August in Prague 50 years ago.
That is definitely my first memory from childhood. We were with my parents, renting a room at the seaside, near Klooga bay. Standing on a marvellous sand beach and probably playing with sand, I suddenly felt that something must be completely wrong. My parents fell silent and other holiday-makers as well. Silence was almost killing, even the seagulls and other birds seemed to respect it.
That reason was obvious – from the Soviet military port in Paldiski the vessels emerged. Frigates and submarines and so on and kind of lined up at the bay. Why that was happening, remained unclear for a child. I had hardly heard about Czechoslovakia and Prague Spring when. On the contrary all the grown-ups had been following the attempts to liberalize communist system and some great hopes were laid on the prospect that if successful, it could help Estonian situation inside the Soviet Union as well. There were even some dreams that under detante, Estonia may be given the status of DDR or Mongolia. However, on that very day the gloom and misery prevailed, and the Soviet land troops assisted by Warsaw Pact powers crushed the Czechoslovak dreams.
I still do not think that the Soviets did not know geography and were actually aware that Prague is a capital of the landlocked country. Yet on the basis of Cuban Missile crises they probably put all the units into highest alert. Seems that they actually calculated some kind of NATO counter measures and so on. This never came to be the case.
Interestingly the impact of those events shaped later my generation`s world view. As our teachers and future professors argued – the Soviet Union can be reformed if enough good Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians join the communist party and start to democratize it from within. For us it seemed inutile effort, as we knew that the real communists in Kremlin will always use force at the moment they decide it unavoidable. Hence, we treated even the good people in the Communist Party as traitors, collaborators and quislings. This different interpretation of the Czechoslovak events 50 years ago had its impact in 1991, when the Soviet Union finally collapsed, and we could start to rebuild independent country. In the beginning there was a wish to put all the collaborators into prison, yet the more reasonable voices had their impact and most of the communists were pardoned both in legal terms and in practical everyday life.
Indrek Tarand was born in occupied Estonia in 03.02.1964. Studied at Tartu University, was expelled for “anti-soviet behavior” in 1983. Served in the soviet army but was not deployed in soviet “peace missions” abroad. Since 2009 has been elected as MEP from Estonia. Will celebrate the break-even point of his life next year, as the number of days spent in the USSR equals with the number of days spent in free Europa.