Communism is not a crime in Estonia

  • 2001-06-21
  • TBT staff
TALLINN - The Estonian Parliament suspended discussion June 13 on whether to outlaw communism, a move some right-wing MPs think will facilitate claims for compensation for Soviet crimes from Russia.

After hours of debate voting on the topic was rescheduled to a later date, which will be known by August 27. Mart Nutt, a member of the Pro Patria Union, initiated the idea, and 33 MPs signed the bill in the 101-seat Parliament.

The Reform Party faction, however, backed suspending the vote and said the measure would be used to attack its presidential candidate Toomas Savi, who was a member of the Communist Party in the Soviet period.

The episode represents another dispute between the two parties, which are part of Estonia's three-party ruling coalition. Last month, the Reform Party pushed for the dismissal of the mayor of Tallinn, a Pro Patria member.

Meelis Atonen, vice chairman of the Reform Party, said he hoped the initiators of the discussion had not meant it as a vehicle for giving Savi a dose of bad publicity. "The idea of declaring communism a crime is a good one, but the Parliament is a little late with it - 10 years late - and now the results might be very unpleasant," said Atonen.

Professor Peeter Tulviste, the presidential candidate for the Pro Patria Union, has never been a communist.

Only two members of the opposition Center Party supported declaring communism a crime. The rest of the opposition accused the Pro Patria Union of trying to divert the attention of the Parliament away from more pressing problems.

Andres Herkel, a Pro Patria Union MP, justified the discussions. He said that Russia's continuing unwillingness to admit that the 1940 occupation was illegal is unacceptable for the people of Estonia and the Estonian state.

"It is essential for Estonia's international status that Russia and other states which took part in the occupation admit those actions were illegal. By doing so they would also affirm the judicial existence of the Republic of Estonia," he said.

Herkel added that Russia has apologized to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland for occupying these countries, but has not done the same with the Baltic states.

He even suggested that theoretically Estonia could demand compensation from Russia for losses caused by mass deportations to Siberia, a move Lithuania has already tried, without much success.

"But we should emphasize that although we would be declaring the institutions and organization of the occupation regime criminal, this does not mean all of their former employees are responsible for the crimes," reads an official letter from group of Pro Patria Union MPs passed to the parliamentary speaker.

The Center Party suggested supporting the victims of deportations between 1940 and 1951 with a lump sum of 100,000 kroons ($5,430) per person. According to the party, there are some 5,000 such people living in Estonia.

The ruling coalition, however, rejected this idea saying the Ministry of Social Welfare already spends about 100 million kroons a year supporting the victims of deportations. Pro Patria Union MPs added that the number of people who received this money last year was 19,986.