The Tragedy of the Estonian Mass Deportations has been Compounded by a Massive Miscarriage of Justice – part VI
The Bad Dream Accelerates
In 1984, a fuss erupted in America about a film called “Red Dawn”. Left-leaning critics panned the movie, which is about an invasion and partial takeover of the United States by the Soviets and their allies, calling it anticommunist hysteria. In one of the first scenes of the film, paratroopers land on the grounds of a school while a teacher is talking to pupils in a classroom. When he goes to check on what’s going on, he’s cut down by a burst of rifle fire. While the movie isn’t as bad as B-grade, it doesn’t aspire to artistic greatness either. Even if the film doesn’t rank up there with masterpieces, that doesn’t mean that events of this kind didn’t actually take place in countries like Poland, Tibet and Estonia. Only people who aren’t familiar with the cases of Estonia and Tibet, among other similar ones would say that the basic premise of Red Dawn is wrong, or that such things never happened in recent times.
In the USSR, during the infamous show trials and the Great Terror of the thirties, the wolves devoured one another as well the innocent people who got in the way. Collateral damage, as Stalin would say. “Chips fly”. When Stalin broke down Estonia’s fences, it was inevitable that the residents of the Happy Country portrayed by Washburne wouldn’t be spared the blood and dirt of his totalitarianism.
“Spheres of Influence” – Phase One of the Coming Soviet Occupation
In 1939, the Estonian government gave in to overwhelming Soviet pressure, after Hitler and Stalin had already secretly divided Europe into “spheres of influence”. There were three phases involved in wolfing and wearing Estonia down. The first and least traumatic phrase — as though ultimatums and having foreign troops forced on you weren’t traumatic enough — was the nine-month so-called “period of the bases,” when the Estonian leadership still thought or hoped that they had reason to trust the assurances of their Russian counterparts, and during which Estonia remained a sovereign nation, at least nominally. The Red Army basically stayed in the bases it had been ceded, at least as far as domestic developments were concerned, and the Soviets initially engaged in “only” relatively moderate amounts of mischief in Estonian affairs. But for teenagers like my parents were back then — “products” of Estonian independence, as they used to say — to witness even this was unsettling, to put it mildly, along with the truly depressing knowledge that Stalin used the air bases provided to him in Estonia to bomb the cities of our neighbors in Finland.
Russian interference in Estonian internal affairs continued to be jacked up. The overall situation got incrementally worse over the months to come, as Moscow fomented a new coup d’etat in Estonia, for the second time in some 15 years. In bad faith, the USSR now put the Soviet troops that had been garrisoned in neutral Estonia to interventionary use, meddling in Estonia’s internal affairs.
To gloss over the actual annexation of Estonia in 1940 is a sin, but I hope to revisit this next phase in the future, possibly in a book. Put briefly, Estonia was soon to be incorporated by force into the USSR, against the will of the people. Now the arrests and the disappearances begin to multiply. After the annexation on August 6, they transpire on the territory of what had been a sovereign European country, incorporated into the Soviet Union through the mechanisms of rigged elections and other subterfuge.
Phase Two of the Soviet Occupation – Annexation and Incorporation
In the beginning, Soviet troops had “merely” spilled over the border into Estonia. Now the bases no longer contained them, and they then came provocatively out onto the streets, interfering in Estonia’s political life, aided by the advance team that had worked out of the Soviet Embassy in Tallinn to bring the annexation to fruition.
Stalin wasted no time in deploying additional henchmen to Estonia, who were assisted by a small number of local collaborators. These collaborators — the so called “June communists” (useful idiots, really) would later be cast aside, once they were no longer useful to Stalin, and disposed of by the alpha wolves in Soviet Russia.
The terror that ordinary Russians had known for the past two decades under the Bolsheviks was now bluntly exported to lands that had previously been European parliamentary democracies — the unsuspecting Baltic States. The new regime now decorated the victim nations with all of the gaudy propagandistic trappings of Moscow’s Red Square and hundreds of other Russian cities.
People were forced to participate in parades festooned with giant portraits of Stalin and the other leaders of the USSR. My mother managed to avoid being impressed into the ranks of the young people who donned the red kerchief of the of the Young Pioneers and also the Stalin cult of the Komsomol youth organization that had already engulfed neighboring Russia years before, but she did have to sit in class as independence-era teachers were forced to mouth the robust and hackneyed doctrine of the new regime, while surreptitiously trying at the same time by various means to stand by their charges and keep hope alive.
If one of the driving forces behind the Great Terror that had gripped the USSR (which, until this rupture into the Free World, had previously been an internal tragedy of Soviet Russia) was Stalin’s paranoia, coupled to his desire to maintain a tight grip on power, then in Soviet-occupied Estonia, the primary objective of the terror was to bring Estonian citizens to heel attitudinally, initially by eliminating their leaders and patriotically minded people. The idea was to paralyze the population into ceasing to resist. After World War II, additional terror and repressive methods would be applied in order to destroy the Estonian guerrilla movement and to force landowners into joining Soviet collective farms, but that is another story.
First they took Poland. After unsuccessfully trying to take Finland, they took the Baltic States. As Istvan Deak writes in his review in The New Republic of “Bloodlands” by Timothy Snyder, “…both the Nazis and the Soviets aimed at the fatal weakening of the Polish nation through the elimination of its military and administrative elite, its clergy, its intelligentsia, and its bourgeoisie. For the purpose of ridding the country of all elements potentially inimical to German and Russian supremacy, it mattered little whether a Polish-speaking merchant in Lwów (Lviv) was deported for being a bourgeois or for being a Jew, or whether a Polish peasant in the Białystok region was shot for being a kulak or for being a subhuman Slav.”
In Poland, the Soviets and the Nazis ganged up that country at the same time, in cahoots. The difference in the case of the Baltic States is that Soviet terror came first, which was followed by Hitler’s occupation and his crimes against humanity, and then the Soviet crimes against humanity were visited upon us a second time in 1944, under the guise of “liberation”. False liberation, to be precise.
To be continued