Estonia and Ukraine: We are connected

 

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By Priit Karumaa, Estonia

Ukraine is going through tough times right now, facing a choice: either remain Russia’s sidekick or finally become an independent European country. As an Estonian, I would like to express my best wishes and support for you, my companions in fate. Estonia supports Ukraine and here’s why:

Of course, I cannot speak for everyone; I can only express my personal viewpoint. Nevertheless, it seems that every Estonian feels some sort of connection to Ukrainians. What’s happening in your country now is like a reflection of what we experienced back in 1989-1992, when Estonia fought alongside the other Baltic states for the restoration of our independence. Of course, back then we managed to avoid major casualties purely by luck, but the situation was generally very similar. Your barricades at Maidan and ours at Toompea, your Party of Regions and our Interfront, patriots standing against brainwashed factory workers and, finally, the Russian armed forces. It all sounds so familiar: we have been there, done that. That’s the reason we Estonians feel so sympathetic towards Ukraine. Better late than never, but there’s no hiding from it. We are asking both you and ourselves: why did it take you so long?

Photo: Tõnu Noorits, estonianworld.com

Soviet tanks enter Tallinn, Aug 20, 1991 – Tõnu Noorits, estonianworld.com

Companions in fate always do feel sympathetic towards each other. We both have been occupied, we both share the same Soviet past… and we both share an aggressive and unpredictable neighbor. But, also remembering where we came from, we both yearn to move towards Western values and to draw the right conclusions from our past.

Certainly, we understand each other better than, say, a representative of some Western country. We know very well what Russia has done before and what it’s capable of doing; we know what to expect. We know that building an independent country is very, very hard work. Thus, many of the questions or misunderstandings a German or French person might have – measuring Putin according to their own set of values and considering him to be a normal person – are rhetorical for us. We are also greater patriots in comparison with many people from Western countries, where they often don’t feel it necessary to know their country’s birthday by heart or to remember the words of their national anthem. For them it is not of primary importance, because they have not suffered under occupation by a totalitarian regime.

Baltic Protest, 1998 -  Pekka Elomaa/AP, thejournal.ie

Baltic Protest, 1989 – Pekka Elomaa/AP, thejournal.ie

Sure, there are exceptions, that’s the beauty of a democratic society: even the noblest and brightest ideas do not require one hundred percent support, like the “voting” tallies in Soviet times. Even here there is a small percentage of people who would welcome the restoration of the Soviet Union and the arrival of Russian tanks in Tallinn. It’s true, they are mostly not of the Estonian nationality and I’m glad their ideas and wishes don’t get much further than internet forums or some icy comments. As it is, these people need someone else to blame for their own problems and failings, plus a fairytale solution in the form of some good wizard rushing on his sky-blue tank to “save” them and present them with [bread and] a free circus. Well, of course, a lethal circus, but only to his enemies, right?

Finally, I would like to wish you lots of strength and courage in defending your country and people. If you’re willing to hear my opinion, you had better clean up all your official structures – it is better to promote young and willing officials with less experience than to continue on with the same bureaucrats in a sovok [Soviet] mindset. Increase community activism among your people and never, ever let the spirit of Maidan be lost. Teach your youth to become conscious and active citizens. And also, please, learn from the mistakes of others, instead of repeating them yourself. Good luck and godspeed!

Photo: @24todaynetua

Translated by Sven Salumets, edited by Elizabeth Martin

 

 

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