Portraits from Soviet occupations reappear at rural affairs ministry

Portraits of former agriculture and rural affairs ministers during the Soviet occupation of Estonia, have reappeared at the rural affairs ministry, ERR reports.

The portraits (see gallery) hang opposite rural affairs minister Mart Järvik's (EKRE) office, side-by-side with ministers performing the same or similar functions in an independent Estonia, both since 1991 and during the First Estonian Republic (1918-1940).

In addition to Soviet-era ministers, portraits of agricultural ministers from the Nazi occupation of Estonia are also on display, it is reported.

The portaits from the Soviet era had been displayed at the ministry, on Lai tänav in Tallinn's Old Town as recently as 2007, after which then-agriculture minister, now Isamaa leader, Helir-Valdor Seeder had them removed and put into storage.

"We took down the portraits of those who had been ministers during the period of occupation, and left up those in office in an independent Estonia," Seeder recalled, according to ERR's online Estonian news.

"I realize it could be taken as offensive that their (the Soviet-era ministers-ed.) work was not valued, that they were not dealing with real agriculture," Seeder went on.

"However, this was not a reflection on the work of any specific people, more a matter of the legal continuity of the Estonian Republic," he added.

Since then, the portraits have reappeared in the hallway on the ministry's third floor, something which Seeder was unaware of.

"I didn't know that. So there's a mixture there," he said.

"That is surprising to hear; an interesting approach," he went on.

"I don't know if interior minister Mart Helme will put up [People's Commissar for Internal Affairs of the Estonian Soviet Republic] Boris Kumm in his ministry, then" Seeder said

As to the timeline of the photos' restoration, one of Järvik's advisers, Mart Ummelas said that the decision came with the arrival of Järvik as new minister in the spring.

"There was the wall space and history is history; you may want to change a lot, but it doesn't change," Ummelas said.

"Besides, agriculture is a deeply apolitical area of ​​life," he went on.

"I do not want to politicize rural life; rural management should not be ideologically in any way," added Ummelas.

The ministry is celebrating its 101st anniversary this week.

Järvik is facing calls from opposition party leaders to resign, following a conflict of interest controversy which forced an adviser to step down on Friday. He met with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) Monday evening, emerging from the meeting to say he was staying put as a minister.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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