TALLIN - The Russian arm of the People's Union, one of the three ruling coalition parties, launched an anti-mayor campaign last week by publishing two vitriolic letters against Tonis Palts.
Rodion Denisov, who founded the party's Russian branch, launched a tirade against Mayor Palts, a member of the opposition Res Publica, for the latter's position on ethnic minorities. He said Palts had been idle in solving minority problems and went so far as to accuse the politician of "doing nothing" in this sphere since becoming mayor.
Specifically, Denisov accused Palts of not supporting Russian language schools and for failing to complete the Russian cultural center construction project, as well as reorganizing its financial structure. The Russian museum suffers from a lack of money, Denisov added.
Palts was also accused of harboring negative attitudes toward the erection of an Orthodox church in the predominantly Russian-inhabited Lasnamae district.
A recent statement by the mayor, which drew a parallel between sexual minorities and national minorities, also angered Denisov. Palts was referring to a proposed gay pride parade for Tallinn.
"Tolerance is measured by a gay index worldwide," Palts wrote on his Web blog www.palts.ee about the parade planned for August. "It is obviously the most sensitive showing, but indulgence toward cultural, racial, ethnic and other differences and minorities is also required if one wants to be a success. No one gets angry when ethnic minorities organize their own events, for example. To the contrary, they are supported and tax-payers even welcome them through state subsidies," the mayor wrote.
The People's Union demanded an apology and resignation from Tonis Palts.
"It is impermissible to compare century-old cultures of ethnic minorities that live in Estonia with a physiologically oriented demonstration," said Denisov. "The hot weather might explain the mayor's words, but it cannot excuse him."
The mayor, for his part, brushed off the criticism. "This letter can be dictated for only one reason, to draw public attention before elections, especially considering that according to a recent poll, I am supported by 60 percent of Tallinn inhabitants and the People's Union has only 2 percent," the mayor replied through his assistant, Juliana Preobrazhenskaja.
The Russian association of the People's Union most likely has nothing to say about the services it has rendered to ethnic minorities, added Palts.
The more national minorities that live in Tallinn, he said, the richer the city will become. Representatives of ethnic minorities are vulnerable in every country, and should take steps to preserve their originality. Tallinn is always ready to support such undertakings, Palts said.
The mayor counted a list of friendly relationships with minority representatives, including Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Kiev Mayor Alexander Omelchenko. He also pointed out that the agreements they had reached would solve many of Tallinn's minority problems.
Preobrazhenskaja said that the Russian cultural center has received 5 million kroons for reconstruction this year, and that the ethnic minorities council, which is chaired by Palts, has been pro-active. A pilot financial system for ethnic minority needs will be ready by the beginning of August, while the first conference on council activities will be held in September, she said.
Prebrazhenskaja told The Baltic Times that the mayor's statement on the gay parade and minorities was distorted, and Palts' reply to Denisov should be considered as a comment, not a retort to the People's Union challenge.
In its second letter, the People's Union Russian branch insists that Palts admit his errors to account for the Russian minority's shortcomings.
Local government elections are scheduled for Oct. 16. Res Publica has chosen Palts as the party's candidate for mayor.
Denisov, meanwhile, told The Baltic Times that he understands that the letters could not change the situation, and the group would have to continue the struggle for Russian minority interests 's such as the restoration of the Tallinn Mustamae Humanity Gymnasium, which is likely to remain closed on Sept. 1 due to its poor condition.
The Russian group of the People's Union was established on March 1. There were 9,028 members in the People's Union at the beginning of 2005.
Prebrazhenskaja told The Baltic Times that the mayor's statement about the gay parade and minorities was distorted, and Palts' reply to Denisov should be considered as a comment and not as accepting The People's Union challenge.
The People's Union Russian branch continues to insist in its second letter that Tonis Palts has to admit his errors and to account for all shortcomings for providing the Russian minority's well-being in the Estonian capital.
The local government elections are scheduled on Oct. 16. Res Publica has chosen Palts as the party's candidate for mayor post.
Denisov, meanwhile, told The Baltic Times that he understands that the letters could not change the situation, and the group would have to continue the struggle for Russian minority's interests 's e.g., restoration of the Tallinn Mustamae Humanity Gymnasium, which is likely to remain closed on Sept. 1 due to its poor condition.
Denisov said that the Russian group of the People's Union was established on March 1 and that there were 9,028 members in People's Union in the beginning of 2005.