AK: Communism memorial discussion delays Narva church restoration

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Proposed site of Narva memorial to the victims of communism, itself adjacent to a Lutheran church due to be remonted. Source: ERR

The possible location of a memorial to the victims of the communism in the eastern border town of Narva is provoking heated debate, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Monday night. Heritage experts prefer a monument adjacent to the Alexander Church, taking advantage of ongoing refurbishment there.

In the meantime, Narva city government finds the cemetery on the northern outskirts of the town a more suitable venue.

Narva lies on the river of the same name which marks the border between Estonia and the Russian Federation.

Narva heritage conservationists say the monument should be in the vicinity of the Alexander church, also known as the Alexander Cathedral and a Lutheran house of religious worship, since the church was reportedly the venue of a communist organization proclaimed during the Estonian War of Independence of 1918-1920, one which went on to execute Narva residents.

It would also be visible from the Russian Consulate in Narva, which faces directly on to the church, AK reported, presumably meaning that staff at the consulate would see the memorial on a daily basis.

The Estonian War of Independence, really an offshoot of the Russian Civil War which began with the Bolshevik seizure of power in St. Petersburg, then Petrograd, in October 1917, pitted Estonian patriots and their allies, including counter-revolutionary White Russians and foreign volunteers from Finland, Denmark, the U.K. and other states, versus Red Russian forces from the fledgling Soviet Russian state, and their allies.

Narva mayor Katri Raik (SDE) told AK that: "Naturally the memorial to the victims of communism has a place in Narva ... but whether the Church of Alexander and its surroundings are the best location, I would venture to doubt."

Conservationists are also calling for the memorial, along with gardens, instead of plans to refurbish the church using concrete.

The Siiversti cemetery on the northern outskirts of the town, would be a more suitable alternative location, Raik said – not least since many of the victims of the Red Terror lie buried there.

Meanwhile, there are already memorials to Soviet soldiers killed in World War Two in Narva, scene of a ferocious battle lasting through much of spring and summer 1944.

These include an actual Soviet T-34 tank from World War Two, close to the Siiversti cemetery, while other historical conflicts, such as the 1700 Battle of Narva, an early encounter during the Great Northern War, are also commemorated with permanent installations.

Sergei Tsvetkov, a member of the Narva Heritage Society, told AK that: "Both categories of victims are significant. Those victims who were among the Soviet soldiers have their memorials erected in the city. A memorial to the people who suffered during the Red Terror would, however, be lacking if it were located on the outskirts (i.e. in the cemetery) since people walking in the city would not be kept in mind to remember them, and that is not right."

Narva city government says the redesign of the Alexander Church should go ahead, while the discussion of a potential memorial to the victims of communism should be held separately.

The original AK segment (in Estonian and Russian) is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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