Regarding the situation with the glorification of Nazism… (excerpt), 2019


The Estonian authorities continue to inculcate a distorted and grounded on nationalist ideology and Russophobia interpretation of the joint history of Russia and Estonia. The most falsified is the Soviet era presented by modern Estonian historiography as the “occupation 1940 – 1991”, as well as events of the Great Patriotic War in the country’s territory. On this basis, a myth is being built of “freedom fighters” who fought against the “Soviet aggressors” wearing Wehrmacht uniform, the Waffen-SS units and guard and punitive divisions, which camouflages the glorification of Nazi criminals and their accomplices. At the same time, information on war crimes committed by Estonian collaborators, especially on the complicity in punitive actions against the civilian population, as well as in killing and torturing prisoners of concentration camps and Soviet prisoners of war, is silenced down.

Since the 1990s, gatherings of former Nazis and their belated followers are held annually in July at the memorial cross erected on the heights of Sinimäe (in 1944, there were bloody battles between the Red Army and Brownshirts) in honour of the Estonians who served in the 20th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division (the Estonian Legion), as well as the SS-men from Belgium and the Netherlands.

During another neo-Nazi coven in 2018, as before, the “exploits” of SS “defenders” against “Russian occupiers” were praised, relevant “historical” literature was disseminated and Nazi symbols were openly displayed. With reference to the “private nature” of the event, press correspondents of “undesirable” media, in particular, the Sputnik-Estonia news agency, were not allowed to attend the event.

Estonian officials, avoiding criticism from the international community, refrained from attending the ceremony, but did not prevent it from happening. Moreover, the right-wing nationalist forces in the government openly welcomed the glorification of Nazi acolytes. Thus, the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Estonia from the Isamaa (“Fatherland”) right-wing nationalist party, Urmas Reinsalu, sent a message of greetings to the participants of the aforementioned neo-Nazi “gathering”, stating that “gratitude to the combatants in Sinimäe will last forever”.

In 2016, a bust was installed in the school where Harald Nugiseks, former SS-Oberscharführer (Sergeant), studied; the school principal claimed that it will contribute to the growth of patriotism among students[67].

Another blasphemous “contribution” to the glorification of Fascism was the opening of a memorial plaque on June 22, 2018, in the village of Mustla, Viljandi County, with the inscription: “To the Fighter for the Freedom of Estonia and Recipient of the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves”, commemorating the SS-Standartenfuhrer Alfons Rebane (born there), the last commander of the 20th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division. The press service of the Estonian Government stated regarding this episode that during World War Two, Estonian soldiers “had to fight in different uniforms and their memory should be cherished with dignity”.

In August 2018, another three-day reenactment of the campaign of Hitlerite diversion group “Erna”, which was composed of Estonians and Finns and deployed behind the Soviet army lines in the summer of 1941, took place for the 19th time. This “military-patriotic event”, supported by the Estonian Ministry of Defense, traditionally involves youth activists, as well as members of NATO troops deployed in the Republic.

In the same month, Urmas Reinsalu personally handed Oak Leaf Wreath of Freedom decorations (the design of these decorations was clearly inspired by the award of the Third Reich – the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves) to 129 participants in the “armed and unarmed resistance” and “fighters for the freedom of Estonia”, among whom were former soldiers of the 20th Waffen-SS Division.

In September 2018, activists of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (CPPE), NPO “The Union of Estonian Freedom Fighters” and NPO “Sakala” restored a model of the Monument to the Defenders of Estonia in the locality of Lihula, a granite stone slab depicting a soldier in the Waffen-SS uniform with a German weapon in his hands[68]. The rally within the framework of this campaign, which brought together hundreds of participants, was attended by the top of the CPPE: Chairman Mart Helme, his deputies Jaak Madison and Henn Põlluaas, former servicemen of the Waffen-SS and their followers from the “patriotic” organizations and neo-Nazi groups.

The publication of the comic book “Hipster Hitler” released in Estonian[69] by the “Kunst” (Art) publishing house and printed in the Tallinn bookshop in June 2018, caused a negative public outcry. The advertisement of this provocative edition suggested “taking a fresh look” at the personality of Hitler portrayed as a modern young man. Alongside with “Führer-Hipster” himself, his accomplices – Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring and other members of the Third Reich’s ruling cabal found guilty of heinous crimes by the Nuremberg Tribunal, were depicted in a funny way.

