Goodbye USSR? Baltic rulers attempt to destroy memory of anti-fascist war

In the world of journalism, it is generally understood as common practice that the editor of a publication will decide on the final title of an article when it is laid out for publication.

In the world of bourgeois journalism specifically, this often means that the title of an article reflects only that which is desired by the editorial board to be put forward as ‘news’, regardless of whether such findings are truly reflected in the complete article.

A piece published on the 18th August via the website of the insufferably liberal German news outlet Deutsche Welle (DW) entitled Goodbye USSR! Former communist states dismantle the past could be a contender for a textbook example of such barefaced deceit.

The piece in question is a fairly straightforward account of attempts by various city authorities in the Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia to bury the memory of the Soviet and partisan led liberation from German fascism that heralded the conclusion of the Second World War. There is actually ample attention given to the fact that such moves have been wildly unpopular with the sizeable ethnically Russian minority population of these states, although as a result we are required as a reader to accept that all ethnic Latvians and Estonians are by default rabidly anti-Russian and anti-Soviet by the omission of any reference to opposition from these quarters.

Still, the picture painted by the article is clearly one of political posturing on the part of politicians and officials in their desperation to prostrate themselves before the high altar of US imperialism and its drive to war against the Russian Federation, rather than the demolishing of war memorials and statues commemorating the victory over fascism as a result of popular pressure.

“On Tuesday, the authorities removed a contentious monument of a Soviet tank outside the city of Narva, which lies on the border between Estonia and Russia and is largely inhabited by ethnic Russians. The removal of the monument has been particularly controversial, and the authorities had initially spoken out against its being relocated. The argument was that the local population considered it as part of the city’s identity.”

The author continues:

“The government in Tallinn had given the green light for the removal of Soviet monuments from public spaces in the Baltic EU and NATO country. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas explained that “A tank is a murder weapon, it is not a memorial, and those same tanks are killing people on the streets of Ukraine right now.” A total of about 400 monuments are to be dismantled.”

Regardless of the fact that the Russian Military is not actually employing WW2 era T-34 tanks in the current operation to de-militarise and de-nazify Ukraine, the message broadcast by Kallas (who descends from a reactionary Estonian political dynasty) is clear – No matter what a portion of Estonian citizens might think, the ongoing actions of contemporary Russia to defend the people of Donbass, and the borders of the Russian Federation itself against Nato instigated violence and resurgent fascist militarism is just another chance for the political class to continue chipping away at any visual reminder of the country’s socialist past, and they will grab such an opportunity with both hands.

In Lithuania, a similar state of affairs are recounted, and the author describes how the authorities initially sought to limit public dissent by only removing particular parts of monuments “such as the sword or the five-pointed star” before pushing further to leave only the base sections on which the names of the fallen soldiers themselves were engraved.

Again in Latvia, we are told that the government plans to push ahead with the dismantling of some 69 monuments against the wishes of ‘Russian speaking’ citizens.

The obvious undercurrent regarding the actions of these Baltic state governments and local authorities is the propensity for such policy to encourage ever greater discrimination against those members of society deemed to be too ‘ethnically Russian’ which has unsavoury echoes of the extreme nationalist, fascistic rhetoric of the assorted Ukrainian far right organisations who virtually captured their country’s political apparatus with Nato protection in the wake of the 2014 Maidan coup.

Along with showing themselves to US imperialism as states willing to act as launchpads for an ultimate Nato war against Russia in future, these governments will also likely see themselves as benefitting from the removal of memorials or monuments which could serve as natural rallying points for opposition to increasing Russophobic policies and to any eventual direct military action being taken against Russia (or Belarus) from their territories.

So, rather than the cheerful impression given by the title of the article, which conjures up a mental image of joyous citizens cheering and waving flags as cavalcades of dismembered Soviet monuments are driven out of their towns and cities on flatbed lorries, the evidence as given simply describes another series of craven, cowardly acts on the part of governments who despise the legacy of the Soviet Union and the Red Army in defeating fascism and hate the fact that this victory enabled socialist systems to be established which prevented their forebears from enjoying the same parasitic existence as the ruling elites of capitalist countries did.

In Finland, we are told, a peace monument gifted from the Soviet Union in 1989 but not unveiled until 1990 just before the ultimate dissolution of the multinational state which presented it was put into storage in the national art gallery, although the official reason given was that building work was taking place in the location and that it would be re-installed close by.

This monument had been somewhat abused over the course of its existence, according to the author of the article, although an internet search revealed it to be counted the 3rd ‘most loved’ sculpture in Helsinki despite being regarded as ill-fitting for its surroundings. An aspiring edgy art group tarred and feathered the sculpture in the mid-90s and a criminal serving an unrelated sentence confessed to preparing an attempted gas explosion to demolish it in 2010.

Finland, it might be added, is neither a former communist state, nor has it dismantled its past by removing a Soviet era war memorial.

When the author brings us back to Germany to consider how the same question is being dealt with on the territory of the former DDR, they find that owing to the treaty which enabled the reunification of Germany in the 90s, the contemporary German state has an obligation to ‘respect and maintain’ Soviet monuments within its borders.

This has meant that so far, the demands of figures such as the vigorously anti-communist Free Democrat Party politician Stefan Scharf to dismantle Soviet monuments in the city have “fallen on deaf ears”.

Perhaps, in Germany, where somewhere, deep down in the psyche of even the most ignorant politician must reside a cultural or historical memory of the consequences of becoming a military arm of finance capital in a predatory imperialist war against the then USSR, those Soviet memorials to the vanquishers of fascism may serve as a warning as much as a reminder.

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