Communism means never having to say you’re sorry

Time for a momentary diversion. Here’s an old (by Internet standards) essay by Mart Laar, a former Estonian Prime Minister. If you think the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania might someday get an apology from Russia or from former communists for all that the Baltic countries suffered at the hands of the USSR, don’t hold your breath:

The crimes of communism are not condemned. During most of its existence, the Soviet Union denied even the existence of the secret protocols of Molotov-Ribbentrop, not to mention the crimes against humanity that are directly attributable to this pact, such as the massacre of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn early in the war. And even when the existence of secret protocols was recognized, first the Soviet Union and then Russia refused to undo the results of the pact. For instance, only after enormous international pressure was exerted on Russia did Moscow withdraw all its troops from the Baltic states on Aug. 31, 1994. This day is now marked as the end of World War II for these countries, with celebrations each year.

To this day, Russia maintains that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were never occupied by the Soviet Union. This month, Russia refused to apologize for standing by, just outside the city, as the Nazis crushed the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, because Moscow hoped the Nazis were, in effect, smoothing the way for a communist takeover of Poland in 1944. Worse yet: Russia refuses to say three simple words to the victims of communism: We are sorry!
Those words can help heal many wounds and remove existing mistrust. But an apology isn’t as important even for the victims of communism as it is for Russia itself. When a nation cannot face up to its history, it will live like a human being suffering from a permanent neurosis. Nations that cannot make peace with their past cannot build a future. It looks increasingly as if this is one of the reasons why democracy is not thriving in Russia and why this great country hasn’t developed as hoped after the fall of the Soviet Union. We all must encourage and support Russia to follow this difficult path.

No matter how cozy Putin and Bush get, I will always cast a jaundiced eye eastward past the Urals.

Let the Russians whine

London’s Independent reports that Estonia has dismissed a Russian schoolteacher who refused to learn the language of his new country:

Estonia intensified its controversial campaign to dilute the influence of Russia, its former colonial master, yesterday by firing a prominent Russian-speaking teacher for his failure to master Estonian.

Ah, the other lefty newsrag in London weeps for the little guy, picked on by the big bad meanies in that warmongering right-wing xanadu, Estonia. *sniffle*

In a move that Russian rights activists fear may be a sign of things to come, …

(may it be so!)

… Mikhail Mikhalchenko was sacked from his job as head teacher in a prestigious Russian-speaking high school in the town of Narva which borders Russia.
He had been visited by Estonian language inspectors who have the right to test any worker’s linguistic skills and to fire them if they are found wanting.
Under Estonian law, every worker must speak Estonian and sit an exam to obtain a certificate confirming their skills. The legislation is designed to encourage the large number of ethnic Russians, who made the country their home during the post-war Soviet occupation period, to return to Russia or integrate completely.
Estonian nationalists say the legislation is reasonable, but Russian rights activists claim the language laws amount to discrimination and a breach of human rights.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Mr Mikhalchenko, who had been in his position at the school for 16 years, spoke little Estonian – like the other half a million ethnic Russians living in the Baltic state.

“What? Me, adapt?” You haven’t been in the USSR for 13 of those 16 years, perse auk. The arrogance of former communists knows no bounds.

The Russian news agency Itar-Tass said this was the first time that a Russian-speaking teacher had been sacked for having poor skills in the Estonian language, and poured scorn on the move.

Bravo, Estonia. Protect your culture, because nobody else will.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry is also likely to wade in. Ethnic Russians make up almost a third of tiny Estonia’s population of 1.5 million, and the agency said that Narva was an overwhelmingly Russian-speaking town.
“The population of Estonia’s third largest town [Narva] is 96 per cent Russian,” it said. “It’s extremely rare to hear Estonian spoken there.”

Excuse me while I check my surprise-o-meter. *tap* *tap* Hmmm, nothing.
96 percent Russian, huh? Imagine that. I wonder if that might have something to do with the fact that the Red Army rolled over Estonia in WWII, flattened Narva and other cities, slaughtered thousands of their citizens, sent thousands of surviving residents to the Gulag Archipelago, and moved in a horde of Russians to erase all traces of Estonian language and culture?
Both sides of my family hightailed it out of Estonia and Latvia as WWII started to wind down, because they knew the communists were even worse than the Nazis. My maternal grandmother walked to Germany, fortunately found herself on our side of the Iron Curtain, met my grandfather in a refugee camp, married, and eventually reached America. She was an English teacher and he was a Latvian Army NCO. Had they stayed put, she would have been sent somewhere rather chilly and somewhat east of her home (think “Kamchatka”). He would have been led to a deserted place and shot in the back of the head (think “Katyn Forest”).
My father and his parents boogied out of Estonia by sea, taking one of the last ships fleeing Tallinn for Germany. My paternal grandfather was from a middle-class merchant family (the dreaded “bourgeoisie”), so his prospects of survival were bleak if he’d chosen to stay. Let’s not forget that the “poor downtrodden Russians” living in places like Narva were moved into real estate vacated by whole families of Estonians who didn’t get out in time and got one-way tickets to Siberia. Guilt by association, doncha know. The proletarian revolutionary omelette required a few broken eggs.

The agency complained that the language inspectors did not take into account the fact that Mr Mikhalchenko taught in Russian rather than Estonian, nor of his abilities to manage the school.

Pardon my utter lack of sympathy, but you barbarians had about 50 years to work your special magic on the Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians … and boy did that go swimmingly. Your time’s past. When in Estonia, do as the Estonians do. You can always go back to mother Russia, you sniveling ingrate. Äbarik.
When the wussy Russians win the wife-carrying competition, maybe we’ll talk.
Hat tip: NRO’s Andrew Sullivan