Thursday, May 12, 2005

Say you're sorry for the occupation

At a press conference devoted to the V-Day celebrations in Moscow a young Estionian journalist asked Putin, “Why is it so hard for you to say ‘Excuse us for the occupation of the Baltic republics’? Just a few words and after that relations between our countries will become friendly and warm.” Really, why not? Putin refused to do it. He has some sound reasons for that.
Accepting that the Baltic republics were occupied equals the recognition that Russian and Ukrainian speaking residents of these countries – ‘resident aliens’ to be exact – are colonists brought by the occupant. Thus according to the Geneva Convention they become something like illegal emigrants or like Jewish settlers at the West Bank meant to be deported back home – back to the USSR.
It also means that Russia is de facto a sole assignee of the Soviet Union. Thus it should solely be responsible for all sins of the Evil Empire. According to the Constitution of the USSR the country was a union of equal republics and the status of the Russian Federation within the Soviet Union was nothing different from Ukraine, Georgia or Latvia. Of course, it was unofficially accepted that Russia is special – the first among equals. The opening line of the Soviet anthem goes, “The unbreakable union of free republics was brought together by the great Russia”, but national anthem is not a legal document in international relations. All former Soviet republics (minus three Baltic republics, of course) should be held responsible for the occupation. The Soviet Army included soldiers and officers from Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, etc. Argument like, “Russia is responsible for the Baltic occupation because it represented the biggest chunk of the Soviet Union” is ludicrous. Russia started the Civil War in 1918 and forced all other republics into the Soviet Union? But then Siberia, the Urals, Krasnodar, Stavropol, the Russian Far East are also territories “occupied” by the Red Army. Thus, St. Petersburg – the cradle of the communist revolt – is responsible for all Soviet atrocities. Is it ok if the mayor of St. Petersburg apologizes for the occupation?
It's also worth mentioning that only in the 40s Stalin decided that there are such people as Russians or Georgians in the USSR. Before there was only one people – the Soviet people - and dividing it in ethnic group was a very dangerous thing to do. The words like, “I’m a Ukrainian” said in public were worth 10 years in Gulag.
But what if there will be no grave legal consequences for Russia after apologizing for the Soviet occupation? What if people in the Baltic republics need just moral satisfaction and nothing more? This way the act of apologizing becomes an act of good will. Good will assumes good relations but what we see and hear today from Latvian or Estonian politicians? Verbal abuses, threats, refusals to sign important agreements, pressure on the EU and American politicians to force Russia in apologizing. It looks like a schoolyard brawl to me – “Ok, I’m sorry. Just put your fingers off my throat” – “Now say – I’m a dirty russische Schwein”. – “Ok, ok. I’m a Schwein.” – “Good. Now get up from the ground and let’s be friends.” Is this the kind of moral satisfaction the Baltic republics need?


oskar-der-grosse said...

i fully agree to the article, except for the last sentence,
"Is this the kind of moral satisfaction the Baltic republics need?"
It's not the people in the Republic demanding that onyl the politicians, what do you seriously excpect after Americans have used millions to setup a government that pleases them. I'm not an expert on the Baltics but I think should be pointed out that those are the opinions of politicans not of the people....

Siwy said...

Constantin, you have right. In poland, we also want apologies from Russia. Polish society think about USSR as about russian empire, and today no one knows that WW II and times after were very complicated.
But illogical rusophobia in central europe is very complicated too. I dont want apologies from russians(and from their president) ...I want fair relations betwen us.

I apology for my english Constantin...

And I want tell you that the blog is cool :)