The same text in Swedish is here
"All of us have been horrified by the recent events in Kosovo. But we in Estonia look on the discovery of mass graves of civilians with particular horror and concern. We should never forget that it was here in our country; in the village of Palermo near Rakvere, not far from Tallinn, that the first mass graves of this new kind of horrors were uncovered in December 1918. It was then that the public first heard this word and saw the pictures of mass graves. These graves containes the bodies not of military combatants but of ordinary men, women, children and elderly people, whose only crime was membership in a community some had defined as an enemy. And the appearance of such graves ushered in a period of total war and totalitarianism, the twin evils of our time that gave birth to these and other crimes against humanity."Thus Lennart Meri, president of Estonia, commenced his address to the international commission charged with the task of examining Communist and Nazi crimes against humanity in Estonia. The Commission gathered on January 26, 1999 for its first meeting in the Estonian capital Tallinn. Its members are well known and respected persons from different countries, chaired by former Finnish diplomat Max Jakobson.
"And what is far more important, the work of this commission reflects our common convisiton that we cannot build a free and democratic future without facing up to the past. Trying to sweep past events under the rug of collective forgetfulness will not help us to achieve either reconciliation or progress toward a better future. Doing so will not prevent such horrors from being repeated. Instead, ignoring what happened in the name of whatever short-term goals will gurantee that we will be living in a house built on sand, one certain to collapse during the next storm."
"This commission is committed to setting out in as clear terms as possible what crimes against humanity happened in Estonia. It is committed to overcoming the stereotypes about groups that were the basis of many of these crimes: After all, most of these crimes were possible only because some governments and movements used stereotypes in place of the uniqueness of the human person in their dealings with others. It is committed to eliminating any double standards in the assessment of particular events. Crimes against humanity are crimes against humanity regardless of who commits them. And it is committed to compiling a record sufficiently well-documented and complete that no one will be able to deny what happened or to avoid facing up the facts."
1. Communist crimes against peace in the Baltic states
The security of the Baltic – and the rest of the Nordic – states between the world wars depended on the balance of power between the super powers. When Germany and the Soviet Union both developed into totalitarian states the risk of war was increased and with it the threats against the Baltic peoples and others. It did not help that the Baltic states had signed the inter war period agreement to prohibit all wars, the Briand-Kellogg pact, or that they had signed non-aggression pacts with the Soviet Union in 1932 and two years later extended them with another ten years.
When negotiations between the Western states and the Soviet Union had broken down during the summer of 1939 the Communists tried to seek an agreement with the Nazis. Hitler and Stalin agreed on a non-aggression treaty and a secret additional protocol. This Nazi-Communist treaty is known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (MRP) named after the Soviet foreign minister Molotov and his Nazi colleague von Ribbentrop, who signed the treaty on August 23, 1939. In the secret additional protocol the German Nazis and the Russian Communists divided Finland, the Baltic states and Poland, among others, between themselves. This was the beginning of World War II which started when first Nazi-Germany and then Stalin’s Soviet Union attacked and divided Poland. Ten days after the Soviet attack on Poland another Nazi-Communist treaty was concluded in Moscow containing yet another secret additional protocol, according to which Stalin traded the Polish capital of Warsaw with surroundings and another Polish region against the still independent Lithuania. Neither Lithuanians nor Poles were ever asked for their opinions… …
Stalin simultaneously decided to force the Baltic governments to accept pacts of mutual assistance. The treaty with Estonia was signed on September 28, 1939 and it granted the Soviet Union the right to keep 25 000 troups at the Paldiski naval base on the Gulf of Finland and at air force bases on the Estonian mainland and the islands off the coast. On October 5, Latvia was forced into a similar agreement and had to receive 30 000 Soviet troups and on October 10 the Lithuanians were forced to receive 20 000 troups from its Communist superpower neighbour.
The Soviet Communists emphasised in these treaties the respect they felt for the Baltic states’ political independence, constitutions, economic and political systems and military independence. But the Soviet general staff at the same time printed maps where the Baltic states were described as Soviet republics. And the day after the last Baltic pact of mutual assistance signed, the Soviet deputy minister of security, general Ivan Serov, reputedly signed a secret order of registration and deportation of "anti-Soviet elements" from the still independent states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
A month later, Russian Communists attacked Finland. The fierce Finnish resistance probably postponed the Communist occupation of the Baltic states. But when the Finnish-Soviet war of 1939-1940 was over and the West was looking towards the Western Front – where Paris fell on June 14, 1940 – the Russian Communists grabbed the opportunity and demanded that a new Soviet-friendly government be installed in Lithuania. Lithuania was occupied by the Red Army on the following day. Another day later the Soviet government demanded that Latvia and Estonia appoint new governments, willing to "honestly fulfil" the pacts of mutual assistance and allow an unlimited number of Soviet troups. The Estonian and Latvian leaders considered military resistance pointless and Soviet troups were thus able to occupy Latvia and Estonia on June 17, 1940.
In occupying Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Soviet Communists violated at least 15 international treaties – from the peace accords made after the Great War (where Lenin’s government promised to respect the Baltic states’ independence "eternally") to the non-aggression treaties signed before World War II as well as the statutes of the League of Nations. The Communist take-overs were later described as big victories for the Baltic peoples and the Communist parties. But since in the summer of 1940 the Baltic Communist parties had each between 100 and 200 members, the Baltic Communists were lucky to get assistance from the Soviet soldiers who greatly outnumbered them …
A couple of days after the Soviet occupation, new governments were declared in the three Baltic states. The ministers were chosen by specially appointed Soviet emissaries. As in Eastern Europe after World War II, Communists were given the important posts, like the department of the interior, but most ministers were not Communists. The population should not be unnecessarily alarmed.
General elections were held a month later. Only Communist candidates were allowed to run (in Estonia an opposition candidate was mistakenly allowed to run in one constituency but on the first day of the election he was arrested, on charges of fraud). When the election turn-out did not meet with expectations, the elections were extended for another day. Those who demanded secret ballots were immediately taken to the interrogation quarters of the security police and accused of being "anti-Communists" or "enemies of the people". Those were the elections that made the term "Baltic elections", when used in political science text books, synonymous with fake elections, before elections like that became common in Communist Eastern Europe after World War II.
According to official records, the "Block of the working people" was supported by 92,8 per cent of the voters in Estonia, 97,6 per cent in Latvia and as much as 99,19 per cent in Lithuania. The Soviet news agency TASS, broadcast the election result 12 hours before the polling stations closed. Those responsible for the broadcast probably did not know that the elections had been extended due to low voter turn out. In that way the Baltic voters got to know how they voted before the votes had been counted. …
The newly elected Parliaments decided
to transform the Baltic states into Socialist Soviet republics and apply for
admittance into the Soviet Union. On August 3, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet
Union granted Lithuania entry, on August 5 Latvia and on August 6 Estonia.
The law professor and Social democrat MP, Östen Undén, said in the Swedish Parliament on August 16, 1940:
"Three formerly independent states have been destroyed in a few days. The illusory voluntariness cannot fool anyone. We know only too well these days how such voluntariness is created …The remaining small states in Europe that are still free have been given yet another lesson by watching the methods used against the Baltic states".
The stage was prepared for another
Communist genocide – this time on the Baltic peoples – while their
neighbours turned their eyes away and ceased being witnesses or even spectators.
Maybe now – nearly sixty years later – it is again time to learn something
from these our neighbours’ experiences of Communist theory and practice? [back]
2. The time of genocide
From their very first moment in power, Communists in all conquered countries have singled out various groups who have been incarcerated in camps for forced labour and indoctrination, frequently called "retraining", and for immediate execution. It all started with the "de-cossacifiation" in Russia and the Ukraine under Lenin and later came the "de-kulakification" in the same countries under Stalin. This view of human beings as representatives of certain "interests" only and as members of certain classes in society or other social groups, was continued in the Baltic states with the mass executions, arrestations and deportations during the 1940s.
During the first Soviet occupation,1940-1941, 179 people were sentenced to death in Estonia by Soviet (peoples’) courts, and approximately 2 200 were killed in other ways. Most of them were killed by the so called annihilation battalions and by the security police, the NKVD, in the prisons in Tartu and Kuressaare among other places (1).
The Communists in Tartu hid 190 bodies in a well in a police station yard. A couple of decades later, specially trained dogs were kept in the same yard and used against Estonians who demanded freedom for their country and called for an end to Communist terror. Nearby is the old Meat Square (Liha turg no 7), where the Communists killed eighteen prisoners in January 1919, among them the Greek Orthodox bishop Platon. In Kuressaare the killings were carried through in the yard of the medieval castle.
During the whole Soviet era all
writing and talking about the Communist killings was prohibited. But in the
autumn of 1988 a newspaper in the island of Saaremaa was able to publish an
eyewitness account of a survivor:
"As far as I know, only three persons were shot to death and later found in the well. All the others were tortured to death. They numbered about a hundred. Nobody knows the exact number. The methods of torture were numerous; one man had his lips cut of, another his nose, his tongue and his ears. Many had their feet boiled, someone one foot and others both feet. There were also victims from whose backs pieces of skin were cut out and who had their hands bound behind their backs with barbed wire. A few had their eyes cut out. One woman had her breasts cut of. I was there when the bodies were removed from the cellars. During the day thousands of people came to look for their loved ones. Many found them. It was a horrible sight, one I will never forget ".
The mass terror practised by the Soviet annihilation battalions did not originate in the Baltic peoples’ armed resistance, which is what some Communists have claimed. The Baltic guerrilla fight against the Soviet occupation forces was – like the guerillas who later fought the Nazis – a consequence of the terror against civilians indulged in by the occupants. To the global list containing names like Lidice, Oradour and Babij Jar, from Estonia alone can be added names like Kabala and Kautla. In the latter village members of Soviet annihilation battalions tortured every single person they met to death. The youngest was two months old and the oldest was 78 years.
Already in the autumn of 1939 – almost a year before the occupation – the Soviet deputy head of state security, general Ivan Serov, had signed the order about mass deportations from the Baltic states. According to this order, no 001223 from October 11, 1939, a number of alleged anti Soviet elements were to be sent to Soviet camps. Among the groups especially mentioned were members of all non Communist parties (from the right to the Social Democrats and the Free Socialists) and persons expelled from Communist organisations, police officers, military and members of the Home Guard, higher government officials and diplomats, judges and prosecutors, merchants and owners of big houses and hotels, people who were employed in subsidiaries to foreign companies and other persons with extensive foreign contacts (including esperantists, philatelists and Red Cross members), clergymen and people with relatives who had escaped to the West.
During these 24 hours, 9 250 persons were deported from Estonia alone, 15 081 from Latvia and around 13 600 from Lithuania (2). Around 38 000 persons were thus deported within 24 hours only.
The security police did not have to give a reason for coming to get suspects in the middle of the night. All family members had to follow them – including infants and the elderly and sick. Those gathered were taken on trucks to the nearest railway station were women and children were separated from the men and in many cases never saw them again.
It often took days before the transport to the Siberian camps began. The boxcars and cattle trucks provided with grids had no sanitation devices and the stench was appalling. Most infants, sick and old people died during the normally week-long transport to the Soviet Gulag archipelago.
Soviet and other Communists have defended the mass deportations from the Baltic states in various ways. It has been claimed that the non-Socialist governments in the period between the wars persecuted Communists, and therefore it was only fair, or at least logical and understandable, that the Communist regimes in their turn persecuted their opponents. This is an inadequate comparison. The non-Socialist "bourgeoisie" governments, in reality even led by Social democrat prime ministers, did in fact arrest some Communists who, on Soviet orders, tried to unseat the legal and democratic governments, for example during the 1924 Communist coup in Estonia. 258 persons were arrested altogether in Estonia between the wars for reasons that could possibly be considered political. Compare that to the fact that the Communists after the 1940 occupation arrested 7 043 persons in the first two months alone, persons whose crimes usually consisted in their belonging to the "wrong" group in society. Thus the Communist in two months arrested 27 times as many people as the non-Communists had arrested in two decades – and the Communists’ victims were innocent (3).
Secondly it has been said that the deportations were necessary steps to clean the countries from "anti-Soviet elements " before the Nazi attack. But on the day the deportations started, the Soviet party paper Pravda printed a message from the TASS agency "firmly describing as provocations all rumours of a possible German attack on the Soviet Union ". Besides, 28,4 per cent of the persons deported from Estonia were under the age of 14 and 17,3 per cent were over the age of 50 which meant that they would hardly have been able to cause the Communists much damage in a war; only 21,5 per cent were men between 20 and 49, who could be regarded as able to fight. These mass deportations actually did more than anything else to make the Balts into ardent anti-Communists and anti-Soviets. Ever since the days of the Balt German barons most Estonians and Latvians viewed Germans as the historical enemy but after the national shock administered to the small Baltic peoples by the 1941 deportations the Germans were hailed – in the beginning – almost as liberators. Not until the German Nazis had proven themselves as ruthless as the Russian and other Communists did they become as loathed by the Baltic peoples.
Among the deported were around 400 Jews. As usual the Jews were more severely persecuted than other groups by a dictatorial regime. According to the latest census the Jews accounted for 0,4 per cent of the Estonian population, but 4 per cent of the deported were Jews. In Lithuania the Jews constituted nearly 1/12 of the population but 1/5 of the arrested and deported during the first Soviet occupation.
The first mass deportation was originally intended to be followed by a second and a third. The second was planned to take place a month later, in July of 1941. But the German advance was so quick as to render the Communist annihilation battalions unable to execute the second and third deportations, except in the island Saaremaa which the Germans reached later than the mainland. To judge from what the Communists managed to do in Saaremaa, the second and third waves would have been considerably more extensive than the first. According to the detailed lists of names prepared for the entire country as many would have been deported as were sent away when the Baltic farms were collectivised in the spring of 1949.
One of the deported was a young boy who wrote a diary from the day in spring when he and his parents were sent to Siberia until the day in 1944 when he ran out of paper. The boy and his mother were as usual separated from the father before the transport to the Gulag Archipelago. The boy describes everything that happens in his life, how one friend after the other dies from malnutrition, how an acquaintance steals a potato to keep from starving to death and is thrown in jail as punishment, how he and his mother survive by eating nettle soup, etc. Every third or forth notation ends with the question: "Daddy, where are you? Why don’t you take me away from here? Please, God, send my love to my father ". But of course the father is already dead. Maybe a book like this one, an Estonian "Diary of Anne Frank" could make a few more people understand what our Baltic neighbours went through, if a Western publishing house wanted to publish it.
