|Two years after the Bronze Night|
2009 05 25
Two years have passed after the Bronze Night events in Estonia, when a group of young people in Tallinn provoked mass disorders. Everything started from the protest against relocation of the monument to soviet soldiers (the so called Bronze Soldier) and the remains buried under the monument from the centre of the city to the Military Cemetery. Part of the Russian speaking Estonian population disagreed with the decision of Tallinn‘s authorities and considered it as disrespect to the memory of the perished soviet soldiers. The movement Nochnoy Dozor (Night Watch) started protecting the Bronze Soldier and was supported by Moscow.
At the beginning of this year events of the Bronze Night were recalled after the acquittal of the four participants of the above protest campaign. The Prosecution Service required the probationary sentence, but the court found that the guilt of defendants was not sufficiently proved. Both sides appealed against the above decision. Defendants are satisfied with it, but require the statement on false accusations, whereas the Prosecution Service seeks to revoke the acquittal.
The Estonian court ruling has been discussed in Russia many times. Russia still considers the removal of the Bronze Soldier as a „personal offence“. On 5 January the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a two-sentence comment with all propaganda clichés used in the ideological attacks against Estonia. These sentences sound as follows: „The court ruling once again confirmed the justice of public indignation over the provocative idea of the Estonian authorities to insult the burial of Soviet soldiers and relocate the monument to the Liberator in Tallinn. The acquittal of the leaders of Night Watch is in fact an indictment of those who tried to insult the memory of the dead and rewrite history“.
Was the acquittal of defenders of the Bronze Soldier an expression of justice or a submission to Russia? To my mind, here we should speak only about justice: there is no information that the Principle of Independence of the Judiciary has been violated in Estonia. I am also convinced that defenders of the Bronze Soldier were not interested in provoking riots. Since the moment when youngsters started breaking shop windows and when the majority of „defenders“ forgot their aims and turned into marauders, the defense campaign lost justice, and the defenders’ image was spoiled (certainly, not in the eyes of the Russian propaganda).
Why did the riot happen? People defending their ideals could hardly turn fight into banal disorders. Therefore, the riot (irrespective of whether it was spontaneous or inspired by Moscow) demonstrated that the Bronze Soldier was only a pretext. According to the Russian journalist A.Orech, „the fight for the Bronze Soldier was not only the fight in memory of the perished, but also the fight against the Estonian authorities displeasing our power structures and the Russian speaking population in Estonia; the monument has simply become a symbol of this discontent“.
Presumably, the majority of „defenders“ of the Bronze Soldier did not care about the monument’s fate. Therefore its defense has easily turned into the acts of vandalism and looting in the centre of the city. Participants of Night Watch could be accused for inability to control „the revolted crowd“, whereas the riot has leveled the ones who went to the monument with high aims and the ones who expected disorders or were influenced by the herd instinct.
Concerning the above, Moscow’s position seems questionable. A „restrained cheeriness“ of the Kremlin about the disorders demonstrated that Moscow was not interested in the future of the Bronze Soldier. All efforts were directed towards condemnation of the Estonian authorities. The acquittal of the initiators of defense of the Bronze Soldier served ideological aims and was presented to the Russian society as a victory against „the fascist Estonia‘s regime“.
It is also obvious that acquittal of defenders disturbed Moscow. The Kremlin was sure that the verdict would be „political“, i.e. to the prejudice of defendants. If a similar process proceeded in Russia, most probably it would have resulted in actual custodial sentences.
Whereas nothing bad happened with the Bronze Soldier. The monument and the remains were respectfully removed to the Military Cemetery in Tallinn. An opening ceremony for the relocated Bronze Soldier was held on 8 May 2007 (the day of end of World War II in Europe). And everybody is allowed to bring flowers to the monument.
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