History for Russians by Russians
A View of the World in a Fairground Distorting Mirrorby Dave Essel
History is a funny thing. At war, one country’s victory is another’s defeat. In an age of mind-deadening political correctness, the question has been raised in France as to whether it is right for the London end of the Channel Tunnel line to terminate at Waterloo Station. There is still time for brain dead politically correct Austrians, Russians, and Brits to call for the renaming of Paris’ Gare d’Austerlitz. I was partially educated in French schools, in which I was frequently referred to as the ‘sale Anglais’; when I went to continue my schooling in England, I instantly became the ‘filthy Frog’. It’s all relative, it’s all in the past, and most of the time it’s fun and a good lesson in life. Behind relativity lie facts and one can strive to order them, understand them, and interpret and re-interpret them as our understanding and knowledge grows. If done with probity, this is a good and useful thing. Proper historians, and others such as serious journalists, can usefully revue and reassemble the known facts with a view to making historiographical and psychological sense of the past and this becomes a useful lead-in to the present.
These concepts are platitudes because they are universally accepted: an understanding of the past is a good thing because it makes it possible to comprehend the present and, one hopes, create a better future; nations who do not make a point of recording and studying their past are condemned to a vicious circle of repetitions of previous mistakes; nations that deliberately create lies about the past for propaganda purposes are always fascists of the right or left and will only make things worse for themselves in the long run.
One can therefore group countries by the general attitude within them towards their history and the wider world’s. Some continually try to gather more and more factual information in order to gain an ever better level of understanding, some are nonchalant, and some deliberately distort what little they know today in pursuit of momentary political aims and to hell with the future consequences. It comes as no surprise of course that Russia stands firmly in the third group. This is a country which has not come to historiographical terms with Tsarism, with its revolution of 1917, with its Civil War and the manufactured famines of collectivisation, with its archipelago of injustice, and with its long-delayed ‘bourgeois revolution’ following the collapse of the Soviet Union. With no serious examination of its history, it can only be expected – in fact it can be guaranteed – that the absence of such understanding will lead to Russia selecting its course more or less at random since it does not know at any one time where it is coming from. The consequences of such will be generally negative, bar a few lucky exceptions, due to lack of control. If to this mixture one adds deliberate lies about the past in response to party political aims of the day, one can safely predict that the consequences of actions based on them will practically without fail be severely negative as such actions will not have been grounded in historiographical or psychological reality.
The Soviet Union created just such a historical wonderland, managed to keep the fantasy bubble going for a short while (though it was costly to the three or four generations who paid to keep it going), and then it burst.
Now there is evidence that the new Russia is working on creating yet another bubble. Living in it is bound to hurt a lot of people and when it bursts…
A journal called Nashe Vremya
Your frogman in Russia’s printed sewage has come across in his explorations for LR a journal called Nashe Vremya, subtitled the No.1 analytical journal, the current issue of which seems to be dedicated to Estonia and general denigration of the Baltic republics. Googling it did not help much. It has been coming out for a year and has a slick website and and is hosted on fast servers. The only information about the journal available on the site is that is published by OOO Nashe Vremya Publishers, Moscow address and phone number, Editor-in-Chief Russian Gorevoi. VZGLYAD reprints articles from it and links to it. VZGLYAD is linked from Komsomolka. In an attempt to clarify whether it is a rich hate-sheet of no real import or something more significant, I phoned the editorial offices and asked where it was for sale. A pleasant Russian politely told me it was easily available in Moscow and other major Russian cities and, in reply to my question, told me the circulation is 50000. To understand the scale of this, the circulation of Russian Newsweek is 50000 as well. It would seem therefore that Nashe Vremya is more than just a hate-sheet and is a real actor in the drive to poison Russian minds.
Nashe Vremya’s inclinations are seriously fascist. This week’s issue headlines the following articles: Estonia Flings history on the Rubbish Dump, Holocaust: Whether You Went to Treblinka or Palestine Was Decided in the Ghetto; Anti-Terror: Did the English Secret Services Supply the Inaccurate Lead About Forthcoming Terrorist Actions? … This article below, however, is a real curiosity: it appears to be, if one assumes the sanity of the author, a Russian chauvinist White-Guardist piece.
Translator’s Note: When translating, I find it immeasurably harder to translate nonsense and speciousness than to translate serious texts. In the absence of logical flow, meaning, if any, has to be teased out of verbiage and this is sometimes not easy. I apologise if the translation below does not flow nicely. Translatability is a good test, in my view, of whether something has been well written. (For a positive example, most articles in The Economist can usually be read out loud in Russian with barely a pause for thought.) The article below is scatter-brained, laced with insinuendo (not my coinage but a nice word), and is great fun for deconstructors since it is in the language of an unconscious racist and fascist. For some the flavour of great-Russian chauvinism will be enough. For those who want decipher the author’s cherry-picking of historical facts, more realistic outlines can be found here and here. Even if you are a total moral relativist (not likely in the case of LR readers) and think that history is no more than a battle of presentations, the Estonians win hands down.
