Fewer people visit Bronze Soldier on May 9 than usual

Fewer people than expected had visited the Defense Forces Cemetary in Tallinn by Saturday morning to lay flowers to remember the Soviet Union's defeat over Nazi Germany on May 9, 1945.

Every year thousands of people visit the cemetery to lay flowers at the statue of the Bronze Soldier but this year, due to the emergency situation, mass public gatherings are forbidden and people can only move in pairs when in public.

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart and the police asked people not to visit the cemetery on Saturday. Kõlvart has asked people to stay home on May 9 rather than gather in public and donate to charity to express their respect.

PPA Northern Prefect Kristian Jaani told "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Thursday it is certain that despite the recommendations some people will make the journey and they are likely to be older people who are risk groups. Last year, he said, 20,000 people went there during the day.

By l0 a.m. fewer people than expected had laid flowers the police said. 

Kristjan Lukk, a spokesman for the Police and Border Guard Board, told ERR on Saturday morning: "The situation is calm both in the city and in the Defense Forces Cemetery. In order to stop the spread of the virus, the police are advising [people] to avoid movements that are not necessary and to avoid places where more people move."

He added: "We remind you that in order to keep yourself and others healthy, you have to move alone or in pairs in public and to keep at least two meters away from other people. This must be taken into account when moving indoors, in nature, on the streets and in cemeteries, for example."

The police announced earlier this week they will monitor the visitors at the Bronze Soldier on Saturday in cooperation with the municipal police and the Health Board to make sure people keep a distance of two meters from each other. 

In Tartu, although fewer people went to the monument by Raadi lake, there were still a lot of people and the 2 + 2 rule was not strictly followed, said ERR correspondent Henry-Laur Allik who visited the site.

People leaving flowers at the World War II Memorial in Tartu on May 9. Source: Henry-Laur Allik / ERR

In Tallinn, on May 9, people gather at The Bronze Soldier or the Monument to the Fallen in the Second World War at the Defence Forces Cemetery to lay flowers.

The date is known as Victory Day and is celebrated in Russia and other countries which were formerly part of the Soviet Union. It is a holiday that commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.

But, while May 1945 brought the end of the Second World War in Europe, it did not bring freedom to all of Europe. The central and eastern part of the continent remained under the rule of communist regimes for almost 50 years.

A video made by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives an overview of Estonian history from 1918 until today.

This year, mass gathering are not permitted under the restrictions imposed by the emergency situation which is due to last until May 17 to limit the spread of coronavirus.

On March 25, a public candle lighting to remember the mass deportations of Estonians who were deported to Siberia in 1949 was canceled due to the emergency situation measures which ban gatherings of more than two people.

Instead, NGOs asked people were asked to light candles and place them in the windows of their homes.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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