Religious historian: In wartime, NATO won't come help us save our culture

Peeter Espak on
Peeter Espak on "Kultuuristuudio: Arutelu." March 2022. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

In an appearance on ETV's "Kultuuristuudio: Arutelu," religious historian Peeter Espak said that civil defense, which has largely been neglected in light of NATO's Article 5, needs to be strengthened considerably.

When the United States went together with its allies to liberate Iraq in 2003, it wasn't the case that some country or another had intentionally bombed cultural objects, Espak said.

"Russia's current behavior is significantly more barbaric than seen in previous operations by any other countries," he added.

"The problem in Iraq was moreso the fact that the U.S. military hadn't thought to place the Iraq Museum or several other culturally and historically significant excavation sites under guard," Espak continued, adding that if Russia were to launch a war of annihilation against Estonia, then it was of course perfectly natural that no one would start risking human lives over an Early Classical manor stable, for example.

"Every one of our troops will rescue their comrade-in-arms and shoot toward wherever the enemy is at the moment without giving a second thought to any sort of antiques — that much is inevitable — but the greatest damage in Iraq was caused moreso by civilian and local pillaging," he said.

"Local pillagers, white trash in our terms, took advantage of the situation," he explained. "Some of those things were retrieved too, such as a 5,000-year-old vase from the city of Uruk that was found in the backyard of some random farmer." When the man understood that stealing is bad, he then smashed the vase and buried it in his yard, he added.

Espak believes that civil defense needs to be significantly more developed in Estonia.

"It has fallen very much by the wayside, one reason for which is that our officials are relying exclusively on NATO's Article 5 to save us from war," he said. "But they've seldom considered that we ourselves are NATO; each branch of our defense forces is NATO; we are NATO citizens. NATO will not come help us save our culture or antiques. This needs to be more thoroughly considered very quickly."

According to the historian, satellite photos indicate that if Russia were to attack Estonia, it wouldn't be capable of conducting an ambush.

"Thus, in those few days or weeks, [Estonia's] most significant cultural assets should be evacuated and protected from the greatest damage," Espak said, stressing that if Tallinn's medieval Old Town were to be destroyed by bombs, then it could be rebuilt.

"Take Münster's old town, for example, which was completely leveled by Allied bombs," he said, referring to the German city bombed in October 1944. "The most significant works of art had been hidden, and the city was rebuilt."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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