Defense minister: Laying wreath at Bronze Soldier on May 8 justified

The Bronze Soldier at the Defense Forces Cemetery on May 9.
The Bronze Soldier at the Defense Forces Cemetery on May 9.

The Bronze Soldier at the Defense Forces Cemetery in Tallinn is considered to be a grave monument and a commemorative wreath is laid at it on May 8 instead of May 9 in order to lessen the power of hostile propaganda, Minister of Defense Jüri Luik (Isamaa) said on Thursday.

MP Kai Rimmel (EKRE) sent a written question to the defense minister, asking why the Estonian state lays an annual commemorative wreath at the Bronze Soldier with "from the Estonian people" written on it. Rimmel finds that laying the wreath is useful for Russian propaganda and could be interpreted as official approval of the occupation of Estonia.

In a lengthy written response, Luik pointed out that in the government's 2005 statement on the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe, the government noted that Estonia commemorates May 8 as the memorial day of all victims of the Second World War.

Luik added that according to the 2011 document "Principles of Observing Public Holidays and Days of National Importance", the Estonian president or a representative of the government will lay a wreath on the monument dedicated to those who took part of the defensive battles of 1944, the graves of German soldiers and the memorial of Red Army soldiers at the Maarjamäe Memorial Ground in Tallinn.

The same document notes that the representative will also place a commemorative wreath on the memorial of the victims of Nazism at the Jewish cemetery in Rahumäe and the chaplains of the Estonian Defense Forces will lay a wreath on the Red Army grave marker at the EDF cemetary.

"Thus the whole May 8 function should be treated as a whole and not remove the laying of one or another wreath from its context," Luik wrote, adding that wreaths are placed on May 8, not May 9 and the Bronze Soldier is interpreted as a grave monument to have an advantage over hostile propaganda.

"Symbolically, this is more of a Christian memorial act which underlines that the Republic of Estonia is not at war with the dead," Luik said.

The minister added that as of late, it has been customary to lay a common wreath, representing the Riigikogu, the president and the government, as opposed to laying numerous wreaths.


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Editor: Anders Nõmm

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