Delirium is Not A Virtue
The Baltic’s Historical Guilt Before Russia
Yelena Chudinova Nashe Vremya
We Russians are not vindictive. That is nice and not objectionable. By our lack of vindictiveness we show the world that we are at heart Christian, even if we have dived into atheism and pagan superstition. However, it is very important to see clearly the line dividing forgivingness and forgetfulness. Because the latter is not a virtue.
Small but proud Latvia has decided to present us with a bill for our “occupation’ amounting to a round sum of about 50 times in annual budget. This may sound funny but our historical recollection differs somewhat.
“It was the Bolsheviks who ceded the territory to us and gave us independence,” it was objected to me during a recent debate. “We are a small country and need to look out for ourselves.”
Our media have on numerous occasions raised the issue of the bestial crimes committed by the fascist veterans parading their 3rd Reich medals down streets where old men wearing the medals of the victors over fascism are beaten up and dragged into prison for so doing. Much has been said about double standards, about how the EC on the one hand publicly slapped Prince William for wearing a masquerade Nazi uniform with a swastika armband and at the same time is blind to far from playful Nazi demonstrations in which official figures have taken part. It is right to bring such things up. But it is sad that facts about events that took place just a couple of decades earlier – a mere moment ago in historical terms – do not get mentioned.
An Estonian journalist once asked Putin – why do you Russians not accept the blame for the occupation so that we can get over it and live in friendship thereafter? The president referred that personage, who had been speaking in perfect Russian, to documents dating back some fifteen years. Here, however, I will provide the answer in a different way.
Strange as this may sound to Estonians, they had (oh, the shock of it!) their own communists, although they were so feeble that without our North Western Army, the Estonians would not have been able in 1919 to defend the town of Revel from the Estonian Workers’ Commune. That was in January, however. While home-grown Estonian expropriators were rushing about wildly looking for things to expropriate, relations between the NWA, which was based in Estonia, and the Estonians were perfectly happy. Not fraternal, obviously, but happy enough. Estonia wanted not only military cooperation from the NWA but also a guarantee of independence. But how can a military command consider itself as having the authority to hand over land belonging to the crown? It’s our job to fight, drive out the Reds, and let the Estonians sort out their issues with the legitimate government. Had the NWA folk but known! But you were not Estonians, you were Russian officers, men of honour. You would not have it in you to deceive, even if you had known what lay ahead.
The Estonians bided their time for their stab in the back until autumn 1919, just before the nearly successful advance of the NWA into Petrograd. The retreat, historians emphasise, was by no means a catastrophe. The army just needed to rest, regroup, and at the same time relocate to safer parts some 40000 civilian refugees, in non-military terms their wives, children, sisters, elderly parents and others in fear of the Red Terror. The Army withdrew under heavy fighting, taking losses but weakening the Reds as well. Then suddenly the NWA found that access to its own supplies in the rear was being denied; it was being prevented from crossing the Narova River.
The 7th Red Army on Trotsky’s orders thrice attacked Narva and was thrice flung back from the city by the NWA. They had no idea that the Estonians, behind the backs of their defenders, were preparing a criminal compact with the Reds. This eternally shameful act of Estonia’s is called the 1920 Peace Treaty of Tartu between the RSFSR and Estonia in Soviet history books [TN – what the author cannot bring herself to mention are the key words of this treaty which says inter alia that Russian relinquishes “forever its rights of sovereignty over the Estonian people and country’]. The more blood the Russians shed for Narva, the better Estonia’s betrayal would work out. The plot began on 5 December and the Red’s last attempt to force the Narova took place on 17 December. After this, Chicherin sent an order from Moscow to the Soviet delegates to make territorial concessions to Estonia: a large chunk of territory around Pskov and along the Narova (with a population of 60000 ethnic Russians into the bargain) – the very territories that the freedom-loving Estonians tried to gyp [sic] the Russians out of in the 1990s and which are shown as Estonia on Estonian school maps.
The Reds stopped attacking but of course could not go anywhere. Where was there for the White defenders of Estonia to go? Across the Narova. On the far bank there was nothing for them: their belongings –1000 wagons of provisions, clothes, medicines, ammunition, personal effects – had all been expropriated by General Laidoner for the benefit of the newborn Estonian republic. Once over the Narova, the NWA was disarmed, any good greatcoats taken off their backs, and gold such as crosses ripped from around their necks. What could they do: resist? They had brought their own hostages in the form of wives and children with them.
