August 27, 2020

History Reconsidered

AP/Scanpix

The coronavirus-fatigued world is in the middle of a monument war, in which the protesters are trying to show history in a different light. Europe must take action to survive. At the same time, Russia’s propaganda is growing ever stronger. These are the main topics in the August edition of Diplomaatia.

Criminologist Jüri Saar writes about the monument war, believing that the Western way of thinking could be moving in the wrong direction, away from the traditional.

“In this way, the current trend to actively attend to the past means moving in the wrong direction for the Western world,” says Saar. “By being steadfast in ‘fighting against the heritage of slavery’, we will soon get to Aristotle and Plato, and will begin to redefine their roles for the sake of political correctness. Formally, Plato and Aristotle exploited slaves, who they called ‘living tools’, a very stigmatising description from a modern point of view.”

Diplomat Mikael Laidre is worried about Europe’s sovereignty. “Paradoxically, the main external difficulty in increasing European sovereignty is connected to its apparent biggest ally, the US. This is mainly concerned with financial and military aspects. On the one hand there is Western Europe, traumatised from the last world war and seeing the Cold War as a period of comfortable stability, and on the other there is Eastern Europe, which fears its neighbour; both refuse to take steps that would change the status quo,” admits Laidre.

Marianne Mikko, a former editor-in-chief of Diplomaatia, spent the height of the coronavirus crisis in Sweden, where people had to face unusual difficulties due to the country’s unique COVID-19 management strategy. “For the first time, people are feeling that being a Swede is not as good as it was made out to be,” says Mikko. “Some diplomats have even called the current situation an identity crisis for Sweden. At the same time, trust in the government has not been shaken. Nevertheless, an independent committee of inquiry has been created, tasked with giving a final verdict on tackling COVID-19 in Sweden.”

Foreign affairs commentator Toomas Alatalu writes on Russia’s propaganda campaigns connected with the Great Patriotic War victory celebrations. “Since the aim of the campaigns is to strengthen the Kremlin’s idea of the Second World War, they have caused protests in other countries from the start,” says Alatalu. “As time passes, perceptions in battlefield-ridden Eastern Europe and the rest of the world of the beginning of World War II in 1939–41, and the events of 1944–45, have begun to differ from Moscow’s.”

Aimar Ventsel, an ethnologist living in Russia’s Far East, explains the background to the protests that started in Khabarovsk, and Ukrainian political scientist Ivanna Valjushko writes about the role of Mikheil Saakashvili, a former president of Georgia, in Ukrainian politics.

Filed under: Paper issue