Archive for the 'Baltic States' Category

Unbroken Spirit: Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch Speaks

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

By Fern Sidman

In his new English language memoir entitled, “Unbroken Spirit: A Heroic Story of Faith, Courage and Survival” (Gefen Publishing), internationally renowned former Soviet refusenik, Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch takes his readers on a compelling trajectory of his life in this deeply poignant narrative. As a young boy growing up as an atheist in the Stalinist era, Rabbi Mendelevitch soon embarked on a journey to his Jewish heritage and emerged as a dynamic leader in the Jewish underground movement in the former Soviet Union. After 11 grueling years in the Gulag of Siberian forced labor camps, his dream was realized when he immigrated to Israel in 1981. Today, he is a noted Orthodox educator in the religious Zionist movement. Rabbi Mendelevitch was recently on a book tour in the United States and took time out of his schedule for this interview.

Q: You had already published your memoir in Hebrew many years ago. Why did you decide to come out with an English version at this particular juncture in time?

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Lithuania to Russia: Shove Your Energy (You Go Lithuania!)

Friday, September 17th, 2010

By Andrew L. Jaffee

Lithuania is continuing to distance itself from its very threatening neighbor, Mother Russia, aka Vladimir Putin’s new Russian/Soviet empire. Good for Lithuania. The tiny but very successful former “Soviet Republic” has “…invited investors to bid on building a nuclear power plant to reduce the Baltic country’s dependency on energy imports from Russia.” This follows Lithuania’s eager joining of NATO and the EU — frowned upon by a very resentful, overbearing babushka: Russia.

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European Moral Feebleness Fuels Russia’s Aggression and Impunity

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

By Andrew L. Jaffee

Russian President Putin’s goon-squad is using “‘scorched-earth’ tactics” in Georgia, has promised to annex territory (South Ossetia and Abkhazia), and now is threatening to attack Poland. This is pure madness, but look at the reaction from Europe (or, should I say, lack thereof?), as described by the brave Russian soul, Garry Kasparov:

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The Forgotten Revolutionaries Who Shunned Terrorism

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

By Andrew L. Jaffee

Apologizing for terrorism is completely indefensible. Have people forgotten MLK and Gandhi’s teachings? Have people forgotten the Velvet and Singing Revolutions in Eastern Europe against the Soviet/Russian Empire?

The Soviets murdered millions, deported millions to Siberia, bugged telephones, banned books, outlawed native languages, encouraged Russians to emigrate to occupied nations to dilute the indigenous cultures, assassinated and jailed dissidents — it was the Orwellian horror come true.

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Yiddish revival in Poland

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

…Sometime in the 1970s, as a generation born under communism came of age, people began to look back with longing to the days when Poland was less gray, less monocultural. They found inspiration in the period between the world wars, the time that was the Poland of the Jews.

“You cannot have genocide and then have people live as if everything is normal,” said Konstanty Gebert, founder of a Polish-Jewish monthly, Midrasz. “It’s like when you lose a limb. Poland is suffering from Jewish phantom pain.”…

International Herald Tribune

Human evolution can be pretty intense, horrifying, ironic, and even hopeful. Some Eastern Europeans have not forgotten the concept of atonement woven into their culture by Jews. And the Jewish revival is happening in nearby countries like Lithuania and Estonia, also. More, from the International Herald Tribune:

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Estonian Jews Open New Synagogue

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

By Andrew L. Jaffee

…[Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon] Peres compared Estonia and Israel.

“We are small countries that must be great,” he said. “We have to be as great as our dangers. We have to be as developed as our opportunities.”…

- JTA

Peres makes a valid comparison: The tiny nation of Estonia has been bullied by much larger neighbors (e.g., Germany and Russia). Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbors bent on her destruction. If “Estonia is a Nazi state,” as the Stalinist die-hards maintain, then why have its top leaders, plus Israeli and other Jewish dignitaries, attended the opening of a new synagogue in Tallinn? From JTA:

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Putin’s Democracy

Friday, May 18th, 2007

By Andrew L. Jaffee

Russian President Vladimir Putin has prevented political dissidents from attending summit talks with the EU. He’s afraid of a former chess player? Such a tough guy, pushing around tiny nations like Estonia. Vladimir has surrounded himself with other former KGB goons, so in the Kremlin nowadays, “influence stems from the former Soviet organs of repression.” Back in the USSR? From the Beeb:

A number of leading anti-Putin activists, including the former chess champion Garry Kasparov, had passports confiscated and were detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

The authorities said they had false travel documents.

