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The World War II tank monument in Narva, Source: Tony Bowden, on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Estonia to dismantle any remaining Soviet monuments

Estonia to dismantle any remaining Soviet monuments

Some of these feature entire tanks – objects that have become too unsavoury to honour in light of the current circumstances

Yesterday, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas announced that all Soviet monuments that are still present on the Baltic country’s streets will be removed. According to media sources, there are somewhere between 200 and 400 such objects still adorning public spaces and bringing back painful memories of hardship as part of the USSR.

The removal dates and orders for the various monuments will be defined at the will and the logistical means of the cities concerned.

Links between historical memory and the present

Many of these monuments hark back to military symbolism and represent weapons, such as tanks.

“The decision has been made; the Soviet monuments must be removed from public spaces, and we will do that as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Kallas said, as quoted by The Brussels Times. “A tank is a lethal weapon and not an object of commemoration. These same tanks are currently being used to kill people in Ukraine,” she added.

Estonia formed part of the Soviet Union until 1991 when it regained its independence, however, a sizable Russian minority remains in the small country, some of which are formally ‘stateless’. In fact, about 7% of Estonia’s population are stateless people, usually of Russian ethnic origin. The reason is that the post-Soviet government did not automatically grant citizenship to all residents and placed requirements about knowledge of the Estonian language in order to qualify for citizenship.

Several people demonstrated on Wednesday in Narva, a town near the Russian border, against the removal of a tank monument after rumours surfaced that the wartime relic could be taken away.

The leaders of the city, 90% of whose inhabitants are Russian speakers, have announced that they want to negotiate with the government to avoid its withdrawal.

Monuments commemorating veterans in military cemeteries will be the only ones that will remain according to the new legislation.

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