Among the deported was the Estonian president Konstantin Päts, who was sent away as early as in July 1940 and arrested in June 1941 and consequently kept prisoner in different locations until he died in a mental hospital in Burachevo in Russia in January 1956. In June 1977, three of the president’s letters reached the West, written when he was in Soviet captivity – probably in 1953 since he mentioned his upcoming 80th birthday. The letters were signed by him and carried his thumb print.
The last president of inter-war
Estonia wrote that he had been subjected to all kinds of humiliations and that
his life had been threatened. He was not allowed to use his own name, and was
simply called "No 12". He was not allowed to write to his family or
receive any help from them. In one of the letters he addressed the world and
asked for help to the Baltic peoples:
"I turn to the United Nations and the entire enlightened world in a request for help to the peoples of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, against whom the Russian occupants use such force as to make them succumb. I declare the annexation of the Baltic states, carried through in 1940, a brutal crime against international law and a false representation of the true wills of these annexed peoples. Save these peoples from complete annihilation and allow them to decide their own destinies. Establish a UN authority in the Baltic states to supervise a referendum in the aforementioned states where their citizens would be able to express their true wishes. May Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania be free and independent states!
K Päts (signature) (finger print)" (4)
These letters caused no reaction in the UN or from politicians in neighbouring countries like Sweden. President Päts´ remains were found in 1990 and re-buried in Tallinn.
Altogether eight former heads of state and 38 ministers from Estonia were deported. The same fate befell three former heads of state and 15 ministers from Latvia, and the president, five prime ministers and 24 other Lithuanian ministers.
Among the deported and later executed were also a large number of officers, among them 79 generals and colonels from Estonia. In Latvia, all high ranking officers were ordered to go to Moscow for "supplementary education" the day before the mass deportation of 1941; most of them were arrested on arrival and later shot or incarcerated in camps. The Communists acted in the same way in neighbouring countries like Poland where most of the Polish officers that had been captured during Hitler’s and Stalin’s 1939-40 attack were executed. Around 4 500 were executed in Katyn and those are among the few whose destiny finally attracted attention in the West.
In Latvia 7 020 Latvians, according to
the incomplete statistics of the Red Cross, were arrested and sentenced (before
the large deportation of June 1941); out of these 980 persons were executed and
buried in eight mass graves. The rest were sent to Siberian camps. Later came
the first large deportation of June 1941:
"The shock to the Latvian people was terrible. After June 14 people were afraid to stay at home, many spent the nights with acquaintances in distant places or ran off into the woods, desperation was the prevalent emotion. One macabre part was that the authorities pretended that nothing had happened, the newspapers contained nothing on the deportations, nobody had any information on those who had disappeared, there was nowhere to go for help or information. The world was silent." (5)
During the Nazi occupation of the Baltic states, around 6 600 Estonian citizens were killed. Among them were almost 1 000 Jews and 243 Romani (Gypsies) (6). The German Nazis also killed most of the more than 36 000 Soviet prisoners of war taken during the fights in Estonia.
In Latvia around 80 000 people were killed – all of the almost 70 000 Jews that had stayed in the country and more than 10 000 Latvians and other Latvian citizens. The Communist and Nazi occupation forces together mobilised around 250 000 Latvian citizens, 100 000 of whom died in action (7).
In Lithuania, more than 100 000 Lithuanian Jews were killed by the occupation forces and their henchmen. The Jews went from being 8 per cent of the population before the war to less than one per cent after the war. Only 20 000 of the more than 150 000 pre-war Lithuanian Jews survived the Holocaust.
Before the second Soviet occupation in the autumn of 1944 nearly 300 000 Balts fled to the West. While most of the around 70 000 Estonian refugees chose to go by sea to Sweden or Finland, most Latvians and Lithuanians fled to Germany. Thousands died during the escape, around 4 000 when the ships "Moero" and "Nordstern" went down in the Baltic Sea. Thousands of people were repatriated, i.e. sent by the Western powers back to their occupied countries after the war; around 31 000 people were sent back to Estonia (more than 12 000 of these people were prisoners of war and almost 19 000 were civilians) according to Soviet information.
Sweden received around 32 000 Estonians (around 7 000 Estonian Swedes), close to 5 000 Latvians and more than 400 Lithuanians. The Balts were the first large group of refugees arriving in Sweden and staying here. They met with lots of human sympathy but little political understanding. When they first arrived they were even subjected to a so called prohibition of propaganda, which meant that they were not allowed to talk publicly about the Communist (and Nazi) oppression they had been subjected to. Their countrymen in the old home countries would have to endure several decades more of genocide and oppression, russifiation and lack of freedom, militarisation and growing pollution without the surrounding world caring very much about it.
During the first decade of the second Soviet occupation, from 1944 to 1953, around 20 000 people were arrested for alleged political reasons in Estonia. Approximately 13 000 of these were sent to labour camps were many of them later died. According to Soviet information around 1 500 guerrilla fighters, the so called forest brethren, were killed in Estonia.
The anti-Communist guerrilla war in Lithuania would turn out to be the longest and most extensive in post war Europe, even though few people outside Lithuania knew anything about it. Around 25 000 Lithuanian guerrilla members were killed by the Soviet power. In order to defeat the guerrilla, 41 158 Lithuanians were deported in May 1948.
The night before March 25, 1949 nearly 100 000 more Balts were dragged from their homes and sent in cattle wagons to Siberian camps. Many of them were small farmers or relatives of people who had been deported earlier. Among the deported around 20 500 were Estonians, 40 500 were Latvians and 33 500 were Lithuanians (8).
Nearly forty years later Estonian historian Evald Laasi described a unique chart giving information on planned and realised Estonian victims of deportation during the spring of 1949. The chart was based on information provided by the then Peoples’ Commissar of State Security in Estonia, major-general Boris Kumm, and given to the Estonian Communist Party Central Committee:
Table 1.Victims of deportation in Estonia, March 1949, planned and actual numbers.
Planned Actual Males 7 582 4 507 Females 9 935 10 274 Children (up to15 ys) 4 809 5 717 Total 22 326 20 498
Source: The Estonian paper "Kodumaa"(Motherland) November 16, 1988
As shown by this table, the actual number of deported was less than planned. Many men fled and hid in the woods during the night the deportations took place and joined the guerrillas. The Communists therefore had to gather and deport more women and children than they originally intended to, but they could not get hold of enough to compensate the lack of men. Communist planned economy had failed again…
The number of people deported varied between different parts of the country but on an average 7,6 per cent of the population was sent away. According to Estonian researcher Aigi Rahi, who has made a special study of the deportations from the area surrounding the university town of Tartu, the deportation was targeted directly towards children, women and elderly people. The number of working age men was only 12 per cent" (9).
Among those deported in 1949
approximately one out of ten died in Siberia. Since a relatively large number of
those were elderly, some would have died even if they stayed in Estonia. But
that is no excuse for preventing them to end their lives as free men in their
own country. Those who survived and eventually were allowed to return to their
country were not allowed to live in their former places of residence, or in the
larger cities and they found it hard to find employment. Rahi comments:
"The wounds inflicted by the deportation in March 1949 can not be measured in numbers and percentages only. We are talking about thousands of lost years of creative work, crushed families, unborn children, closed educational opportunities. Those who were sent to Siberia as children did not speak Russian and met with great difficulties in Russian schools. Younger children learnt Russian well and after their return to Estonia they were forced to continue in Russian schools. The deportations spelled forced collectivisation and the end of private farming. The persecution made fear, hatred and informing on others spread among the population … After the mass deportations of 1949 and the forced collectivisation of farming, the feeling of despair and indifference spread among the rural population. This was shown in decreasing numbers of births, rural flight and a growing number of suicides. In addition the mass deportations created an environment favourable to immigration and a substantial change of the demografic structure".
In the year 1950, a further 1 415 Estonians and Latvians were deported from those parts of the formerly independent Estonian and Latvian territories that had been incorporated with Russia in 1945.
In the following year several hundred members of prohibited religious groups in Estonia were sent to Siberian camps.
In the spring of 1950 the Baltic Communist parties adopted, on orders from Moscow, resolutions that were used to arrest intellectuals like teachers, authors, artists, musicians, lawyers and doctors. Even native Baltic Communist leaders were accused of being "bourgeoisie nationalists", among them the First secretary of the Party, the chairman of the Presidium of the Estonian Supreme Soviet and other leading "June Communists" i.e. Communists who had arrived in Estonia from Russia after the 1940 occupation. Towards the end of that decade the chairman of the presidium of the Latvian Supreme Soviet was purged together with the head of government, several ministers, party secretaries, editors-in-chief and other leading party men, all because a group of Latvian "national Communists", led by the deputy head of government Eduards Berklavs, had managed to gather a majority in the most important institution of the Latvia Communist party, the Politbureau. Since the Soviet leader Nikita Chruschev in his "secret speech" to the 1956 Soviet party congress had talked about the right of all peoples to chose their own road to Socialism these people thought that that right applied to Latvians too. They were wrong. Simultaneously the minister for education, the chancellor of the university in the capital and several Lithuanian professors were removed from office – all accused of being "bourgeoisie nationalists ".
Altogether around 139 700 persons were deported from Latvia during the reign of Stalin. During the whole Communist era 51 973 Latvians were arrested, according to official information 1 986 of those were executed. The total number of known victims of Communist genocide in Latvia – arrested, executed and deported – would thus be 191 673 persons. That number constitutes about 15 per cent of the country’s population according to the 1959 census. The real number was probably higher because far from every arrestation, execution or deportation was recorded and archived. Besides, many Latvians were killed in Russia but nobody knows the exact number. Out of the Latvians living in the Soviet Union prior to World War Two, around 70 000 were hit by the wave of terror of 1937-1939 and 25 000 among them were killed (10).
The total number of known victims of Communism in Lithuania, calculated in the same way, was around 360 000 persons; ca 130 000 were deported (28 000 of those died in Siberia), ca 200 000 were arrested (149 741 of those were later transferred to Communist concentration camps), 25 000 members of the resistance movement were killed as well as 2 747 prisoners in Lithuanian prisons.
In Estonia the number of victims can be summarised as follows: around 30 000 were deported, around 80 000 were arrested, around 2 000 were executed and the same number of civilians fell victims to Communist bombing, around 10 000 soldiers fell while fighting on the Russian side, (and 8 000 fighting on the German side). The population losses in Estonia were two or three times larger. That means that around 70 000 refugees, around 20 000 Baltic Germans who moved "home" to Germany prior to and during the war, around 80 000 persons who were evacuated or mobilised and sent to Russia, around 70 000 inhabitants of areas that were forcibly separated from Estonia and incorporated with Russia should be added to the above mentioned number. If one includes relatives of all those arrested, executed, deported and generally persecuted one could claim that around half the population was hit by Communist persecutions (11).
While many Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians were deported from their countries, many Russians and some Belo Russians, Ukrainans and others were sent to the Baltic states – some of those presumably against their will. The consequence of these Communist migrations was that the Baltic part of the population in the Baltic countries steadily decreased.
The Estonians constituted, according to 1938 numbers, a little more than 93 per cent of the Estonian population. 50 years later their number had fell to less than 60 per cent. No other European country had been subjected to population losses of the same magnitude as Estonia (and Latvia) during and after the war. As late as in the early nineties the Estonians had not reached the name numbers as they had prior to the war, the occupation and the deportations.
"The rest of Europe has never seen population changes this dramatic and might therefore find it difficult to understand the enormity of what the Estonians have been subjected to" stated Lennart Meri, at the time a well known writer and film maker, later foreign minister and president, when I interviewed him in the early nineties. "There are no comparisons. But you could try to imagine Moscow with 15 million inhabitants, half of them Chinese, where for instance the traffic cops used their ´big brother rights´ and spoke only Chinese. And in restaurants the old cutlery had been replaced with chopsticks" (12).
The situation was no better in Latvia, at least not from the point of view of the Latvian population. In the early nineties the Latvians were almost 100 000 fewer than they were prior to World War Two. The number of Latvians in Latvia decreased during the same period from 82 to 52 per cent. In Riga, the capital, no more than every third person was Latvian, in the second largest city Daugavpils only every eight person, etc.
Translated into Swedish numbers, the Baltic population losses during World War II would mean that more than a million Swedes had been arrested or deported. The Estonian experiences would also mean that half the population of, say Stockholm, would be Russian – while the Latvian experiences would mean that more than two-thirds of the population of the Swedish capital would be Russian speaking. Street signs would be bilingual bur most taxi drivers, postal workers, cashiers and others would speak Russian only. All meetings in authorities and organisations would need to include one Russian speaking person only in order to force all Swedes to try to speak Russian. If someone had tried to use the reactionary argument that people in Sweden should be allowed to speak Swedish, he would have been branded as a "bourgeoisie nationalist " and "anti-Communist" and he would have been forced to explain his actions to the Communist party representative in his place of work and maybe to the security police.
Those who – in a state of drunkenness or even when completely sober – sang the prohibited Swedish national anthem "Du gamla, du fria" or hid the old yellow-and-blue flag in the attic might, if they were exposed, have been sentenced to a year of forced labour or incarceration in a mental hospital. Those who had dreamed of travelling abroad or to be able to buy their own car in ten years time could simply forget all about it, if they had received a note in their work book. Or even worse, they might have a relative who had escaped over Öresund at the time of the Communist "liberation" or who had been sentenced to the "Swedish punishment", which meant 25 years of forced labour in the iron mines in Lappland followed by 5 years of inner exile in the interior of Norrland.
During the Communist period, Estonia was forced to receive more than 7 million immigrants, mainly Russians, who in most cases never rooted themselves or cared about learning the language of the country. For Sweden this would have meant that around 35 million immigrants had come and left and that around 5 million of them had stayed and had been given a number of advantages, language wise and otherwise.
Immigration to a free society where the indigenous population has not been subjected to genocide and do not feel their future existence threatened, is one thing. Mass immigration that the domestic authorities are totally unable to influence and where the domestic population is being discriminated against while immigrants are given priority when it comes to jobs and housing and other things, is totally another.
Knowing what we know today, the fact
that Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians – after decades of russifiation and
oppression – were able to free themselves without as much as hurting a hair on
a single Russian’s head is unbelievable. Maybe they realised that most
Russians too were victims of Communism rather that it’s active or passive
henchmen and fellow-travellers. [back]
3. Autodafès and cultural murder
In places where Communists have managed to get in a position of authority by their own power, genocide has usually been followed by cultural murder. That happened in the Baltic states as well.
