August 17, 2008

Russia still has unfinished business with its neighbours

Posted in International Economy · 80 comments ·
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Russia has sent out a signal to everyone – ‘don’t mess with us in our own backyard’. This is enough.

Nadia the green-eyed Russian waitress whispered conspiratorially, ‘‘They don’t like us, you know. The Estonians, they think we are occupiers.’’ She glanced over at the other bar staff and continued, ‘‘but we are not. We were born here, this is our land, can’t you see the great Orthodox cathedral – if we came here with Stalin, who do they think built that?”

Nadia, by the way, is having a smoke, dressed in traditional Estonian dress at a tourist trap that is flogging ‘‘real rustic Estonian cooking’’ to hundreds of tourists, who, like me, are in Tallinn for a few days. Although conflicted – making a living as an Estonian, while simultaneously hating Estonians – Nadia represents part of the problem we saw exposed in Georgia. The problem for the West is the hundreds of thousands of Russians who found themselves, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, trapped in countries that couldn’t stand them.

In Georgia the issue is Ossetia and Abkhazia, but here in the Baltic the issue is the 40 per cent of the Estonian population who consider themselves Russian.

There is a similar but not quite so large minority in Latvia, Lithuania and, of course, the big one – Ukraine. There are also significant numbers of Russians in the Muslim republics of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. These are all potential powder kegs, if Moscow chooses to light the flame.

Whether the Kremlin wants to do this is anyone’s guess. However, here in Tallinn it is easy to see how a more expansive Kremlin might go about its business. Among the Estonians there is a tremendous amount of insecurity at the moment.

Many are now questioning the wisdom of last year’s move to tear down a monument of a Soviet soldier, which, for Russians here, symbolised the great Russian sacrifices made to defeat fascism.

For Estonians, the monument represented a triumphalist reminder of the Russian annexation of Estonia after World War II. Last year, the Kremlin expressed its disapproval, but did little else. However, today’s Moscow is a very different beast than it was 12 months ago.

Many years ago, in a bizarre effort to learn Russian, I spent three months living with a Russian family in the outback of Russia. The town — Novi Ruza – was a nondescript hamlet some 80 miles from Moscow. Word went around that there was someone from ‘‘outside’’ living in the village.

On the second morning, as I walked down the street, the babushkas who cleaned the footpaths shouted out to me, ‘‘Eh, Gitler!’’ Russians pronounce H like G, and later the family explained to me that the last foreigners the old people had seen were defeated German soldiers retreating from the Red Army, practically running through the village in the general direction of Berlin.

As far as the old babushkas were concerned, I was simply another foreigner, and given my red hair I must have been a Hitlerite!

Not far from the village – indeed the place’s only claim to fame – was Borodino. In Borodino, Napoleon’s Grande Armée was defeated as it slugged its way to Moscow in 1812.On the second week of September each year this glorious Russian victory is celebrated. Back in 1990 when I witnessed this strange spectacle, I also saw, for the first time, a strange bearded group of young men standing under a banner which read ‘Bog s nami’, which means ‘‘God is with us’’.

These were the Russian, not Soviet, nationalists dressed like Orthodox priests. It’s worth remembering that this was before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and such displays of religion could lead to a few years in some gulag or other.

Yet they were there, flaunting their beards and their religion in a supposed atheistic state. Quite apart from their religious beliefs, these young men were part of an ancient Russian tradition shared by the great Russian writers Pushkin and, more recently, Solzenhitsyn, which is Orthodox first and European second. This view of the world dates from the 12th century and the Crusades.

The defeat in Constantinople of the great Orthodox Christian patriarch at the hands of our Crusaders constitutes for traditional Russians the beginning of a battle between Russian Orthodoxy and our version of Catholic and, later, Protestant Christianity.

Although it seems strange, particularly in an economics column, to discuss such issues, these divisions are fundamental to understanding how this part of the world operates.

When you stroll down the streets of Tallinn, you are obviously in Europe. But it’s not western Europe. The echoes of all these unfinished battles, these displaced peoples and these scores yet to be settled, are everywhere. This city is Hanseatic. It was built by Danish and, then mainly, German traders.

As the most northern part of the Hanseatic League, it was part of the complex trading arrangement that stretched from Estonia to Bruges in Belgium. This trading arrangement – the forerunner to the free-trade EU – dominated Europe for three centuries.

Its cities were trading outposts that bought and sold goods from the hinterland – the large interior parts of Europe connected by a network of rivers where few foreigners ever ventured. The port cities were the cosmopolitan centres of the old empire, and given the stunning architecture, it’s safe to presume that the people here in Tallinn never thought their great city would ever be anything other than a trading city. It was the gateway to Russia, the axis between Europe and the vast continent. Why would that ever change?

We now know that it did change and it did so violently.

The question Russia’s action in Georgia poses is whether it might happen again. For many Russians there is unfinished business in what they term their ‘‘near abroad’’, which covers the Baltic states, Ukraine and, of course, the Caucasus.

The prospect of any aggressive Russian action is remote because at the moment our interests and Russia’s coincide in trade and a mutual financial conundrum in the face of Asian global competition.

Furthermore, the people in power in Moscow, despite the naive caricatures peddled by the western press, are not idiots. Russia has sent out a signal to everyone – ‘‘don’t mess with us in our own backyard’’. This is enough.

It does not mean the Red Army will not roll again, but it implies that from now on, Europe and America have to deal with Russia as an equal. In the past 18 years, we have dismissed the Russians. This was not healthy. Today, after Georgia, the situation has changed.

Mutual respect will be much less dangerous than western condescension towards Russia. Although it doesn’t seem so at the moment, the people of Tallinn are probably safer to do as they please now than at any time in the past two decades.

The Russians have spoken; the West has listened. The status quo is strengthened and Nadia can feel confident again without being threatening.


