After the Estonian authorities sealed off the monument last weekend, hundreds of people, mostly from the 300,000-strong ethnic Russian population, rioted in Tallinn.

They attacked the main theatre and the Academy of Arts, chanting “Fuck Estonia”, and “Russia, Russia”. Secondary-school pupils unfurled a banner outside parliament reading “USSR forever”. The supposed aim was to protect the war memorial—a bronze “liberator” that Estonians see as a symbol of their country’s decades-long enslavement by the Soviet Union.

„But the main activity was looting. Dozens of shops were raided. The police, initially overwhelmed, made 1,000 arrests. One man was stabbed to death—in a row with another looter,” The Economist says.

„The rioting was not wholly spontaneous. Russian embassy officials had previously met leading protesters in curious places such as a botanical garden, according to pictures leaked by local spy-catchers. After the riot, another front opened: state websites were swamped by attacks from computers with Kremlin IP addresses.”

According to The Economist, Russia’s rhetorical onslaught has been ferocious. Ignoring the looting, media there claim that “anti-fascist schoolchildren” trying to stop Estonians “demolishing” the memorial were “tortured” by the “inhuman” police. Russia’s foreign minister said Estonia was behaving “disgustingly”. A delegation of Russian politicians, invited to see that the monument had been moved, not demolished, called for the government’s resignation before setting off. On arrival, they repeatedly insulted their hosts, while demanding that “political prisoners” be freed.

This has scary echoes for Estonians. In 1940 a Soviet delegation issued similarly phrased demands. Weeks later, Estonia was wiped off the map. The protests also sit oddly with the ruthless way that entirely peaceful and purely political protests are squashed in Russia, as well as with the often casual treatment of war memorials there, concludes The Economist

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