authorities attacked the Bronze Soldier Monument in Tallinn. Evidently, the former instructor of the Tartu City Committee of the [Communist] Party and now prime-minister of Estonia Andrus Ansip, who has been heading the shameful campaign against the monument, paid attention in class when he was little and remembered that wars are started in the morning.
Practically every other word of this opening paragraph is tendentious and vile. Goebbels could have done with lessons from this ‘journalist” in the abuse of emotive words and attacks ad hominem.
During the night, three activists from “Night Watch”, an organisation for the protection of the Bronze Soldier monument, had stood guard. Launched against them was a whole army of Estonian policemen (by some accounts, fifteen hundred in number!), recalled from leave and bused into Tallinn from all over Estonia. The car in which the “night watchers” – Larisa Neschadimova and two helpers, Andrei and Valeri – were sheltering was surrounded by special forces: its windows were broken, its tyres punctured, and they were dragged out and handed over to the police, who detained all three for 48 hours. Larisa Neschadimova’s are was hurt; this event is on record at the first aid centre.
A great piece of one-sided reporting.
Following on behind the police, the workers set to. The flowers and candles which over the last days had burnt continuously at the memorial were dumped into rubbish bags, the square was cordoned off with a metal fence and work began on erecting a metal carcass. By evening, the monument was covered by a large tent to prevent people from seeing precisely what was going on inside.
Wordiness is always the downfall of Soviet journalists. I love the flowers which had been burning continuously over the last days and hope the workmen remembered to extinguish them before dumping them in the rubbish bags. And what a great insinuation of unspeakable abuse of human remains within the fence and tent! This is a work site and human remains are to be exhumed, examined, and moved. Perhaps the dead are treated differently in Russia?
So the public will never learn whose remains the archaeologists find. According to Estonia’s minister of Justice, Reina Langa, the mass grave contains stones and rubbish while Prime Minister Andrus Ansip came up the other day with a story of drunken Soviet tank men who got run over by their own tank…
I’ll need sources, please, O writer of inflammatory bilge! Meanwhile, I find the dignified statement to be found on the Estonian government website more believable: “The preparation work for the execution of identification procedures of the war graves at the Tõnismägi green area is beginning today, in the morning of 26th April. Archaeological excavations and identification procedures have been scheduled subsequently in order to positively identify the persons possibly buried at the site and their exact numbers.”. Note, Komsomolka, that if the Estonians, actually are lying and your improbable version is the truth, they’ve beaten you and outclassed you 100% on the propaganda front.
The police brought in from all over Estonia will not let anyone anywhere near the monument. As soon as the text messages sent by the “night watchers’ from their mobiles started being received, people from all parts of the town rushed to see how the Soldier, who over the last year had become a symbol of remembrance, honour, and dignity, was disappearing behind the ironwork. Edgar Savisaar, Tallinn’s mayor, attempted to reason with the authorities, reminding them that 57% of Tallinn’s citizens were against moving the monument!
Source of poll, please. And explain why the Beeb says: “Most Estonians view the Red Army as enforcers of Soviet oppression, correspondents say.”
Furthermore, the Protection of War Graves Act, on the basis of which the Ministry of Defence is undertaking the dismantling, has been appealed against in the city court, which has not yet reached a decision. Thus yesterday’s outrage has no legal foundation!
Unfortunately it does so have. The move is being done under a legally passed Act which “sets forth the procedures for forming the War Graves Committee, which is in charge of evaluating the suitability of war grave sites, necessary identification procedures, reburial, the placing or removal of grave markers, and other such issues.” This is mere prevarication.
“I will never forgive you this barbaric behaviour. Don’t expect me to support you!” is the cry Estonians are hearing for local Russians who feel they have been insulted.
Evidently, yesterday’s bacchanalia on Tõnismägi Green will have consequences for the Estonian Republic, both economic and foreign political. And international too, because last night night Estonia with its own hands created an internal enemy for itself.
Meanwhile, the official spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called yesterday actions of the Estonian authorities “inhuman” and emphasised that “all this we be borne in mind in the structuring of our relations with Estonia.”
And like all bullies, there’s no better finale than a round of posturing and threats.
One can hardly call this journalism. In fact, the article is probably in breach of Putin’s new law against political extremism, not that this “newspaper” is in any danger of having it used against it. It’s not for Komsomolka that the law was designed.
So stand up, Galina Sapozhnikova, proud correspondent of Komsomolskaya Pravda. I don’t suppose you have it in yourself to blush for the trash you write and for helping to make your country what it is, instead of the great place it could be.