  1. MK

    Hi David,

    The “mini-war” going on between Georgia and Russia is a case of Moscow showing to the world that it is still a world power and a veto-member of the UN security council and that it still has deployable nuclear weapons in its back pocket. As the US can do an Afghanistan and an Iraq, so Russia is saying that it can do those types of things too. Albeit they aint going to go the full hog on Georgia and they didnt go about it the right way procedurally with the UN etc. Also, Georgia is not part of the ‘axis of evil’. Moscow is basicaly saying, “no NATO here please”, but in a very blunt and ignorant way, indeed in a way which has killed many innocent civilians and some Russian soldiers and Georgian ones.

    > today’s Moscow is a very different beast than it was 12 months ago.

    I dont subscribe to that. Nothing has changed. Putin is still a power there and the administation there of teh Russian Federation, is still the same. With th recent rise in Oil prices and the Wests reliance on Russian oil and gas, Russia has more pieces in this game of “chess”. Knight takes pawn, as it were.

    The problem however is not so simple as you describe. Yes, there are many Russians left over as a colonial “artefact” in many of the former Soviet colonies. However, Russia itself is a federation and this is a key to uderstanding the situation. The Russian Federation is in fact a large colony in itself, and that is why it is so huge! There are many ‘old regions’ and countries that have been subsumed into Russia, but these are old wounds which could fester in a bout of nationalism. Mother ship Moscow has seen that with Chechnya, so in a way, they want to hold the Russian Federation together, as that can keep the control on energy resources and many other aspects of a powerful nation. So far, they are doing that, and it has helped that there have been ‘planted’ people settled in the outer lying regions. But if they can hold these regions forever remains to be seen. The more recent additions were more easier to lop off, like Estonia, etc. The more embedded ‘old nation’ such as Ossetia, less so. North Ossetia is within Russia.

    There are many sets of old peoples across Europe, and many are held together by conquests of the past and colonisation of the past. We have to look no further than a few miles north of Dublin to see the effects of such things in Northern Ireland. Extracting from such positions in many cases has proved very difficult indeed. Loss of life is an unfortunate consequence as people cant agree to live together with their differences, and with Russia over the next century, we may see more of that.

    If there is major trouble, we could see supply squeezes on energy. So Ireland being as self-reliant on energy would seem like a good move. Wind, sea and water (enough of the latter has been falling here recently!).

    MK

  2. Ed

    “it’s safe to presume that the people here in Tallinn never thought their great city would ever be anything other than a trading city. It was the gateway to Russia, the axis between Europe and the vast continent. Why would that ever change? We now know that it did change and it did so violently.”

    Could we suffer the same fate ? – from being a bustling gateway to Europe for US and other foreign Companies, to being an isolated backwater, as we were up until the nineties. We need some serious thinking and a visionary leader to escape such a fate, but unfortunately, it appears that only houses are on everybody’s mind.

  3. Observer

    Russia certainly has unfinished business!

    Given during the USSR Lifespan, there are millions of ethnic russians scattered across the former territories.

    I even remember several years back that Russian President Putin said “The greatest disaster The Russian people have suffered since the break-up of the soviet union, is that millions of our fellow country are now scattered and isolated in numerous pockets without our protection”.

    Latvia has a 20% population of Russians, if what might be the case…….. Scenes like what is happening in georgia will continue.

    Something like this happened in 1938 in the Sudetenland of Czechslovakia (Which had been small enclave and housed a huge number of Germans), the third reich happened to justify annexing this part of Czech soverign territory to supposedly reunite their countrymen with the rest of the German population.

    Given that Abkhazia was always populated by Russian peoples who were granted Russian Citizenship also and Ossetia is partioned into North (Russian controlled where the Beslan Massacre of 2004 Occured) and South (Georgian controlled)………… scenes like this will probably continue.

    Soon Russians maybe in Eastern Ukraine and elsewhere in Central Asia will demand to be repatriated with the Russian Federation……… more territories might be invaded to reclaim these diaspora communities.

    Very worrying indeed!

  4. Malcolm McClure

    The end of the Cold War was considered by some observers to be the ‘End of History’. Capitalism and the American way of life had triumphed; all that remained was a bit of tidying up.
    Then Islamic fundamentalism reared it head; China, and now Russia also emerged as adversaries to western hegemony. Our old friend History is stirring again, and we need to take an 18th century view of the world.
    It is a world in which Neutrality is no longer a viable option and we have no choice but alliance with USA, distasteful though this may be. The Poles in the front line have been told to accommodate American missiles, in a deliberate inversion of the Cuba crisis. Just imagine the response if we said US planes can’t use Shannon?
    America is the new Napoleon, and its sights are firmly on Moscow. Russia, in response declares the Caucasus to be part of its sphere of influence and its invasion of Georgia is intended to underline this. All too familiar with the sight of Russian tanks, the Baltic countries are terrified of what they face in the long run,– and they should be.
    Watch the reaction of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Balts;–how will Russia’s moves affect them psychologically?
    Crisis-making is Russia’s newest growth industry. The Kremlin has a long list of possibilities, which include:
    Destabilizing the government of Ukraine: With the United States largely out of the picture, the Russians will spare no effort to ensure that Ukraine remains as dysfunctional as possible.
    Azerbaijan is a critical energy transit state for Central Asian petroleum, as well as an energy producer in its own right. Those exports are dependent upon Moscow’s willingness not to cause problems for Baku.
    The Baku pipeline runs though Georgia. If it continues to be a thorn in Russia’s side Russia has the ability to force a territorial breakup or to outright overturn the Georgian government. US would quickly realize that this is ‘a Bridge too Far’.
    The three Baltic states in league with Poland have hijacked EU foreign policy with regard to Russia, turning a cooperative relationship hostile. Any military crisis with the Balts would further demonstrate U.S. impotence and underline the current ineffectiveness of NATO.
    How can Ireland afford to remain Neutral?

  5. B

    The Americans are behind this along with their Israeli mates. Georgia is the aggressor and it is connected to the age old fight over oil and the supply of oil. The Russians for once being painted as the bad guys they are not. Usually they are but in this conflict it is not as cut and dried as it is presented.

