Helme: Both Linnahall and Maarjamäe memorial should be demolished

Maarjamäe memorial in Pirita.
Maarjamäe memorial in Pirita. Source: Anni Martin

Interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) says that he would have two Soviet-era edifices demolished.

Helme told ERR that both the Maarjamäe World War Two memorial in Pirita, and the Linnahall in the capital's harbor district, should ideally be removed, though he noted that his stance would be likely to draw heated debate within the cabinet.

The Linnahall was opened in 1980 in time for the Moscow Summer Olympics, and has gradually fallen into a state of disrepair since then, though last summer it provided a filming location for the soon-to-be-released Christopher Nolan thriller "Tenet".

What to do with it has been under discussion for years, with the latest €330-million project involving the Tallink Group faltering with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, within days of the plans being made public.

The Maarjamäe memorial was unveiled in 1975, and is distinct from the nearby Memorial to the Victims of Communism opened in 2018. Sections of the memorial are closed to the public due to the danger of structural collapse.

Proposals to restore the Soviet-era Maarjamäe memorial have been met with opposition from some quarters of the government, including Helme, on the grounds that taxpayers' money should not be used to refurbish what is for many a controversial monument.

"My personal position is that [the memorial] is still a symbol of the period of [Soviet] occupation in the first place and, like the Linnahall and some other objects, is a symbol of this type of ugly Soviet-era modernism," Helme told ERR.

Helme also said that a line needed to be trod, though this would prove tricky at governmental level, between not offending those who had suffered under the Soviet occupation – the main focus of the nearby victims of communism memorial – while at the same time not denigrating the feelings of the Russian minority in Tallinn and Estonia.

Environment minister Rene Kokk (EKRE) has submitted a memorandum to the cabinet, containing various solutions on the future fate of Maarjamäe monument, which currently belongs to the state but which Tallinn city authorities have expressed an interest in acquiring. 

The city government also wants several million from the state to refurbish cultural artifacts in the capital, though Helme said that this would not be practical in the case of the Maarjamäe memorial, hence his call for demolishing it.

A balance would also need to be struck in terms of interest groups and ideologies, he added.

Deputy Mayor Andrei Novikov (Center) made a proposal to the Riiigkogu's cultural committee in July that the Linnahall be restored, as an alternative to the stalled Tallink plans.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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