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Riots Rock Estonia Over Removal Of Soviet Statue

From those keepers of the faith at France’s AFP:

Members of the “Young Guards of United Russia” movement wearing WWII Soviet army uniforms, hold a poster reading “No fascism” during a rally in front of the Estonian embassy in Moscow, 27 April 2007..

Scores hurt, more than 600 detained as more riots rock Estonia

Sat Apr 28

TALLINN (AFP) – Nearly 100 people were injured and more than 600 detained in a second night of rioting in the Estonian capital Tallinn after the removal of a Soviet war memorial, officials said Saturday.

Ninety-six people were injured, including seven police officers, as gangs made up mainly of young Russian speakers ran riot in Tallinn, smashing the windows of the Art Academy, breaking into the National Theatre and robbing shops, police said.

Some 600 people were detained in Tallinn, twice the number as the previous night, police said…

Another 40 people were detained after several hundred people rampaged through Johvi, a town 165 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of Tallinn in a region inhabited mainly by ethnic Russians.

Rioting had first erupted in Tallinn on Thursday night when police tried to prevent a small group of youths from breaking through a security cordon set up around a towering bronze figure of a Red Army soldier ahead of the statue’s removal.

The Russian foreign ministry said Saturday that a Russian citizen had been killed in the unrest in Tallinn, which is the worst since Estonia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991…

The Bronze Soldier was moved to a secret location in the early hours of Friday in an attempt to prevent more riots.

On Saturday, only a handful of people were in the square where the monument used to stand.

Concrete barricades have been erected in front of parliament after around 60 youngsters demonstrated outside, shouting “Fascists” in Russian and calling on Prime Minister Andrus Ansip to come out.

The last time the Estonian parliament was barricaded was in 1991, when Soviet tanks advanced on Tallinn to crush the drive for independence.

In Johvi, rioters smashed windows and vandalised a statue of General Aleksander Tonisson, who led an Estonian army unit against the Russians during Estonia’s war of independence in 1918.

The statue of Tonisson, who went on to become mayor of Tallinn and was executed by the Soviets when they first occupied Estonia in 1940, was doused in a flammable liquid and set on fire.

Estonia was briefly independent between the two World Wars, before being occupied by the Soviets at the start of World War II and then by the Nazis.

It was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union at the end of the war and only regained independence in 1991, when the USSR crumbled.

The Bronze Soldier Soviet war memorial at the heart of the unrest is seen by Estonians as a symbol of 50 years of Soviet occupation, during which tens of thousands of Estonians were murdered or deported and large numbers of ethnic Russians shipped in as Moscow tried to ‘russify’ the Baltics.

Russia considers it a sacred memorial to the Red Army soldiers who defeated Nazism in World War II.

Russia reacted angrily after the statue was moved. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the Estonian government of fomenting tensions, and the Russian senate passed a resolution calling for diplomatic relations with Estonia to be broken off.

Gangs of youths in downtown Tallinn shouted “Rossiya! Rossiya!” (Russia in Russian) and waved Russian flags in the overnight unrest, as police tried to keep them away from aggressive Estonian youths.

The government said it had restricted access to its website Saturday after an increase in attacks “originating from servers in other countries”.

How ironic to see men dressed in Stalinist-era Soviet uniforms carrying signs that read “No Fascism.”

Yet they are pining for those salad days of Stalin’s tyranny.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, April 28th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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