Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Estonian Lesson about Historical Symbols

Riots in Tallin. Who has not heard about them by now? One must be deaf and blind to have missed the hype.

Lots of talking about different views on history, (un)successful integration, Russian pressure, European attitude etc. It's all fine. Political analysts have something to chew on, and journalists have something to fill the editorial columns with.

But for me there is only one question. What the heck was the point with moving the damn monument? Some Estonian scholars (and I want to stress this - all of them were Estonians!) warned about the consequences. Does not seem that Estonian politicians have listened though. Symbols are powerful tools for power politics. Logical and rational thinking can easily be put aside when the heat of hurt feelings kicks in, especially when it comes to such violent outbursts like riots.

Why stir people's feelings then? The monuments from the Soviet time in Baltics that could and should have been removed have already met their destiny of destruction in the beginning of 90-ies. I still remember how a huge statue of Lenin was removed from the central square at my hometown. What I don't remember is any protests, what to speak of riots. Just a huge crowd of people watching how the statue is being uprooted by a powerful crane and brutally thrown down to the ground. Clapping hands and smiling faces. Singing some patriotic songs. In other words - sort of reclaim the city party! I have no idea what happened to te monument. But it was certainly never reinstalled in any other place, as it was done with the Bronze Soldier in Tallin.

Well, there are still some ugly monuments reminding of the Soviet era for many people in Latvia. As well as Estonia and Lithuania I guess. I would say - let these monuments stay where they are. As reminders of the past. History cannot be erased, it can be only interpreted in different ways. Good scientific arguments about the history would at this point, more than 15 years after regaining independence, be much better than messing around with historical symbols.

Hopefully Estonian lesson will not be forgotten.

No comments: