Ivan Makarov: How to deal with Victory Day
Today Victory Day is celebrated in Russia, which a lot of Russian-speaking Estonians observe as well. How can we deal with this? Exactly the same way we have all these years - with Estonian equanimity.
First of all we need to differ between a memorial day important to real soldiers and their children, and a belief built up by the propaganda machine of another country that follows two axioms, namely, “We’re always right because we conquered fascism and saved the world,” and, “If you doubt this absolute truth of ours or don’t believe in our unique right arising from it, then you’re the successor of the dark forces we annihilated.”
And that’s how easy it is.
Every year there are fewer of those left to whom Russia owes gratitude for the great victory. A lot of those left live in destitution. Today is their quiet day of remembrance, as it isn’t possible to remember millions of victims with drum rolls and war cries that grow louder every year. Russia’s political upper class has hijacked their day to cement their corporate interest and their power, waving to their subjects from on high.
But we can deal with the celebration of this day calmly. Its observation by a lot of Estonians doesn’t mean endorsing the evil that brought Estonia war and violation by the war machine of a superpower. Let our fellow townspeople lay down their flowers in peace.
Campaigns by the likes of Linter* aren’t worth a strong reaction as long as Estonian laws aren’t broken. It’s the task of agitators to provoke an angry reaction and to repeat and amplify it until people fight and insult each other.
These people have no spiritual or historical connection to the meaning of May 9 whatsoever - just like the courts decided they had nothing to do with the looting in Tallinn, which doesn’t mean that the people in Estonia don’t understand the matter.
The objective is the same as it was in April 2007 - to provoke fights, defame Estonia, and defame the people living in the country, no matter their nationality, who are peaceful and long fed up with this nonsense.
My father was seriously wounded in Velikiye Luki fighting in an Estonian unit; my wife is from an Estonian family whose members have horrible memories of members of the Red Army visiting. Nevertheless, they are very good friends and respect each other’s feelings and convictions.
But today is a sad day of remembrance, and we should treat it just that way. It was a good thing for the most terrible war in the history of mankind to be over.
*Dmitri Linter is a Russian civil servant and a political activist. He was involved in the non-governmental organization Nochnoy Dozor, and seen as the main instigator of the 2007 Bronze Soldier riots.
Ivan Makarov is an editor with ERR’s Russian-speaking Raadio 4.