Tallinn honors little-known Russian fighters who died on Estonian side

Metropolitan Yevgeny, who oversaw the ceremony commemorating the Russian Northwestern Army soldiers Sunday night.
Metropolitan Yevgeny, who oversaw the ceremony commemorating the Russian Northwestern Army soldiers Sunday night. Source: ERR

Russian fighters who died effectively fighting for Estonia in the 1918-1920 War of Independence, often of disease, were honored Sunday night, the day before Estonian Independence Day, at a cemetery in North Tallinn's Kopli district, Baltic News Service reports.

The service was attended by representatives of the City of Tallinn city, the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) and clergy from the Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia.

The memorial service was conducted by Metropolitan Jevgeny, the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan of Tallinn and all Estonia. The event commemorated members of the Northwestern Army and their contribution to the fight for Estonia's independence, spokespersons for the North Tallinn city district government said.

"Exactly 102 years ago, the independence manifesto was read out in Parnu," said Peeter Järvelaid, elder of the city district of North Tallinn, according to BNS.

"And exactly 100 years ago, dozens of fighters from the Northwestern Army died in barracks in Kopli from typhus, linked with insufficient medical care, despite their having taken part in the War of Independence on Estonia's side, and deserving a better fate without doubt," Järvelaid went on.

Soviet authorities destroyed the Kopli cemetery in an effort to obliterate the Northwestern Army's records from the annals of history, Järvelaid said, with the chapel erected on the plot in 1936 blown up a decade later. An electricity substation was installed on the site, BNS reports, which Järvelaid called an unacceptable state of affairs going forward.

Municipal authorities in North Tallinn are planning a restoration of the site, BNS reports, including asking power transmission grid operator Elering to divide the plot of the power substation into two units, with a 676-square meter plot being transferred to the city in the establishment of a memorial ground and a chapel.

White forces in Russian Civil War granted asylum in Estonia

The Northwestern Army, led by Gen. Nikolai Yudenich, formed part of the anti-Bolshevik Russian White Guard, which took part in the Estonian War of Independence, on Estonia's side and as an extension of the concurrent Russian Civil War, and had a significant impact on the turn of events, according to many historians.

In November 1919, Estonian authorities permitted retreating units of the Russian Northwestern Army, family members of the military and people wishing to flee Russia to cross the Narva River and enter Estonia (leading Bolshevik Leon Trotsky once referred to Estonia as "the dog kennel of the counter-revolution"-ed.)

However, thousands of members of the Northwestern Army subsequently fell ill with typhus, a disease infected troops had carried with them from Russia, making the rates of mortality in hastily prepared facilities, including those at Kopli, notably high.

As late as March 1920, around 50 people per day were dying at the Kopli facility, though following help from international organizations like the Red Cross, this figure started to fall, according to BNS.

The site is the resting ground of an estimated 700 Northwestern Army fighters, according to BNS.

An Icon from the now-destroyed chapel has already been restored, having been defaced by bullet holes and bayonet/rifle stock strikes, and is held at St. Nicholas Church in Kopli, according to BNS.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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