Orosz-észt háborús társalgási zsebkönyvSpeak more slowly.
Tell the truth.
If you don’t know, tell: “I don’t know”.
It is not true that you don’t know.
You had to hear it.
You had to see it.
You lie.

It was an important stage in the history of cultural anthropology, and the heroic age of the birth of applied anthropology when, after Pearl Harbor, a large number of American anthropologists commissioned by the government composed and published in a row the booklets of the “Pocket Guide” series that prepared the soldiers of the American army for the etiquette of the Pacific islands to be conquered and for the communication with local population. Just as I write this, they announce the publication of the book of David H. Price on this turn of anthropology which also enlarges upon the dubious role played by social anthropologists in the present Islamic-Eastern wars of the United States.

Orosz-észt háborús társalgási zsebkönyvThrow away your weapon.
Hands up.
Lie down.
Don’t speak.
Keep silent.
If thou doest not keep silent, I’ll kill thee.
Go back.
Turn back.
Turn here.

It is strange to see how in certain situations the formal “you” – so much required in good Russian – switches over to informal “thou” even in the written ukaz. I do not even know whether it is possible to say in any language which distinguishes “you” from “thou” that “if you will not keep silent, I will kill you.” I think no.

Orosz-észt háborús társalgási zsebkönyvDo you want to fight at our side?
Do you want to serve in our army?
You don’t want to fight against us?
You don’t want to fight at all?
Did they mistreat you in the service?

I did not know that simultaneously with the Americans the Soviet army also brought into service a similar series of booklets, mutatis mutandis of course. This Russian-Estonian “military conversation dictionary” (разговорник), published in 1940 by the State Military Publisher of the Commissariat of Defence of the Soviet Union has got to me through my Uzbek translator friend Temur.

Orosz-észt háborús társalgási zsebkönyvAre there any cattle (horses)?
How many cows (sheeps)?
Is there any hay (oat)?
For how many horses is it enough?
How many inhabitants are there?
Where does the chief of the village live?
Let the chief come here!
Free these houses for the army.

The booklet consists of three parts. The introductory part includes in seven points (а-ж) the basic expressions: first contacts, place and time, numbers, quantities, sizes, ranks. Then come the phrases most frequently used in the conversation with the two main groups of the natives, the soldiers and the “inhabitants” (жители), grouped around ten themes each. The Estonian equivalent of the Russian text is also given in Cyrillic transcription for the sake of an easier pronunciation.

Orosz-észt háborús társalgási zsebkönyvHow many minutes ago?
After how many days?
After how many hours?
After how many minutes?
Tell the number only.
Repeat it.
In what part of the day?

The structure of the conversations bears witness to a clear and settled methodology, to a thorough practical knowledge of how one can obtain unambiguous information through an unknown language. It attempts to limit the answers to yes and no, have them repeated, make counter-proofs, investigate the details one by one, have the numbers written, reassures, rebukes and praises.

Orosz-észt háborús társalgási zsebkönyvIs it possible to obtain bread (meat)?
For how many people?
Collect and bring here the cows (sheep)!
Collect and bring [to eat] for … horses!
Collect and bring [to eat] for … people!
Don’t be afraid of the soldiers of the Red Army!

This methodology only loosens in the part where the person inquiring is curious of the opinion of the informers. I don’t know how he could understand without at least some knowledge of the language the answers given to such questions like “How do the [enemy] soldiers speak about the Soviet Union?” or “How is the population disposed to the soldiers?”

Orosz-észt háborús társalgási zsebkönyvDid you kill someone among your commanders?
Whom did you kill? What was his position?
What was his [family] name?
What was his rank?
Are you a member of a political party?
Name that party.

The one-time user of this booklet wrote an X with pencil at two places. The smaller X falls between the questions “Do they [the enemy] have any military dogs?” and “Do they have carrier-pigeons?”, perhaps a little closer to the dogs. The larger X stands near to the question “Where is the staff (headquarters)?”

Az Észt Szovjet Szocialista Köztársaság. Orosz háborús térkép, 1940The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. Russian military map, 1940

The Soviet army occupied Estonia, allotted to the Soviet Union in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, on June 16, 1940, three days after the joining up of the German army in Paris. By June 21 they disarmed and took into captivity the whole Estonian army. Apart from them, until July 1941 54 thousand more Estonians were deported or executed, including almost the complete political and military leadership of the country. At the beginning of the German attack against the Soviet Union in July 1941, 33 thousand young Estonians were recruited by force in the Red Army, but just two weeks later they were qualified as unreliable and sent to the Gulag. The deportations and executions continued after 1944. By 1945 Estonia lost 25% of its population. This was the highest proportion of loss of population during World War II in all Europe. Between 1945 and 1956 further cleansings and deportations of “kulaks” followed. Simultaneously, the forced immigration of Russian population began.

Orosz-észt háborús társalgási zsebkönyv