On the anniversary of the Nazi-Communist treaty, the Communist party newspaper, the "Rahva Hääl" (Voice of the People) in Estonia proclaimed that the government had decided to withdraw from "sale and other distribution all anti-Soviet defamatory- and agitatory literature, literature praising and excusing the bourgeoisie exploiters’ ideology and exploitation, chauvinist literature promoting enmity and hatred between peoples and all kinds of religious literature striving for political goals by appealing to the religious feelings of the people. This decision applies to newspapers and magazines as well as fictional and non-fictional literature".
As early as the month before, the Communist security organs had decide to confiscate and destroy "recreational literature" that for some reason they disliked – everything from the Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan stories to Alexander Dumas´ "The Count of Monte Cristo". What the Communists might have had against Tarzan except for the fact that he was an individual hero and probably neither Socialist nor Communist is difficult to understand. In Dumas’ case, the fact that the hero is a Count might have been enough …
A Literature Authority was created that same autumn and as a result the long lists of prohibited books were no longer published. Libraries and book shops were silently emptied of "unsuitable literature". Books the Communists disliked were torn and cut to pieces using big knifes or put on the chopping-block and chopped to pieces with axes. In the central warehouse of the publishing houses only (the Estonian equivalent of today’s Seelig in Sweden) 23 employees spent more than two weeks destroying books in this somewhat primitive fashion.
During the Nazi occupation, a further 400 titles were destroyed, most of them had been published during the prior Communist occupation.
When the Soviet troups returned in the autumn of 1944, a more extensive search for unsuitable literature was again launched. During the years immediately following the war, around 150 000 titles were removed from the main library in Tallinn only. Nobody on the outside knew then – and nobody knows today – exactly according to which principles the Communists measured how "hostile to the people" different books were. The fate of a particular book could depend on accidental factors, like the mood at the moment or the personal preferences of the Communist" "literature police" whose task it was to judge different books.
Not until 1950 were the arbitrary judgements replaced by the publication of the Communists’ "List no 1 of obsolete editions that are not allowed in libraries or bookshops". Obsolete according to this list were all "newspapers and magazines published in Estonia during the bourgeoisie period and the German occupation" and all school textbooks published during the same period. Also obsolete were 3 000 named novels, poetry collections and non-fiction volumes. Two years later a second llist was published containing another 2 000 prohibited books.
Among the forbidden and destroyed books were masterpieces like the "Estonian Encyclopaedia " and biographical reference books, "History of Estonian art " and "General history of art" and series like "Nobel prize winners", "The Nordic novel ", "The great masters of the written word ", the works of Dostoyevsky, "Today’s novel", the a-shilling-a-book series published by the Loodus publishing firm and "Living science". Also destroyed were hundreds of children’s books and books for young people which were among the classics of world literature or Estonian literature.
A contemporary Estonian author and cultural journalist, Aivo Lôhmus in Tartu, was soft spoken but articulate when he, in the early nineties pronounced a judgement on the Communist cultural murder: "The destruction of such a large part of a people’s cultural heritage cannot be blamed on the spirit of the times or the mistakes of individuals. The actions were deliberate, our entire earlier culture and history were treated as mortal enemies. Just like the liquidation of tens of thousands of people this also must be counted among the crimes that can never be forgotten or forgiven." (13)
Around 10 000 titles and 5 000 years of magazines published prior to or during World War II were destroyed in Estonia. In reality nearly all books published during the Independence were made unavailable during the Communist period – for everybody except party loyal researchers who in exceptional cases could be allowed access to the closed special archives for forbidden literature.
The idea behind this Communist
cultural murder was that a people deprived of its history is also easily robbed
of it’s future. Latvia and Lithuania saw the same development:
"The destruction of the Latvian cultural heritage has been systematic. The methods used by the party officials can without doubt be compared to those of the Nazis. Latvian books published during the independent years were transported to paper mills or burnt. As the officials normally did not understand any language but Russian, foreign books, mainly German, were burnt as well. One of the most extensive "operations" was the destruction of the monasterial library in Aglonas containing 50 000 volumes, including ancient folios and an irreplaceable collection of documents. The books were thrown onto a fire that could be seen many miles away. The destruction of non-comfortable or forbidden books and documents continued during the seventies and even the eighties. In addition, many books ended up in the so called ´special funds´ where only a chosen few had access to them. The point of it all was to annihilate the historical awareness of the people, in a true Orwellian manner". (14)
While the Communists burnt and destroyed old masterpieces they created almost nothing new of any value as long as Stalin was alive. In the year before Stalin died, 1952, the only publications of new Estonian books consisted of two collections of political poetry and a play that was critical of the United States of America.
Had Stalin lived longer, all Estonian,
Latvian and Lithuanian literature – and many other non-Russian literatures –
might have been totally destroyed. But instead the sixties and seventies meant a
cultural re-birth, where authors and others made a point of honour of being able
to fool the Communist censors and communicate with the people above the
censors’ heads. And during the "singing revolution " in the nineties
cultural workers became the leaders of the showdown with Communist crimes
against humans and ideas. [back]
4. Faith and persecution
During the first Communist occupation religious teaching in schools was forbidden. The universities’ theological departments were closed. All those who had had their children baptised or taken through confirmation were branded as "enemies of the people". Christmas and other Christian holidays became ordinary working days and Christmas trees in private homes were strictly forbidden.
Clergymen became one of the most persecuted groups during the Communist terror. Estonia had two Lutheran, one Catholic and one Orthodox bishop among the deported. The small Catholic church ceased to function and the bishop Eduard Profittlich disappeared without a trace in Siberia. Prior to the second Communist occupation, a large number of the leaders of the Lutheran church fled to Sweden together with 70 ministers. Only half of the congregations still had their vicars after the war. They were forced to pay three times the normal rent and higher electricity fees than other citizens in addition to higher income taxes because their income was regarded as having been obtained "without work".
In Latvia less than 100 out of 250 Lutheran ministers were still there after the war. The Arch bishopTeodors Grünbergs had been deported already by the Nazis – as had the Orthodox metropolitan and three Catholic bishops – and many priests had fled to the West. Out of the priests that remained in Latvia when the Communists returned, five were murdered and an additional 35 were deported. Monasteries were dissolved, monks and nuns and many laymen were arrested, shot instantly or sent to Siberia.
In Lithuania in 1946 three out of five bishops were in Soviet labour camps. A sixth was executed and the archbishop was arrested after he had said in his cathedral that he had never signed the pro-Soviet statement that had been falsely published in his name by the Communist party newspaper Pravda ("the Truth"). He was sentenced to the usual "Baltic punishment", 25 years imprisonment followed by 5 years exile, but he died after only a few years in Communist captivity.
Around 400 out of the more than 1 100 churches in Lithuania were eventually used for secular purposes; the John cathedral in the capital became a furniture storage, the Casimir cathedral became a museum of atheism, the Bernhard cathedral and the Catherine cathedral became storages for art, and fruit and vegetables respectively. The James cathedral became the storage for the ballet, S:t Michaels church became a workshop, etc.
All seventy odd Catholic monasteries in Lithuania and three out of four seminars were closed down. The fourth was made considerably smaller and was controlled by the security police, which supervised seminar teachers, priests and other congregational workers. The same kind of cut downs and controls were implemented in Latvia and Estonia.
After Stalin’s death in March of 1953 the Communists’ religious persecution was momentarily slackened. The faithful were permitted to print prayer books and religious calendars and confirmation of young people was permitted. But during the last Khruschev years, 1959-1964, the Balts were hit by a new wave of Communist closings of churches, atheist propaganda and persecution. While Communist persecution of the faithful and their congregations in the Baltic states (and the rest of the Soviet Union) was reinforced, a dialogue between more or less naive Christians and Marxists abroad was encouraged.
Beginning in the late fifties atheist summer days and other alternatives to church ceremonies were introduced. Young believers could get lower grades in order and demeanour if they were disclosed as going to church in their free time and they could be kept from further studies at universities. Those who wanted a university degree had to pass the test in Marxism-Leninism, a test that usually included a question about "how one can know that God does not exist". That kind of pressure made the Communist religious policies nominally successful, even though it hardly enhanceded respect or sympathy for Communism or its followers among Christians in the Baltic states.
Especially in Lithuania the Communists continued to imprison outspoken priests, not least because they feared that "religious contamination" would spread from Poland to the equally Catholic Lithuania and from there maybe to the other Baltic states and the rest of the Soviet Union. A few fighting Lithuanian priests were murdered or killed in strange circumstances, as was Father Jerzy Popieluszko in Poland. The persecution of free speaking priests and the Communist crackdown on religion led to a number of popular protests; more than 17 000 Lithuanian Catholics complained in a 1972 letter that Catholics had been fired from their jobs because of their religion and were unable to get new jobs. More than 14 000 pupils complained in another letter that they were subjected to atheist instruction in school, etc.
According to the Soviet constitution the church was separated from the state already under the reign of Lenin. In reality the Communists had a stronger grip on the inner concerns of the religious congregations than in any country with a state church.
Communist laws on religion were introduced also in the Baltic states. All congregations had to be approved of and registered by secular authorities, in reality by the Communist party. Not even the members of these approved congregations were allowed to do more than to gather within the four walls of the church to pray, sing, read the Bible or listen to a sermon. The Communist religious policies are clearly shown in the pastoral statutes the Communists tried to implement for the Free Churches in the Baltics (and the rest of the Soviet Union) beginning in the early sixties. These statutes said among other things that "the leader of the congregation has to be sure of and remember that the aim of the service today is not to attract new members to the churches " (§1). "Among his duties is to resist unhealthy missionary activities " (§2)."The leader of the congregation must not allow any deviations in the service and he must not allow himself to be carried away by his own sermon" (§4). "There must be no more chasing after crowds in our congregations. The christening of youth between the ages of 18 and 30 must be limited to an absolute minimum "(§11) (15)
In Estonia the church was not permitted to print a single Bible or any other book with a spiritual content during the Communist period. In Latvia the Christians were allowed to print a hymnal and the New Testament in small editions in 1954 and 1960 respectively. In Lithuania as well, the publishing of religious literature was banned but the Lithuanian Catholic Church remained so strong and independent in relation to the Communists that a number of magazines with a national and religious content continued to be distributed underground.
Not until the Communists had realised
that the church could be defeated solely by being defiled, the persecutions
started to get less insistent. During the liberation from Communism in the late
eighties freedom of religion became an integral part of the general calls for
freedom. A number of clergymen fought for freedom and independence for the
Baltic states. [back]
5. The economy - agiant on feet of clay
The Soviet Union was a superpower thanks to its military power but this power was achieved and maintained only by great sacrifices in other areas than the "military industrial complex" All societies conform to the same economic laws – the more you spent in certain areas, the less you have in any given moment to spend in other areas.
When the kulaks as a class had been annihilated, agriculture in general became a problem in the entire Soviet Union. That happened also in the Baltic states when most independent farmers had been sent to Siberian camps after World War II. The authorities introduced extensive obligations to deliver agricultural produce to the state and increased taxes on agricultural incomes in order to force the remaining farmers to increase their production.
When the collective farms, the kolkhoz, had been introduced in the Baltic states as well, every kolkhoz farmer was allowed to keep his own little plot of no more than 0,6 hectares (1,5 acres). Employees of the state farms, the sovkhoz, were allowed to use pastures for their domestic animals – no more than one milk cow, one calf, two pigs, five sheep and an unlimited number of chickens.
In time a smaller and smaller number of agricultural workers used this opportunity to keep their own animals. But the private gardens continued to make an important contribution to the Baltic food supply (and in the entire Soviet Union). They represented around 3 per cent of the farmland but provided as much as 60 per cent of the potato supply, 40 per cent of fruit and vegetables and 30 per cent of the milk and meat supply. Without the private gardens, the food supply would have been even worse.
Another problem area was housing. The Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck has sometimes claimed that there are two ways to ruin a city. One is to bomb it, the second is to introduce rent control. The Estonian capital Tallinn was forced to try both methods during the Communist period and the result was obvious enough.
The Soviet bomb terror that struck Tallinn on March 9, 1944, cost 463 people their lives and 659 were wounded. Around 8 000 buildings were destroyed, including 40 per cent of the residential buildings which made 20 000 people homeless. Just a few days earlier Soviet bombers had destroyed what was possibly the finest baroque city of the old Swedish realm, Narva.
After the war rents were kept at the same level during the entire Soviet period – rents in the Soviet Union had not been raised since the twenties. This, combined with the fact that Communist economists did not favour housing construction, led to a housing problem and living conditions so overcrowded that only the oldest and poorest in neighbouring countries like Sweden can imagine anything like it. Inhabitants of Tallinn before World War II had had an average of more than 17 square meters, after decades of Communist rule only 8 meters per persons were left. This was partly a consequence of the Russian mass immigration, partly of the wearing out of the old residential quarters and partly of the insufficient building of new housing.
Only those who had less than four meters at their disposal were favoured when it came to the waiting list. A family with two children and 24 meters of living space did in reality not stand a chance to get a new and bigger place to live, if they lacked influential friends and were unable to bribe their way to a new apartment. Immigrants on the other hand could be given priority, something that did not help to endear them to the local population. Towards the very end of the Communist period the standard was changed to 6 meters per person but in reality that did not make much of a difference.
Since Communist planned economy worked so badly and bottlenecks appeared in different parts of the economy, most businessmen and individuals preferred to be safe rather than sorry. Businessmen wanted to procure more labour, capital, raw materials and other produce than they really needed. And individuals hoarded rare goods as soon as they were available, something that increased the lack of goods and the waiting.
Corruption became the lubricant that made the wheels of Communist planned economy run a little smoother. Dishonesty, selfishness and mendacity became integral parts of everyday life, although the powers-that-be officially preached the virtues of honesty, unselfishness and truthfulness. The Communist party secretary became the symbol of these double standards by making a beautiful speech about equality and solidarity on Labour Day, and the day after sending one of his underlings to one of the party stores where prominent party officials could cheaply purchase goods that were unavailable to ordinary citizens.
A consequence of the Communist bureaucrats’ indifference to the wishes and needs of ordinary citizens and the lagging behind of the quality and quantity of the domestic production of consumers’ goods was the exaggerated appreciation of all things foreign. I noticed that as early as on my first visit to Communist Estonia, in the early seventies.
The first day I was there I found a queue extending over several blocks. My reporter’s curiosity was awakened and I followed the queue to its beginning (or end) and found a shoe shop.
"They have had Czech boots delivered today " a girl in the queue explained. "They are much better than ours, even though they can’t exactly compare with what you produce in the West". The girl added that one of the cashiers in the shop had called her as soon as she had learnt of the Czech boots. The girl then called her friends and acquaintances, etc, and this long queue had materialised in a very short time – in the middle of the working day.
