Hate speech, identity construction, and further reading on Tallinn riots aftermath

May 04, 2007

I don’t really want to post too much about political topics or the “Tallinn April thing” any more. I believe I said most things in my last post on this that has also attracted a share of comments from all ends of the spectrum. But there are a few extra remarks.

I’ve had to remove a few comments, and I’ll keep doing that for hate speech and propaganda from any side of the matter. How do I tell the difference? It’s actually real easy, whether I’m reading the comments sent to me or news or government statements. You just look at the text as a whole, regardless of whether it’s framed as a historical discussion or a hot-headed cry, and try to understand its objective.

The objective of hate speech and propaganda is to drive hatred and conflict between communities. Conversely, the objective of peaceful discussion is to build bridges and understanding.

One of the topics that has emerged in the discussion is the identity of “Estonian Russians”, or as AnTyx says, “Estlanders”. Some Estlanders thought that the Bronze Soldier in its previous location was an important symbol of their identity, and now that it has been relocated, that identity is somehow lost.

Estlanders may have many sources of identity, and things are probably difficult now for some of them trying to work this all out. But I’m not afraid to say this: there’s one identity that does not belong in Estonia, and that is Soviet imperialism that is destructive, criminal, drives hatred and brings along suffering to all involved. This imperialism belongs in history together with the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and other totalitarian criminal regimes whose days are thankfully over.

It’s fine and desirable to think and learn about the past and especially remember and honour the people who died on all sides of the conflict. The Bronze Soldier and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier belong in Tallinn and must be preserved and protected similarly as, say, the Nazi death camp museums in Poland. But they’re exactly that: museums and places of remembrance, not the sources of future.

The Russian Federation has chosen to construct its current identity partly on its Soviet past and glory. I may disagree with this direction, but it’s not up to me to tell where other countries should be going, so it’s not something that I should be judging. But this view, aided by classic propaganda tools such as hate speech, blatant lies and sparking conflict, continues to actively pushed upon everyone living in the Russian media space, including part of Estlanders. It’s up to Estlanders themselves to work out their new identity in this situation and reach out to other people living in Estonia and elsewhere in the democratic world as needed who will be happy to always lend a hand, while acknowledging that the view that they get from the Russian media is only a part of the story, and very often a biased and conflict-driving part.

One of the reasons why I’m so vigilant against the Soviet identity is also that an inseparate part of it was its totalitarian newspeak, where “discussion” actually meant “I am right and you are wrong and I have utter disrespect both for your person and opinion”. This isn’t acceptable from those trying to retain their Soviet identity, nor is it acceptable from the media (that unfortunately appeared initially somewhat juvenile and unprofessional reporting the conflict in Estonia but has now sobered up), or politicians in Estonia or elsewhere. Putting it simply, the listening skills of many people could use some improvement :)

I’ll conclude these remarks with a few links to further reading that I’ve found interesting over the past few days.