Nothing like a good shooting to make one nervous. Sometimes it feels like you aren’t safe anywere. Norwegian islands, Finnish shopping malls, the Estonian Ministry of Defense. And this was supposed to be the quiet, boring part of the world.
Read all about it. Karen Drambjan has his own English-language Wikipedia entry, one he probably didn’t even write himself. Fifty seven years old. Divorced. Failed politician. In a dire financial situation. And a writer of manifestos, like all those who fancy themselves as important from the vantage point of history.
According to news report, Drambjan, an Armenian by birth who acquired Estonian citizenship in 1993, called Estonia a “morally bankrupt, neo-fascist country.” He was also convinced that the current government was about to initiate a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the local non-Estonian population, which by some definitions would include him.
But why listen to Drambjan, when taxi driver Travis Bickle does such a better job? “All the animals come out at night – whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.” Keep going, keep going, “I think someone should just take this city and just… just flush it down the fuckin’ toilet.” Go on, go on, “The idea had been growing in my brain for some time: true force. All the king’s men cannot put it back together again.” Perfect.
Drambjan entered the Estonian Ministry of Defense in Tallinn on August 11, armed with a pistol and explosives, believing that he would be the spark that would set off the inevitable Estonian civil war, where the “slavish” Slavic community would rise up and throw off its chains. To do this, he took, for some time, two people captive. He was later killed in shootout with Estonian K-Komando, who are just not the kind of people you want to mess with. And that was it, really. No civil war. Just some ink in the newspapers and one middle-aged body in a bag. From one man’s belief in the profundity of his violence, many were made uncomfortable for a few hours, then baffled by his political statements, then went shopping and forgot about it altogether.
Was Drambjan like Norway’s Anders Behring Breivik? He was in that he let his radical beliefs get the best of his sanity, and that he thought that an individual act of public violence would set off a period of bloodletting that would end in a desired political solution. Breivik attempted to accomplish this by murdering teenage members of a left-leaning political party. Drambjan did it by setting off smoke bombs and explosions in the entrance of a government ministry and taking a two people hostage.
But neither were successful. In the end, people were puzzled by how the actors’ political gripe translated into the actors’ violent actions. Immigration sure is a hot issue in Europe, but how does that justify the murder of teenagers? Estonian minorities probably do feel alienated from the political process — there isn’t one minister in the current government from a minority group (and there is only one woman, period) — but how does taking a security guard hostage change anything?
One flaw of mankind is our inability to simply stop trying to understand things. We continue to search for that “Aha” moment where everything clicks and where Behring Breivik or Drambjan sort of, kind of make sense, but it eludes us. We are forced instead to conclude that both of them, despite those powerful manifestos, were actually just crazy, which seems terribly simplistic, but was probably true.
It does not surprise me though that Drambjan was involved in the effort to keep Estonia’s Bronze Soldier on Tõnismägi or that he was a member of the United Left party. What fascinated me about that controversy was that the most compelling argument for keeping it in place — respect for the dead — was overwhelmed by neo-Stalinist rhetoric about fascism and liberation, the kind of rhetoric that is fanned by Russian state-controlled media and probably swallowed whole by individuals like the late Drambjan.
Anti-Estonian rhetoric is based on recycled Stalinist propaganda. Go read what Pravda wrote about Estonia in the 1920s and the 1930s. It’s virtually unchanged. And this was Stalinist media, overseen by one of the greatest mass murderers in history. The entire political system that he designed was built on murder — the murder of the tsar and his family, of the Whites, the counterrevolutionary social democrats, the kulaks, and the original Bolsheviks — Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev; the list goes on and on and on. His propaganda was designed to justify that murder. Conflict with the immoral fascist West, and counterrevolutionaries, was not only inevitable, it was necessary. Violence was justified against these others, who were out to sabotage a brilliant future and therefore were undeserving of life.
It is an extremely paranoid worldview, shaped by extremely paranoid men, men deep in Taxi Driver territory, fellows who fancied themselves as important players in the history of mankind. Guys sort of like Behring Breivik and Drambjan.