|Toomas Ilves Source: Wikipedia
In a recent
interview with Klub Jagiellonski, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the former
president of Estonia, brought up what I have called the Bieganski,
Brute Polak Stereotype. This stereotype, as my book makes clear, applies to
all Eastern European, Christian-descent populations. We are all brutes, and
Westerners who are invested in this stereotype condescend to us.
Some clips from the interview, below
"Recently 'westplaining' has become
a very fashionable term. It concerns the problem of patronizing the Eastern
European states by Western politicians. Anne Applebaum stated that 'American
and European leaders' profound lack of imagination has brought the world to the
brink of war'. Will the Russian invasion of Ukraine change the attitude of
looking at Eastern policy through the Western prism?"
"For me, westplaining is mostly
germansplaining and the shock of the February 24th invasion was enough to lead
chancellor Scholz to revise 50 years of Ostpolitik. We could also see that the
German president Steinmeier has announced his regrets on his position. I think
that, until now, there has been a general inclination to always believe the
Russians and to look down on and disregard the views of the countries who have
experience in dealing with Russia.
I was saying for years that there is an
anti-empirical bias among West Europeans and Americans. You have experience
with Russia and instead of listening to your experience, they write you off as
being biased. That willingness to believe a Russian narrative always before an
Eastern European narrative is something that we have had to deal with for a
Sometimes it comes up in really
obnoxious ways. Last year's defense of building Nord Stream II on the part of
Steinmeier for example. He basically said that Germans owe it to the Russians
because of all of the suffering they inflicted upon them, forgetting about the
fact that far more people, not only proportionally but even in absolute
numbers, suffered in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine than suffered in Russia."
"To borrow from Edward Said's
famous book, it is a case of orientalism. The only people left in the world
toward whom it is politically correct to act like a racist are Eastern
Europeans. You cannot do it toward Russians because then you are Russophobic.
There is a book by Robert Kaplan, 'Balkan
Ghosts'. He writes there about 'primitive tribal hatreds' of the Eastern
Europeans. What could be more racist than that? It is just like during a
massive cyber-attack against Estonia in 2007. We went to NATO to talk about it,
and the response was 'you are just being Russophobic'. And that is from
countries all far less advanced digitally than we are. None of these people had
a clue about anything digital. Will we see a change in 30 years of this smug,
patronising behaviour? It's too early to tell." …
"My position on the following is:
no easing up on sanctions until Russia has paid for the damages of what was
done to Ukraine. We can get $200 billion from the seized or frozen assets by
the West, but it will not be enough. Ukraine needs around $700 billion to be
rebuilt. Russia also has to pay the reparations for the killings and for the
injuries that have been done.
The other requirement must be that all
of the people responsible, from the lowest to the highest, have to go to court.
From the corporal who shoots and rapes people in Bucha to the people who write
articles in the state media saying we have to eliminate the Ukrainian people.
They say the same things about Poles and Estonians. The lies they said about
Poland regarding the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact are utterly ridiculous, but this
is what we face." …
"I have taken a family of two
refugees to my farm and the bureaucracy has worked amazingly well. I got them
their ID numbers so they will get digital identities and I took care of the
formalities to open a bank account for them. I have also driven them to get the
older woman registered for her pension, and to put the younger Ukrainian
refugee's CV on the unemployment list so she can get a job.
On the part of civil society, Estonians
are donating everything. Many people have given their houses, apartments and
furniture, while more wealthy Estonians are buying up four-by-four cars to send
to the territorial defense units in Ukraine. One guy even bought 35 ambulances
on his own!
The same thing is happening in Latvia as
well. I think it goes back to the issue of experience. None of this that we see
today is new to us. We have lived through it. You have lived through it. There
is no need for me to teach Poles about your own history, though there is a need
for all of us to teach Western Europe about our own history." …
"We, as well as Poles, Latvians and
Lithuanians, know what the Russians do. I do not think Estonians were really
surprised by Bucha because we have similar experiences. It is no less
horrifying, but when we see it, we know they could do that because they did
that to us as well." ...
Thank you Jerzy for sending this in.