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Saturday, March 17, 2018

The first nail in the coffin of the Soviet Union managed to score Estonia

Exactly 30 years ago in Estonia began the “phosphorite war”, which became one of the first “seismic shocks” eventually destroyed the Soviet Union. Similar “cases” – the mass protests of the local population under environmental slogans – were in the other Baltic republics. And now they go back to the projects, which were alleged to have seceded from the Union.

It all started with the fact that on 25 February 1987, local television has told about plans of Moscow to establish in the Republic the production of phosphate rock, which near the city of Rakvere was supposed to build a giant mine. This news stirred up of Estonians, and they stood up “to protect native wildlife”.

Only manure

“The click is so split and weakened the Union that the next phase has already become “the singing revolution” with the slogan “Freedom for Estonia!”

Sedimentary rock phosphate is considered important minerals are the raw materials for the production of mineral fertilizers. Namely, Estonia has the largest reserves of phosphate rock in Europe – they are, according to various estimates, from 3 to 8 billion tons, while the volume of proven reserves suitable for commercial production is approximately 300 million tons (at current prices of phosphate fertilizers, it is approximately 500 billion dollars). It is not surprising that the Federal center has long cherished plans for the development of these resources.

However, according to politician and journalist of the Russian community of Estonia Gennadi Afanasyev, the history of the phosphate issue is much older. “For the first time in Estonia phosphorites began to develop in 1922. From the mine in the village of Ulgase close to Tallinn phosphate fertilizer were sent to Germany, which began to come to himself after the First world war. Proper processing of phosphorite in Estonia came later, after world war II, when the neighborhood with a pit in Ulgase built a chemical plant with sulfuric acid, without which the production of fertilizers impossible. Red “Fox tails” disappeared over the plant and the town of Maardu, which was formed around the company, only in the eighties of the XX century. The seam was worked out, production of fertilizers ceased. In the late 60-ies of the last century was made the exploration and evaluation of reserves of phosphorite of Estoniain particular, deposits in the Toolse near the town of Kunda in Pandivere, not far from the district centre of Rakvere”,reminds Afanasiev. This work, according to him, continued in the next decade.

In 1981, the Academy of Sciences of the Estonian SSR released the results of their research on this issue. Scientists do not deny that phosphate mining may generate a large income, but warned of possible environmental damage – especially given the fact that the Deposit is located in the region with developed agriculture. Therefore, according to experts, the matter ought to be approached with the utmost caution, avoiding open quarrying.

By the time when Moscow announced its intention to mine phosphorite (it is true that stipulates that the final decision on this matter should take the people of Estonia), the Republic was already in fermentation. The idea of national revival harmoniously entwined with the stereotype of the “invaders raping our nature”. Besides, more recently rocked Chernobyl, undermined faith in the reliability of the Soviet technosphere, and the news on the possible development of phosphate rock was like the fall of a lighted match into a powder keg – at the Estonia rolled the shaft of the protests. Its epicenter was the University of Tartu, where among young people swarmed the idea of “getting rid of the Soviet yoke*”.

The protest was peaceful, but inventive: the bike rides and breakdown of tent cities in areas proposed mining of phosphate ore, sending thousands of letters of protest, distributing t-shirts calling to fight for the environment, numerous publications in the press, calls to abandon the use of mineral fertilizers (on this subject, the artist Priit pärn drew widely known in Estonia image “manure”). The culmination of the struggle came in the spring of ‘ 87, when the students held two major meetings – in April and may. A strong argument (which, however, spoken in a low voice) was the rumor that workers for the construction of the mine will be delivered from other parts of the Soviet Union – “and we have too many foreigners”. Public slogans “the Suitcase – station – Russia!” will come very soon.

The authorities tried to defuse the situation. Held a press conference during which the then Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Estonia Bruno Saul, fighting off the attacks of broadcasters, argued that the development won’t start until you’ve done all the necessary research and will not receive security guarantees, and another thing that the management of modern agriculture is impossible without high-quality fertilizers, on the same manure does not go far, so sooner or later to mine phosphorite still have. But few people listened, in contrast, vehemently denounced. “In the country began restructuring, and in 1987 it was possible to speak without much fear and risk. Anyone would be for it not tied, sent to the stage, not dismissed, finally”,ironically Afanasiev. Pressure has been effective: the government announced that building a mine will not.

Bruno was right

“Made in “phosphorite war” success has awakened the nation from decades of slumber. He made clear that the Communist party is no longer able to control the situation,”later recalled by the former Prime Minister of Estonia, a nationalist, Mart Laar. The once popular politician Juhan Aare, made a name for himself on the events, agree with him: “the Victory in the “phosphorite war” allowed us to move immediately to the next question: should we join this Alliance? The usual policy of the Soviet Union was the first click during the “phosphate war”, and the click is so split and weakened the Union that the next phase has already become “the singing revolution” with the slogan “Freedom for Estonia!”.