    I still cannot understand too how Estonia was allowed into the EU when they refuse passports to ethnic Russians who were born in Estonia but are registered as “aliens”. In the modern EU you are not European until the government decides you are and can deport people born in the country. Posh ethnic clensing. Estee good Ruskie bad. In Estonia it is more acceptable to be a supporter of the Nazis rather than the Russians. This is naked open prejudice towards 20% of the population.

    We can stand up to the Ruskies but need to be aware that the Americans are not the innocent policemen they make themselves out to be in this conflict. Puppet governments in Georgia and waving nukes around Poland are not helping the stability of Europe. The Baltics are not helping either by settling old scores by getting new friends with different motives for having the same enemy.

  6. Ed

    B, they’re not waving nukes around Poland – it’s only a defence system against missile attack. There’s no comparison with what went on during the cold war when the Russians tried to install ballistic missiles in Cuba aimed at the US, while the Americans had missiles in Turkey aimed at the USSR – this is purely a defensive shield and the Russians appear to be humiliated for what ever reason.

  7. B

    Did they or did they not threaten Poland with a nuclear strike if they hosted missiles?

  8. Donal O'Brolchain

    David overlooked one major difference between the Russian interest in the Baltic States and Georgia ie. Georgia is Europe’s preferred route for the pipelines carrying oil and gas from the Caucasus to Europe.

    For a number of years, Russian policy, under Putin, aims to take over all oil and gas production/sales/distribution directed to Europe. Examples the attack on Yukos, the taking-out of the stakes of major western oil companies in the development of Russian oil/gas fields, Gazprom offering to buy gas from the ‘stans, Algeria etc.

    Russia can constrict the the Baltic states and Ukraine using gas supplies – just as it can do the same to Western Europe at present, as has been demonstrated in recent winters!

    I do not believe that Russian policy-makers are interested in Russian citizens outside Russia, except as as pawns for re-asserting Russian nationalism. Putin came from the KGB, as it seems that many of his associates do. I suggest that this coterie is just imposing its view of Russia firstly within Russia (eg. the murder of journalists, restrictions on freedom of expression) and then wherever else it can, using its energy muscle and UN Security Council veto. In this, it is very similar to the Bush-Cheney coterie that has weakened US influence since 2000, by following a particular view of the role of the US in the world.

    Some Russians in the Baltic states are there precisely because they had to leave Russia, as survivors/descendants of survivors of Russians who were sent to the Gulag. On returning to normal life within Russia, the Gulag survivors were actively discriminated against as were their descendents. Some Russians have no love for the Kremlin, whatever about Russia being their homeland and cultural heartland.

    Similarly Poland, the Baltic States and Ukraine do not trust Russia – regardless of what ideology dominates in Moscow or who is in charge of the Kremlin. Ukrainians remember the famine of the early 1930s, caused by Stalin, the result of which was the deaths of between 7.5m and 14m Ukrainians. The Poles remember Katyn. Lithuanians maintain a Museum of Genocide (focused on the armed resistence to communist rule after WWII and the deportations to the Gulag) in the old KGB HQ just off the main street.

    If your neighbour has a history of throwing his considerable weight around, you need to ensure that that you have good fences and agreement with a countervailing power that you can call on. This may start with trade, as did the EU. But it goes beyond Hanseatic leagues or similar communities based on trade alone, as the founders of the EU understood when they set up the European Defence Community in the early 1950s.

    Georgians clearly understood this in applying to join both the EU and NATO. Some Europeans understood that allowing Georgia in might not actually be expedient just yet.

    Now what does mean for us, with our dependence on trade, poor development of our energy resources and general reliance on booms in non-tradeable assets?

  9. MK

    Observer> Soon Russians maybe in Eastern Ukraine and elsewhere in Central Asia will demand to be repatriated with the Russian Federation……… more territories might be invaded to reclaim these diaspora communities.

    As I mentioned above, the key to understanding the issues in Georgia, Russia the caucuases and elsewhere is that this is an area which is pockmarked with ethnic groupings created through the millenia of people moving, colonisation, etc. It is very fragmented. Dont just think of a single set of Russian people that have expanded into former soviet states and have not gone back home. It is much more complicated than that.

    Like the Balkans, unless the peoples agree to live together, there can be problems, major ones, as the different people types live in and amongst each other and regions cannot be segregated physically. Hence civil war like situations and the oppression of minority groupings, of all types.

    Armenia had its problems, Georgia, Tajikistan further east, etc. One key fact to remember is that the Russian Federation is based on an empire of colonisation. Think of the US states, except that it is made up of different ethnic peoples across 73 different federal states.

    Have a look at this map to get a feel for how fragmented Russia really is:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Russian-regions.png

    And the Caucus:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Caucasus-ethnic_en.svg

    And consider that most of the ethnic groups did not voluntarily join the Russian Empire or Federation, they were invaded and colonised. There is a lot of unfinished ‘business’ you could say, and the latest tensions between Georgia and Russia is but a symptom.

    MK

  10. Philip

    Being the excellent chess players that they are, Russians are seeing weakness in the once unstoppable western hegemony. Look at how Putin slots in – 10 years ago, the country was a basket case with a poor self view. People’s sense of pride in their own country and themselves was at an all-time low and a few ruthless oligarchs (former well placed administrators) move in and become billionaires overnight at the expense of the region. Putin represents a clean-cut, strong arm that a) gave the country a new nationalist focus, b) leverage show trial methods to bring down the oligarchs and c) made Russia something to be reckoned with. I think David’s column just illustrates the levers he had available to him.

    We can go on about whether Putin is the bad guy, nationaist war mongering disrupter etc. But the fact is, a vacuum was created by the west’s unwillingness enact a “marshall plan” for Russia – which no doubt would have slowed down the economies in many parts of the world- and it was inevitable that Putin would step in. And he’s no idiot and not crazy – we should be thankful for that.

