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Laupäev, 11 August 2012 12:41
Laas Leiavt - Estonian Life No. 32 2012
While the Estonian government has yet to officially request compensation from Russia for the Soviet occupation and repressions, it did release a report in 2005 that contained an estimation of the financial damages of Soviet oppression.
It was Mikhail Mityukov, head of the Kremlin's Commission for Rehabilitating Victims of Political Reprisals who cited those estimates to be 3 billion euros for environmental damages and 182 euros per repressed citizen who met the required legal definition (victim of political reprisal). Mityukov gave a comparison with Estonia's neighbours: Lithuania's equivalent figure would be 14.5 billion euros while Latvia's would be 145.5 billion euros.
Dr. Vello Salo's "White Book" compiled by a commission he headed and presented to the Estonian parliament in 2004 was immediately dismissed by Russia with the statement that " such attempts have absolutely no prospect of success". The 12-year-old Estonian State Commission on Investigating the Policy of Repression indicated that Estonia lost 180,000 people (or 17% of its population) during the German and Soviet occupations. Since it was unrealistic for cash-starved Russia to pay any sum of money, Salo suggested a solution whereby Russia would give Estonia part of the Novisibirsk region in Siberia from which Estonia could harvest lumber. The Kremlin's subsequent outrage betrayed their total lack of humour. It's also obvious to the most inexperienced student of the geo-political realities of the Baltic region that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have no international political, economic or military leverage to force Russia to pay, or even to apologize.
The standard Kremlin reaction to any proposal for indemnities clearly indicates that not only the reparations proposed are wildly unrealistic, but also that the western view of WWII history is totally out of synch with Moscow's "true version". Russian authorities adamantly insist that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania enthusiastically requested the Soviet Union to annex their countries, thereby negating the notion of 'occupation' and any possibility of compensation. Any forthcoming apology from Moscow is also out of the question in spite of the fact that Moscow's grab of the Baltics was illegitimate – this acknowledged by all of the West and most of the rest. The annexations were not supported by any aspects of international law nor the domestic law or constitutions of the states held captive. Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians despise totalitarianism of any hue and probably hold a special abhorrence of the Soviet type because of the length of its rule and because Moscow continues to offensively lie about its Soviet-era outrages. (In stark contrast Germany has candidly discussed its Nazi-era crimes, has apologized and reconciled with the Baltic states.)
Moscow sees the periodic study of Soviet damages as the Baltic states' attempts at political diversion during economic hard times. Russia's Transnational Institute states: "The crisis of European integration is due less to the Baltics' 40-year-occupation (Is this a nod to the fact of occupation? The length of time involved is out by 10 years as universally agreed.- Ed.) by the Soviets than to the flaws in the EU's own politics. But few European leaders are willing to admit this. And that is why they seek an escape from the crisis by clinging to myths of the past and by needlessly fomenting cultural and ethnic antagonisms."
It is a grievous insult to the Baltic states to have the Kremlin present a bill of expenses incurred in 'developing ', industrializing the Baltic countries. The people of the three states neither wanted nor needed the 'development' that the USSR ostensibly provided. In addition it was evident that Moscow-initiated 'development ' was in fact a meagre cover to Russify at least Latvia and Estonia by the huge migration of non-indigenous workers to fill vacant industrial jobs. This didn't serve the interests of the Baltic states but rather those of the Kremlin.
As an offensive by-product of Soviet industrialization, the physical blight on the landscape reinforced the abhorrence of communism. The created infrastructure was consistently of poor quality, ugly and ecologically damaging. Much of it has collapsed or decayed. Some has been renovated or demolished. Most that remains does not attest to the any socialistic progress as touted by the Soviets.
Over the past two decades numerous studies have dealt with the issue of Russian compensation. Each has focussed on certain aspects of the basis for indemnification for the 'victim' – legal justification, damage to environment, human losses, squandered opportunities for normal development under a repressive system, confiscation of personal wealth, etc.
The Russian side of the discourse about blame, complicity and accountability lacks any sophistication and is riddled with dishonesty. Nobody actually anticipates Russia to be big-hearted and pay even the tiniest, symbolic bit of compensation. In fact no set amount of reparations would sufficiently cover the human loses and damage to the countries' infrastructure for which the Soviet occupation was responsible. But a well-researched and documented inventory of losses is need, not only for the historical record but to substantiate the truth.
The Baltic states cannot muster enough international political leverage to make material compensation an obtainable objective. But an admission of guilt and trials of the guilty could be part of a cleansing process. Crimes of communism have been condemned at many international forums and by individual states. So far this condemnation has had no practical effect like lessening inter-country tesnions or eliciting words of regret.