“But the Bolsheviks ceded the territory to us and gave us our independence,” someone objected during a recent debate. “We’re a small nation and had to do what we could for ourselves.” Fine, my dear little friends, I said then and say again now. You have successfully assumed the morality of the prison-camps – “You die today and I’ll die tomorrow”. To put it in terms of a children’s story, since you were so small, you said to the big bad wolf “Don’t eat me, eat him”. But any terms set with a big bad wolf don’t last long. You helped feed the communist flame. That system then grew up. Twenty years later, it wanted to eat you up and that time you didn’t have any one to feed it instead of yourselves. So who should be apologising to you?! Those who occupied you?! You occupied yourselves twenty years before the occupation when you robbed us, your defenders, of our boots and wedding rings!
You occupied yourselves when you pedantically fulfilled all the articles of the criminal treaty with the Bolsheviks! The NWA was to be reduced to nothing – and that was done. Because, besides territory, you were also given something else – 15 million in gold. What for, can you say? For Russian blood. The disarmed and robbed NWA was denied right of movement about the republic, slaved at forced labour in slate quarries, or was driven into concentration camps such as the one at Paeskjul [TN: transliterated from the Russian]. It was forbidden to give employment to Russian officers. So they were unable to feed themselves in Estonia, nor were they allowed to leave. This was total annihilation, payment in exchange for Judas’ silver. The killing of a Russian officer was not always considered worthy even of a fine.
Of course, all this was done with a backward glance, a permanent backward glance at the current “elder brother”. Some small nations are always in desperate need of a strong back behind which they can indulge their baseness. More recently it was Hitler, then it was the Entente with Great Britain at its head.
Estonians, if you had not betrayed your alliances, you would of course not have been handed your independence on a plate. But 20 years later you would then also not have ridden the cattle wagons to Siberia. Some 50 years after that, you would have been able to gyp [sic, again] yourselves independence though some sort of civilised referendum. The main thing is that decent people only make agreements on any subject whatsoever with legitimate authorities. So you have no one to blame. But we should at long last blame you – for Petrograd, which would probably have been taken if Estonia had honoured its obligations to its allies; for the annihilation of the NWA; for the war taking a wrong turn; and finally, for Soviet power.
Some will object that Soviet power came about not just because of our defeat on the North-Western front. That’s true. And that means it is time to talk about Latvia.
[TN: we skip a similar long tirade about the horrid Latvians and move straight to the conclusion]
No better than peasants
It is natural and quite understable how Germanophobes of the first half of the 20th century – Estonian and Latvian – should rush to join the battalions of the SS. A slave always thinks his current master is horrid. Much more attractive is a master who may only possibly become so and who furthermore dangles some carrots and even offers an opportunity to get one’s own back against the former master. Whether they really believed that the Germans would let them have some sort of independence is immaterial but the idea of becoming overseers over Russians was just too tempting. Let Russian, Byelorussians, Jews and Gypsies be burnt by the tens of thousands in crematoria, let children be murdered, “let’s you die today, I won’t even die tomorrow.” I’m an Ostdeutsch, I’m semi-human!
Estonia and Latvia were practically never states, they were always under someone. These nations did not even have a nobility of their own [i.e a ruling élite – NV Editor’s note].
It might seem that there is not much sense in mentioning such a thing today when the nobility have been pushed out by a moneyed élite. However, nations which have not in their past had a nobility are a little like a person who has entered adulthood straight from childhood, bypassing adolescence. Some connections have been made wrong in his brain; he’s not completely au fait; he needs supervision, not to say care. For this reason it is pointless to try to argue with Estonians or Latvians, pointless to try to convince them of anything, pointless to call on their conscience. When I seem to address them, it’s purely rhetorical. The Estonian and the Latvian can be a decent an honest person, but he has no historical conscience. It just does not exist in him. He possesses an atrophied organ of historical shame.
The only language that our neighbour understands iss that of sanctions and harsh policies with no concessions. A proper understanding of our common past provides moral support to us in this. Most of the facts given in this article are easily available, having been published in periodicals, books, and the internet. But why is it that not a single one of these facts was mentioned by any government spokesman with regard to the revolting scandals about our May 9 celebrations?
The mind of yesterday’s genetic peasant views any concession as weakness. And, as in 1919, behind these uppity peasants stand states who do not wish us particularly well. A show of political will is not only a matter of historical remembrance but a matter of survival. And we do want to survive, don’t we?