Those queues easily turned into hotbeds of anti-Soviet, anti-Socialist and anti-Communist anecdotes. Most of them quite naturally dealt with the workings (or lack of them) of the Communist planned economy. I still remember the first ones I heard outside that shoe shop.
"Were do you prefer to end up when you die, in the Socialist or in the Capitalist hell? – In the Soviet Hell, of course. There is always hope that they haven’t got enough coal or tar for the pots ".
"What difference is there between Capitalism and Socialism? – Capitalism makes social mistakes but Socialism makes capital ones ".
A third standard anecdote was about the difference between Socialist fairy tales and Capitalist ones. Capitalist fairy tales begin with the words: "Once upon a time there was …" and Socialist ones with the words: "Once there will be …"
I also remember how I tried to preach a kind of "message of contentment" to my Estonian countrymen during this first visit. In Sweden, in those days, the debate was very much about the problems and exaggerations of the materialistic welfare society. So there I was, trying to explain to my "poor country cousins" that they should be kind of proud of their poverty.
But most people I spoke to must have found me unintelligible or insufferable when I tried to explain to them how wonderfully good it was not to have fifteen different brands of toothpaste in the shops, as was the case in Sweden. "Sure, but isn’t that better than not having a single brand when you need a tube " one friend retorted irritably.
Communist shops did store toothpaste, but there were always one or several basic commodities missing. This might sound trivial to spoiled welfare Swedes, used to being able to buy anything they can afford – even though more and more people can afford less and less in this era of massive unemployment. But in the Communist Baltic states the shortage of goods, their substandard quality and the frequent queuing all contributed to make life hard.
The Swedish author Per Olov Enquist who, during travels in the sixties and seventies, had noticed a growing wealth in the Latvian capital Riga, was shocked when he returned in the eighties. In a series of stories in the daily Expressen in April 1983 he stated:
"Riga, where I most often found myself, was a nice and alive and loveable city. And a little prettier every time. The change in this late winter of 1983 is a shock to me. The decline is so evident. Not only the length of all the queues or the shortage of goods or the shortage of food, the fact that shops are suddenly so empty, or the way Riga suddenly seems so run-down, or how little has happened to city development, downtown and outside of the city centre. No, what has changed most are the ordinary people’s very basic, concrete everyday circumstances. Everything is suddenly very expensive ".
In the late eighties a number of ordinary consumer products were rationed. The ration was 150 grams of bread every day (the same ration as in Stalin’s camps), 200 grams of butter per month, 400 grams of macaroni and 600 grams of coffee every quarter of a year. That meant a cup of coffee every week.
Communists in the East and in the West were still known to defend the system by saying that at least everybody had a job and prices were stable. But not even that was true anymore.
In every economy, inflation can be said to appear when demand exceeds supply of goods and services. This can lead to an increase in prices (which means deflation of the value of the currency), queues or rationing. The Communist societies showed all classical signs of inflation and one new feature – quality decline instead of higher prices.
Nominal prices were usually kept unchanged. The price of sausage in the Baltic states, for instance, did not change between the early sixties and the late eighties. But the amount of meat and other healthy ingredients in any given kind of sausage sank to less than half of what it had been, the rest was flour and water, sold for the price of sausage. In the very small free market where farmers from the collective farms were allowed to sell products they had produced themselves, old-fashioned sausage was still available but to a price four times the official.
The least bad result of Communist economic policies might have been the fact that everybody was kept occupied, albeit not in a meaningful job that contributed to create wealth for everybody. Many tourists during the Communist period were surprised to find the "threefold" service in shops. You first queued to point out the goods you wanted, then to pay for them and then to have them given to you. If you went shopping for groceries your might have to queue in this way first in the milk shop, then in the bakery and then in the butcher’s shop (if there was any meat to queue for). This sure kept people occupied but it did not increase productivity or efficiency and thus it contributed to increasing the gap between the Baltic countries and their neighbours regarding standard of living.
You did not have to be an economist to
realise how much the Baltic states lagged behind the Nordic countries after the
war. The difference was especially evident in the case of Finland and Estonia,
two countries that before the war used to be comparable in most respects. But
after the war the standard of living in Finland grew very much higher than in
Estonia. Estonia had either been subjected to an economic system that was very
inefficient, or else the country had been exploited. One explanation does not
exclude the other. What was perfectly obvious was that the Communist planned
economy contributed to put the Baltic peoples far behind their neighbours. It
will be many years before that changes even though growth in later years has
been faster in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania than in the rest of the Nordic
Possibly the largest environmental problem in the Baltic states during the Communist period was the waste of raw materials. Soviet Communism used on average twice as much energy and raw materials as American Capitalism to produce the same amount of goods and services. The question was how long the world would be able to afford such a wasteful economy as the Soviet one – and whether even the Soviet Union could afford it.
To us living around the Baltic Sea it should be especially interesting to see how Communist planned economy affected the environment in our neighbouring countries. The pseudonym Komarov reminded his readers in a book published in 1981 of how Swedish scientists had found high amounts of PCB outside the Baltic coast, but how Soviet authorities then said that the results were incorrect. No environmentally dangerous plastic materials were manufactured in the Communist Baltic states. But it turned out eventually that large amounts of PCB certainly had been manufactured and distributed – but by enterprises that were part of the industrial-military complex. They had no obligation to be environmentally conscious and no obligation even to inform anybody about the environmentally dangerous things they were doing.
Communist secrecy and the closed nature of the system was without a doubt a contributing factor in pollution. Baltic friends of the environment did not have the opportunities of their colleagues in the West to form independent pressure groups to lobby authorities and enterprises. A green party of the Western kind or a Popular Movement against Nuclear power would have been regarded as an "anti-Soviet organisation" by the Communists across the Baltic Sea, and treated accordingly. The organisation would quickly have been dissolved and its leaders would have been imprisoned by the security police.
The ruthless exploitation of natural
resources and other kinds of pollution did indeed trigger a number of protests
during the Communist period, from among other Baltic natural scientists. In 1977
eighteen prominent scientists in Estonia compiled a detailed documentation of
the pollution and the threats against the environment in their country.
According to them, the expansion of even more stone quarries, mines and power
plants would "inevitably cause dramatic changes in the ecological balance,
not only in Northern Estonia but in the entire Baltic Sea area". The
"As a consequence of extensive mining of oil shale on a large scale, a considerable part of North Eastern Estonia has turned into a lunar landscape. Enormous piles of ashes and barren rocks can been seen above a grey and almost dead landscape. Fertile soil and vegetation has been destroyed over large areas, the air is polluted by dust, smoke, sulphurous contamination, nitrogen, phenols and other toxic substances. Rivers like Purtse and Pühajôgi, once full of trout and salmon, are now totally without life and in addition they poison the sea, kilometres away from their discharges. The groundwater is heavily polluted. That is the nature of the landscape in the oil shale area in North Eastern Estonia." (16)
The letter writes also worried about the plans to create enormous phosphorite mines in North Eastern Estonia. Exactly there, in the area where the first Communist mass grave was discovered during World War One, was a large deposit of phosphorite, a substance used by the Soviet Union to produce phosphate fertilisers. According to the letter writers, phosphorite mining in that area would lead to a "to a large extent destroyed landscape " and additional emissions of toxic substances, among them some radioactive ones, in the Baltic Sea.
The phosphorite plans were seen by many Estonians as a question of the national destiny. First because large scale mining of this kind would lower the groundwater level considerably and the waste would affect even more lakes and rivers and threaten or destroy their flora and fauna. Second because some of the residual products of phosphorite mining combusts spontaneously when they come into contact with the oxygen in the air, they then dissolve in water and poison water and ground with radioactivity. Third because the mining was planned to take place in the area where most Estonian rivers have their origins. The phosphorite mining thus threatened to make the water in all rivers in Northern and Western Estonia unfit for human and animal consumption, paralyse agriculture and pollute adjacent parts of the Baltic Sea. The resistance against these Communist and colonial plans thus became an important part of the peaceful liberation movement of the late eighties and early nineties, the so called singing revolution, in Estonia (17).
It was not hard to understand why the Estonians were worried, since Communist planned economy already had transformed large parts of Estonia and the rest of the Baltic states to ecological disasters. In Narva, vast amounts of pollution was spread from the chimneys and cold water basins of the gigantic power plants. These two power plants together were the fourth largest source of sulphure dioxide pollution in Europe. Instead of cleaning the gasses the Communists built chimneys high enough for the emissions to reach Finland and Sweden. During the Communist period the sulphure contaminations from Narva could be registered as far away as along the coast of Northern Sweden.
Outside one of the power plants there is a veritable mountain of ashes and several square kilometres of ashes containing lime and sulphure and heavy metals, some of them radioactive. The yellow-green ash-containing water used to wash the ovens had a PH of about 12. That was enough to burn a hole in the skin, if someone was stupid enough to touch the "water".
According to local environmentalists, 96 per cent of the children in Narva were ill. Twice as many as normal were born prematurely and lung cancer was more frequent than anywhere else in the then Soviet Union. Despite all this – and despite the Soviet government’s international commitment to have lowered sulphure emissions by 50 per cent by 1995 – the Communist economists wanted to build a third, gigantic power plant in Narva. The two earlier had a capacity of 1 600 and 1 435 megawatt respectively, the new one was planned to have a capacity of as much as 2 500 megawatt – to compare with the largest water power station in Sweden, Harsprånget, 940 megawatt. If this third power station had been built, it would have become the largest single source of sulphure emissions in Europe. One of the ideas behind this project was to sell electrical power to Sweden in the event of Sweden’s abolishing nuclear power prematurely and thus experienced a shortage of electricity. But the Communists lost power in Estonia and the third power plant was never built in Narva. The amount of sulphure emissions from the Narva power plants have been reduced by half during the independence – mostly thanks to a lowered production.
The large phosphorite mines that had already been built by the Communists – six subterranean mines and three open-cast mines – sent all their sewage water un-purified out into the Gulf of Finland and the Lake Peipsi (which constitutes a part of the Estonian-Russian border). An even larger environmental problem was – and still is – the radioactive peninsula at Sillamäe close to Narva. In that location the Communists built a reprocessing plant for uranium, thorium and other radioactive substances, a plant so secret that not even Estonians were allowed to visit the town without a special permit. The radioactive waste from the plant was deposited by the beach, which made the beach unusable many years ago. Even worse, the problem of how to store the radioactive waste in Sillamäe to prevent the low wall from collapsing and all the waste going straight out into the Gulf of Finland.
The situation in Latvia was equally
bad, since Communist economists judged managers and employed only by how much
they produced – not by how they produced it. A bonus was paid to all companies
that claimed to have produced more than the planned goals, regardless of what
waste of raw materials and what amount of toxic pollution of air and water they
had caused. In Latvia as well, no one was allowed to speak openly about the
"In the 60s and 70s the problems were concealed, denied, and classified, in spite of the obvious damage to the environment that was visible everywhere. Managers and party bureaucrats were more interested in the economic plan and regarded environmental problems as an annoying detail or an obstacle to the fulfilment of the plan" (18)
Most of the sewage in Riga was released directly into the Riga Bay. The consequence was that the fish died and that people by the end of the eighties no longer were allowed to swim at the famous beaches in the Bay, – Jurmala (the beach in Riga) and Pärnu in Estonia.
"Another heavily polluted area is the Ventspils area, opposite Gotland, which houses a large oil harbour and plants where substances like ammonia are produced. The careless handling of oil and oil products and toxic waste from the ammonia production have made the whole area dangerous. The ammonia plant was built in co-operation with the American oil company Occidental Petroleum, owned by the American multi-millionaire Armand Hammer ("Lenin’s friend ") and the production is intended primarily for the American market. According to the views of the local population this Russian-American project has contributed to pollution and immigration and generally meant nothing but problems for Latvia and the Latvian people. The vernacular expression is ´Latvia’s Chernobyl´" (19)
The greatest threat to the environment in Lithuania is the nuclear power plant in Ignalina, the same kind of plant as the one that broke down in Chernobyl in the Ukraine. International efforts have helped to increase safety at this plant. But only the overly optimistic believe that the danger of "another Chernobyl" is gone for ever. Everybody else in the Baltic states and in their neighbours should worry about the Ignalina plant – another part of the Communist heritage that threatens us all. [back]
No honorable person would today question the fact that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Baltic states by Communism and Communists. The question is whether these crimes should be forgotten and forgiven or whether they should be punished. And if so, who is going to judge whom and how?
As we all know, a number of prominent Nazis were put to trial in Nuremberg in 1946, and sentenced for crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. But not a single Communist has been tried and sentenced for such crimes in the Baltic states or Eastern Europe.
If crimes against humanity are always wrong – regardless of the political beliefs of the criminal – the morally right thing to do would be to launch a second Nuremberg trial, this time against Communist war criminals in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to begin with. The simplest way to do this would be to expand the mandate of the International Court in the Hague, where war criminals from former Yugoslavia have already been sentenced.
The Baltic peoples are – according to their respective national laws – able to prosecute those who have committed crimes against humanity within their territories. One of the leaders of Stalin’s "secret police" in Latvia, Alfons Noviks, was arrested in March of 1994, sentenced in December of 1995 to penal servitude for life. He died at the age of 88 in a prison infirmary in March 1996. When Latvia was occupied by the Communists in June 1940 Noviks had become head of security in the city Daugavpils and when the Communists returned in 1945 he was made minister of security and head of the NKVD (later called KGB). He confessed in court byt said that all he had done was to follow orders – an apology not accepted by the Nuremberg tribunal and not by the court in Riga.
Estonia has prosecuted some former security men for the part they played in the Stalin era deportations. The first of these men was the at the time 85 years old Vassili Riis in March 1996, but due to his fragile state of health the trial was postponed several times and Riis died before it started. He had been head of security on the island Saaremaa and signed arrestation orders for 340 people who were later executed. Also Michail Ryzjkov, head of security in Western Estonia and responsible for a large number of deportations, died before he was put to trial.
The first person to be sentenced in Estonia was the 73 year-old Johannes Klaassepp, who, on January 22, 1999, was sentenced to eight years in prison with a two year trial period for having sent and tried to send ten families to prison camps in Siberia. On March 10, 1999 yet another Soviet security man, the 80 year-old Vassili Beskov, was sentenced to eight years in prison with a three year trial period for sending or trying to send away nine families. Several others deporters are waiting for their trials.
