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A May Day Proposal:

Today is May 1, AKA May Day. May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their regimes. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes' millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century's other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so. I suggest that May Day be turned into Victims of Communism Day. I am, of course, open to suggestions for the official name of this day of commemoration. Maybe someone will come up with a better one than I have.

The main alternative to May 1 is November 7, the anniversary of the communist coup in Russia. However, choosing that date might be interpreted as focusing exclusively on the Soviet Union, while ignoring the equally horrendous communist mass murders in China, Camobodia, and elsewhere. So May 1 is the best choice.

UPDATE: I don't claim that this idea is original, as I suspect that it has been suggested before. But whether original or not, I think it should be pursued, perhaps in conjunction with the opening of the Victims of Communism Memorial, scheduled for June 12.

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Estonia and the Legacy of Soviet "Liberation":

Fellow Russian immigrant Cathy Young has an excellent column on the controversy over Estonia's decision to move a monument to the Soviet "Liberators of Tallin" to a less prominent location in the nation's capital. The statue commemorated the Soviet army for "liberating" Estonia from the Germans in 1944. As Young points out, Estonians rightly regard the Soviet conquest and annexation of their country as a "brutal occupation" rather than as "liberation." She also notes that the current Russian government has cynically used this incident to try to whitewash the wrongs of communism and whip up nationalist sentiment in Russia. Russian President and former KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin, of course, claims that the collapse of communism was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century."

However, perhaps due to space constraints, Young does not mention the full scope of Soviet crimes in Estonia, and therefore does not fully explain why the Estonians viewed the presence of a monument to the Red Army in the center of their capital as "an insult." Along with Latvia, Lithuania, and eastern Poland, Estonia was annexed by the USSR in 1940 pursuant to the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, which carved up much of Eastern Europe between the USSR and the Nazis. During the period of Soviet rule in Estonia, some 30,000 Estonians were executed by the Soviet authorities or died in detention for "political offenses." 80,000 were imprisoned or deported to Gulag slave labor camps for such "crimes." Most - but not all - of these atrocities were carried out in the first few years of Soviet rule (1940-41, 1944-51). I have not counted the thousands of Estonians killed or imprisoned for taking part in armed resistance to Soviet rule, though in truth the Soviets had no right to kill these people either; I have also discounted thousands forcibly conscripted into the Soviet military, many of whom died in service; and 21,000 Baltic Germans forcibly deported to Germany in accordance with various Nazi-Soviet agreements. For a detailed breakdown of the data from which these figures are taken, see here.

To put these figures in perspective, it is important to note that the total population of Estonia in 1939 was only about 1.1 million. The 30,000 Estonians killed by the Soviet authorities for political reasons amount to almost 3 percent of the population. Some 10% of all Estonians were either killed or imprisoned. A comparable proportional population loss for the United States today would leave some 9 million dead and another 20 million imprisoned or deported out of our population of 300 million.

In and of itself, the controversy over the Tallin monument is unimportant. But it does provide a disturbing indication of Putin's efforts to whitewash the Soviet past. On the positive side of the ledger, it is a good opportunity to educate ourselves about at least a few of the crimes of communism - horrors that too many remain ignorant of even today.

UPDATE: To avoid confusion, I am not denying that the Soviet military had the right to engage in combat operations in Estonia in 1944, at a time when the country was occupied by the Germans (who had seized it from the Soviets in 1941). I do, however, deny that the USSR had the right to forcibly annex Estonia in 1940 or to reannex it in 1944. And it goes without saying that, even if the USSR had a right to annex the country, it did not have the right to kill and imprison thousands of Estonians because of their political views or (in many cases) membership in the wrong social "classes."

UPDATE #2: As a commenter points out, I accidentally miscounted the number of dead and imprisoned that today's US would have to suffer in order to equal the proportional losses inflicted on Estonia by the USSR. I have now changed the figures in the post to the correct numbers.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. A Dubious Reunion for the Russian Orthodox Church:
  2. Estonia and the Legacy of Soviet "Liberation":
  3. A May Day Proposal:
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A Dubious Reunion for the Russian Orthodox Church:

In this Wall Street Journal op ed, historian Nadia Kizenko analyzes the reunion between the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and its parent church in Russia. As Kizenko notes, the Church Abroad broke with the Russian church in 1920 because the latter had fallen under the control of the brutal Communist government that, among other things, suppressed religious freedom. Now, the Church Abroad has again accepted the authority of the Patriarch of Moscow, the chief prelate of the Russian Orthodox Church, including giving the Russian church the right to appoint bishops and control church property.

Not being Russian Orthodox, it isn't my place to comment on the purely religious aspects of the reunion. However, like Kizenko, I am disappointed by the Church Abroad's willingness to accept the deal despite the fact that the Russian church hierarchy continues to embrace its long history of collaboration with the Russia's communist rulers, and is now supporting the increasingly authoritarian government of President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel who claims that the collapse of communism was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." While some individual Orthodox priests and laypeople bravely resisted the communists, the church hierarchy soon came to be controlled by communist collaborators, as Kizenko explains in her article.

Russian Orthodox believers in the US and elsewhere in the West will have to decide for themselves whether they will accept the merger. Perhaps, as in 1920, the time has come to once again establish a new church unsullied by collaboration with communists and authoritarians.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. A Dubious Reunion for the Russian Orthodox Church:
  2. Estonia and the Legacy of Soviet "Liberation":
  3. A May Day Proposal:
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