Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 118

Sergei Kovalyov, one of Russia’s embattled few democratic deputies in the State Duma, developed his views on Russian-Baltic relations at a recent international conference in Tallinn. At that conference, Kovalyov spoke of Russian society’s collective responsibility for the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states, the current anti-Chechen war and the “KGB’s return to power.” Kovalyov, the closest disciple of the late Andrei Sakharov and former human rights commissioner of the Russian Federation, asserted that Russia’s current relations with the Baltic states are severely burdened by “the absence of a feeling of national remorse for the Soviet occupation. The Russian people bear a heavy responsibility before the Baltic peoples. The failure to atone represents an insuperable stumbling block to normal relations between Russia and the Baltic states. As long as we, the Russians as a nation, do not recognize our culpability for occupying the Baltic states, for repressing their resistance movements, for deporting their peoples, we will not have defeated Soviet communism.”

That unresolved problem, moreover, is cause for “pessimism regarding Russia’s own course of political development,” Kovalyov went on. “We are clearly and rapidly backsliding, with the active consent, alas, of a majority of our population. This is the main source of threat to all of us,” Kovalyov told his Baltic audience. From his Tallinn rostrum, Kovalyov called on the Russian state and representatives of society publicly to atone for Soviet crimes against Balts and others, just as post-war democratic Germany has apologized for wartime crimes against humanity. In some ways, Kovalyov’s remarks enlarged on his presentation at the Vilnius conference earlier in the week (BNS, June 12-15; see the Monitor, June 13, 15).