'No difference' between Nazis and Soviets - Ilves

  • 2007-09-19
  • From wire reports

DOMINATION, NOT LIBERATION: Ilves paid tribute to the bravery of Otto Tief's short-lived government

TALLINN - Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has one again rattled Russia's cage by drawing a direct comparison between the country's experience of Nazi and Soviet regimes.

"From the Estonian viewpoint, there is no difference between Nazis and Communists. Both acted brutally and repressed Estonians. Neither the Nazis nor the Communists tolerated democracy, and that's a fact any Estonian knows," Ilves said, Sep. 18.

"The Germans arrested those they could, and when the Russians arrived, they arrested them again. Neither Nazis nor communists tolerated Estonia or democracy," he said.

He was speaking at an event to mark the short-lived independent Estonian government which was ousted by the Red Army on September 22, 1944, after Nazi troops retreated from a Soviet advance. A photographic exhibition featuring the members of the Otto Tief government is being staged at the Bank of Estonia

On September 18, 1944, a government was formed under the leadership of prime minister Otto Tief. It lasted a mere four days before being crushed by the Soviet advance, but as Ilves pointed out,"By the time the Soviets returned, an independent government had been in office for four days. And it was an Estonian flag, not a Nazi flag, that the Red Army took down."

Mart Laar, who was Estonian prime minister from 1992-1994 and 1999-2002, and who is amongst Estonia's most belligerent defenders said: "We appreciate the Tief government so much because it shows that Estonians didn't support the Nazis or the Soviets, who both caused so much tragedy to our nation."

Ilves denied Moscow's assertions that the re-establishment of Soviet rule amounted to a 'liberation' of Estonia.

"The truth is that the Red Army and its NKVD security police liberated Estonia as much as the Wehrmacht and Gestapo before them," Ilves asserted.

Ilves also re-asserted his wish to set up a memorial to victims of communism: "I repeat my appeal to establish an honorable memorial to the tens of thousands of victims of communism in Estonia. Not only to the victims of Stalinism, because this would nullify the suffering of those who were imprisoned, repressed, and persecuted between 1953 and 1988."

"Unfortunately, we still do not know the names of all the victims. Our job is to find out and chisel them in stone," the president said

The Soviet Union occupied all three Baltic states after signing a secret deal with Nazi Germany in 1939, subsequently known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

In recent months, Russian government spokespeople have repeatedly accused Estonia of pro-Nazi and neo-fascist sympthies, and Estonian politicians have been just as vocal in denying such accusations and pointing to the lack of freedom currently available in Russia itself.