[Russia has never been “an overseas kind of empire”, she adds, rather a state that’s sought to exploit and colonise its European neighbours. Oksanen says that, growing up in Finland, she learned about the country’s past at school. But she was taught nothing of Estonia and had to fill in the gaps from oral history. Her mother’s family has lived in western Estonia, near Haapsalu, since the 15th century; she emigrated to Finland in the 70s, and when Sofi was a child, she would travel to Soviet Estonia to see her grandparents.
Her family reflects Estonia’s 20th‑century divisions, she says. Her grandfather joined the Forest Brothers, a partisan group that fought against Soviet rule during and after the war. He accepted amnesty following Stalin’s death. “He was always reminded of his past. He became a very silent man,” Oksanen says. One of her grandfather’s brothers was deported to Siberia. Another carried out the deportations. He was subsequently hailed as a communist war hero.
“It’s a typical Estonian story. The Baltics were doubly occupied, so these stories were common. There were victims of the terror sitting around the same table with people who had been tools of that terror.” Oksanen says ethnic Russians who resettled in Estonia after 1945 had no idea they were living in a once-sovereign country. Estonia had vanished. Of her collaborating great-uncle, she says: “He wasn’t a nice person.”] Read the full article | THE GUARDIAN