The Culture and Life magazine (“Kultuur ja Elu”) stood out among Estonian mass media by its active efforts to rehabilitate Hitler’s accomplices, and almost every edition of it gave considerable attention to the “heroes in the fight for freedom” who served in the ranks of the Waffen-SS, as well as to the positive presentation of German occupation period in 1941-1944.

A direct consequence of attempts to glorify the Nazis is the systematic desecration of monuments to the victims of the Holocaust and Soviet soldiers fallen on Estonian territory in battles against the Nazis. Another recurrence was the attachment of a poster depicting Hitler with the inscription “Adolf Hitler was right” in April 2018, on the monument to the fallen soldiers of the Soviet 305th Strike Fighter Division in Rakvere, as well as spray-painting of swastikas and Nazi greetings in August 2018, on the memorial to Jews and Roma killed by the Nazis in the town of Kalevi-Liiva and vandalism of the monument to Soviet soldiers in October 2018, in the village of Lismetsa, Võru County.

A clear indicator of the spread of neo-Nazi views in society is the consistent rise in the popularity of radical nationalist ideas, the main voicer of which is the CPPE. The party won 19 out of 101 seats in the Riigikogu (Parliament) in parliamentary elections of March 2019, almost tripling its representation.

The CPPE unites active inspirers of the whitewashing and immortalization of Estonian Nazi collaborators and incitement of inter-ethnic and inter-racial hatred. A number of its activists are positive about the “effectiveness” of Hitler’s regime, etc. In particular, the praise of Hitler’s leaders and the shouting of Nazi greetings in March 2019, by the head of the foreign policy department of the CPPE and the youth wing of the Blue Awakening party, Ruuben Kaalep, received wide publicity. The sympathies of the CPPE for Hitler’s regime are evidenced, among other things, by the annual torch processions in the center of Tallinn copying similar actions of the German Nazis.

Estonia is a favourable territory for neo-Nazi and radical groups. In particular, a branch of the Finnish group “Soldiers of Odin” is active in the country. Its Estonian activists have created several Facebook groups with more than 3,000 participants; they also attend mass events dedicated to the glorification of Nazi accomplices, anti-migration campaigns, etc. The statements by the leaders of this formation regarding their willingness to patrol the streets in order to protect the indigenous population from migrants have had strong repercussions. In addition, the Nordic Resistance Movement, a Finnish neo-Nazi organization banned in September 2018, relocated its activities to Estonia, where its activists registered it as the NPO “National Unity”.

At the same time, Estonian authorities hinder the activities of anti-fascist associations. For example, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism with reference to the information from the Estonian Legal Information Centre for Human Rights reported that anti-fascist activists from Finland and Latvia had been banned from entering Estonia to participate in protests against the glorification of SS veterans. The Centre also noted that the Estonian police had stopped a car with two Estonian citizens planning to condemn the destruction of the Roma community during the World War Two at the annual meeting in honour of veterans of the Estonian Waffen-SS Legion[70].

Thus, Estonia is one of the European countries, where the glorification of Fascism is based on poorly covered state support, as well as on wide acceptance in the Estonian-speaking environment. The increase in the political weight of radical right-nationalist movements, as well as in neo-Nazism and the popularity of neo-Nazi groups is directly linked to these phenomena.

[67] Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on contemporary forms of racism about trends in the glorification of Nazism at the 38th session of the Council. June 2018, A/HRC/38/53

[68] This monument was erected on this site in 2002 and demolished in September 2004, by order of Prime Minister Juhan Parts under pressure of the international community. The monument is currently located in the private Museum of Fight for Estonia’s Freedom in Lagedi.

[69] These comic books are a slightly modified edition of the American original “Hipster Hitler” by James Carr and Arkhana Kumar.

[70] Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on contemporary forms of racism about trends in the glorification of Nazism at the 38th session of the Council. June 2018, A/HRC/38/53.

Document data: 06.05.2019, MFA of Russia. Also available in Russian and French Link:

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