In all that is going on around Ukraine, there is one thing that bothers me the most. It is the conviction of Estonian politicians, opinion leaders, experts, media (and therefore, the majority of Estonians) that there can only be one correct opinion on Ukraine.
Following Estonian online media and social media in the past few weeks, I get the feeling that the entire Estonia has rallied to one opinion front: Yanukovych is a scoundrel, Putin always lies and Savisaar is the main enemy of Estonian statehood. Those who doubt it, are traitors of the Estonian state.
I do not believe that any conflict can be black and white - the truth is always somewhere in between.
When it comes to the discussions on Ukraine in Estonian public space, I do not like generalizations, opinions without argumentation, keeping silent about uncomfortable facts, condemning opponents and a lack of alternative opinions. You see, all this reminds me of the situation in the so-called democracy of Russia (which we criticize and ridicule so often in Estonia), the freshest example of which is the prompt firing of the editor-in-chief of Russia’s largest online publication lenta.ru for publishing content judged unsuitable by the Kremlin. I do not like it when an Estonian media expert says that there is no journalism left in Russia, that it is all one hundred percent propaganda. As if there were no more channels like Eho Moskvy, RTV and Dožd, newsru.com, the very same lenta.ru, and other publications.
I do not like it when someone of Ukrainian descent living in Estonia - even if he or she is a brilliant specialist in his or her field - becomes an expert on Ukrainian domestic and Russian foreign politics in the eyes of the media. Perhaps I’m underestimating myself, but coming from St. Petersburg and having spent most of my life there, I still would not dare to speak in public as an expert on Russia.
It seems bizarre and fake to me to play with blue and yellow symbols in the social media to demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine. I have a feeling that before the Ukrainian crisis, the local Ukrainians were “local Russians” to Estonians. Nobody could tell the difference - they all speak Russian, after all. Now the attitude has changed all of a sudden, but is it sincere? Regarding Edgar Savisaar and his opinion (which always tends to be the wrong opinion in the eyes of the public), then I do not think anyone has, using facts, refuted the claims the head of the Center Party has made about the status of government of Ukraine. Savisaar’s “statement” is condemned by esteemed opinion leaders and politicians in their blogs and the anonymous in petitions only because it matches the official opinion of the Kremlin.
First of all, Savisaar did not make a statement. A journalist asked him, Savisaar replied. Who’s to prove that this was not his real opinion, which anyone is entitled to in a democratic state without being beaten up? And secondly, where is all the evidence that would refute what Savisaar said?
Do we really believe that Ukraine is a democratic country with no corruption, a good place to live in for the common citizen, with no oligarchs in the power structures, where the state has not been taken to the verge of bankruptcy, etc. Did all this and the mentality that went along with it just vanish as if by magic and Ukraine’s new government can be trusted?
While Savisaar bluntly said that he does not think it can be trusted, it turns out that Foreign Minister Urmas Paet also though so, but did not say it in public.
The moment the phone call between Paet and Catherine Ashton was leaked online, I was looking forward to a scandal: what will happen now, Estonia’s official position on the situation of Ukraine did not match the reality and our high-ranking officials were aware of the reality. But no! Paet is not Savisaar. You must not condemn him. Therefore, the incident sparked a discussion over who and how listened in on the phone call and how careful officials must be in the future when they are relaying sensitive information.
With all the hysteria over Ukraine in Estonian public sphere, I liked the balanced and well-argued comments by retired generals Ants Laaneots and Urmas Roosmäe about the roles of both Ukraine as well as Russia in this conflict, but I got the feeling that unfortunately, there was not much demand for them in online media.
It is a pity, because our society and media could follow the example of our soldiers in reacting to critical situations, by analysing them and making statements.