    In the meantime, the west is in bits. Their economies all tied their success to that of the US housing market which is still going down as fast as ever. Sub-prime crisis will be replaced by ARMs as the next mess to be cleaned up – Germany and other well managed economies are finding that not just borrowers but the suppliers good to those borrowers will suffer. And I suspect China will also have its issues soon. So Putin will find it easier to cut individual deals with countries rather than EU trading blocks.

    So it’s not just history at work. It’s just one clever bunch of guys in Moscow starting to make hay while the Sun of Western Recession is getting under way. He has us over a barrel and knows it.

  11. Dónall Garvin

    On a slight tangent – you’re bizarre attempt to learn Russian may turn out to be ahead of the curve.
    The biggest world languages are roughly – English, Mandarin, Spanish, Russian, Arabic?

    I think it makes sense that, if we Irish have property investments in Eastern Europe – that we might as well learn the language.

    If Russia is going to be a major force economically and politically – then Russian should be taught in schools.

    доналл

  12. Observer

    Thank you MK for mentioning those facts,

    I still have reservations about what might come next from Russia………. The Russian Federation is of course and has always been a very diverse place but these peoples are all relatively similar.

    I think the fact that there are so many scattered russians around the former USSR and that if similar situations that occur in georgia appear where one population wants to be part of its motherland, then scenes like this will probably occur again.

  13. B

    If the country that you were born in refuses you a passport then its easy to build resentment towards that country.

    @Dónall Garvin “I think it makes sense that, if we Irish have property investments in Eastern Europe – that we might as well learn the language.” Speak Russian in Poland and see how far that gets you. Probably a beating.

    I don’t think we the Irish can lecture anyone on the integration of a former aggressors population. We kicked them out, ripped out their infrastructure and bitched and moaned for 100 years about how we had nothing. It is trendier and seen as more patriotic to be polarised into ultra nationalism rather than repair the wounds and move forward.

  14. Philip

    Actually speaking German in Poland is what really gets you into trouble these days. Poles feel a little safer with the other guys. Everyone wants to speak English. Rule Brittannia!! :)

  15. Dan Hayes

    A few points about your article:

    The 40 percent of Russians in Estonia are the result of the Soviet’s plantation scheme. (Does “plantation ring a bell? Well it should!). Nevertheless, while Estonia was saddled with foreigners by the Soviet conqueror, modern Ireland is doing it voluntarily. And guaranteed, the same problems that are today taking place in Estonia are in store for Ireland. Keep posted for developments – they won’t be pretty!

    As an American patriot, I am very happy with events in Georgia. This has shown that the Empire (The American Neo-Conservative Empire of Creative Destruction) has no clothes. The Neo-Con Empire will all come to an end when America runs out of money, or more precisely when the Chinese Empire-To-Be decides to pull the financial rip cord.

    Your call for mutual American-Russian respect is perceptive and called for. A lot of the anti-Russian feeling in America is driven by the fact that Putin cleaned out the six oligarchs who looted and pauperized Rusia in the aftermath of the demise of the Soviet regime. Unfortunately, this visceral anti-Russian animus still reigns among the powers-that-be over here and may overrule mutual American-Russian interests and cooperation.

  16. B

    My Estonian flatmate wasn’t planted. She was born in Estonia to Russian parents. She was called an alien and was required to learn Estonian or leave. Her passport was marked Alien and her movements were restricted.

    So if this is allowed in Estonia will we be allowed to have Traveller passports and restrict them too?

    How are we going to have the same problems as Estonia? The situations are incomparible.

  17. tatari st defence force

    quote “Many are now questioning the wisdom of last year’s move to tear down a monument of a Soviet soldier, which, for Russians here, symbolised the great Russian sacrifices made to defeat fascism.

    For Estonians, the monument represented a triumphalist reminder of the Russian annexation of Estonia after World War II. Last year, the Kremlin expressed its disapproval, but did little else. However, today’s Moscow is a very different beast than it was 12 months ago”

    1. The monument was not “torn down” – it was tactfully relocated to a more appropriate location.

    2. “Last year, the Kremlin expressed its disapproval, but did little else” – the Kremlin orchestrated an attack on the Internet infrastructure of the Estonian Republic. This attack lasted over three weeks.

  18. tatari

    1. The monument was not “torn down” – it was tactfully relocated to a more appropriate location.

    2. “Last year, the Kremlin expressed its disapproval, but did little else” – the Kremlin orchestrated an attack on the Internet infrastructure of the Estonian Republic. This attack lasted over three weeks.

  19. “In Georgia the issue is Ossetia and Abkhazia, but here in the Baltic the issue is the 40 per cent of the Estonian population who consider themselves Russian.”

    As Guistino points out in his blog, the number 40 is rather outdated and flat out wrong. The number of ethnic Russians in Estonia is at 25 per cent, most of whom opted out for Russian or Estonian citizenship.

    B says, “My Estonian flatmate wasn’t planted. She was born in Estonia to Russian parents. She was called an alien and was required to learn Estonian or leave. Her passport was marked Alien and her movements were restricted.”

    I suspect no one’s asking her to leave. She is asked to go through a naturalization process to obtain citizenship, but she chooses not to. What nonctiziens or aliens in Latvia and Estonia don’t want to realize is that their status is in their hands. They can go through naturalization and become citizens of their country, but they simply don’t want to because it’s beneath them, much like it’s beneath them learning one those languages. Certainly, being born in a country and living there all your life does not justify not knowing the main language of the country of your birth, don’t you think?

  20. b

    If you are born in the country are you not a citizen?

    Hardly any Irish people can speak fluent Irish. I bet there are a few fascists who would love to kick us all out of here for not knowing the language.

    My flatmate speaks Estonian and has an Estonian passport. Why not subject ALL Estonians to the same conditions of citizenship.

  21. “If you are born in the country are you not a citizen?”

    Not really. In Ireland, for example, that law was recently changed. I recommend reading more about principles of Jus sanguinis and Jus soli as two major legal principles what determines citizenship. Different countries make different laws and follow different principles.

