Excessive caution, fear or art of diplomacy?

Lithuania appears to be one of the most successful countries among new member states of the European Union. Regardless of present difficulties connected with global crisis its economy manages to do realtively well. Its capital city – Vilnius – flourishes and continuously evolves into one of the most beuatiful cities in whole Europe. Of course as in case of majority of new European Union member states the contrasts and gaps between poor province and rapidly modernizing cities are easily noticeable.

My recent trip to Lithuania I resolved to devote to places related with Lithaunian statehood and its newest history. It is worth reminding that Lithuania regained its indepndence on 11 March 1990. On that day Lithuanian Parliament issued Declaration of Independence from Soviet Union. That act of courage cost lives of 14 civil people who were shot and run over by Soviet tanks near TV Tower in Vilnius in January 1991 (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2060552/posts) and 7 customs and police officers shot in July 1991 on the checkpoint in Medininkai on the Belarussian – Lithuanian border (http://adamkus.president.lt/en/one.phtml?id=2268, http://www.prokuraturos.lt/News/Medininkai/tabid/249/Default.aspx)

At present Medininkai is a picturesque village on the eastern border of European Union. About three hundred metres from the border post a grey small wagon surrounded with glass walls is visible, close to it seven white stone crosses and monument depicting the Ten Comandments with bullet holes, and all of these in the scenery of beautiful lush green forest. The wagaon in 1991 was used as a kind of office and checkpoint, later on it was turned into a monument protected with glass walls and covered with roof. Memorial plaque hanging on it reads that 7 customs and police officers were killed by the enemies of Lithuania’s independence. And there is no smallest mention who those mysterious enemies were, no information that perpetrators of the crime were OMON officers (OMON – Russian abbreviation meaning – Department of Police for Special Assignment). Reflections which started coming to my mind after reading the inscription focused on the reason why it did not openly name those hostile forces. One of the thoughts told me that that vague inscription on the plaque may be just the result of political realtions between Eoropean Union countries and present Russia, a kind of political corectness. Although contemporary Russia cannot be directly connected with Soviet Union, it appears that the Russian Federation under rules previously Vladimir Putin and presently Dmitriy Medvedev has not evidently distanced itself from totalitarian past. Paradox of the attitude relies on the fact that first and most severely experienced victims of the Soviet regime were just Russians.

It seems that possible inscription engraved on the memory plaque in Medininkai containing the information about 7 officials killed by Soviet forces, by OMON officers could trigger Kremlin’s anger. Present Russian government’s flirtation with totalitarian Soviet past may cause this sort of caution or even fear on the European Union states’ side which are not interested in spoiling relations with the Russian Federation.

Of course it is not the point to irritate Kremlin. One may say – what is the problem if the plaque includes information about enemies of Lithuania’s independence? But in fact what present inscription may say to people hardly knowing history? Who were those enemies? Other Lithuanianas, Russians, Belarussians? What can they get to know from that plaque?

In fact it is not a question of nationality of those „enemies of Lithuania’s independence”, but it is a question of the Soviet Union’s nature. The problem is the essence of totalitarian regimes at all. There are no doubts that Soviet Union was a totalitarian state, which did not respect liberty and dignity of individuals as well as whole groups – be these national, ethnic or social ones. OMON – Department of Police for Special Assignment was one of the armed forces which communist regime

based its power on. It was an instrument of terror, tool of repression and terrible compulsion, everyday violation of human and civil rights

So is this inspcription on the memorial plaque in Medininkai result of excessive caution or willingness to keep friendly realtions with contemporary Russia which does not want to openly condemn its totalitarian past? May it be an art of diplomacy if independent and sovereign countries become a censors for themselves and do not dare to commemorate opelny places important to their history, fight for freedom and democratic order? May there be other reasons explaining that reserve in naming crime the crime?


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