May 15, 2015

The Joyless Anniversary of Peace

AFP/Scanpix
Ukrainian soldiers swear in front of the Motherland Monument in Kiev on May 9, 2015 during a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.
Ukrainian soldiers swear in front of the Motherland Monument in Kiev on May 9, 2015 during a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.

Europe really could have celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe together. 8–9 May 1945 was a time when peace finally reigned supreme on the war-ravaged continent—why not commemorate it together? Eastern Europe did remain in the grip of the Soviet Union and the war ended unfairly for them, but we could have reached a compromise in celebrating the war’s end even in these circumstances. The presidents of the Baltic States could have visited Moscow on 9 May.

The fact that Europe is yet again divided 70 years after the end of the war is solely Russia’s fault. The decision of Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, to occupy and annex the Crimea as well as instigate a war in eastern Ukraine makes it impossible for Europe to rejoice over the anniversary. Because people are dying again in Europe.
Diplomaatia has dedicated a large part of this number to topics related to World War II. The historian Kaarel Piirimäe writes about his new book Roosevelt, Churchill and the Baltic Question: Allied Relations During the Second World War and discusses how the Baltic question was handled during the war.
Georgi Kunadze, the former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, thinks that the so-called Great Victory helps to shape the contemporary Russian identity and allows Putin to execute his policies.
“… the only genuine bond that unites the Russians of today is the multifaceted memory of the Great Patriotic War,” writes Kunadze. “They take pride in the victory, mourn the dead heroes, and denounce those who challenge their convictions, however simplified or distorted. In this context it should be noted that the memory of the Great Patriotic War, combined with an appalling lack of general education, makes many Russians easy prey for the propaganda campaign waged against them by the Russian government.”
The ethnologist Aimar Ventsel, meanwhile, explores Kazakhstan searching for an answer to the question of how this country has coped with the heritage of Soviet-era prison camps. According to Ventsel, the current authorities in Kazakhstan have developed very balanced policies to deal with the matter.
Both Marge Mardisalu-Kahar and Viljar Veebel write that pretence must be dropped and real activities must be undertaken with regard to the European Union’s Eastern Partnership.
Marin Mõttus reviews Paul Danahar’s book The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring.

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