It has been some tough weeks for most of us, culminating in the totally senseless attack and invasion by Russia on Ukraine last Thursday. I myself have felt it both physically and psychologically and I know that I share this feeling with many others. That however is nothing compared to what the Ukrainians have felt since 2014 and what many of the young Russian conscripts must have felt when they were suddenly sent and forced into an attack against its neighbour.
Many of us also share a strong feeling of helplessness, being unable to stop the atrocities and help the victims. Still, there are things that each and every one of us can do. Donate money to Red Cross, Estonian Refugee Council, Mondo or Ukrainian Cultural Center, for example. Or to support Ukraine directly, to offer shelter for Ukrainians fleeing the war.
In Estonia and Finland, where I am from, we have a considerable number of Russian speaking people among us. Now it is also important that we act with a high degree of decency in our daily contacts with ordinary Russians. They are not to be blamed for the brutal attack. Those who are to be blamed are president Putin and his criminal gang.
I belong to a minority myself, being a Swedish speaking Finn. Even though you neither can, nor should, compare minorities with each other’s, one thing is universal – the better you are treated, the higher you respect the majority. No matter what minority, be it language, race, religion or sexual. By behaving in an exemplary way, we also distance ourselves from despots we despise.
The organisation that I'm working for, the Nordic Council of Minister’s, was not designed to deal with acute geopolitical situations like this. We are building resilience, but with soft tools. In reference to the Russian speaking minority, we have supported the Russian language ETV+ tv-channel on Estonian Broadcasting company ERR since it started in 2015. Now it is more important than ever that there are trustworthy tv-programs and news available also for the Russian speaking minority.
In 2015 we also decided to open a small office in Narva in order to provide Nordic ideas as possible models for developing a sustainable future. The cooperation with the locals has developed in a fruitful direction and inspired other organisations to be more active in the area. The key word has been inclusiveness.
Now we need to stand united against the brutal aggressor and hope that this totally unacceptable war will end soon and with a fair outcome for Ukraine.