Several foreign journalists were also reportedly prevented from traveling.

False? Yeah, if you’re KGB/NKVD…

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Here we go again: “All Estonians are Nazis”

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

By Andrew L. Jaffee

Here we go again (again). This time it started with Estonia’s morally sound decision to dismantle a symbol of Russian/Soviet conquest and occupation of their homeland (Eesti). Every time I express support for the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), some troll comes out of the woodwork calling me a “Nazi collaborator,” or insisting that “all” Balts were Nazi collaborators. It’s almost funny, as I’m an American-Lithuanian-Jew — try that one — and I’ve heard it from both sides: “All Jews were communists,” “All Lithuanians were Nazis,” etc. But the pro-Soviet trolls aren’t interested in the truth. I interpret their obsession with Nazi war crimes — while ignoring Soviet war crimes — as an attempt to sanitize what the Russians and their collaborators did during their occupation of the various Soviet “republics.” The trolls are also attempting to preserve the gleaming image (murderous rampage) of communism.

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Estonia (Eesti): Poor Baby Russians Are Unhappy

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

By Andrew L. Jaffee

Estonians made the correct and morally sound decision. They dismantled a symbol of Russian/Soviet conquest and occupation of their Estonian homeland (Eesti). The poor baby Russian neo-imperialists are upset:

The BBC’s Richard Galpin says it [the removal of a Soviet "war memorial" in Tallinn] is being perceived as one insult too many by local ethnic Russians, after what they feel has been years of discrimination against them by the majority Estonian population.

Discrimination? Russians conquered, plundered, and subjugated every one of their neighboring countries, under czars and commissars alike. Russians should be apologizing, not unhappy.

Unhappy just like the Arab/Muslim world is with little Israel vis-à-vis the “Palestinian question.” In reality, the Arab/Muslim world resents Israel’s freedom and prosperity, while they live in squalor. It is the same with Russian resentment of the tiny Baltic States, like Estonia. Russian troops, under the flag of the Soviet “Union,” invaded Estonia during World War II, and didn’t leave until 1994.

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Estonia (Eesti): BBC Speaks the Truth

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

By Andrew L. Jaffee

I have written many times about Soviet/Russian war crimes, but the mainstream media has generally maintained silent — with a few exceptions. Regarding Estonia’s correct and morally sound decision to dismantle a symbol of Russian conquest and occupation of their homeland, the BBC weighed in:

…But the Estonians believe much of the tension is being whipped up by forces outside the country, i.e. Russia itself.

During the years of Soviet occupation after World War II, tens of thousands of Estonians were killed. And they say their country was effectively colonised with many Russians being brought in as workers and military personnel. …

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You Go Estonia (Soviet War Memorial)

Friday, April 27th, 2007

By Andrew L. Jaffee

The Estonian authorities have removed a contentious Red Army war memorial in the capital, Tallinn, despite overnight protests that left one person dead.

- BBC, 4/27/07

To this, “A [Russian] foreign ministry spokesman described the decision as ‘blasphemous and inhumane’.” The Russian government is talking like it had the “right” to annex Estonia in 1940, but Estonians haven’t forgotten what their former Russian tormentors (occupiers) did to them for 50 years. How would you like to see a Nazi “war memorial” erected in your hometown, say in Tel Aviv or Chicago? Nazi or Soviet — it’s all the same.

Yes, Stalin “helped” to defeat Hitler, but by allying ourselves with the Soviet Union in WWII, we supported a monstrous state, the Russian Empire, in killing as many or more people than the Nazis did (Stalin killed about 20 million):

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A First: Press Uses Word Collaborator RE: Soviets

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

By Andrew L. Jaffee

Is this a first? The word “collaborator” is being applied to traitors who helped the Russians/Soviets oppress millions of Eastern Europeans. The context involves a Polish bishop, Stanislaw Wielgus, who “confessed to collaborating with the communist police.” This is a start, but when will there be a Nuremberg-style tribunal to try all the Soviet murderers and their indigenous collaborators?

