Tallinn mayor: We will never agree to demolish Maarjamäe memorial

Maarjamäe memorial.
Maarjamäe memorial. Source: Kirsti Jõesalu

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) has ruled out the idea of demolishing the Maarjamäe World War Two memorial and Linnahall after Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) recommended the city do so on Monday.

Kõlvart said on Raadio4's "Üksikasjad" program the Maarjamäe memorial, parts of which have been declared structurally unsafe, should remain standing. He added that he thinks discussions around memorials should be a thing of the past, and Estonian society should be developed to the point of discussing what to build, and develop instead of what to demolish.

However, some politicians and officials do not understand that reasoning, he said. "We will never agree to demolish the memorial," Kõlvart stressed, and said the area around the site has become a part of the scenery for citizens of Tallinn.

Kõlvart said Tallinn expects the state to allocate €3-4 million to carry out extensive reconstruction works at the memorial, after which Tallinn would commit to further maintaining the site, constructed in 1975 to commemorate fallen Soviet fighters during World War Two.

Interior minister Mart Helme told ERR on Monday that both the Maarjamäe memorial, in Pirita, and the Linnahal,l 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.

Helme said: "If we look at it pragmatically, those things are dilapidated, Linnahall needs tens of millions, the complex (Maarjamäe memorial - ed.) is dilapidated, and needs millions. My practical side is saying reconstruction is not reasonable, but demolition is reasonable."

Helme also said 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.

Kõlvart was opposed to Helme's stance on the Linnahall too, saying it could instead be transformed into a multi-functional concert and conference hall in line with earlier plans in conjunction with shipping line Tallink's parent company.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Tallink Grupp was to develop the iconic, brutalist-style edifice, with a port planned for the premises, along with a conference center, concert hall, hotel and shopping center.

Kõlvart noted that such cooperation between Tallinn and Tallink is no longer viable, leaving the city in charge of any development. However, this would not happen without EU funding, he said.

The Linnahall was finished in 1980 in time for the Moscow Olypmics but in more recent years has fell into a state of decay. It formerly hosted the Copterline terminal, and more recently the Linda Line catamaran departure point. Most recently, it was used as a filming location for forthcoming Hollywood blockbuster "Tenet".

Further discussions are expected within the national coalition of Center, Isamaa and EKRE on whether or not to support Tallinn's wish to maintain Linnahall and the Maarjamäe memorial, ERR reports.

Linnahall. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte

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