The Witch Trial of Anna Levandi

The Witch Trial of Anna Levandi
@TheStevenAlber “TransNarrative Artistry”

Once again, our eyes have been opened, and thanks to the materials published in the press, we know that the hitherto respected figure skating coach Anna Levandi must be cancelled with all the force of public abhorrence because her demanding nature and dedication to sport have caused terrible psychological suffering to several of her less gifted proteges. Anna Levandi is not the first, nor will she apparently be the last, decent person to be mercilessly shredded by the cancel culture embraced by Estonian public opinion. We have reached the era of modern witch trials, where pinning a person to the pillory requires only the nebulous claims of a former acquaintance, colleague, in this case, a student, which a vengeful press eager for victims immediately seizes upon. We might think that an impartial investigation is underway and that if the allegations are not substantiated, Levandi can move on with her life. This is not the case. Once caught in the gears of a witch trial, one can never live as peacefully and actively as before, as Aivar Mäe, who has gone through the same ordeal, has admitted that the wounds that follow a scandal never truly heal. It is fitting here to recall two similarly disgraceful witch trials over Aivar Mäe and Raul Eamets.

There is nothing new in Anna's cancellation.

Aivar Mäe's rise as the active, always cheerful, and results-oriented director of the Estonia Theatre ended the moment a former employee and the journalist Skulskaja came forward with a terrible claim of the theatre director's sexist, harassing behavior towards women. The ball was set rolling. The press trampled the once-favorite into the mud, and the police started an investigation. Over time, it became clear that there were no actions to convict the man for, but since public interest had been whipped up, Mäe was eventually fined 400 euros. Mäe appealed the decision to the Harju County Court, where it was found that his behavior lacked the objective composition under § 1531 (1) of the Criminal Code, thus the decision made by the PPA North Prefecture Central Police Station on 21.10.2020 in the misdemeanor case was annulled, and the proceedings in said case were terminated under VTMS § 29 (1) p 1. The court did not find that Aivar Mäe's actions had been against the alleged victim's will and resulted in the degradation of her human dignity. Aivar Mäe was compensated 9231 euros for defense costs.

Did the journalists who smeared Mäe apologize or take responsibility for their actions? Were the accusers punished for their false claims? Haven't heard. Yes, as a strong nature, Aivar Mäe managed to return to life and is today the director of Vanemuise, but the deep emotional wounds inflicted on him are slow to heal.

Surely every media-following person remembers the cancellation action committed against Professor Raul Eamets when the respected scientist was chopped for analyzing Estonian fertility problems in a study that was supposedly degrading to women. Since no other way was found to involve legal enforcement in the mental beating of the professor, the matter was turned into corruption. Eamets was accused of having, on June 13, 2023, as the dean of the social sciences area of the University of Tartu, entered into a cooperation agreement for conducting research with the Pere Sihtkapitali Foundation, while he was simultaneously a member of the foundation's board. Since the expectations of the vengeful cancellers could not be disappointed, the PPA Central Criminal Police's corruption crimes bureau fined Eamets for violating restrictions on activities with a 400 euro fine. Tartu County Court annulled the fine and decided to terminate the proceedings against Eamets, as his action lacked the characteristics of an offense. Again, the question arises as to how those who organized the media beating intend to rectify their guilt and whether the University of Tartu, which gave the scientist the boot, will at least apologize and acknowledge its guilt in unjustly ruining a person.

When will we cancel the cancellation frenzy?

I brought these two cases up to prove the unlawfulness of such cancellations. Unfortunately, today there is no will to hold the initiators of these processes accountable, and therefore the ugly mental execution happening to Levandi is not the last we will see in Estonia. But it is time to find ways to make those who come out with slanderous claims out of thin air accountable for their words. The initiators of the current cancellation processes consider themselves to be crystal-clear noble people who, finally taking a heart, wish to free society from monsters who have stood out due to sexist or otherwise unethical behavior, who, due to their success or societal recognition, evoke envy in them. It's so easy to yell that look, this damn brute groped me, or oh my, that disgusting fruit said I'm a down. It seems like aninnocent burst of anger, but it ruins a person's life.

Anna Levandi faces a demeaning and nerve-wracking journey through a witch trial ahead. Of course, if the respected coach and her sport legend husband choose to endure the media beating and do not leave Estonia for somewhere else where the merits of top athletes, which Anna Levandi undoubtedly is, are appreciated, she would surely find a warm welcome in the major ice skating countries of Europe. No competitor there would come out with a stupid claim out of jealousy that Anna's coaching methods are from the Soviet era.

Witch trials are part of our history.

We must choose whether to blindly follow the cancel culture and allow our active members to be ground down by fabricated accusations or to overcome narrow-minded envy and hatred and stop inventing baseless accusations. Do we really want to return to the years when bonfires burned in Estonia on which witches were burned? In 1616, a witch named Andres, who used the devil's help in his activities, was burned in Tallinn. The capital was outdone by Paide, where a year earlier, nine witches were burned. That same year, Brigitta was sentenced to death by fire in Narva for witchcraft. In 1617, six witch women were burned at the stake in Kuimetsa in Harju County. It seems that the glow of those distant years' bonfires has reignited in the hearts of our vengeful compatriots. Every self-respecting Estonian can add fuel to the fire grilling Anna Levandi. But does that make us happy?

Vsevolod Jürgenson