The Estonian security police has been able to afford no more than five or six persons, among them four historians, to study the mass deportations of 1941 and 1949. The researchers have had to wade through tens of thousands of personal acts out of old Soviet archives in order to try to find evidence against identifiable persons who can be prosecuted. The work is exceedingly time consuming. In two years they gathered 32 volumes with a total of 8 570 pages about an infamous "deporter", Idel Jakobson, who between 1940 and 1950 led the NKVD investigative department in Estonia. But a psychiatric evaluation showed that Jacobson was no longer able to assume responsiblity for his actions, just like Riis and Ryzjkov Jakobson died before any trial was started.
Estonian opinion is divided as to the usefulness of these trials. When the security police charged the above mentioned Klaassepp, a number of politicians were asked about their reactions. The chairman of the (presently) only Russian party in the Parliament, Viktor Andrejev, said that the mass deportations had to be dealt with but maybe the legal system did not afford the right means. Above all he could see no point in punishing single individuals. The liberal political scientist Igor Gräzin on the other hand considered it natural that all those who had committed war crimes or crimes against humanity be prosecuted, although in certain cases punishment might be forfeited for humanitarian reasons. According to conservative MP Enn Tarto, who as an 18 year-old was arrested for the first time by the Soviet Security service and sentenced to altogether more than 25 years in prison, Estonia has an obligation to prosecute everyone who voluntarily or consciously participated in things like the deportations. According to him, Estonia has taken this obligation upon herself by signing the UN convention which says that there is to be no statute of limitation on war crimes and crimes against humanity, and by incorporating such a law in 1994. But another conservative politician, Urmas Arumäe, said that forgiving would be better than to constantly pick at old scabs and keep tensions alive, particularly so because the Estonian people has made its views on the past clear by electing its own, non Communist way. The Prosecutor General said that the Parliament is free to hand down opinions on Communism as a political system while the courts deal with individual persons’ possibly criminal actions. President Lennart Meri said after the first "deporter" had been sentenced: "We are able to forgive everything but only if we know everything about it".
In all three Baltic states everyone who runs for office has to sign a document saying that they have never worked for foreign security services against their own people. These statements can be declared void only by a court. Neither the former Soviet security services nor their Western equivalents have shared their material on Soviet agents in the Baltic states with Baltic courts or Baltic media. That is why several former (?) KGB- and GRU agents have managed to get themselves elected to the Baltic parliaments.
In Latvia, the names of five MPs were found on discarded KGB file cards. The prosecutor general said that the cards were genuine but that "they did not prove any ties to the KGB". The parliament decided, with 46 votes against 17, to suspend the five pending investigations and trial. Four were aquitted due to lack of evidence but the fifth, foreign secretary Georgs Andrejevs, resigned voluntarily in June 1995. By then he had confessed in a newspaper that he had joined the KGB as an agent in 1963, in order to facilitate his career as an anesthesiologist and to be allowed to travel abroad. Andrejevs said that he did not harm anyone by his co-operation with the KGB but instead warned people who were under surveillance. He resigned since he had broken the laws of the country by not admitting to his ties to the KGB.
In May 1994 the Latvian parliament decided that individuals should also be allowed to know what KGB’s old archives have on them and that access to these records can be given to others only by a court order, that individuals and companies with access to KGB-documents have to release them to a public "Centre for the documentation of the consequences of totalitarian regimes" and that information about individual persons’ ties to the KGB might not be published within the next ten years. The Latvian law was changed a year later to make it possible for former KGB agents to run for public office. This does not mean that Latvia is indifferent to past co-operation with Communist (or Nazi) security services, all it means is that such information should not be used for political or private extortion and used to accuse individuals without support of the legal system.
Former Soviet agents in Estonia had to report to the security police on April 1 1996 at the latest. Those who did not would see their names published, if the security police had proof of their former activities. Only 1 150 of approximately 10 000 agents had reported when the time limit expired (20).
There is hardly a democrat in the Baltic states who would question the fact that the security services of the occupation power – from the NKVD to the KGB and their military equivalent the GRU – should be regarded as criminal organisations and that actions on their behalf should be regarded as treason. But could – and should – the Communist party and its followers be declared illegal? If the party is declared illegal because of its participation in crimes against humanity in the Baltic states, does that mean that party members are to be regarded as criminals or should specific individual criminal actions be required? Does that mean that former party members should not be allowed to run for public office and to hold governmental och local jobs? (21)
The former Communist party in Estonia, having changed its name to the Democratic Labour Party joined forces with a Russian party and managed to get a couple of places in the parliament in the 1999 parliamentary elections.
In Latvia the Communist party was prohibited on August 23 1991, two days after the reactionary Communists’ failed coup in the Soviet Union and also subsequent to the Latvian parliament’s declaration of national independence. Those who had been active in the Communist party subsequent to January 13 1991 – the day when Gorbachev sent Soviet troups into Riga – or in the pro-Soviet organisations Interfront och National Salvation Committe (which supported the August 1991 coup), are not allowed to run for public office. The leader of the old time Communists, Alfreds Rubiks, the last Communist Mayor of Riga, was sentenced in July 1995 to eight years in prison for collaboration with Soviet security forces in trying to overthrow the Latvian government 1990-91, when six people were killed in January 1991. He was released in the autumn of 1998 after serving ¾ of his term. In the parliamentary elections the following autumn Rubiks’s party joined two other leftist parties and together they managed to get elected to 16 out of the 100 parliamentary seats.
Also in Lithuania a few former Communist leaders were prosecuted in December 1998, accused of participation in the attempted coup against the Lithuanian government on January 13 1991 that cost 14 people their lifes. Out of the 51 who were to be prosecuted only six could actually be put to trial, the others were hiding in Russia or Belorussia. Notable among the accused was the then First Secretary of the Lithuanian Communist Party Mykolas Burokevicius. The trial was postponed because one of the accused and one defense attorney were taken ill.
A former Communist leader in Lithuania, Algirdas Brazauskas, even managed to get himsef elected president succeeding the freedom fighter hero Vytautas Landsbergis; but Brazauskas was in turn succeeded by a conservative American Lithuanian, Valdas Adamkus. On December 10, 1998 the Lithuanian Parliament adopted – with 68 votes in favour and none against – a resolution condemning the Communist ideology and its consequences for Lithuania. The parliament was of the opinion that former Communists are morally and politically responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the name of Communism. The resolution therefore required limitations of former Communists’ possibilites to act politically in the future; this demand was dropped by the parliament on the following day (22). It was however firm in its resolve that today’s Communists are morally and politically responsible for yesterday’s Communists’ crimes.
In all three Baltic states several former members of the Communist party have been elected to parliament as representatives of other parties.
For my own part I, as a committed anti-Communist (and anti-Fascist), have been prepared to co-operate with former members of the Estonian Communist party and in some cases even with former KGB- and GRU agents. Partly because some of them seemed to me to have as little sympathy for Communism (or Fascism) as I had myself and partly because I have been unwilling to judge people who have been raised and lived under much more difficult conditions than I have. But I find it hard to understand how educated persons in free countries like Sweden have been able to join a Communist party or a former Communist party and even still call themselves Communists – a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall (23). [back]
The world’s responsibility
Those who have seen and read the accounts of the Communist genocides in the Baltic states might wonder why so little has been said about it in the rest of the world.
One explanation is that the Communist crimes in the Baltic states were committed at the "wrong" time and by the "wrong" people. When the Baltic states were occupied in June 1940 the west had its attention focussed on Paris which was just about so succumb to the German Nazis. And when the first big deportations out of the Baltic states took place in June 1941 the rest of the world was more interested in the upcoming Nazi attack on its former Communist comrades in arms in the Soviet Union.
After the war many forgot – or did not care - that the Communist Soviet Union had been an ally of Nazi Germany for two of the war’s five years. The fact that millions of Russians and other Soviet citizens had lost their lifes in the fight against the Nazis made it harder for the Balts to get anyone to listen sympathetically when they told people about the hundreds of thousands of Balts who had been murdered by the Communists. Few cared about the representatives of the small Baltic peoples when they raised accusations against a super power that had been allied to the democratic Western powers for a part of the war and was on the winning side at the end of it. Those responsible for the Communist genocide in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe were even allowed to participate in the Nuremberg trials against Nazi war criminals and to pass sentence on the people who were responsible for Nazi crimes against humanity.
Stéphane Courtois states in "The black book of Communism" that "while Himmler’s and Eichmann’s names have become known all over the world as symbols of contemporary barbarism, most people have never heard of (the leaders of Communist terror) Dzerjzinskij, Jagoda or Jesjov".
Since history is always written by the victors, Auschwitz and Buchenwald became – and rightly so – the very worst words of cruelty. But few people in the West were as informed about Kolyma and Magadan – not even after Varlam Sjalamov published his "Tales from Kolyma" and Aleksandr Solsjenitsyn his magnum opus on the Gulag Archipelago. There are people who still have not heard of these Communist extermination camps – even though the Communist preceded the Nazis in creating such camps and killed an even larger number of people in their camps. And how many have even heard of scholars like Rudolf J.Rummel who has in a number of books documented these government and ideologically sponsored mass murders? (24)
The Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, said in his memoirs: "The management of the security police had sent us a detailed description of the Russian concentration camps. Based on witnesses’ accounts, conditions in those camps hade been minutely described. Special emphasis was given to the Russian extermination of whole ethnic groups by means of forced labour".
One kind of dictatorship can never be used to defend, conceal or diminish the cruelty of another dictatorship and its excesses. That is why it now is time to remember the victims of both Nazi and Communist crimes against humanity – and to hold those accountable who have hitherto been able to escape punishment for their crimes.
The Communist takeover in Eastern Europe after the war was hailed by many as a Soviet "liberation" of these peoples. But all that happened was that oppression changed form and colour. Naive or cynical powers that be in the West, like the American president Roosevelt, who in Yalta in 1945 sacrificed Eastern Europe and the Baltic states to the Communists even believed in Stalins’ talk about free elections in the "liberated" countries.
The silence about Communist crimes against humanity in the Baltic states was originally due to the fact that very few people in the West knew anything at all about the things that were happening on the other side of the Baltic Sea after the second world war. In Sweden’s case shame over the 1946 deportation of some Baltic refugees and the hasty and cynical recognition of the Communist occupation contributed to the silence. Sweden recognised the Communist occupation of its neighbours in the spring of 1941 – the first country in the world to do so after the then ally of Stalin, Nazi Germany.
After the war the Baltic countries became almost totally inaccesible to Western journalists. Even to this day many Swedes are ignorant of the Baltic guerilla fights against the Communist occupation and the fact that it was the longest and bloodiest in Europe after the war.
When Baltic guerilla members were inprisoned, tortured and in most cases shot or sent to Siberian camps it took years for their names to become known to us in the West. Maybe their names turned up as foot-notes in unknown exile historians’ little known books.
But for those who really wanted to know, the information on Communist atrocities and inefficiency in general and in the Baltic states in particular was accessible. A number of former party members like Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone and Stephen Spender bore witness to the gap between Communist theory and practice, for instance in Richard Crossman’s anthology "The God that failed" (1949; in Swedish as "Vi trodde på kommunismen"/We believed in Communism/1950). A number of defectors and refugees from Communism witnessed in gripping detail, among them Viktor Kravtjenko in his book (in Swedish as "Jag valde friheten" /I chose freedom/1947). He became the target of a smear campaign led by French and other Western European Communists, much like the campaign against David Rousset. This former trotskyist wrote a book, "L´univers concentrationnaire" (The world of concentration camps) where he described his own experiences of Nazi concentration camps and demanded an investigation into the Communist concentration camps. French Communists, led by the poet Louis Aragon, denied the existence of such camps – at a time when millions of innocent people, Communists included, expired in them.
Baltic organisations in several countries, Sweden and the US among them, tried to provide information which later turned out to have been remarkably correct. The American Congress adopted a well researched resolution that was later published with other documents in book form,"Nazi-Soviet Conspiracy and the Baltic States. Diplomatic Documents and Other Evidence"(Boreas 1948) about the criminal collusion between Nazi and Communist leaders that led to occupation and genocide in the Baltic states.
Starting in the seventies, the Soviet security forces were virtually unable to search a home of any Baltic dissident without Amnesty International, the Swedish Association for help to political prisoners in Estonia, Latvian social democrats in Sweden or Lithuanian activists in the Vatican and the US hearing about it and informing everybody interested about the fate of Baltic freedom fighters. But more people still defended political prisoners like Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Palestinian freedom fighters and terrorists in the areas occupied by Israel than Baltic democrats like Mart Niklus in Estonia, Fricis Menders and Linards Grantins in Latvia and Balys Gajauskas in Lithuania.
Individual reporters made great contributions but there was no systematic coverage of the development across the Baltic Sea. Each and every day during the seventies and eighties we could follow the actions of Israeli occupation forces aganist Palestinians in newspapers, radio and television. Many people were upset when Palestinian protesters were expelled and the Swedish parliament once arranged a special debate on the issue. But when the Communist occupants in our closest neighbours inprisoned och expelled peace loving and freedom hungry Balts, the silence lasted for a long time. No TV images, no radio, no debate in the Parliament.
"If we had not been so forgotten by the world our fate might have become milder than what was the case" the chairman of the Estonian Culture Council Ignar Fjuk said to me towards the end of the eighties. "But it is not to late for the world – led by Sweden – to assume its responsibility."
At last reality won over "the conspiracy of silence" against the Baltic freedom fighters. It all began with several excellent news stories in the TV 2 news program Rapport during the spring of 1988 where Göran Sjöstrand reported on the expulsion of Baltic protesters. It continued with recurring reporting by competent reporters like television’s Kent Wännström, radio’s Kjell-Albin Abrahamsson and Anders Eriksson, Dagens Nyheter’s Harald Hamrin, Svenska Dagbladet’s Elisabeth Crona, Dagens Industri’s Sten Sjöström, Aftonbladet’s Tommy Svensson among others.
The media attention made an increasing number of politicians support the peaceful fight for freedom in the Baltic states. But the old Communists, who, through their connections with the party comrades across the Baltic Sea would have been able to to much good had they assumed their moral and political responsibility, were very tardy when it came to dealing with their "pure Russian" heritage in the Baltic question. [back]
Swedish Communists and the Baltic states (25)
Several of later years’ soft Swedish parlour Communists, people like the former party chairman C.H.Hermansson, joined the Swedish Communist party during a period when it vigorously defended Hitler’s and Stalin’s assault on our neighbours – Denmark and Norway to the West and Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to the East.
Since Hitler and Stalin were still
allies and the Swedish Communist party was Swedish by name only, in reality it
was a subdivision of the Communist International, the Swedish party paper, Ny
Dag, paid tribute to the Nazi troups that marched into Norway in April 1940. On
April 24 1940 Ny Dag wrote:
"There is no hatred towards the German soldiers. One frequently sees Norwegian workers and German soldiers in friendly discussions on streetcorners or in beer parlours."