    “My flatmate speaks Estonian and has an Estonian passport.” An Estonian alien passport, I presume? If so, nothing stands in her way to pass citizenship test and obtain citizenship. She just chooses not to do it.

    “Why not subject ALL Estonians to the same conditions of citizenship.” But they are. People who can trace their lineage to the Soviet occupation of 1940 can restore their citizenship. Those people who were transplanted to Estonia when it was occupied and their children regardless of where they were born are not. They never were Estonian citizens, but they were Soviet citizens. The Soviet Union is now defunct and they’re left without citizenship, thus they’re stateless.

    The distinction between two groups is not inherently ethnic-centered. It happened that most Russian or Russian-speaking people in Estonia moved there when it was occupied. But as the Russian woman points out in that story, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral alone means there were Russians there before the 1940 occupation.

    Besides, one group is not prevented from joining another group if it wants to. In Latvia, which uses a similar principle, some 2,000 ethnic Latvians are not citizens and required to go through naturalization.

  22. B

    FULL Estonian passport.

    Why were they allowed to join the EU with this going on?

    In Ireland we passed a bad law. Nobody is safe here now.

  23. “Why were they allowed to join the EU with this going on?”

    The European courts and organizations have not found the citizenship law contradicting any European laws and conventions.

  24. b

    Maybe it has not been challenged in the courts yet.

    I don’t agree with having an EU with second class citizens. It is not in the spirit of the union.

  25. TK

    Other than factual inaccuracies already pointed out, the article is missing the core of the puzzle. By scratching the surface the author comes to conclusions that are only possible if you talk to one side only who in this case has been Nadia. What about Katja, the Russian girl that had learned Estonian, applied for the citizenship , got it and signed up to help the Estonian police during the Bronze Soldier pro Soviet riots in Estonia that turned into looting etc. ? And what about Mari, an Estonian girl who just would like to live in peace, who doesn’t hate any Russians despite that her grandparents were deported to Siberia by the Soviet regime? The article is overly simplified. but that’s what happens if you just hear and tell one side of the story.

    Estonians and Irish should understand each other quite well, what UK has historically been to Ireland, the conqueror and colonizer, that has Russia been for Estonia and Georgia and the rest of the “Russian near abroad”. For Estonia though, the UK has been a world power that has balanced out Russian imperialistic interest and practically helped Estonia to gain its independence in 1918-1920 and that’s why many Estonians are often Anglophiles. Perhaps for Ireland it might be opposite. it seems like Russia might be seen as a potential power that could balance the UK(&US) that might be a growing ground for Russophiles?

    The bottom line: the problems in a triangle of ‘Ireland-Northern Ireland-UK’ are exactly the same as between ‘Georgia-Ossetia-Russia’. Does either Ireland or UK have unfinished business in Northern Ireland? I hope not. Well Russia has some unfinished business with it’s “near aboard” since it took an authoritarian path. And this is the core of the problem. Therefore: is an authoritarian Russia that wants to settle scores with its former colonies really something that ever should gain “mutual respect” from the West like the author has suggested?

  26. TK

    To : ”b” regarding citizenship.

    all your statements are very familiar and I’m sorry to point it out: it’s because I’ve heard it from “Radio Moscow” several times. “They were allowed to join NATO and the EU” because according to “Radio EU”, the 50years of Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania was never recognized de jure. Meaning all Soviet time immigrants are looked at as regular immigrants in any country that need to apply for the citizenship or residence permit or leave the country, up to you.

    Choosing a citizenship is a personal choice, you can’t give it anybody unless you have it by birth or if you apply for it. The Soviet time immigrants that remained in Estonia after the collapse of the USSR, roughly 1/3 of them have chosen to learn the language and have applied and have got Estonian citizenship. About 1/3 have chosen to take Russian citizenship and remaining third have not chosen a citizenship but have remained stateless. Now, all ethnic Russians or anybody that were Estonian citizens before the Soviet takeover in 1940 and their children etc. were citizens of Estonia by birth an did not need apply.

    That you don’t agree with having an EU with second class citizens is good. But the issue should be addressed to these EU countries that restrict the “new EU” citizens have employment in respective EU countries unlike the “old EU” citizens that are free to work anywhere within the EU.

  27. “I don’t agree with having an EU with second class citizens. It is not in the spirit of the union.”

    But therein is the problem. They’re not second-class citizens. No second-class citizen has an opportunity to become the first-class citizen. Non-citizens in the Baltic states have that opportunity. It’s called naturalization.

  28. Seamus Moore 4/2/7 PEC

    re:Dan Hayes said,
    on August 18th, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    American patriot, eh! Sure buckwheat, tell me another story. You may want to read Mark Steyn’s book “American Alone” for a view of the different view of the world. Long term, Russia is the sickest as the life expectancy of the average male is 59 (while Russian women live to Western ages; i.e., late 70′s). China, your empire to be has a different problem: the one child policy of China over the last 30 years has resulted in a 120 to 100 ratio of men to women (130 rurally where males are preferred on farms). How will these young men “get their ya ya’s out”, the title of a Rolling Stones album, when they get to their post-teen years? Perhaps Steyn is right when he says that China may become the first gay superpower since Sparta. How about an Irish solution to a Sino-Chinese problem: young Chinese can have a go at older Russian women, which may be OK if these Russian women look like Anna Kornikova’s mom.
    Back to more serious issues, if I may. The US Intelligence Estimate has concluded that the EU will collapse by 2020, most likely due to overregulation, high taxes, demographic decline, and most importantly, unextinguishable nationalism. Before Euro 2008 soccer matches only ONE national anthem is played, the EU’s paen to Phillipe Junot, the strawman for Eurotrash worldwide CORRECT? Wrong, everybody likes the oldies, at least when it comes to national anthems anyway. Doesn’t matter, Europe’s next ethnic cleansing, post-Kosovo/Bosnia, et al will be even uglier as France, Germany and Italy will deal with the mushrooming Muslim problem in final-solution style fashion. In the words of Morrissey in “Everyday is Like Sunday”: “Come armageddon, come; come nuclear bomb”.
    One last point: Monday’s WSJ Europe edition had an article on an American entrepeneur, David Chambers who builds the tallest flagpoles in the world and finds himself in a game of one upsmanship among his clients to have the world’s largest pole (how Freudian!) flying their flag; BTW, it isn’t the EU flag or the UN flag or even NATO flag, if they have one. Here in America, our poles are always at full staff in every way: physically, psychologically and most importantly, emotionally. In no small part, this is due to the fine folks at Pfizer whose little blue pill manufactured by those cagey hoors in West Cork (Ringaskiddy, I believe). Let me close with a joke, I am here all week:
    Why did Pfizer choose West Cork? 2 reasons:
    1) Michael Collins’ father married at age 61 to his 23 year old bride, Marianne O’Brien; Michael was the youngest of 7 children, his father was 73 at the time of his birth!
    2) A Kerryman acted as adviser to Pfizer and he recommended West Cork as he reckoned that “there were more hard-ons in West Cork, than anywhere else in Ireland.
    Ciarrai Abu! UP THE KINGDOM; Bate those Bloods!

