Vyacheslav Tuchnin, the minister counselor at the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, [Estonia,] has told local ethnic Russians that “the recognition by Russia of the occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union is inevitable” and that they should “not interfere with this process,” a Russian activist in Estonia has complained to a sympathetic Russian news agency.Paul Goble seems to have an exclusive in the English language.
We recall the Berlin Wall as the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, but the way to those televisable actions was paved by quiet acknowledgement of reality by the Soviets: that the satellites should be allowed to go their own way; that applying the doctrine of class struggle to international relations really wasn't working.
In 1939, Hitler and Stalin agreed to be allies and, in a secret annex to their agreement, projected how they would divide up Eastern Europe. That agreement is known by the names of the foreign ministers who negotiated it, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Hitler broke the agreement by invading the Soviet Union in June 1941. But the Soviet Union ended World War II occupying or controlling much of the territory ceded to it by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Even when the Soviet satellites were cast free, the Soviet Union, and later Russia, continued the fiction that the Baltic countries and others that they occupied had joined the Union voluntarily, that occupation was the wrong word.
Going back to the origins of Russia in Muscovy and Kievan Rus, there has been an obsession with what has been called more recently "the near abroad." This obsession is not entirely unjustified; with land borders, Russia has been invaded by Mongols, the French under Napoleon, and the Nazis. There have been issues with other countries as well. The outcome of this obsession has been to engulf the near abroad, to protect the existing boundaries. This, however, extends the boundaries outward and incorporated people who thought they were doing just fine under their own rulers.
For the past decade or so, the concern about the near abroad has flamed up in Russia again. During the Soviet times, ethnic Russians were encouraged to settle in the engulfed territories, and those who remained after the dissolution of the Soviet Union were encouraged to mount demonstrations for their rights. For the first few years after that dissolution, some laws in some of the former Soviet republics were discriminatory, but that discrimination has been removed, particularly in the countries that have joined the European Union.
So, in 2007, ethnic Russians in Tallinn were encouraged by the Russian government to demonstrate against the removal of a Soviet war memorial from downtown Tallinn to a cemetary outside of town.
Now an official of the Russian embassy is telling those same ethnic Russians to prepare for the Russian government's acknowledgement that Estonia was under Soviet occupation.
Victory Day, May 8 or 9 depending on who is celebrating it, commemorates the surrender of Germany in 1945. That day has been traditional for ethnic Russian demonstrations in the "near abroad."
It appears that Moscow may be moving toward a less aggressive stance toward the "near abroad." Moscow may be feeling less threatened by NATO, and the conclusion of the New START treaty may be allaying fears that the Cold War still is active in American thought. It's a positive step for a Russian official to urge reconciliation before any official statement is issued, and it's positive that they are doing this even while Georgia's president, Mikhail Saakashvili, continues his accusatory rhetoric.