Estonians and Russians in Finland not surprised by war memorial conflict.
A number of Estonians and Russians living in Finland, who were interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday, said that the conflict over the location of the Soviet war memorial did not come as a surprise. The view is that the problems did not emerge in a vacuum, and that they reflect conflicts that had been sensed previously on a personal level.
"The Russian population has not integrated into Estonia very well", said Inga Lillemann, an Estonian office worker who has lived in Finland for 16 years.
She says that her views differ from those of most Estonians; as she sees it, the only Russians who are accepted in Estonia are those who speak Estonian well, and who represent Estonia as successful athletes, for instance.
"I think that the statue could have been left where it was. It never bothered anyone before. The graves could have been moved."
Lillemann feels that both sides have made mistakes and gone too far, raising issues that were not discussed before.
Reimo Kostsikas, who is working on a degree in the automotive field, takes a negative view of Russian demands in the issue.
"The Russians are always making demands of everybody about everything, because they think that they are so big. Their job here is to let this thing go."
From his childhood, Kostsikas remembers having good relations with Russians. He feels that the present conflict goes beyond the dispute over the removal of a statue and the graves.
The Nizyulko family live in Myllypuro in the east of Helsinki. They have followed the dispute closely. The family is originally from the Urals, later living in Estonia, from where they moved to Latvia, and from Latvia to Finland. Six of the family's nine children were born in Finland. The oldest of the children in the family is 19 years old, and the youngest is three.
The mother of the family, Elena Nizyulko, takes a more moderate view, but the 16-year-old son Raitis Nizyulko is more severe. Statues should not be moved around, and the graves of soldiers must be left alone.
"They have fought in their time, and now they can be left in peace."
Raitis Nizyulko calls the current Estonian leadership "Nazis". At worst, this kind of conflict can lead to war, he says.
Mother and son agree that relations between the population groups have always been tense in Estonia. They say that the living conditions of Russians in Estonia have always been different than in Finland.
"Estonians have the right to do what they want with the statue - nothing can shake that. However, it would have been wiser not to start to move it", ponders airline employee Irina Lindsten.
"The statue is history, it should not have been moved. The Estonians should back down on the matter."
Lindsten, formerly a resident of St. Petersburg, who currently lives in Helsinki, is interested in the events in Estonia on a general level. The issue is a daily topic of conversation during coffee breaks at work as well.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finnish PM denounces Russian demands for resignation of Estonian government (2.5.2007)
Tallinn memorial: Vanhanen emphasises non-interference, Kanerva calls for EU solidarity (30.4.2007)
Soviet memorial in Tallinn moved after night of rioting (27.4.2007)