  29. B

    North Korea has the worlds largest flagpole. You can see if from the South Korean border.

  30. b

    Brian Cowan has been seen urinating upwards on it.

  31. shtove

    Very interesting article. Thank you.

    Was David a teenage communist?

    No mention of the needs of democracy in this rebalancing act.

    I expect Germany will soon be manufacturing nukes.

  32. V

    Lets be clear, there wasn’t any Russian aggresion against Georgia as it is portrated by the pro-neocons propaganda machines FoxNews, SkyNews, CNN, BBC, etc. What happened in South Ossetia was another Georgian invasion of Ossetian (Alanian) land which initially invaded by Georgia (in 1920) after collapse of Russian Empire. Since then Ossetia, who joined Russian Empire 25 years earlier than Georgia, was split by Georgians in two parts: North Ossetia and South Ossetia (occupied by Georgia). At that time happened the first wave of genocide and ethnic cleansing against Ossetians by Georgian military when they killed almost 25% of all Ossetians living under occupation. A few years later came bolsheviks and took over both Ossetia and Georgia. Later Stalin, himself ethnically Georgian jew, decided to keep 2 parts of Ossetia separately, one inside of Russian Federation under name North Ossetia and the other as authonomous republic inside Georgia under name of South Ossetia. At the collapse of Soviet Union (in 1989-1991), when Georgia decided to breakaway from Soviet Union, Georgia unilaterally, in full breach with Soviet Constitution took with it 3 independent respublics (South Ossetia, Adzharia and Abkhazia) which had the right to hold own referendums. Those republics desagreed with Georgia and decided to hold own referendums.On the referendums people from those 3 autonomous republics voted to stay together with Soviet Union and later with Russian Federation. Despite that, Georgian ultranationalists decided to envade all those 3 republics and absorb (convert those nations into Georgians) by military force. Georgians began another (the 2nd) wave of ethnic cleansing and genocide, this time not only against Ossetians but also against Abkhazians. Despite thousands of killed South Ossetians and Abkhazians by Georgian military, both nations managed not only to defend themselves but also to rebuild their cities and villages. Two years later Georgians again started the war, this time only against Abkhazia which Abkhazians again managed to win. Later it was agreed that Russian peacekeepers would remain in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia to protect civilians against Georgian genocide. After that both Abkhazia and South Ossetia proclamed themselves independent countries, created parliaments, own small armies and other state atributes, recognised each other creating military alliance. In 2004 Georgians, with arrival of pro-American muppet-president Saakashvili once again made an attempt to re-occupy South Ossetia killing over 100 civilians, but their attemp failed. Since then Georgian military (snipers and artillery) were deliberately killing (mainly at night) South Ossetian civilians killing over a thousand over 2004-2008 period. Also during this time Georgia invaded Adzharian Republic overthrouing its government, killing hundreds and imprisoning thousands of Adzharians forcefully absorbing this independent republic into Georgia. On the 01/08/08 Georgians begun the escalation on the South Ossetian borders killing 6 civilians in one day. On the night of 08/08/08 Georgians begun shelling capital of South Ossetian republic – Tskhinval with heavy artillery and rockets, moving tanks, special forces and infantry afterwards. They completely destroyed 10 South Ossetian villages and occupied the capital Tskhinval destroing hundreds of buildings and killing over 2 thousand civilians and dozens of Russian peacekeepers. 15 hours later, after realising the scale of the tradegy Russia decided to enter South Ossetia for defending its remaining peacekeepers and local civilians. Quick military operation was enough to kick out Georgian troops out of South Ossetia, destroying almost half of Georgian military power and killing 4,000 soldiers and foreign mercenaries and establishing a protection zone approximately 30-40 killometres wide. In parallel, in compliance with previous military agreement between South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Abkhazian Republic begun its military operation against Georgia by liberating Georgian-occupied anclave Kodori on Abkhazian territory. I should also mention that Russian airforce made multple successful attacks completely destroying not only Georgian military objects but also the American ones which the US prepared in Georgia for future operation against Iran. A few hours later all pro-neocon propaganda machine (mass media) begun blaming Russia for invading “democratic” Georgia. What happend then- you all know.

    As for the Ukraine – it is a very new state (17 years old) created (on command from Washngton) by Ukrainian ultranationalists by breaking away from Soviet Union in 1991. I should mention that those ultranationalists took away approximately 75% of traditional Russian lands. Also I should mention that approximately 52% of Ukrainian citizens are ethnically Russian, 75% of population consider themselves Russian-speaking, and up to 60-65% aspire towards Russia and want re-unification with Russia. Despite that current ultranationalist Ukrainian president, who came in power after Washington -orchestrated “orange coup”, ignores this fact, vaging ethocide against Russians (and small minorities)establishing secret police who monitors the streets/internet/TV arresting pro-Russian unionists. Currently pro-American president Juschenko has only 2% of popular support but wants to retain power in his hands by sparkling a civil war in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine (historically known as territories of Malorossia, Novorossia and Slobozhanshina) through military rule. Hopefully there would be a peaceful solution and those who want to re-unite with Russia would be able to do so, while the others, those who traditionally aspire towards Warsaw and Washington, would have the option to create the state they like.

