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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.