Thursday, 7 May 2009

Fear behind everything

A couple of translated extracts here from Bjarne Nitovuori's review in the Finland-Swedish daily Hufvudstadsbladet of a book about the Soviet occupation of Estonia called Kaiken takana oli pelko (Behind Everything Lay Fear), a book of essays on the subject compiled by Finnish author Sofi Oksanen and Estonian filmmaker Imbi Paju. I hope to receive the book soon (allowing for the vagaries of the Dutch post office) so that I can read it myself. But here is a foretaste, part of the review:

The Estonian ethnologist Terje Anepaio describes how, during the late 1980s and early 1990s rekindled the memory of the two Estonian deportations, in 1941 and 1949, on a grand scale. This began with an article by Evald Laasi in [the cultural weekly] Sirp ja Vasar, published in 1987, when the Soviet Union still existed. But according to Anepaio, interest soon cooled off in the early 1990s as it didn't represent the image that Estonia was aiming for. The new young élite did not wish to represent Estonia as a suffering, unhappy nation, but as one that would soon be able to integrate with the West.


Lauri Mälksoo shows in a convincing manner that the annexation of Estonia (and the other Baltic states) was an occupation. It is disputed amongst researchers as to whether the Baltic leaders gave in to Soviet pressure to house Soviet military bases on their territory in 1939. But it is completely impossible to regard what happened in summer 1940 - the change of government under military threat, elections held in an unconstitutional manner and an equally illegal decision to join the Soviet Union - as other than a crime against international law, and as an occupation.


Translated from Swedish by Eric Dickens

Nitovuori goes on to mention other articles by the Finn Jukka Mallinen, the ex-prime-minister of Estonia and historian Mart Laar, and others. I will look more closely at some of the essays, once I have received and read the book myself. The book in question was published earier this year by the WSOY publishing house in Helsinki, and is 565 pages long.

Suffice it to say that the importance of this book is that it is appearing in Finland, a country where attitudes to the occupation of the Baltic countries by Russia have varied over the years, not helped by bouts of self-censorship under the period of Finlandisation (originally a German expression "Finlandisierung", then becoming "suomettuminen" in Finnish) which means the cautious way that Finland dealt with criticism of neighbouring Russia during the Cold War.

1 comment:

David McDuff said...

Thanks, Eric. I've inserted a link to the review in Hbl.