Indeed, environmental slogans quickly became a requirement of the break with Moscow. The first sign was a demonstration on August 23 in Tallinn with the requirement “to publish secret protocols of the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact.” In September was published the draft of Estonia’s transition to economic independence (“self-financing”), and later began a youth demonstration which recalled the war in 19181920 against the Soviet Russia and raised blue-black-white flag of pre-war Estonian Republic. Soviet troops took no action, the KGB only monitor the situation, but the clumsy attempts of authorities to force the rallies only aggravate the situation. By the way, during the dispersal of a student demonstration in Tartu head of the organizational Department of the local district Committee of the Communist party was the future Prime Minister Andrus Ansip. Much later he told me that the day he drank tea at Tiffany and therefore could not be involved in the acceleration. In 2007 it Ansip gave the order to remove from the centre of Tallinn “Bronze soldier” that will lead to riots, harshly repressed by the authorities.

In 1988 was created the people’s front of Estonia, is rapidly gaining supporters. In the summer of that year, Mikhail Gorbachev was replaced unpopular among Estonians conservative head of KPI Karl Vaino Vaino on Walesa. One, feeling the support and pressure of the popular movement, began to take more radical decisions and “push” them in the Moscow corridors of power. November 16, the Supreme Council adopted the “Declaration of sovereignty” proclaiming the supremacy of the laws of the Estonian SSR on the legislation of the Soviet Union. Hence, there were close to complete separation.

It is clear that in present-day Estonia victory in the “phosphorite war” serves as a major historical achievement. Juhan Aare recalls: “We have the opportunity to enjoy a good state of his nature is largely due to the fact that in the postwar decades managed to snag some extremely harmful for the environment of Estonia major projects. The status of Estonian nature would be quite different if we had acted at that time as well as many Central Asian Soviet republics or Belarus, which gave Moscow the honor and said: Yes, the order cameto fulfill. Knew then obedience will give the order and award. In Estonia planned, among other things, to build a nuclear power station to hold a pipeline through Antiviruskey hill, to open a phosphate mine to expand shale mines, the annual production reached 50 million tons of oil shale per year. I hate to think what now would look like Estonia if all of these plans succeeded.”

With all this Bruno Saul was right – post-Soviet Estonia has returned to the idea of the development of phosphorites, the benefit of the current economic situation in the country is far from ideal. For example, Professor of macroeconomics, University of Tartu Raul Eamets calls to make on the interior of the country: because of phosphorite in the world is less and its price will rise, such an opportunity should not be missed. “Now power is the generation that remembers the “phosphate war” in the period of restoration of independence of Estonia. It is a politically taboo topic now – recognizes a scientist. – However, our mineral resources not so scarce as one might think. Under the deposits of phosphorite uranium deposits. We have oil shale and oil shale chemistry, which can pay for themselves, we have noteworthy reserves of iron ore.”

Last year, the Ministry of environment announced that it is considering the possibility of creating a legal entity, which in the long term to engage in research and development of “phosphate Klondike”. As one of the options, the Ministry sees the transformation of the joint stock company Eesti Geoloogiakeskus (“Estonian center of Geology”) to a government Department. “In order to earn public confidence, the government should take more initiative in production of strategic resources”,said on this subject the representative of the Ministry ADO lykhmus.

Without metro and hydro

It is worth noting that the theme of ecology was widely used in the early stages of separation from the USSR and in neighboring Latvia. There activists fought against two projects – a subway in Riga (then turned a mass protest under the slogan “Metro – no!”) and the hydroelectric plant near Daugavpils. But if the construction of metro to begin really did not have time, work on the hydroelectric power station by that moment already was in full swing in full: near Daugavpils district Rugeley was dug a huge pit created much of the infrastructure required for such large-scale enterprises – held railway tracks, and established the essential energy network. The amount of work required was completed by about 70%. However, local activists tried to convince people that the activities of the HPP will cause a regional disaster.

Some have built their careers. So, Dainis Ivans, who later became a famous politician, in 1986 in the newspaper “Literature and art” has addressed with an appeal to stop the construction of hydroelectric power station, to prevent flood protected river valley, to preserve rare plants and animals. As a result, in 1987 the decision was announced about the termination of construction.

In 1994 the new government of Latvia on basketball has decided to revive the project. The need in the slogans disappeared, but the benefit of creating hydroelectric seemed obvious: a stable and cheap source of electricity could serve to remedy the economic situation in the troubled region. But to manage their funds, the government could not, and to attract investors and did not work. It does not interfere with the city authorities over and over again to dust off the project of hydroelectric power station on the eve of elections – in particular, his supporter is the current mayor Janis Lachplesis. In the summer of 2012, then-President Andris Berzins with a group of MPs from the Latgale region discussed the project of resuscitation of the Daugavpils HES, talking about it now, but things are there.

Recently the speaker of the Sejm Inara, Murniece held an event dedicated to the thirty anniversary of the first victory of Latvians over the Soviet Union – is considered to be preventing the construction of power plants. Latvia is proud of its victories.

* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law “On countering extremist activity”


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