Friday, 11 June 2021 19:00
Estonian Life No. 23 2021
Canadians, with Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian roots, remember the unpunished war crimes against their peoples and nations. In this age of cyber and hybrid warfare, in which Canada and its allies are a target, the perpetrators of horrendous atrocities and their neo-Soviet successors are rewriting the historical narrative, denying and falsifying the truth. Evidence hidden in archives is being closed to research. Historians and researchers are now threatened with severe criminal punishment for delving into the past. The truth must be told.
Beset by three invasions, the Baltic peoples endured unimaginable suffering. Neither Nazi Germany nor Soviet Russia had any benevolent plans for the region following the Hitler-Stalin alliance of 1939. Colonization and genocide were the order of the day. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact defined the alliance between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, essentially dividing up Europe into their own spheres of influence and allowing the conquest of their neighbours. The result of this heinous pact led to World War Two.
Today we mark 80 years of tragic memories for families who had to endure three brutal occupations of their native lands. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, fighting off centuries of foreign invaders, established their independent states in 1918. Their struggle was for freedom, democracy and survival. Their story is not stuck in the past as a faint footnote, but a reminder that ethnic cleansing and mass murder must never again be repeated. Nevertheless, criminal aggression continues in so many parts of the world. We are witnessing repeated crimes against humanity in Syria, Crimea and continuing threats of attack against the Baltics.
The first Russian invasion of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania took place in 1940. The year that followed was marked by a reign of terror, torture, murder of intelligentsia, community leaders and military. This ethnic cleansing and Russification culminated in the first mass deportation on the night of June 13-14, 1941. Tens of thousands of Baltic families were suddenly rounded up, forced into cattle cars, and transported to the furthest reaches of Siberia. There was no mercy for women, children, the elderly, the infirm or even infants. Many died along the way from starvation, illness and mistreatment. Others would be executed at their final destinations.
This horrifically crude attempt at genocide would continue into the 1950s with further arrests and deportations, especially March 25-28, 1949 when another 90,000 were taken and sent off to slave labour and concentration camps.
Hardly a Baltic family was left untouched by the loss of loved ones, friends and neighbours. We Remember!