Post-Soviet Thermidor: do the Baltic States refuse a democracy?
Author: Sergey Rekeda
21.10.2013 // Photo: http://news6.ru/
When you are thinking about the modern development of the Baltic republics, renowned Thermidor comes to your mind as the reference point for the process of elimination of the French Revolution’s democratic achievements. Regarding present situation in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, one can see that they have already got over their Post-Soviet Thermidor. These three Baltic republics today are the template of yesterday’s Soviet Union: despite of the bright shining European integration which now characterizes their public administrational systems, basically, the system hasn’t changed (especially on the field of the influence on people). This is a conclusion you can make after looking at the announcement about the situation in Estonia made in August by the International Human Rights Movement “World Without Nazism”.
In the interview to the Estonian newspaper «Eesti Paevaleht» in June the former head of the Estonian security police Raivo Aeg spoke critically about the activity of the fund “World Without Nazism”. It’s interesting to take note of the statement of question – criticism was leveled at the international organization with the declared goal to fight against any signs of misanthropic ideology. Mr. Aeg characterized their methods as “rudimentary” and “belonged to Soviet ideology”. Indeed, who knows what “Soviet ideology” is better than Mr. Aeg? During the Soviet time he seemed to accept it with pleasure as he made himself a good career: he was attending courses of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kiev, later he became a shop superintendent of the production association “Talleks” in Paida, and then he was an instructor and head of department of Paida’s district committee of Komsomol. Later he used his “Soviet past” in new Estonia but in some other way. According to the statement of the fund “World Without Nazism”,
“the practice to persecute dissenters which was extremely popular while Mr. Aeg was a head of the Estonian security police provokes deep aversion”.
“Criminal cases based on false accusations, “informing” business-partners of the activists struggling for the civic rights about undesirability of having business relations with them, listening to the telephone calls, shadowing, pressing the leaders of the protest movement out of the country, attempts of public slander of anti-fascist by posting deceitful information in the Internet and, finally, closing Estonian frontiers for the anti-Nazi movement activists from the other European countries. The last measure itself contradicts such principals as freedom of speech and open frontiers within EU. Everything mentioned above is a tool kit of the Aeg’s Estonian security police for suppression of dissent in the Estonian republic” it was said in the statement of the fund.
As the fund manager B. Shpigel emphasized, “We think that statements of the former head of the Estonian security police and detractive information about our movement, published in the yearbooks of this organization for several years, are nothing more than undisguised pressure of the special services of the country upon civil society both in Estonia and beyond its bounds. The situation when special services consider that in public reports it’s possible to thrust on society their opinion about the position nongovernmental organization should take on different questions we consider as a recurrence of the Soviet past, a recurrence of the era of totalitarianism and tyranny of special services, which is not compatible with the principles of democracy and separation of powers, particularly with the status of the executive authorities and special services. We think that all together it surely is “a demonstration of the Soviet ideology”, not from the part of “World Without Nazism” but from the part of the authorities of the independent Estonian republic where you can still feel the predominance of the former leaders and activists of the USSR Communist Party who were fighting for the communist ideals for 25 years ago”.
Could we say all that only about Estonia, or Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all together demonstrate the “Baltic unity”? How could this possibly happen those three Baltic countries, despite their membership in EU and NATO and a number of other symbolic acts, de facto are still staying in Soviet Union?
The events of the 1980s-1990s in the Baltic republics, like in USSR in general, for the long time will be among the most contradictory pages in history. There will be discussions about the role of the particular politicians, about subjective and objective and about inevitability and alternatives. But neither proponents of the “Soviet occupation” nor those who keep in mind the memories about Soviet Union would ever refuse to admit the revolutionary character of the past. Leaving aside political intrigues and interests of the political elite, everyone would agree that ordinary Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians were waiting for the most elementary and yet the barest necessary thing from the revolution – changes. They were waiting for the wind of changes in the black-and-white world of Soviet reality, making the Baltic chain, holding hands and singing about such simple things as justice.
They wanted politicians to hear their citizens and listen to them, they were asking for the possibility to influence the course of the development of the country and for the hackneyed slogans to become true goals. They wanted equal protection of the law instead of unwritten nomenclature rules and free discussion of the ideological topics without having the only true dogma.
Undoubtedly they wanted the best. The past 25 years were a realistic period to get this “best”. They were trying really hard: they passed new laws independently from Moscow, proclaimed new ideals, turned to the West breaking any connections with the Soviet past. It would seem that it’s close at hand: you just need to strain a little bit, join the Shengen and introduce euro. As a result they expected to find the democratic paradise, desired since the end of 1980s.
