Marju Broder Independent Researcher
Organizing Chair for International Conferences Buddhism & Australia, Perth Australia
This article introduces how Vello Vaartnou, a Buddhist leader from Estonia, came up with a proposal to create the first opposition party in the history of the Soviet Union, the Estonian National Independence Party, which acted as a catalyst for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and spoiled communists perestroika plan to keep their empire. The article includes an interview with Vello Vaartnou and some comments from historians, politicians and journalists.
In January 1988, the world was hit by the launch of the Estonian National Independence Party, the first political opposition party in the history of the Soviet Union, which aimed to restore a free and independent Estonia by working as an opposition party against Communist Party. The idea of the proposal came from the head of the Estonian Buddhist Brotherhood, Vello Vaartnou, who made this announcement at a press conference in Moscow. This news was broadcast all over the world, for example on 10.02.1988 Philip Taubman wrote in The NY Times about the proposal of 14 citizens to create the first political opposition party and mentions that this news has boosted Estonians’ national feelings and alarmed ruling authorities.
It has been 30 years when being forward-looking and ahead of time,Vello Vaartnou and handful of Buddhists opened the door to freedom and independence in Estonia, so there is enough distance to evaluate this event. It is time to investigate who is a Buddhist Vello Vaartnou, and why and how he came up with a proposal to create an ENIP that initiated the breakdown of the Soviet Union. Not much has been published about this event and Vaartnou has not commented this until today, so it will be the first time when he agreed to elaborate his ideas.
A. Soviet Estonia in the 80s
In 1944-1990, the only allowed “honor, common sense and conscience” in the Soviet Union was the Communist Party and in Estonia ruled its local branch, the Communist Party of Estonia.The power of this party was based on extensive militia and KGB apparatus, fully subordinated media, Plan Committee and, of course, the Soviet occupation army. Party and all life in Estonia was leaded by a 135-members of Central Committee. The dissidents in Estonia were mainly engaged in writing various petitions and letters to abroad but these actions did not reach up to actual politics. In August 1987, the Deer Park meeting was held which demanded the disclosure of the MRP Pact and asked permission to the erect a statue for the deportees. Obviously, the goals of dissidents were totally different from Vaartnou`s proposal to create a political party with the aim to take power from communists and achieve Estonia’s independence. The party is always created with the aim to take power.
B. A man is the sum of his actions
Vello Vaartnou`s actions describe him as a person with unusual capabilities and knowledge in many areas. His activities are usually characterized using such expressions as ‘the first one’, ‘the only one’, founder’, leader’ etc. When talking about the Estonian-born and now Swedish citizen Vello Vaartnou, one must keep in mind that the starting point for all his actions has always been based on the principles of Buddhism and that he has never let society or the ruling regime dictate his way. (Esimene osa täispikkuses EE 10.01. ja teine osa 17.01.2020 paber- ja PDF/digilehes. Artikkel järgneb.)