Interview with Vladimir Simindei

Vladimir Simindei, historian, political expert and the Head of the CIS and Eastern Europe Department of the “Rossiyskie Vesti” newspaper, spoke to Russia Today about the turmoil surrounding the removal of a Soviet war memorial in Estonia.

Russia Today: As we see, tensions between the two countries show no sign of easing. In your opinion, how justified is the Russian reaction, I mean the reaction of authorities, and public reaction to this issue?

Vladimir Simindei: The reaction of the public and the reaction of the Russian authorities to the situation in Estonia are justified. The corner stone of such a reaction is the very intention of the Estonian government, headed by Andrus Ansip, to insult all those nations who contributed a lot or even made the decisive contribution to the victory over the Nazis. The way they dismantled the monument and exhumed graves and how they put down the revolt in Tallinn without carrying on a dialogue in the society on the issue, all this evidently indicates an underlying ideological reason for these actions, it was not some kind of a technical mistake in their actions. This is the intent to develop revisionism ideology to revise the results of WWII. Let us not forget that this monument or, as it is usually called, the Bronze Soldier, depicts the Estonian soldier of the Red Army. It also symbolises the combat brotherhood of Russians and Estonians who fought together against Nazis in the WWII. 

RT: That is an interesting fact in itself, is it not? That the prototype for this monument was an Estonian soldier? And also a lot of people are hurt by the timing of all this because the monument was dismantled before the May 9, as you know this day is very important date of history for Russians and a lot of other people. The people living in Estonia bring their children and great children to the monument on that day. They will not be able to do it now.

V.S.: Absolutely correct and it proves what were the real intentions of the Andrus Ansip's government. I would like to say that the basis of this kind of an attitude to the history is the desire to bring to the end the war with the Soviet Union represented by modern Russia on the battlefields of the WWII. At the heart of this ideology lays the impact of Estonian emigration circles. They are children of those who left Estonia with the German troops in 1944 to live in emigration.

RT: The demonstrations and rallies outside Estonia's embassy are going on. So, what is the sense here, Estonia is accusing Russia with handling the protests. What do you think is the sense for the Russian side supporting the demonstrations or just tolerating them? What is your opinion?

V.S.: As far as I know the rally near the Estonian embassy in Moscow are officially permitted by the Moscow authorities. On the other hand it is not enough to just conduct well-organised rallies. They must be civilized. I am against any aggressive acts against the Estonian embassy. Let us not forget that in most critical situation in June 1941 the German diplomats were shown the door very politely.

RT: Now what about Russia-Estonia relations in general? How will they develop in the future?

V.S.: I suppose that for Russia this issue should be a matter of principle. We must not say that we do not have basis for the political dialogue with Estonia. But we should underline very clearly that the government of Andrus Ansip by its' actions put itself beyond the framework of diplomacy. Therefore until his resignation, which is surely the cause of the Estonian citizens, till the resignation of the Andrus Ansip's Government we must suspend the diplomatic relations with Estonia or at least reduce them to the level of charge d'affaires.

RT: So you are saying there is a very little room for talk or compromise?

V.S.: The very form of actions of Estonian authorities in Tallinn excluded any compromise to solve the matter from the very beginning. Let us not forget that Russia previously warned Estonian authorities that actions like those in April and May this year would result in worsening of relations. Our position was transparent from the very beginning.

RT: There has been speculation about sanctions against Estonia. How likely is that?

V.S.: Well, I doubt there will be any direct sanctions against Estonia on the part of the Russian government. Though nothing can stop Russian citizens, non-governmental organisations and commercial structures to express their attitude towards Estonia the way they can. As for the attempts of the Andrus Ansip's government to use so to say “block consciousness” and seek significant support from the EU and NATO, I doubt that it is possible. It is obvious that even though some European capitals do express their readiness to support small and friendly Estonia against big Russia but in our case the essence of the matter is so delicate that this support would be insufficient.

RT: Finally, how would you see the situation being resolved?

V.S.: After the resignation of Andrus Ansip's government as a result of the pressure of the Estonian society we should start a dialogue on the whole set of the questions and possibly we will see a solution to level our relations.