There's an interesting controversy brewing in one of the Baltic states--Estonia, to be precise. Legislators have just voted to remove a monument to the Soviet, or Red Army's liberation of the Estonian people from Nazi invaders in World War II. Estonians are ecstatic; Russians are preparing mass protests of the removal.
If you wonder why this is a controversy, why it is a big deal, you are not alone. There's a convoluted history between Estonia and the USSR that begins when the Baltic states were conquered by Russia during the Imperial period, in the l8th century. Those Baltic peoples never appreciated their lives under Russian rule, and became independent after the l9l7 revolution in Russia. However, that independence was short-lived, ending in l939, when the Germans and Russians signed the infamous Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact. The secret protocol provided for the Russians' reconquest of the Baltic states and parts of Poland and Romania, in exchange for standing aside as the Germans took their half of Poland and attacked Great Britain. When the Germans double-crossed Stalin and invaded Soviet territory, they gave the Russians a chance to confront them and then drive them all the way back to Berlin, where they linked up with their friends, the United States and Britain, to put an end to Nazi Germany. The Soviet forces liberated or re-occupied the Baltic states, depending on your point of view, and the Balts faced another long period of living under Russian rule, in the Soviet Union. Just to make sure it would be very difficult for them to break away, Stalin deported many Balts to Siberia or Kazakhstan and resettled Russians there, so that the percentages of Balts vs. Russians were very close in each state.
In l991, of course, the Soviet Union fell. The Baltic peoples understandably vented their indignation, their fury, at their fate, condemning their forcible inclusion ino the Soviet Union. Less understandably, they took out their frustrations on the Russian residents, who after all were not given a choice in their resettlement. They slapped restrictions on the Russians, namely the requirement that every Russian learn the Estonian language, an exceedingly difficult language, within three years as a condition of citizenship. Estonia was particularly adamant about this. Estonian leaders were forced to back off these draconian conditions when they applied for EU admission, but the tensions between Estonian and Russian residents continue.
Now, the removal of this statue appears to the Russian residents as another gratuitous insult directed at them. They place a high premium on the sacrifices of the Red Army on behalf of Baltic residents and believe the memorial's disappearance is an intolerable insult. There is talk of general and hunger strikes in order to force the leadership to renounce their decision. It just goes to show you how difficult life remains for some citizens on the post-Communist political landscape in eastern Europe. It also demonstrates dramatically how the past is not prologue at all. It is not, in fact, even past.