The Russian Federation has always had and will be a major influence in the Eastern European region. Through its occupation during the Second World War and presiding Cold War, Russia has seen its fair share of intervention within the Eastern European States to secure its interests. Russia had, throughout the entirety of the Cold War, encompassed almost the entirety of the Eastern European region during its time as the USSR. However, after the dissolution of the Soviet Republic, independent countries like Belarus, Ukraine, and others were finally able to form a semblance of a nation without the fear of Soviet intervention.
During its time as the dominant power in the Eastern European region, it no surprise that between 1950’s-1991, there was a substantial number of monuments placed to commemorate certain soviet victories (mainly focusing on military triumphs against the German Reich in the Second World War, as well as the glorification of the Soviet armed forces in general).
A symbol of Soviet power within the region, the Statues of former Soviet triumph used to show off the former state’s influence in the region. Now, they serve as a sore reminder for the citizens in the respective nations of Eastern Europe of the dark times in which the Soviets ruled over them with an iron grip. Because of such sorrow the feelings these Soviet era monuments have brought to the people of the region, there has been discussions on whether the governments of the Eastern European nations should take down these Soviet monuments.
Just recently, the Polish government has moved towards the idea of updating its current “de-communization” legislation, which would allow the government to ban any symbol or monument which has any connections or reference to the political theory of communism. Many other governments have looked at removing statues of communist stature, and in many cases, or have toyed with the idea of moving the statues to different locations far from the public eye.
As expected, the Russian government has not taken a liking to this idea of the communist monuments being taken down. These statues represent a part of the Russian history, and in many cases, brings valor to the many men who served the country during the Second World War in the mid-20th century. However, just to say that these monuments are there simply to remember the past is likely to miss something very important, as it not only harkens to the past, but also invokes a strength within the Russian nation that they once held; a power that was lost at the end of the Cold War.
The time that these statues of communist influence were being erected, was the time that many considered to be the prime time of the Russian State, or to be more specific, the military might of the nation. Only one other nation, The United States, could rival its military power, and because of such, the former Soviet Russian state over a time where they saw vast control over most of the regions in the world, one of those being in Eastern Europe.
Now, with the fall of the Soviet Russian empire, there has been a drastic reduction in the power of Russian state. Russia’s now influential military power has now been reduced to more defense and strategic uses instead of the influential player it used to be.
Many nations who had been affected by the Soviet presence have now started to remove any influence or lingering culture left of the Soviet’s. Because of such, the Russian state, while still is one of the major players in many respects, is now losing its grip on the world it uses control. Seeing such downfall of its power, the Russian State has now acted preserve its legacy in the Eastern European region, that they are trying to hold on to whatever influence they have. In many cases in Eastern Europe, those influential points are seen in their monuments to the past government and political beliefs of communism. The response of the Russian Foreign Affairs office towards the Polish government’s consideration to remove a soviet monument is a great example of how important these monuments are to interest of the Russian government
The Russian government, determined not to let any monument fall in a sign of weakness has been accused of acting out towards the country of Estonia after the removal of bronze soviet soldier who was considered to be the burring point for many red army soldiers who died during the Second World War. It was believed that in 2007, after the removal of the statue by the Estonian Government, hackers located within the Russian state conducted a DDOS or denial of service attack on major electronic servers in Estonia. The Russian government has argued since then that the attack was performed by patriotic hackers located within the boundaries of the Russian State, but has done no further investigation into persecuting the suspected patriotic hackers.
Russia has shown that it is willing to employ/use/etc. forceful actions to secure its already dwindling power around Eastern Europe. Because of such, the Russian government sees every aspect of what makes the Russian state so powerful as an asset to a continue legacy of the Russian state. Even though Russia is not a communist state, Russians still see their history intertwined within the fabrics of the past Soviet State, and because of such, any attack on the past will be an attack on the future of the Russians.
The Cold War might be over for some, but for others like the Russian government, it has only intensified. With the recent sanctions against their presumed work in Crimea, it seems that the Russians do not have the power to wield in the world, and because of such, most actions taken can be influenced by their power.
With these actions and other movements taken by the Russians, it is no surprise that the West, more specifically NATO is combating actions of the Russians in their attempt to gain influence in the region. There has been an increase of NATO military exercises within the region, with many comparing such scene in the East to the height of the Cold War. Russia, to secure its power around its Western border, has brought many hardships upon itself in reaching the goal of an aligned Eastern Europe to the Kremlin.
So, symbols of Soviet power are something to cherish in the world that is constantly going against Russian interests and power. Moving back to Poland, it is easy to see why such actions taken by the Kremlin towards the Polish government might harken back to the time of the Soviet Union. Russia is not a weak state by any means, but its power has been significantly hampered by the West’s fear of the past. It is unclear if Russia will mount pressures even further towards its neighbors in the West, but it is clear the Russians do have unfinished business in finding a balance between holding and gaining power. Its only hope to really further its power is not through confrontation, but in a sense, keeping the norm of a soviet era presence within in the region.