Still, the past began to remind of itself; it didn’t set them free, holding “by the hand” those who were breaking off with it in public, staying on the same positions in reality. It looks like a farce of hated USSR that Lithuanian special services tap the most “interesting” telephone calls and it’s not actually against new democratic laws. The things, revealed because of that taps, speak for themselves. “Do you know what worries me the most? The fact that the country is being captured, we are going the authoritarian way of Lukashenko instead of the democratic way. The way when they call people one by one and make up intrigues”, - that’s not a dissident’s fantasy, but the citation of Irena Degutienė, one of the leaders of the most powerful Lithuanian Party TS-LKD, while she was a speaker of the Seimas. The assessment of Mrs. Degutienė is emotional, but still fearfully accurate. It’s worth mentioning that after these statements her public political career slowed down – she’s almost out of the media and she’s not holding any high posts now. In May 2012 in Estonia there was a big response to the words of prime-minister A. Ansip about the tapping of the telephone calls of the leading Estonian politicians. Later the security police and the General Prosecutor's office had to come out with the refutations. The thought of watching for the people by the Lithuanian special services was mentioned by E. Krivtsova, the leader of the Non-Citizens Congress, during her staying in Kaliningrad.
What about the fact that conservative party, pushed into opposition and having “a union” with the President, still stay more powerful than social-democratic majority in determination of the policy of the official Vilnius?
Could we call it the reflection of the democratic principles and fair responsiveness of public opinion? Should we estimate that as a common “non-democratic” practice of holding the power at any cost?
What conclusion we can make from the fact that one of the most popular parties in Lithuania is subjected to the attempts of closing the party by searching for any breaking of the law and by trying to turn its founder out of the country? What should we consider, knowing that in the media it’s very popular to make Orwell’s “2-minutes-of-hate” broadcasts about their closest neighbors, while in the Internet there are special communities looking for the traces of “red bear” in every single statement? “We are watching for the informational space and reacting then” the words of the Lithuanian Minister of Defense Juozas Olekas cause a sad smile. Why does the Department of Defense need to watch for somebody, react and block if the democratic society implies a discussion and opposing? What should we think when a person in fact became “untouchable” in Lithuania just because of his courage not to agree with the official point of view on history?
Lithuania isn’t an exception. The echo of the history grows stronger in Latvia as well, where they have their own most popular party with the stable increase of the electorate, but it isn’t allowed to power because of the “connection with the Kremlin”, “agreements with the Putin’s party” and other propagandistic fantasies.
Latvia also has its own victim of the free-thinking on the field of history – MEP Alfrēds Rubiks. He assumed that Stalin’s repressions hadn’t affected only the cream of society and soul of the generation, but also criminals, including fascist accomplices. It’s worth mentioning though that Latvian activists didn’t keep silence, they made a video statement repeating the exactly words of Rubiks and post it in the Internet. The police are now at a loss: on the one hand, they should call to account both Rubik and the activists, but, on the other hand, it’d be ridiculous.
The police are trying to frighten people, but they don’t feel scared. This is a new, though yet not so strong, tendency among the Baltic countries and we should watch it more closely. After all, this was a beginning of Soviet destruction: the authority was frightening people and they weren’t even scared, moreover, they dared to laugh at it.
Nowadays they laugh the same way at the Latvian government: several days before the meeting with B. Obama the government hacker D. Chalovski had extradited to the US, but EU acted fast – European Court of Human Rights slowed down the process of extradition and take this case for consideration.
Morbid reaction of the Latvian political elites to the attempts to preserve the independent view on history is clear and understandable: the State system of Baltic republics, fostering so hard, is held up by the official “occupation doctrine”. If you remove one stone, the whole building will fall down, basically, the system preserving the lawlessness of about 300 thousand “non-citizens” and the ethnic capsulation of the elite.
All that is a result of more than 20 years of creating new regimes in the Baltic countries, regimes that are now considered as “democratic” and demonstrated as a good example to the rest of the states of the Post-Soviet space. Step by step the reaction, pulled the Baltic republics back to the past they were so desperately struggling against, has taken the place of the revolution of good intentions.
One must remember and even be fond of the worst Soviet practice, probably in a special and weird way, to reproduce it in the new conditions with such a maniac possession, with a schizophrenic persistence suspecting everyone around him of lobbying the interests of Moscow.
It provokes bewilderment, irony and even indignation (like in case of the fund “World Without Nazism”), but most of all compassion. It’s a pity that the elite of the Baltic republics created the stagnant atmosphere of “Russian threat” and didn’t let the society of the countries to take a deep breath and feel the real changes. The only old stock they offer to people is so called “enemies are around us”. Could Popular Front of Latvia and Estonia, as well as Lithuanian Sąjūdis, possibly imagine that life would play such a trick on them?
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