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Measuring Loyalties to the Russian Empire (the Good Old Days)

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

By Andrew L. Jaffee

For those still wearing Che Guevara t-shirts and pining for the “good old days” of the Soviet (Russian) Empire, you may want to consult with the people who had the “pleasure” of living under communist domination. By and large, the peoples of the former Soviet “republics” have voted to move closer to Europe and the U.S. and away from Russia, where “influence stems from the former Soviet organs of repression.” Case in point: Lithuania, from the BBC:

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Cheney Backs Up the Balts and Balkans

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

By Andrew L. Jaffee

Dick Cheney made a very important visit this weekend, and reminded Russia to lay off countries that it once persecuted under its old czars, under its second generation czars (the Soviets), and under its new czar, Vladimir Putin. Cheney visited Lithuania, Croatia, and Kazakhstan. In Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius,

…he accused Russia of backsliding on democracy. …

He accused Russia of using its vast energy resources to blackmail its neighbours, and said Moscow had a choice to make between pursuing democratic reforms and reversing the gains of the past decade.

In Croatia, Cheney

…praised the former Communist countries for their willingness to introduce democratic reforms – as well as for their involvement in US-led military operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“You who aspire to join these organisations [Nato and the EU] help rejuvenate them and help us re-dedicate ourselves to the basic and fundamental values of freedom and democracy,” Mr Cheney told Ivo Sanader of Croatia, Sali Berisha of Albania and Vlado Buckovski of Macedonia.

“We also believe that it’s very important for both Nato and the EU to take in the new members.”

“Backsliding on democracy” is an understatement, as now, “Under Mr Putin, influence stems from the former Soviet organs of repression.” The last Russian presidential elections “failed to meet democratic standards.” Putin tried and failed to interfere with democratic elections in Ukraine, and is now trying to intimidate the former Soviet “republic” and the rest of Europe by threatening to withhold natural gas deliveries.

Putin is delusional: he thinks he’ll be able to recreate former Soviet “glories.” The U.S. stands squarely in his way. Last year, President Bush visited Riga, the capital of Latvia, and brought to the attention of the world the suffering of the three Baltic nations (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) under Soviet/Russian domination. Now Cheney has visited the Baltic again, reminding Russia to back off.

Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia have all joined NATO. Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, and Ukraine are on track to become new members.

Of course, Russia is crying fowl, as Eastern Europeans are voting with their feet to join NATO and the EU — not forging closer ties with Moscow’s czarist, neo-imperialists.

Russia claims Cheney’s speeches this weekend were “completely incomprehensible.” Cheney has responded, rather comprehensibly:

Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday shrugged off negative Russian reaction to his criticism of President Vladimir Putin, saying he had merely described ”the extent to which they seem to resist the development of strong democracies” in Eastern Europe.

Eastern Europeans remember all too well what is was like to live under Russia’s hammer and sickle. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga most eloquently explained the differences between the leftist appeasers of dictatorship and the new democracies:

We certainly have seen the results of appeasement… It’s much easier to tolerate a dictator when he’s dictating over somebody else’s life and not your own. We have suffered through half a century because dictators were allowed to proceed unchecked in the faint hope that they would somehow see the light, or reform, or simply by indifference to those who have been affected by their actions.

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That Other Holocaust, Revisited

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

By Andrew L. Jaffee

Every time I bring up the Holocaust, the same thing happens. Some of the people want Hitler’s genocide to be the archetype of a people’s suffering, denying others their right to bring similar atrocities to light. Some want to deny it (like current Iranian President Ahmadinejad). Some want to straddle the line or apologize: “There would have been no Hitler if not for the reparation payments put upon Germany after World War I.” What are we to do, create a chart ranking peoples’ suffering: “mine was worse than yours?” These were all horrors. Calling one a genocide while not allowing another to call it a holocaust is sophistry. Denial is just historic ignorance — or caused by some ulterior motive, like racism.

By far, the biggest “controversies” arise when I compare Hitler’s genocide to the various communist atrocities of the same century. The extreme leftists always get upset because it challenges their beliefs about “socialism.” They tend to subscribe to the Leninist adage, “The ends justify the means.” Some get defensive, or perhaps feel a tad bit guilty, because, after all, Stalin helped us defeat Hitler, never mind the fact that he murdered millions of innocents himself. And some say that communist atrocities were secular — not motivated by ethnic divisions. (Yes, I know: Stalin was from Georgia).

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