Continuing this piece in VZGLIAD from a couple of days ago, the co-authors being Marina Baltacheva and Mikhail Moshkin.
Recall that Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova is harshly critical of the participation of American soldiers in the recent Polish torchlight march honoring the so-called “Cursed Soldiers” of the Polish Home Army in World War II. The Soviet/Russian narrative is completely different from the standard Polish narrative when it comes to these historical events. It’s almost like two different realities. Zakharova feels that it is incorrect for the American government to adopt the Polish narrative on these events, especially since, technically, the U.S. was allied with Soviet Russia during World War II and signed on to the postwar world order that ensued, following Allied victory.
Zakharova goes on to criticize analogous American provocations in Narva. Narva is the third largest city in Estonia. Located on a historical trade route dating back as far as human settlements go, multi-ethnic Narva has been under every possible jurisdiction: the Hanseatic League, the Livonians, the Swedes, the Russians. Peter the Great conquered Narva in 1704, and it formed a part of the Saint Petersburg Governate. Narva remained under Russian jurisdiction until July 1917, this was in between the two Russian Revolutions, and Narvans voted in a referendum to split from Russia and join the new autonomous Republic of Estonia. At this point in time, Narva was divided equally into two ethnic groups: Russians, who are Slavs; and Estonians, who are Finno-Ugrics, closely related to Finns.
During World War II, Estonia formed part of the German Reich. All accounts seem to indicate that ethnic Estonians were very contented living under German jurisdiction, and that the Germans didn’t harm them in any way. But the war did not leave them untouched. Heavy fighting between German and Soviet troops completely destroyed the city of Narva. In the end, the Soviets won the war, drove the Germans out, and incorporated Estonia as a Union Republic. During the Soviet period, with all the rebuilding, the economic development and industrialization, the ethnic composition of Narva changed in favor of the Slavs. The Russian language became the dominant lingua franca, even among non-Russians. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Estonia became an independent state in 1991. In 1999 it joined the NATO alliance, now becoming an American protectorate. Under “independence”, as in the other Baltic states, the titular ethnic population continues to decrease, to the point where there is barely enough population to sustain a titular state. The root cause is the capitalist shock therapy and de-industrialization. But that’s a whole n’other story. Returning to Narva:
According to wiki, as of 2013, Narva’s population was 62,078 souls. Of these, 93.85% speak Russian as their preferred language; and 82% are actual ethnic Russians. In other words, Narva is a Russian city, and has been so for many decades.
There is still this little matter of a border dispute between Russia and Estonia. The story is too long to go into here, but the Reader’s Digest version:
When Estonia regained its independence in 1991, the new capitalist government decided to trace its legitimacy back to the interwar bourgeois government (1920-1939). That government based its territorial claims on the Treaty of Tartu (1920), under which the border between Russia and Estonia runs a certain way. However, the Russian Federation, which is the successor state to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, likewise regards Estonia as the successor state to the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. Under which the border between Russia and Estonia runs a certain way. Based on which way one draws the border, there is a slice of Narva which is either Estonian or Russian property.
The border between the two countries is mostly the Narva River itself. On the Russian side of the river stands the medieval Ivangorod (=”Ivan-City”) Fortress, built by Russian Grand Prince Ivan III (who was the grandpapa of Ivan the Awesome) in 1492. That was the same year in which Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue! Ivan’s purpose in building the fortress was to send a message to the Teutonic Order of Knights that Russia has a right to access to the Baltic Sea! The Teutonic Knights did not necessarily agree with that philosophy, and they were known for wearing crazy-ass helmets to display their disapproval.
Technically, modern Estonia does not dispute the Russian version of where the border lies, but when time came (in 2005) to sign a once-and-for-all border treaty between these two ancient foes, the Estonians threw in a poison pill about admitting “Soviet occupation” of Estonia. As a result, Russia could not ratify the treaty. Since doing so would be seen as a legal admission that Russia was at fault, and forced to pay reparations to Estonia for the 50-year Soviet “occupation”. This could have also had a domino effect, leading to the eventual rebuttal of the Soviet victory during World War II and even brought into question the Nuremberg Trials and the entire post-war system of international law based on the definitions of Victors and Vanquished.
Since Russia could not ratify the border treaty, there remains, technically, a “dispute” about the border. Estonians nationalists like to use this fact to taunt the Russians. Zakharova complained about this in her remarks:
“And from the same series: This crusade on foot towards the East – to Narva. A crusade which ended with the demonstrative photographing of Estonian and American soldiers on the background of the Ivangorod Fortress. A Fortress which happens to be on our side of the border!”
This is the photo which upset Maria so much: It depicts American soldiers posing just yards from Russia’s Ivangorod Fortress. The message sent could not be more clear if it was laminated in plastic: America and NATO regard this territory as their own, and are willing to go to war to claim it.
[to be continued]