  33. mishko

    V says: “Also I should mention that approximately 52% of Ukrainian citizens are ethnically Russian”

    Wikipedia says: “ethnic Ukrainians make up 77.8% of the population. Other significant ethnic groups are Russians (17.3%)…”

    Take your pick, dear reader!

  34. Donal O'Brolchain

    I query two of V’s assertions
    1. Stalin was ethnically a Georgian jew. If this is true, what of the report that Stalin actually spent time (how long?) studying to be a Christian priest?
    2. casualties arising from Georgia’s attack on 8 August 2008.
    A report in yesterday’s Financial Times (21 August 2008) stated that Civilian deaths put at 133. I reproduce the report in full
    “A Russian commission designed to look into allegations of ethnic cleansing and genocide by Georgia in the breakaway enclave Of South Ossetia says that Georgian forces killed 133 civilians in a bombardment starting August 7 but adds that the number could climb higher. Charles Clover reports. ‘ “That is.the number of people whose names we know,” said Boris Salmakov of the Russian prosecutor’s
    office. The estimated death toll from several days of heavy fighting in early August varies widely, and
    an earlier Russian estimate of 2,000 victims was recently brought into question by Human Rights Watch, which said hospital records in Tskhinvali showed only 44 dead. Both Russia and Georgia have been struggling to win the war for public opinion. “

  35. V

    to Donal O’Brolchain:

    1) Although Stalin (Joseph Dzhugashvili) was ethnical Georgian jew there is no clear indication whether he ever had any connection with jewdaism religion. Apparently he was converted into christianity.

    2) In some of the Russian mass media there were reports coming from South Ossetian government that they already account for 1,492 civilian casualities, however, only 133 bodies already fully recognised and documented while the others still go through recognition process. The process is slow as 10 South Ossetian villagies were completely flattered by Georgian army with all (or almost all) civilians killed and now requires a lot of work to clear the rubble.

  36. “Although Stalin (Joseph Dzhugashvili) was ethnical Georgian jew there is no clear indication whether he ever had any connection with jewdaism religion. Apparently he was converted into christianity.”

    That’s the biggest mount of horse manure I’ve ever read. Stalin a Jew. How do you figure? Where is the evidence of his Jewishness? Was it his mother? Well, no. She was Georgian. Was it his father? Although the identity of his biological father is a subject of speculation, his nationality is not. How far do you go into his genealogy to find some kind of Jewish blood in his? To Abraham? Adam and Eve? If so, we’re all Jews here. Although reason appears to be very distant from your statements, I’d recommend reading “Young Stalin, the book that is available at your local bookstore, I’m certain.

  37. V

    to mishko:

    All numbers (and information about history) in respect of so-called state of Ukraine in Wikipedia are falsified as those numbers now are the part of Ukrainian ultranationalists/and American anti-Russian propaganda machine for creating one unitarist Ukrainian nation (and presenting it in such way to the rest of the world). Prior to collapse of the USSR statistics indicated that approximately 27 millions (out of 52.5 mln) of citizens of Ukrainian SSR were ethnically Russian and additional 3 mln were other minorities, while Ukrainians had only 12.5 mln. However, when Ukrainian ultaranational separatists on command from Washington broke away these lands from USSR, they inflated the number of ethnical Ukrainians above 67% which allowed them to create unitarian (rather than federation or confederation) Ukrainian state with only one official language – Ukrainian, completely banning Russian language and languages of multiple minorities. Despite that and despite the politics of ethnocide against Russians and other minorities, and all the anti-Russian propaganda and brainwashing for 17 years wast majority of the population still speaks Russian, particularly in Kiev (85% of population), Crimea (90%), Eastern Ukraine (historically known as Russian territories of Malorossia, Novorossia and Slobozhanshina (75-99% varies from one region/city to another)

  38. V

    corrected:

    to mishko:

    All numbers (and information about history) in respect of so-called state of Ukraine in Wikipedia are falsified as those numbers now are the part of Ukrainian ultranationalists/and American anti-Russian propaganda machine for creating one unitarist Ukrainian nation (and presenting it in such way to the rest of the world). Prior to collapse of the USSR statistics indicated that approximately 27 millions (out of 52.5 mln) of citizens of Ukrainian SSR were ethnically Russian and additional 3 mln were other minorities, while Ukrainians had only 22.5 mln. However, when Ukrainian ultaranational separatists on command from Washington broke away these lands from USSR, they inflated the number of ethnical Ukrainians above 67% which allowed them to create unitarian (rather than federation or confederation) Ukrainian state with only one official language – Ukrainian, completely banning Russian language and languages of multiple minorities. Despite that and despite the politics of ethnocide against Russians and other minorities, and all the anti-Russian propaganda and brainwashing for 17 years wast majority of the population still speaks Russian, particularly in Kiev (85% of population), Crimea (90%), Eastern Ukraine (historically known as Russian territories of Malorossia, Novorossia and Slobozhanshina (75-99% varies from one region/city to another)

  39. V

    to Aleks:

    1) There is no such a nation as Georgian-this is just the package in English language to the West. Georgia, locally known as Sakartvelo or Kartli, represents multiple independent nations/ethnic groups (i.e. Swans, Megrels, etc) with own very old cultures, languagies, traditions and even sometimes a very old hatred towards each other. For me current Georgia (or Sakartvelo) should be a federation or confederation, so no other nations would be abused and killed by currently rulling ethnic group.

