EU member makes decision on Soviet-era memorials — Analysis

All monuments in Estonia “with Soviet symbols” will be removed “As soon as you can” Prime Minister Kaja Kallas announced

All Soviet-era memorials in Estonia have to be removed “as soon as possible,” the country’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said during a press conference on Thursday. Her statement was followed by the declaration that all members of the government were in agreement on this matter. 

Kallas, speaking after a cabinet meeting said there were between 200 to 400 Soviet-themed monuments in the country. That’s a higher number than was initially believed.

We have made a key decision – all monuments with Soviet symbols must be removed from the public space, and this will be done as soon as possible,” the prime minister said.

She added that “The specific dates and order will be determined by the availability of the local government and logistics plans.” The government plans to involve the private sector in the removal process.

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Kallas also addressed the issue of removing the Soviet T-34 tanks that were displayed as memorials in Narva’s predominantly Russian-speaking area. The town’s mayor, Katri Raik, had earlier asked the government to find a solution amid the backlash among locals against a plan to remove the monument. After rumors that demolition was imminent, she said around 150 people had assembled near the memorial. 

Since Narva is not going to do this {demolish the monument}, there is tension there, it is clear that the Estonian state and government should independently make this decision, that is to remove both this element with symbolic value and others,” Kallas said.

She stressed that it is not forbidden to pay respects to the memory of the dead, but it should be done “In the correct place, i.e. At the cemetery

Tanks are a weapon of mass destruction, not an object to be remembered. The same tanks that kill civilians in Ukraine are used to attack them.” the prime minister explained.

Claiming that the Russian “aggression” in Ukraine has opened some “Long-standing wounds” in Estonian society, Kallas said that the Soviet monuments serve as a reminder of these wounds and thus should be removed. According to her, “The government agrees on this matter.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the Estonian government’s decision to demolish the Soviet memorials as “outrageous” and said that this practice must be strongly condemned.

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{it is} a war with a common history, getting rid of monuments is outrageous and does not make any nation, including Estonia, look better,” he said.

Peskov said that Estonian authorities can destroy the memorials. However, he expressed optimism that Russian historical societies could come up with solutions and save them.

Kallas’ announcement came two days after the mayor of Riga, the capital of neighboring Latvia, announced that the famous ‘Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders’ would not only be removed from the city’s Victory Park but also dismantled and recycled.

World War II was ended when Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were returned to Soviet Union after their territories were liberated from German forces by Soviet forces.

The Soviet-era monuments, described by some in Baltic countries as “Images of Soviet reoccupation,” have long been targeted by local nationalists. After Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, in February, the campaign to remove them grew at state level. Moscow has criticized the actions of the Baltic countries’ authorities, calling them “provocational.”

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