Estonia. The year was dominated by the battle for the
so-called Bronze Soldier in Tallinn. It was a Soviet war
memorial commemorating the Red Army's victory over the
German Nazis, but the Estonians saw the statue as a symbol
of the Soviet occupation. Next to the monument were Soviet
CountryAAH, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip wanted to move the bronze
soldier and the tombs to a war cemetery, and in January
Parliament voted in favor of a law that would make it
possible. In February, another law was passed that would
force the government to move the monument within 30 days.
Russia reacted strongly to the decision and warned of severe
consequences in Russian-Estonian relations. Estonian
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves refused to sign the law,
which did not enter into force. The president felt that the
statue should be left standing and he accused the
politicians of voting for the upcoming parliamentary
The bronze soldier became a controversial issue in the
March elections. The government coalition was divided
between the Prime Minister's Liberal Reform Party who wanted
to move the statue and the left-wing Center Party who wanted
to leave it in peace and who was strongly supported by the
But the election was also about taxes and wages in a
country with the EU's second highest growth (11.6 percent in
2006) and the second lowest unemployment rate (about 4
percent). The reform party promised to lower the unit tax
for everyone from 22 to 18 percent over the next four years.
The center advocated progressive tax, but instead promised
sharply increased salaries for public employees.
The bronze soldier and the growing economy played Prime
Minister Ansip in his hands. His Reform Party won the
election and increased by 12 seats to 31. The party received
votes from mainly young Estonian voters. The center, on the
other hand, was supported by older Estonian and Russian
voters and stayed on 29 seats. The Right Alliance IRL, which
consists of the Confederation of the Fosterlands and Res
Publica, took 19 seats and the Social Democrats 10. The
Greens returned to Parliament after several years outside.
Ansip chose to place the rival Center Party outside the
new government. Instead, he formed a right-wing coalition
with the Reform Party, the IRL and the Social Democrats.
Together, they had a majority with 60 of Parliament's 101
At the end of April, the government decided to move the
bronze soldier and the tombs of the soldiers. When hundreds
of police had blocked the area and thousands of
Russian-speaking protesters gathered, riots erupted into
violent riots. Two nights in a row, young people were beaten
by police. Hundreds of stores in the center of Tallinn were
vandalized and robbed and over a thousand people were
arrested. A young man was killed and over a hundred people
injured in the riots.
According to Digopaul,
the Estonian government accused Russia of upsetting the
youth. Moscow, for its part, condemned the move of the
bronze soldier as a remission of fascist forces. In Moscow,
young faithful President Vladimir Putin besieged Estonia's
embassy and the ambassador was physically attacked.
Deliveries of oil and coal across the border were stopped
and some rail transport to Estonia was canceled.
In addition, the first IT war in history began. Intense
virtual attacks were directed at the websites of Estonian
media, banks and government departments that the country was
temporarily forced to shut down data traffic with the
outside world. The Estonian government accused the Kremlin
of being behind, but it turned out that the attacks were
likely carried out by Russian hackers who used hundreds of
thousands of hijacked computers around the world.
Estonian allies in the EU and NATO condemned the Russian
threats to Estonia's embassy in Moscow, explaining that the
move of the bronze soldier was an internal Estonian matter.
The conflict surrounding the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn
helped to cool down the already frosty relationship between
Russia and the EU.
The bronze soldier was moved to the war cemetery, where
the monument was flooded with flowers by Estonian Russians.
But the Russians at the same time condemned the government
and believed that the gap between Russians and Estonians
widened for a long time to come. Instead, Estonian opinion
joined with a very strong support behind Prime Minister
Ansip and the Reform Party. An expert group came up in June
with a report which stated that Estonia failed to integrate
the country's Russians, and the government was asked to
prioritize the issue. The chairman of the group felt that
Estonia needed to change its legislation so that even
Russians whose ancestors immigrated during the Soviet era
were granted citizenship and voting rights to Parliament
under the same conditions as the Estonians. They must now
take tests in Estonian to obtain citizenship. The
Russian-speaking minority makes up about a quarter of
Four Estonian Russians were charged in the autumn with
being charged for spring riots. The trial would start after
the turn of the year.
Estonia's economic growth slowed sharply during the year.
In the third quarter it was 6.4 per cent, almost half the
year before. It was mainly the manufacturing industry and
the retail sector that slowed growth. Rapid wage increases
kept up inflation, and the forecast for Estonia's entry into
the euro zone was postponed until early 2011.
Before Christmas, EU President Josť Manuel Barroso took
part in a ceremony in Tallinn, when the Schengen area was
extended to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and six other
countries in central Europe.