"The Soviet Union does not threaten, on the contrary it defends the integrity of the small states. No small country in Europe could at present be more safe than Estonia when it comes to its future existence."
"Aided by the great socialist worker’s state the border states have been liberated from their dependance on the imperialist super powers."
"I have seen three countries that used to belong to the worst reactionary terror regimes of Europe, transformed into free Soviet republics through a peaceful revolution."
For several decades Swedish Communists
continued to defend the oppression and russification policies, the
militarisation, environmental pollution and the socialist economic system which
made the peoples in the Baltic states poorer each year than their neighbours in
the Nordic countries. When the worst mass murderer known to history, Josef
Stalin, died, the Swedish Communist party arranged a memorial service and the
central committe proclaimed:
"Stalin is dead. The greatest popular leader and statesman of our time, the brilliant leader of the socialist community, the standard-bearer of Communism, has left us. May the Communists of Sweden be able to show an example when it comes to managing the inheritance from the greatest Marxist of our time, Josef Stalin. May the Swedish Communists honour Stalin’s memory by improving their knowledge of Stalin’s brilliant teachings and let them guide all our political activities. Under the honourable standard of Stalin, onwards, towards Socialism!"
"Stalin is one of the most brilliant scientists of all times. He continued the works of Marx, Engels and Lening, organised, enriched and developed the theory of Marxism within the new circumstances created by development. During his revolutionary fight Stalin performed poineering work in many different areas – economy, politics, philosophy, the art of war, linguistics and culture among them. In each and every one of these areas his contribution is immense. Nobody can understand the problems of our time who hasn’t studied the works of Stalin. Those who haven’t studied Stalin’s theoretical works are ‘illitterate’ in the areas of economy, politics, philosophy, etc …Stalin has been the leader and the teacher, not only for the people of the Soviet Union but for the working classes all over the world. In our party’s future work we have to improve our ability to use and practice Stalin’s teachings. Lenin and Stalin are and remain the most important teachers for the Swedish working class".
When the Soviet powers-that-be stopped
celebrating Stalin, the obedient Swedish Communists also stopped singing his
praises. But as late as in his speech to the Soviet Party Congress in 1976 Lars
Werner proposed toasts to the "friendship between the Soviet and Swedish
Communists" and to "our common fight for peace, democracy, (!) and
socialism". In the same year Werner represented Vänsterpartiet
kommunisterna at the world Communist congress in Berlin. Lars Werner and others
"Communists have always fought hard for democratic freedoms and rights against everyone wanting to curb these rights".
"Yes, if such a thing as a referendum, for instance, proves that they want out of the Soviet Union."
"I don’t advice others. I am too busy getting advice myself."
In another intervju, made during the
same period by the Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå in October
1987, Werner was asked why Communism always led to restrictions on personal
freedom. He answered by referring to above all the development in the Soviet
Union and continued:
"Also in the first Eastern European Communist states external threats were used as an excuse for internal restrictions of freedom. There is no excuse for going on doing that when it is no longer necessary."
When the fate of the Baltic states began to be recognised in Sweden during the late eighties, even a few leftist politicians made statements in a freer vein than before. The then newly elected vice chairman of the party, Gudrun Schyman, supported the Baltic Freedom fight in warm words. Even the Moscow-educated MP Bertil Måbrink talked about the possibility to let the Baltic peoples have "their national, democratic and cultural rights provided for".
If these rights were not – and had not been – provided for, why had the Vänsterpartiet not earlier come out in favour of these demands? Why did they wait for the Communists in Moscow to show sympathy for the demands before daring to articulate them?
How many of the nursing aids, pre-school teachers, actors and other cultural workers who today support the leftist party have any idea that their predecessors on Stalin’s orders defended Hitler’s occupations of our neighbours Denmark and Norway and the genocide in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia?
For how much longer will we have to wait before today’s leftists really deal with the long silence of their own party and its co-responsibility for the crimes committed by Communist comrades across the Baltic Sea?
And how does one explain, not defend, that more and more young leftists today are prepared to call themselves Communists and defend even Lenin? [back]
Communist theory and practice
Someone once said that Nazism and the Second World War could have been avoided if the world’s leaders had only read the Nazis’ books and taken them seriously. Maybe the same goes for Communism.
Already Karl Marx predicted that Capitalism would be replaced by the dictatorship of the proletariat. But he never said what this really meant.
Lenin said in his book "The proletarian revolution and the renegate Kautsky" that "the revolution of the proletariat is a regime that has been conquered and sustained through violence directed towards the bourgeoisie, a regime that is not restricted by any laws" (26).
In the same book Lenin confessed that "where necessary for the revolution the working class should deprive the capitalists of their right to vote and dissolve every parliament that turns out to be counter revolutionary". This was according to Lenin "the only position that a marxist could take".
In this respect Lenin lived as he
preached, after his party only got one fourth of the votes in the Russian
election in November 1917. The newly elected Peoples’ Assembly was dissolved
at its first meeting on January 5, 1918. Thus the first free election also
became the last in the history of the Soviet state. Later Lenin himself
"The dissolution of the Constituent assembly by the Soviet regime meant a total and open liquidation of the idea of democracy" (27).
Nor was it workers and farmers who seized power in the so called great October revolution, it was a small amount of red guards led by Lenin’s small elitist party. The so called October revolution did not even take place in October according to our chronology, it took place in November.
Lenin never pretended to be a peaceful, democratic socialist. He never showed anything but contempt for universal suffrage, parliamentarism, the rule of law and individual rights and freedoms, those things he called bourgeoisie. This however did not prevent him from demanding such rights to facilitate the Communist seizure of power, which would later abolish them.
Before the revolution Lenin demanded that the Russian authorities "immediately and without restraints acknowledge. . . freedom of the press". After the Communist coup he rejected, in a speech to the Tenth Party Congress, freedom of the press in the following word: "We have no wish to commit suicide and that is the reason why we will not introduce freedom of the press".
This to Lenin was not double standards. He never concealed that to him the only moral actions were actions that promoted the Communist revolution, the Communist party and the interests of the proletariat (as defined by him).
Already in 1904 Lenin had declared: "The basis of our faith is that things like truth, justice and virtue do not exist. Everything is relative to us, except Communism which we regard as the source of all that is true, just and virtuous".
In a speech to the Russian Communist youth organisation in 1920 Lenin added that "our moral is completely subordinated to the interests of the proletarian class struggle".
This is why the disciples of Lenin – unlike the Jesuits who falsely have been ascribed the phrase – frequently have let the ends justify the means. Long term strategy has been abandoned for confusing short sighted tactics. One instance that many Balts and others paid for with their lifes was the 1939 Nazi-Communist pact.
The pact shows the basic Communist tactic of co-operating with ideological opponents until they become strong enough to crush them or ignoring them. The Russian social democrat Plechanov saw through this as early as prior to the 1917 Communist coup in Russia. He knew what Lenin and his disciples meant by socialist unity. Plechanov said that "the Communists want unity the way people want to unite with a piece of bread – they swallow it". He found reason for suspicion in Lenin’s statements, such as this about the social democrats: "Their place is in jail regardless of whether they openly display themselves as social democrats or as without party affiliations". To the Eleventh Party Congress Lenin added that "our revolutionary courts should execute anyone who openly admits to being a social democrat".
Lenin and his Communists had nothing against co-operation with other Socialists and social democrats as long as they needed support against the czar. But as soon as they themselves had seized power the will to co-operate ended. Many social democrats and freedom loving socialists were executed when no longer needed by the Communists. Others were incarcerated in the first concentration camps, later to inspire among others the German Nazis.
The rest of the story is probably well known to anyone who wanted and wants to know. The dictatorship of the proletariat that Lenin wanted to use to replace political democracy developed into Party dictatorship over the proletariat and everybody else – and under the reign of Stalin into the Party leader’s dictatorship over the Party, the proletariat and the rest of the population.
Prior to the Communist coup in Russia Lenin declared that socialism was a pre-requisite for the different peoples’ peace and freedom. He promised to liberate the "imprisoned" nations in czarist Russia, sometimes called the "peoples’ prison".
Subsequent to the communist coup in November 1917 the new revolutionary government proclaimed that all non-Russian peoples had the right to liberate themselves. Those who wanted to would be allowed to leave the Russian empire.
For this reason Lenin is sometimes portrayed as a supporter of the idea of national self -determination. But to him this principle was only a means to and end, the end being the "world revolution" and the "dictatorship of the proletariat".
As long as the nationalism of the non-Russian peoples was directed towards czarist rule it should in other words be encouraged, but after the Communist coup nationalism could not be allowed to disturb the march towards a socialist society. The red Army was engaged in and managed to incorporate Georgia, Armenia, the Ukraine, Belorussia and Central Asia into the Communist Soviet Russian empire. Lenin also encouraged local Communists to use violence to seize power in the Baltic states towards the end of the Great War. The efforts failed but Communist infiltration from the East continued. But when an attempted coup directed from Moscow in Estonia in December 1924 had failed in getting popular support, the Communists were forced to wait until the beginning of the Second World War before they could occupy Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
During that time Stalin managed to get most of the leaders of the short lived Estonian Labour Commune of 1919 executed as well as 16 out of 21 former members of the "Latvian" Soviet government of the same year and seven out of eight former members of the "Lithuanian" Soviet government of 1918/19.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were given a couple of decades of grace before they were occupied while Finland and Poland (apart from during the Second World War) have remained independent. In the incorporated Soviet republics no national self-determination was allowed within the most powerful power structure, the Communist party. The Communist nationalities policy saw as its main enemy, not the chauvinism of the largest nation, the Russians, but rather the "bourgeoisie nationalism" of the smaller nations. During the entire history of the Soviet state not a single Russian was sentenced for this crime while many Balts, Ukrainians, Caucasians and others were given 25 year prison sentences for demanding the same rights fort their peoples as those of the Russian "master race".
Lenin regarded religion the way he regarded nationalism. As long as naive Christians could be of use to the Communists and the Communists needed their support he attracted them by promising freedom of religion. Subsequent to the Communist take-over religion was proclaimed a capitalist relic and as such doomed to expire. To be on the safe side Lenin and his disciples resorted to euthanasia to speed up the process. Atheism became an inseparable part of Communist theory and practice – except in dealing with believers in non-Communist countries and organisations that could be useful foreign policy-wise, such as the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Council.
Keeping in mind everything Lenin and his followers have said and written – and carried through in practice – it is hard to understand that young people in this age are able to see themselves as his disciples. In somebody who was seriously disturbed this might be understandable but when the person in question is the chairman of a political youth organisation like Jenny Lindahl from the Communist Youth of Sweden?
For those who have experienced Communism in practice the fact that a young person calls herself a Communist is just as disturbing as it is to Jews, gypsies and others persecuted by the Nazis to see and listen to Swedish skinheads calling themselves neo-Nazis. Instead of proudly calling themselves Communists and claim that "Communists have always fought for democratic freedoms and rights" maybe today’s Communists should be ashamed and apologize or at least learn something from their party’s not always proud history? [back]
The social democrats and the Baltic states
Before and during the Great War social democrats, like Party leader Hjalmar Branting, supported Baltic refugees. After the war Branting, "the Balts’ friend", tried to enforce a Nordic recognition of the independence of the new neighbours, the Baltic states, while the Conservatives wanted to wait and see and feared Socialist contamination from the young, radical republics. And the social democrat Mayor of Stockholm, Carl Lindhagen, tried in vain to gather support for an alliance of all the small states around the Baltic Sea – Baltic and Scandinavian.
After the Second World War almost no social democrats could be seen on the Baltic barricades. Even during these decades some politicians supported the Baltic demands for freedom – among them party leaders like Conservatives Jarl Hjalmarsson and Carl Bildt and Liberals like Bertil Ohlin and Per Ahlmark.
Others kept quiet, not least an otherwise internationally committed politician like Olof Palme. His maternal grandfather had been Dean of the Riga Institute of Technology and his mother had been raised in Latvia, where Olof Palme himself had spent the summers of his childhood. In the mid-seventies Palme and myself were appointed honorary members of the democratic resistance in the Baltics; in Palme’s case because the Baltic democrats mistakenly thought that Palme’s words about " the rights of small peoples" also applied to Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians. But Palme only supported the Baltic freedom fight publicly on one single occasion, when he as leader of the opposition made the main speech at the celebration of the Estonian day of independence in the Concert Hall in Stockholm in February 1980.
Thus the Swedish social democrats managed in the eighties to get caught in a bind on the Baltic issue. On the one hand Palme in his speech had demanded "national independence" for the Baltic states which made it difficult for him and other social democrats to critizise others who demanded human and national rights for our Baltic neighbours. On the other hand Palme definitely did not want to annoy the Soviet leaders by stating what probably was his real opinions. For that reason he never answered any of the innumerable columns where I and others called for his support for the Baltic freedom fight.
In the parliamentary foreign policy debate on March 16, 1983 Olof Palme accused the members of the Moderate party of …"returning to that crusading spirit aiming to ‘liberate’ Eastern Europe that prevailed in conservative groups in the West during the Cold War. According to this view one of the systems has to perish and neutrality must be immoral." During that same debate Palme accused the Moderates of constituting a "danger to the safety of the Swedish security policy."
The next year Palme declared in a speech to the social democrat party congress: "We are not involved in anti-Sovietism". But since the Soviet state was the first state to be built on Communism, which in its turn meant a permanent, more or less acute threat against the peace and freedom of the rest of the world (and its own), convinced democrats should have found it equally natural to be "anti-Soviet" and "anti-Communist" as it was to be "anti-Nazi" and "anti-Fascist".
Palme also warned against painting "devil’s pictures" and resorting to "persecution of the Soviet Union". Knowing what we know today we have to say that even those – in Sweden and in other countries – who were regarded as the most critical of the Soviet Union actually weren’t critical enough – reality was worse than we could ever imagine. In the seventies and eighties different kinds of socialists often accused me of exaggerating about the Baltic states and the Soviet Union – when I now read what I wrote then I must admit that I was rather guilty of some understatements.
In his first speech as chairman of Folkpartiet (the liberal party) on October 1, 1983 Bengt Westerberg stated that:"Nothing could be more beneficial to the sake of lasting peace than the replacement of the Communist Soviet regime by a democratic government." As far as I know no social democrats criticized this statement. Nor did they criticize another Westerberg statement, when in August 1985 he repeated the message in a column in Svenska Dagbladet, directly appealing to Olof Palme: "You, who used to frankly condemn these ‘damned murderers’ in different parts of the word, when are you going to work up the courage to speak frankly about "these damned colonizers’ right across the Baltic Sea?" But when Westerberg reiterated his belief in the connection between freedom and peace in a speech to the party youth organisation in January 1986, one of Palme’s collaborators, the former under-secretary of State Sverker Åström, protested and was supported by his successor Pierre Schori.
