Moscow’s plan to mine phosphates in Estonia in an environmentally sensitive area, “really stimulated demonstrations and acts of protest in Estonia,” the Estonian-American who now lives in Tallinn, says. It was far from the only issue but it was an important one because it was the kind of issue people could raise for a long time without getting in trouble.
There are certain parallels with the Estonian situation in the 1980s and Russia know concerning the environment. But there are important differences. Perhaps the most important is that Estonians directly attacked the system and its leadership for their problems while Russians so far have focused their criticism against local officials.
Moreover, given Russia’s size, it is far more difficult for activists to make contact with one another than it was in Estonia. That makes a truly national protest in Russia far more difficult than was the case in Estonia, but each protest can be a first step in that direction, something the Kremlin should remember.