IN an out-of-the-way corner of this city's renovated Old Town,
tucked among the Protestant church spires and narrow cobblestone
alleys, lies a cluster of ruins. Behind a chain-link fence around
the site, a sign reads: "On March 9, 1944, bombs dropped by the
Soviet Air Force killed 453 people, wounded 659, and left 20,000
It has been almost a year since Estonia - and its Baltic
neighbors Lithuania and Latvia - regained independence. But as the
macabre memorial indicates, the emotional wounds caused by the
Baltic nation's involuntary incor- poration into the Soviet Union
run deep in Estonia. And they won't heal easily.
These days many Estonians hold Russia, always considered here a
synonym for the Soviet Union, responsible for impoverishing their
country. The nation of 1.6 million would be thriving today, they
say, if its economy had not been saddled with central planning from
The anger that served as a motivational tool in the Baltics'
drive to break away from the Soviet Union, however, now threatens
Estonia's effort to revive a market economic system.
In Estonia, hard feelings on both sides appear to have
penetrated almost all aspects of Tallinn's relations with Russia.
"Russians still consider Estonia to be a province," says Estonian
government councilor Aimar Altosaar.
Experts say stable relations with Russia would greatly ease
hardships in Estonia, as the Baltic nation begins painful economic
reforms. But instead of smoothing relations, Estonia seems intent
on provoking Russia.
Disputes over the withdrawal of Russian troops, and
discrimination against Estonia's sizable ethnic Russian minority,
have become substantial obstacles to improved relations.
Many Estonians are preoccupied with the continued the Russian
Army presence in the Baltics. Udo Helme, a government consultant
with Estonia's National Defense Board, argues that the Baltic
states cannot be considered truly independent until the "occupation
Army" has left.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin, under pressure from Western
leaders, gave assurances the approximately 130,000 Russian troops
in the Baltics would be withdrawn. But he failed to provide a
precise timetable, citing Russia's budget problems and a lack of
"We just can't pull out 100,000 troops and leave them in the
middle of a field," Mr. Yeltsin said, indicating the process could
take up to two years.
But Mr. Helme asserts that the Russians are stalling, saying
five months is more than enough time for the estimated 23,000
troops in Estonia to leave. …