At a number of other occasions leading Swedish social democrats have criticized other politicians and creators of public opinion. During the parliamentary foreign policy debate of 1988 the then social democrat foreign policy spokesman, Sture Ericson, surprisingly attacked his collegue in the parliamentary foreign policy commission, the then Moderate MP and later party secretary Gunnar Hökmark. Hökmark had submitted a motion and written a column for a few rural papers where he argued in favour of extended links between Sweden and the Baltic states and Swedish support for the Baltic fight for freedom. The social democrat spokesman declared that Gunnar Hökmark’s opinions constituted "foreign policy madness" and "craziness that the extreme moderats naturally cultivate in the hope that it will win them a few votes from Balts in exile in the autumn elections."
When representatives of the Popular Fronts of the three Baltic states hade become more and more explicit in their demands for full independence, both Sture Ericson and Pierre Schori declared that the Baltic popular fronts did not put forward this demand. In a later interview Schori added that he did not want to "contribute to any separatism there". He and other social democrats, among them the Foreign Secretary Sten Andersson in a famous interview in the television news program Rapport on November 2, 1988, admonished the Balts to "not push it to much" and not be "impatient" (as if fifty years of genocide and oppression weren’t long enough). They should instead "co-ordinate" and co-operate" with Moscow. Easy to say, but can anyone imagine the same kind of admonitions to other peoples fighting for their freedom and national self determination?
Many people probably also remenber the statements Sten Andersson made during a roundtrip in the Baltic states and Mosow during the autumn of 1989. Attention focussed on the message that "Estonia is not occupied", a message that forced the Estonian head of government Indrek Toome, at that time a member of the Communist party, to openly renounce his Swedish guest’s claims. In Moscow Andersson said that the Soviet central power had to retain control over the use of natural resources, this despite the fact that the "singing revolution" in Estonia originated in the fear that the Soviet power would increase phosphorite production 40 times and thus destroy large parts of Estonian land, air and water.
In the short run Sten Andersson’s statements meant a setback for the Baltic fight for freedom. But in the long run they contributed to a social democrat change of policy towards the Baltic states – thanks to prime minister Ingvar Carlsson’s strong reactions and Andersson’s growing understanding of how unfortunate his statements had been. From a long period of diffidence and outright hostility towards the Baltic demands for freedom even the social democrats became increasingly warner supporters of the peaceful fight for freedom across the Baltic Sea. And the present Social Democratic Prime Minister, Göran Persson, seems to have developed a genuine concern for the common fate of Balts and other Nordic peoples from the very beginning of his tenure.
Why did it take so long for the social democrats to dare beeing frank about Communist oppression in the Baltic states? And why the constant warnings and admonitions to the Balts to be careful and not push it? Why this impression of unease and discomfort rather than of joy and hope, when neighbours were in the process of liberating themselves from Communist oppression?
One reason was the understandable fear of a small nation, long in the shadow of a super power with a history of frequent invasion and occupation of its neighbours. It was less risky to attack oppression in far away countries, in Southern Africa, South East Asia and South America than to attack Communist oppression in our neighbouring areas. And this is not to be easily condemned since leaders of small countries owe their first duties to their own peoples and their freedom and peace. But when you depict your own policy as more moral than others’ even though you apply similar double standards as everybody else, the impression might become ridiculous. Many young Swedes seem to have experienced something of a chock when they realised that Sweden, which they believed had always conducted a foreign policy morally superior to others’, at least during the Second World War systematically made concessions to the super power that seemed to be the strongest around the Baltic Sea at any given time.
A second reason for some social democrats’ doubts about the Baltic fight for freedom was probably their opinions about the independent Baltic states in the period between the wars. Few of the post war social democrats had any personal experience of these countries and were therefore easy victims of Soviet and other propaganda. Foreign Secretary Undén said in the Swedish parliament that "the political maturity of these peoples is not very pronounced". Undén may have meant that the Balts – like most of the rest of Eastern Europe in the wake of the 1929 world economic crisis – had become victims of authoritarian dictatorships before the Second World War, but that was hardly a reason to abandon them to totalitarian dictatorships during and under the Second World War. In addition some Swedes (and Balts) have found it difficult to overlook the fact that some Balts participated in the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews – that is definitely to be condemned but is no reason to accept Communist genocide and oppression.
A third reason has been the fact that some social democrats – and other "leftists" – have been unwilling to support the Balts because their cause has been regarded as "right wing". The longing for freedom of an entire people should obviously not be regarded or depicted as a question of left or right. And educated persons should be able to make political decisions on the basis of what is right or wrong, not on the basis of who happens to say what. But all to often the importance of being seen "in the right company" is greater than the importance of supporting the right causes. On several occasions Olof Palme made statements in this direction, for instance when he warned people about "becoming part of the kind of crusade the powers of reaction always are prepared to organise" (28).
A fourth reason was the naiveté concerning Communist leaders in the East, from Stalin to Gorbachev. Stalin‘s deputy foreign secretary, Vysjinskij, had become infamous for his role as prosecutor in the Moscow trials of the thirties, at which time he called the accused Communists "crazy dogs" that had to be exterminated. After the war he said that Raoul Wallenberg, one of the few Swedes who with his life had fought the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century, had not been imprisoned by the Soviet Union. When Wallenberg’s half brother and others met with foreign secretary Undén they questioned the Soviet explanation. "What?" Undén exclaimed. "Are you saying that mr Vysjinskij is a liar?" When the answer was affirmative, the otherwise very cool Undén became livid. "This is atrocious," he sputtered, "totally incredible!" But the incredible part was that the highly educated foreign secretary found it so hard to doubt his Communist collegue. And Vysjinskij had been playing a double-game all the way from the Moscow trials to the Nazi-Communist pact and the subsequent Soviet occupation of our neighbour Latvia, an operation he personally supervised on Stalin’s behalf (29).
The Balts found it equally hard to be believed when they at an early stage warned that a later Soviet leader, Michail Gorbachev – in spite of his talk about glasnost (openness) and perestroika (change) – was far from a democrat and not prepared to accept independence for the Baltic states. While many in the West were blinded by the mundane Gorbachevs and the talk about democratisation the Balts realised that the only thing Gorbachev was prepared to accept was a choice between several candidates running for the only approved party, the Communist party. When the Balts demanded independence the Central Committe of the Soviet Communist party, lead by Gorbachev, threatened the Balts with renewed genocide. Gorbachev also sent Soviet security forces to attack unarmed civilians in Vilnius and Riga in January 1991– something he had done earlier in for example Baku and Tbilisi.
The Balts could not understand that a Communist leader, one who had let his troups use shovels and bayonets to beat unarmed women and children to death in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi in April 1989, only six months later could be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Georgian lifes were regarded as less important than his letting go of Eastern Europe. Doubting Balts said that Gorbachev only made necessity into virtue after the American president Ronald Reagan had used programs like "Star Wars" to crush the Soviet armament. And just because Gorbachev had been forced to let go of the "outer empire" he did not show the least inclination to let go of the "inner empire", including the Baltic states. A year subsequent to the massacre in Tbilisi Gorbachev had Soviet tanks mow down thirteen Lithuanians in front of the TV-tower in Vilnius. The leaders of the Baltic Popular fronts could not understand how the world could demand that they compromise with such a determined opponent to Baltic independence and such a convinced Communist as Gorbachev.
A fifth reason might have been the contempt many people in the East showed for everything that had to do with socialism. The Polish minister of Culture said in a column in the Swedish daily Expressen that Sweden had gone too far towards socialism. Leaders of the Baltic Popular fronts, including social democrats, wanted to expand their contacts with Sweden in various ways but they feared the socialist contamination that might come of it.
A sixth reason might be the realisation that the "Swedish model" hardly could be hailed as a "golden compromise" between capitalism and Communism if Communism was to disappear from the political map of Europe. The Swedish social democrats would no longer constitute the hoped-for role model of the "third road" if a political abyss were to open to the left of them. Some people might be reluctant to stay in the movement that remained close to the abyss.
A seventh reason for the social
democrat reluctance might have been fears that the showdown with Eastern
Communism would make people in the West aware not only of the inhuman qualities
of dictatorial socialism but also of the weaknesses of democratic socialism.
Even a firm democrat like the then prime minister Ingvar Carlsson wrote in a
book called "Vad är socialdemokrati?" (What is social democracy) as
late as 1983 that the means only – not the goals – constituted the
difference between social democrats and Communists. In this book Carlsson also
"The Soviet Union as well as the other Eastern European countries has accomplished a rapid industrialisation and has a high GNP. There are many objections against the system in these countries but they do prove that capitalism is not the only system that is able to produce material wealth."
An eighth reason that so many socialists and others did not support the Baltic fight for freedom might have been that they did not think the fight could meet with success. The moral position was made dependent on political probabilities. When at last success seemed to be possible and eventually probable?the Balts won support even from their fiercest critics and sceptics.
When the Monday Movement to support the liberation of the Baltic states held its 79th and last meeting on Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm in the autumn of 1991 the chairman of the moderate party Carl Bildt thanked those on whose initiative the meetings had been held – two moderats and two liberals. Social democrat Pierre Schori was the next speaker and he agreed and added:"I always enjoy having company on the barricades!" The many thousands in the audiences were visibly and audibly astonished, they knew exactly how impossible it had been in the beginning to get a single social democrat to come to the meetings and how hard it had been ever since. But eighteen months later opinion had shifted and possibly Schori sincerely believed that he always had been on the Baltic barricades. He was not alone however in turning around – I and other Balts have never had so many political friends as in the wake of our countries’ regained independence …
When too many social democrats (and others) in the post war period betrayed the Balts, there were always those who thought that the banner of Labour Day "All people’s freedom – peace in the whole world" should apply to the Balts as well. Among these social democrats who listened harder to their inner voice than to the party decrets, were free authors like Alvar Alsterdal (who in spite of being advised not to by party friends did not hesitate to write the preface to my book "Vad händer i Baltikum?" /What is happening in the Baltic states?/ in 1993) and Staffan Skott who in a number of books has described Soviet reality as well as the habit of Swedish Communists to bring out their umbrellas when it rained in Moscow (30) [back]
What can we learn?
Dictators have always been able to count on famous writers, journalists, artists and others who should know better – and usually have – for support. The more famous these people have become, the more naive some of them have become when it came to Communist or fascist oppression. They have all had one thing in common – in their search for paradise on earth they have been compelled to defend a number of dictatorial systems even when these systems have been transformed into hell on earth for their subjects. When truth finally has prevailed they have claimed to have known nothing about the oppression or refused to believe in in because evidence has come from the "wrong" persons. Those who claimed that they "did not know" have certainly known, but preferred to ignore what they knew until they realised that everybody else knew that they knew anyway.
In the debate in Sweden many have been more upset about anti-Communism than about Communism although anti-Communism should be as natural to any democrat as anti-Nazism considering all the inhuman acts these creeds of violence have led to.
He who wants to fight for the best must avoid becoming the enemy of the good and the ally of evil. Maybe we should, instead of "the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest amount of people" demand "the least amount of suffering for everyone". The in this country little known philosopher Karl Popper has given us this advice (31).
The history of the world includes too many persons who in the wake of Marx ans Lenin have let consideration for the whole override humanity against individuals. Too many have excused different dictators’ excesses when they have tried to buld their Nazi, racist or Communist ideal society by saying that "you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs". The Russian democrat Vladimir Bukovskij once heard this during a visit to Stockholm and replied dryly: "I have seen the broken eggs but what happened to the omelette?"
We need more people like the French Nobel laureate Albert Camus and his classical humanism and we need less intellectual betrayal of the kind that his opposite and long term detractor, the equally French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, frequently stood for. More than most Sartre was a symbol of intellectual honour and shame, to paraphrase the title of a classic book by the American Peter Viereck. The ability to see though Fascism (and Nazism) was the honour, the inability to distance oneself from Communism was, and still is, the shame of many intellectuals.
Of course we should hold on to our dreams and try to make them come true to make the world a better place. But our struggle for the best must not become the enemy of the good. We must avoid the illusions to avoid being disillusioned time and time again, like so many have been by the development in several dictatorships – from Hitler’s Germany to Stalin’s Soviet Union to Mao’s China and Castro’s Cuba. Otherwise, following the ideological intoxication comes the hangover...
When the interests of the State, the Race or the Class systematically are given priority over the interests of the individual sooner or later the consequences will be extensive oppression. What began as injustices against single individuals ends up as threats to humanity.
One inmate, a quite ordinary German
who was later gassed, in a Nazi concentration camp once wrote a poem. He was one
of those in whose interest Hitler claimed to have established the camps. That
was not true:
What we in Sweden can learn from the crimes against humanity committed by Communism and Nazism in for example the Baltic states is above all that we must never defend any kind of oppression.
The Russian democrat Vladimir Bukovskij once said that the important thing not is to know what ideology is used as an excuse to burn people in cremation ovens or to send them to the camps in Kolyma. To argue about what regime was worst was, according to him, comparable to discussing gastronomy with cannibals.
When Baltic democrats in the late eighties gathered together to condemn the Nazi-Communist pact that meant the beginnning of the end of their national independence and freedom, they often emphasized the fact that the oppressed do not care what party the oppressor belongs to. But while Nazi crimes against humanity are almost universally condemned, virtually no Communist hangmen have been prosecuted. According to them to denounce Nazism and not Communism meant being only half righteous.
But the ignorance of history in Sweden is so deep that an increasing amount of young people know less and less about Communism – and until about a year ago about Nazism. School pupils might possibly be excused because they lack personal experience and personal memories of how inhuman and inefficient Communism is. Today’s high school student were in primary school when the Berlin wall fell and the Baltic states became free. But how efficient is the teaching of history when young people in this country again start to praise Hitler or Lenin and in some cases even Stalin? Isn’t it time for educational campaign on Communist crimes against humanity, a campaign as intensive as the excellent State run campaign about the Holocaust? (32)
The fact that such a large number of youths are able to view Communism as an ideology among others is not a reason to praise trhe Swedish educational system. And what can a democrat possibly say about the education of journalists when every fourth Swedish journalist claimed to support the Communist party in 1989, the year that Eastern European Communism broke down visibly?
But government, political parties and organisations cannot do everything. We all have a responsibility to inform young people about the ideological scourges that have afflicted this continent during the 20th century – Communism and Nazism.