    2) As regards to Stalin – the name Joseph is Jewish, his surname Jugashvili translates as Son of a Jew, as far as I know one of his parents (father) had Jewish roots. I have nothing to say against Jews, I just wanted to mention (in my first post) that it was understandable that after occupation of Ossetia and Georgia by bolsheviks he would take the Georgian side (view) and would opt to continue keeping Ossetia devided in two parts: South Ossetia and North Ossetia (in accordance with previous Georgian invasion in 1920-1922)

  40. Nono

    Thanks V. I think you have put a bit more perspective and balance to this discussion. I had actually read a similar account in a French website that deciphers what the media says and also denunciates the propagandas.
    It seems indeed that Georgia stroke first (thing that a lot of Western media fail to report) and also that South Ossetia did vote for independence several times but Georgia refused to acknowledge that fact. Yes, things are never as clear cut as they seem…

  41. My last name means A Little Wedge, what does that tell you?

    Joseph’s official father, Vissarion, or Beso, was an Ossetian cobbler, who didn’t get along with his son. So for your contention that Stalin was a Jew based on his name and his father’s lineage to stand, it would have to withstand a test of his father’s name as well. Vissarion is not a Jewish name. If you care to provide evidence who in Beso’s family was Jewish and how they were related, I’m all ears. But as it stands, it’s a pile of poo…

  42. Re: There’s no such nationality as Georgian. That too is questionable. Sure, I’d buy a federation argument as many nationalities live there. But – Germany was not a single state until the end of the 19th century, Italy was populated by many different peoples until as recently as the end of the 19th century. Are you telling me there’s no such nationality as German or Italian?

  43. V

    to Aleks:

    1) I’ m here not to discuss the Jewish (or Stalin) question, I’m here to discuss the genocide of South Ossetians by Georgian military and the tricks of dirty pro-American TV propaganda, so, please don’t try to shift the discussion away.

    2) As regurds to Stalin’s roots you can stay with your opinion I would stay with mine. In the same way I can say that your words “it’s a pile of poo”…

  44. “I’m here to discuss the genocide of South Ossetians by Georgian military and the tricks of dirty pro-American TV propaganda, so, please don’t try to shift the discussion away.”

    Sure, but admittedly, your knowledge regarding Stalin’s nationality undermines your credibility, wouldn’t you say?

    We could discuss the “genocide” — big words for the death that so far is only in a couple of hundred — of South Ossetians. I question the accusation of genocide. Clearly, if the ultimate goal was the extinction of all South Ossetians, the number of dead discovered by the Russian authorities right now would have been very much higher. Genocide is a strong word that doesn’t describe the situation, but instead allow readers and viewers to fall into a hysteria.

    We can also discuss the freedom with which “volunteers” murdered and looted the Georgian villages under the aegis of the Russian military forces. I could link to Russian news sources describing that, if you’d like.

    Regarding the pile of poo. I certainly gave reasons why I called your assertions as a pile of poo. I haven’t seen anything given from you to discredit that. Merely calling it such doesn’t make it so.

    I’d also recommend reading a bit more to get a grasp on what’s going on in the region rather than watching TV. The TV news is skewed by definition.

    But seriously, Young Stalin is a great book.

  45. V

    to Aleks:

    1) Germany is not as much united as it seems from outside, neither is Italy.

    2) While the nations/ethnic groups in Western Europe are generally peacified, in Georgia (apart from South Ossetia and Republic of Abkhazia) right now there are small clashes and conflicts between other ethnic groups which are heavily punished by Georgian secret service, police and military. There are indications that people of Dzhvaks (ethnically Armenian), Pankisi (ethnically close to one of the Chechen clans), Swanetia (Swans), Megrelia (Megrels), Adzhara (Adzharians) want to break away from remaining Georgian territoriy. So I wouldn’t consider Georgia as a one united nation. If their country survive, it would survive only through creation of a confederation giving equal rights and protection to all ethnic groups by a new government. Otherwise, the pseudo-state “Georgia”, created with the help of Russian Empire 200 hundred years ago, would break apart and seize to exist.

  46. To V:

    1) It’s not the question whether Germany is united. It’s the question whether there’s such a nationality as Germans. You remember your original assertion that there’s no such a nation as Georgians because they’re made up of many different nationalities, right? Well, applying that assertion to Germany, you’d have to concede that, according to you, Germans aren’t really a nationality. Or did I get it all wrong?

    2) Yes, Georgia isn’t united. But that’s not what I’m questioning. I’m questioning this sentence, “There is no such a nation as Georgian-this is just the package in English language to the West.” Now I presume by the context, you meant to say nationality, right?

  47. V

    to Aleks:

    as regards to the genocide and ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia you have to remember that:

    1) the population of South Ossetia prior to this 4th wave of genocide was very small (as many thousands of South Ossetians flew to North Ossetia during previous waves of genocide). According to different sources pre-2008war South Ossetian population was estimated between 70 & 75 thousand.

    2) During this 4th wave of South Ossetian genocide another 34 thousand flew to North Ossetia and up to 2,000 were killed. Also were killed in action at least 200 South Ossetian police, military and volunteers (together with a few dozens of Russian light-armed peacekeepers).

    3) During the 1st wave of genocide (in 1918-1922) up to 17,000 South Ossetian civilians were killed by Georgian military

    4) Several more thousands of South Ossetian civilians were killed during the 2nd wave of genocide (1989-1992) and the 3rd (in 2004) and beetween them. Another dozens of thousands fled to North ossetia during 1989-2008 period

    5) Please check with UN what they consider a genocide – believe me, they consider a genocide a plannned murder of at least 30-50 people coming from one ethnic group. So, this case clearly classifies for genocide and ethnic cleansing, and up to 100 Russian investigators are currently collecting the evidence of that and later would provide all information to the Hague Tribunal and other international and Russian courts.

  48. V

    to Aleks:

    yes, thats right, there is no such one united nationality as Georgian, as I’d said before, in Georgia there are multiple nations with different local names. Currently the power in the country is controlled by the people (ethnic group) from the areas reasonably close to Tbilisi (the capital). That nation/ethnic group now accepted the western name “Georgians” pretending that in Georgia there is one united nation. However it is not.

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