Monday, October 15, 2007

History matters

American columnist Anne Applebaum writes brilliant overview of some of the hottest Eastern European historical arguments, including that between Tallinn and Moscow. Intriguingly it starts about Skype, but it really implies that the US should support recently born European democracies, not reborn Stalinists further East.

A large part of the argument between the two lies in historical grievances, which are messy, complicated and unpleasant for an outsider:

From the safe standpoint of Washington or London, it's easy to dismiss this historical discussion as retrograde, paranoid, even a drag on economic development. And it's true that discussing history with the Russians probably hasn't been good for Russian-Estonian trade. Nor has debating what happened in Katyn fixed Poland's crumbling roads. One Estonian politician told me that a German colleague had instructed him to forget about history and move on, saying that "you're wasting your time."

Earlier I wrote about the exemption the Baltic States recently were given by the European Court of Human Rights in the ongoing Russia(ns) vs Baltic States politically charged cases. Those are the rulings of landmark importance, because they make, based on emotionless legal approach, historic arguments relevant to today’s events. By bringing history into ongoing practice the ECHR completely changed the picture.
This experience shows us, first, that in the West (broadly defined from Estonian perspective) or at least by one of its important institution, history had already been made a part of present disputes between Russia and the Eastern European democracies.
And secondly, the court test show that once looked upon with necessary thoroughness anyone neutral would make the same conclusion.
It’s good for us that awareness of the historic facts has begun spreading.

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