When Estonian democrats in August 1987
gathered in a park in the middle of the capital Tallinn to demand the
publication of of the secret additions to the Nazi-Communist pact, they quoted a
few lines by the Estonian poet August Sang:
"Nothing in the world will change if we don’t change it. You have to do everything in your power, even if it is not much".
"The only thing needed for evil to prevail is that good people do nothing!"
"There is an excuse for every tyrant. It is not their fault that they are surrounded by cowards!" [back]
(1) Most numbers concerning Estonia in this chapter are taken from the overview "Estonian researchers´ data about actual human losses in Estonia from 1940 to 1956", compiled by Toomas Hiio in the Estonian president’s office, who is responsible for the commission investigating Nazi and Communist war crimes in Estonia during the Second World War. His e-mail address is email@example.com [back]
(2) Sources: on Estonia Estland Toomas Hiio in the president’s office in Tallinn, secretary to the international commission investigating crimes against humanity in Estonia during the World War II, on Latvia Kaspars Ozolins at the Latvian Embassy in Stockholm and on Lithuania Litauen Dalia Kuodyte at the Centre for Genocide in Vilnius. Another meticulous researcher, Aigi Rahi at the university of Tartu, who works together with the 1993 domestic Commission for the investigation into crimes against humanity in Estonia during the war, supplies the following numbers that have been used in official documents in later years – Estonia 9 156, Latvia 17 171 and Lithuania 15 851. That gives a total of 42 178 victims of deportation from all three Baltic states during this fateful night. [back]
(3) The development in the Baltic states before and after the Communist take-over can be compared to the political oppression in Czarist Russia and Soviet Russia respectively. According to Stéphane Courtois in "Kommunismens svarta bok" (DN-förlaget 1999) a total of 6 360 persons were sentenced to death because of their political opinions or actions between 1825 and 1917 and 3 932 of them were executed. This number was surpassedf by the bolsjeviks (=the Lenin Communists) as early as in March 1918, after no more than four months in power. During the reign of the Czar political prisoners were allowed to bring their families to their place of deportation, they were allowed to read and write nearly whatever they wanted and they could live as almost free men, while the prisoners of the Communists were incarcerated in prisons and camps and made to work or starve to death. [back]
(4) Andres Küng, "En dröm om frihet. Om passivt motstånd i dagens Baltikum" (Libris, Örebro 1978), p 11 [back]
(5) The Latvian historian Agnis Balodis, "Lettlands och det lettiska folkets historia" (Lettiska Nationella Fonden, Sthlm 1990), p 359. [back]
(6) Prior to the Communist take over around 4 500 Jews lived in Estonia. Around 500 were deported by the Russian Communists and around 3 000 were evacuated to the East when the German troups attacked. Out of the 1 000 Estonian Jews that remained in Estonia 963 were killed, according to the German commander of Special Commando 1A, Walter Stahlecker, dödades 963 estniska judar. The "grand old lady" of Estonian Jews, Evgenia Gurin-Loov, said in her book "Eesti juutide katastroof 1941. Holocaust of Estonian Jews 1941" (Tallinn 1994) that 929 were killed. In addition around 5 000 Central European and 2 000 Lithuanian Jews brought by the Nazis to Estonian camps.[back]
(7) The numbers are taken from the Commission of Latvian historians’ Report on March 16, 1999 – the day when the Commission want to honour the memory of all Latvians that were hit by the occupations of World War II. The person to contact in the Commission is Armands Gutmanis, Ph D, who can be reached on the phone, +371 378 546; his equivalent in Lithuania is Julius Smulkstys who might possibly be reached through the homepage of the president’s office http://www.president.lt. One of the members of the Latvian Commission is the Swedish-Latvian historian Karlis Kangeris. [back]
(8) The numbers differ somewhat between different sources. An overview in the Estonian magazine "Luup" (the magnifying glass) on March 22, 1999 gave the following numbers: Estonia 20 480, Latvia 41 708 and Lithuania 28 656. In an e-mail to me on March 31, 1999, the Estonian researcher Aigi Rahi gave the numbers 20 702, 42 322 and 29 180 respectively. Ten years ago the Estonian historian Evald Laasi gave the number 20 498 for Estonia. In an e-mail to me on March 25. 1999, Kaspars Ozolins from the Latvian embassy in Stockholm gave the number 40 374 for Latvia. The difference between for instance "Luup" and Ozolins might be that Ozolins only gives the number of those deported during the first night while "Luup" includes those who the Communists managed to find during the four following nights. In the case of Lithuania I have found the researcher Dalia Kuodyte at the Centre for Genocide i Vilnius to be the person with the best and most updated numbers and IO have therefore used her information to me on March 25, 1999. All this numbers should really be seen as approximative because of the vast amount of insecure factors in the material. [back]
(9) An English summary of Rahis thesis about the mass deportations from the area around Tartu in 1949 is at http://www.history.ee/Elraa.htm or http://www.history.ee/ajak.htm. [back]
(10) The numbers have been given to me in March 1999 by Kaspars Ozolins at the Latvian embassy in Stockholm. [back]
(11) See "Repressioonide all kannatas pool Eesti elanikkonnast" (Half of the Estonian population were victims of the trangressions), summaries in numbers made by the victim organisation "Memento" in the newspaper "Rahva Hääl" on October 19, 20, 10 and 22, 1991 and the unpublished article "Bevölkerungsveränderungen in Estland 1940-46" by Vello Salo, chairman of the 1993 state commission for investigation into the repressive policies of the occupation powers. [back]
(12) See the chapter "Vi vill inte bli en minoritet i vårt eget land!",p.26-33 in Andres Küng, "Estland vaknar", (Sellin & Blomquist, 2 edition, Stockholm 1990) [back]
(13) See Küng 1990; p75 [back]
(14) See Balodis 1990; p 359 [back]
(15) The entire religion law and the pastoral statutes can be found in Andres Küng, "Fallet Engström-Sareld" (Libris, Örebro 1977). [back]
(16) The entire document can be found in Andres Küng, "Baltikum lever!" (Timbro, Stockholm 1984), 129-136. [back]
(17) See Ülo Ignats’ book "Fosforitbrytningen i Estland" (Phosphorite mining in Estonia), (MH Publishing, Göteborg 1988). Ignats was chairman of the Committee for solidarity with Eastern Europe and is now editor-in-chief of Estniska Dagbladet and active in the organisation for friendship between Sweden and Estonia. [back]
(18) Balodis 1990: p 361 [back]
(19) Balodis 1990:p362 f. [back]
(20) Baltic Appeal to the United Nations (=BATUN) Baltic Chronology, April 1996, p 1 [back]
(21) If Baltic Nazi parties had ever existed the same would naturally apply to Balts guilty of crimes against humanity in the name of Nazism. No such parties have ever existed and hopefully will never exist – which is not the case in Russia. In all three Baltic states the question whether Nazi war criminals are still alive and living there has been examined but no such persons have been found in Estonia or Latvia. Lithuania has seen a long argument about whether Aleksandras Lileikis, who was head of security in the Vilnius area during the Nazi occupation, should be extradited from the US so he could be prosecuted in Lithuania as guilty of participation in the Holocaust on Lithuanian Jews. When Lileikis had been deprived of his American citizenship he returned to Lithuania in June 1996, but the trial has been postponed repeatedly, for reasons of health and because the court wanted to check statements by an American Jew that during the war Lileikis had saved her from being arrested and executed. Jewish organisations in the US and a large number of Israeli MPs have protested against Lithuanian authorities’ unwillingness and tardiness in prosecuting the now 91 year-old Lileikis. On October 26, 1998 the Lithuanian Prosecutor general’s office decided to prosecute one of Lileikis’s subordinates, the at the time 90 year-old Kazys Gimzauskas, for his participation in the arrestation of several persons, among them many Jews, during the German occupation. The Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkas showed his – and official Lithuiania’s – attitude when he on September 17, 1998 awarded the Lithuanian Life Savers´ Cross to 31 Lithuanians who had saved Jews during the German occupation; out of these 31, 21were already dead. On November 17, 1998 an international commission, appointed by the president, decided to appoint two sub-commissions to investigate crimes against humanisty in Lithuania as a consequence of the Nazi-Communist pact of 1939. Among the members are representatives of the American Jewish Committee, several Lithuanian institutions, Russian and British historians. The chairman of the commission, the (Lithuanian-Jewish) parliamentarian Emanuelis Zingeris declared: "This commission is a serious signal to the whole world that our society is mature and that we are determined to create an open society in Lithuania". (BATUN, Baltic Chronology, November 1998, p.6). [back]
(22) Declaration by
the Seimas (=Parliament) of the Republic of Lithuania
On the Assessment of Communism and Former Structures of the Communist Occupation Regime
The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, reminding of its approval for the Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europé 'On Measures to Simantle the heritage of Former Communist Totalitarian Systems' of June 27, 1996, and of the provisions of its own Resolution ´On the Investigation of Mass Repressions, Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes perpetreated during the Period of Occupation" of November 6, 1997; stating that Communist ideology and doctrine which deny inalienable human rights and destroy spirituality and humanity, mystifying in a pseudo scientific way and inciting between groups of people mutual hatred, fight, violence and usurpation of power – dictatorship imposed ny force, have brought countless misfortunes to mankind, particularly in the 20th century, that the Communist totalitarian regime of the USSR, forcefully imposed in Lithuania which was occupied by that country during 1940-41 and 1944-90, was criminal through the actions and aims of its perpetrators and consisted in spiritual and physical desctruction, genocide and war crimes; that the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party (a subdivision of the All-Union Communist Party /Bolsheviks/, later renamed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), which played the most important role in the administrative structures of the former so-called Lithuanian SSR and enjoyed exclusive privileges, bears moral and political responsibility for the losses, harm and damage sustained by the people and nation in Lithuania during the occupation by the USSR; that the noral and legal assessment of the leadership of the Soviet Union- Lithuanian Communist Party and its henchmen – the repressive structures of the totalitarian regime which exercised and maintained their authority through criminal actions and methods, is an obligatory and vital condition with a view of eliminating the consequences of the Communist occupation regime; and that legal and political examination of the eligibility of active political associates of the former Communist occupation regime in Lithuania to hold high official positions is necessitated by democratic renewal, and is analogous to the steps taken by other liberated states and societies, calls on the Government to take due account of the provisions of this Declaration when drafting laws and other legislative acts and adopting decisions.
Vilnius, December 10, 1998
Chairman of the Seimas Republic of Lithuania Vytautas Landsbergis.
Inofficial translation by Tadas Jankauskas of the Embassy of Lithuania in Stockholm. [back]
(23) See also Per Ahlmark’s brilliant showdowns in recent books, "Vänstern och tyranniet. Det galna kvartsseklet" (Timbro, Stockholm, 1994) and "Det öppna såret. Om massmord och medlöperi" (Timbro, Stockholm 1997). In a chapter of the latter book Ahlmark asks who is morally most guilty – the camp guard in a totalitarian state or the journalists, authors and others who live in free countries and deny or defend him, even though they should know better and usually do. [back]
(24) In "Det öppna såret" Per Ahlmark introduces Rummel and hos most important books: "Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder since 1917" (1990), "China´s Bloody Century: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900" (1991), "Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder" (1992), "Death by Government" (1994) and "Statistics of Genocide: Estimates, Sources and Calculations on 20th Century Genocide and Mass Murder" (1997). According to Rummel these four regimes have murdered the largest amount of people: the Soviet Union 62 millions, Communist-China 35 millions, Nazi-Germany 21 millions and Nationalist China 10 millions. If the number of years in power and the number of ctizens in the country are taken into account the Communist Pol-Pot regime in Cambodia is the worst since it during its barely four years in power killed a couple of millions of people – more than eight per cent of the population for each year in power. There are no big surprises on this list of the greatest mass murderers of the 20th century, at least not to those who know something about history and politics: Stalin killed more than 42 millions of people, Mao Tse-tung more than 37 millions, Hitler ca 21 millions, Chiang Kai-shek and Lenin ca 4 millions each. [back]
(25) For a more thorough description see my report "Vpk i rätt kraftfält?", Timbros skriftserie Fakta & citat, January 1990 and my book "Vindens barn – om medlöperi förr och nu" (Timbro, Stockholm 1983) where in the footsteps of Paul Hollander and others I try to show how a number of famous authors, journalists and others have been fascinated by Fascist as well as Communist dictators, past and present. In their search for paradise on earth and their need for personal recognition they have been led to defend yesterday’s (alleged) freedom fighters long after they have become today’s oppressors. See also Anders Johnson/ Käärik, Andres (red) "Husbondens röst. En kritisk granskning av den svenska kommunismen" (Akademilitteratur, Sthlm 1981) and Staffan Skott, "Liken i garderoben" (Tiden, 1991) for more examples of the fellow-travelling of Swedish Communists. [back]
(26) Quotations and facts in this chapter are mainly from Bertil Häggman/ Jon Skard, "Så arbetar kommunistpartierna" (Sthlm 1979) and Stéphane Courtois "Black Book on Communism". [back]
(27) David Shub´s biography of Lenin, p 310 in the 1947 Swedish edition. [back]
(28) The books by Per Ahlmark mentioned above have a number of examples of how the company has been more important than the truth to opportunistic opinion makers in Sweden. Some of the examples are almost comical, if that expression may be allowed even though the people involved ordinarily are sensible persons who have been tragically wrong on morally exemplary opinion makers such as Ahlmark himself and his mentor Herbert Tingsten, one of the greatest in 20th century Swedish debate. [back]
(29) See Andres Küng, "Raoul Wallenberg. Igår, idag" (Timbro, Stockholm1985), p 80. [back]
(30) See books like " Liken i garderoben" (1991) about Vänsterpartiet kommunisterna and "Sovjet från början till slutet" (1992), "Slutet på den sovjetiska parentesen. Tio år som skakade världen" (1995) and "Aldrig mer" (1999). [back]
(31) See Karl Popper, "The Open Society and Its Enemies", in Swedish as "Det öppna samhället och dess fiender", Akademilitteratur, Sthlm 1980 and 1981. Two parts. [back]
(32) In March of
1999 a Foundation for education on Communist crimes against humanity was
launched by among others Anita Klum, former executive director of the Swedish
bransch of Amnesty International, Håkan Holmberg, vice chairman of the Swedish
committe against Anti-Semitism, the author and social democrat Staffan Skott and
Tommy Adamsson, vice chairman of the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation;
chairman is Peeter Luksep, who is also chairman of the organisations of
Swedish-Estonians. The author of this report is a member of the board. The
Foundation will try to enlist support from individuals and organisations and its
aims is to try to remind above all young people of the Communist crimes against