On April 27, the Estonian government removed a monument honoring the 270,000 Red Army soldiers who gave their lives in the fight against Nazism in Estonia from a central square in Tallinn, the country’s capital, and moved it to a cemetery two miles away.
The removal provoked wide outrage. Thousands of people, denouncing it as a desecration of the memory of all who fought Hitler fascism, massed in the square in an attempt to stop the action.
Riot police beat protesters mercilessly and sprayed the crowds with teargas. One young man was killed after being brutally beaten and tied with handcuffs to a post. Sixty were seriously injured and 300 were arrested.
In the second night of clashes, another 600 people were arrested and 96 were injured as the police fired rubber bullets and used water cannons. At press time, it was unclear whether those arrested were still in police custody.
The move by the Estonian authorities to remove the anti-fascist monument and to dig up the bones of 12 Soviet soldiers buried underneath it represents a continuation of a reactionary government policy, backed by the European Union, that has led to Estonia’s banning of the Communist Party, all socialist symbols and communist ideology in any form, and that has stripped one-third of its population — Estonia’s Russian-speaking minority, numbering more than 300,000 in a country of 1.3 million — of its civil and political rights.
Under these conditions, it was a great act of courage and conviction for those who marched against this desecration of peoples’ history to do so.
Russia and Belarus reacted immediately. The Russian Parliament passed a consensus vote to cut all diplomatic ties with Estonia, condemning the “barbaric acts of the Estonian authorities that insult all those who fought against fascism.” The Communist Party of the Russian Federation also condemned the action, but cautioned that President Vladimir Putin’s government was unlikely to follow through on any punitive actions because “the elite of Russia shares common business and class interests with that of Estonia’s elite.”
Belarus, which lost one-third of its population in the battle against Hitler fascism, demanded that the EU force Estonia to maintain “democratic standards.”
Tensions in Estonia remained high as the European Council meeting in Brussels, May 9, declared its full support for the government’s actions. These events reflect an overall trend that began in full force with the so-called Anti-Communist Resolution adopted by the council in 2006.
Since then, reactionary forces throughout Europe have built up a virulent anticommunist smear campaign intending to discredit and defame socialism and the achievements of socialist states. Such an effort strongly supports the resurrection of fascist trends in the Baltic region and in other European countries.
In Poland, anticommunist laws are on the table that would force 700,000 Poles to publicly “confess” their past connection with the Communist Party. Those who are declared “guilty” will be banned from work in the public sector for the next 10 years. Poland’s Parliament is also readying legislation to destroy monuments that “celebrate communist dictatorship and Soviet occupation.”
These and more anticommunist, anti-democratic measures are being met with resistance by some of the left and progressive forces in Europe. The Communist Parties of Europe issued a joint declaration, signed by 34 parties, which underscores their certainty that “despite the attacks, no political force, no government, nor NATO or EU can stop the spread of communist ideas in the working class and the youth. Today, more than ever, the correctness of these ideas is made clear and that they are the only way forward for the fulfillment of peoples’ demands and hopes.”
Laura Petricola (laurajopetricola @yahoo.com) writes from Athens, Greece.