The eightieth anniversary of the June Soviet deportation of Estonians falls on Monday and is being marked by several events nationwide.
The day's solemnities commemorate the events of the night of June 14 1941, by which time Estonia was fully under Soviet occupation and which saw around 10,000 civilians of all ages deported deep into Soviet territory – generally meaning the Siberian Gulag system. Around 6,000 of those deported, including children, never returned.
Monday is an official flag day and also an official day of mourning, the government office said on its website, meaning commemorative black ribbons are attached to flagpoles in addition to the blue-black-white national flag, which is flown at half-mast.
The president is due to lay a wreath at the memorial to the victims of communism in the Maarjamäe district of Tallinn. The memorial itself was unveiled in 2018.
As per tradition, an installation has been installed in Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square) in central Tallinn.
All state and local government agencies are required to fly the national flag, while private citizens are expected to do so, with flags hoisted no later than 8 a.m. and lowered at 10 p.m., the government office says.
The lower edge of the national flag should be aligned midway up the flagpole it is flown from, while a 50mm-wide black ribbon should be attached to the upper end of the flagpole. The ribbon should be approximately 330cm in length, which allows both ends to span the width of the flag itself.
The Maarjmäe ceremony takes place at 4 p.m. Estonian time, with the Riigikogu speaker, the justice minister and Latvia's ambassador to Estonia among the dignitaries in attendance and joining President Kersti Kaljulaid. Wreath-laying and candle-lighting is open to members of the public.
At 5 p.m. an open air concert featuring singers Ott Lepland and Liisi Koikson takes place.
'Wagon of tears' unveiled in Vabaduse väljak
ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Sunday evening that an installation, "Pisarate vagun" (Eng: "Wagon of Tears") has been put in place in Vabaduse väljak.
The name refers to the railroad wagons, designed for the transportation of livestock, which were generally used to deport Estonian citizens and those of the other two Baltic States east to Siberia.
Vootele Hansen, chair of the Estonian Institute for Human Rights (Inimõiguste Instituut), told AK that: "The wagon is a symbol that was remembered by the people who stayed behind. Deportees also threw out letters from the wagons, and these were picked up from the railroad side and forwarded to relatives when an address was found, while conversely, the wagons remained etched in the memories of those who spent weeks in them being deported."
Readings from some of Estonia's noted poets, many of whom lived through the deportations, including Jüri Üdi (Juhan Viiding, 1948-1995), Marie Under (1883-1980), Henrik Visnapuu (1890-1951), Kalju Lepik (1920-199) and Thavet Atlas (Esper Thompson, 1963-) which talk about deportation, are being read out regularly at the installation, by Estonian actors.
Meanwhile in Estonia's second city, Tartu, The Estonian National Museum (ERM) is showcasing the memories and heritage of the deportees, including recent additions to its collections.
"80 years have passed since these events," said Terje Anepaio, ERM's research curator, who noted clear parallels with the pandemic of our own era.
"I would say that just as in the last year, the pandemic year, I began to realize, and would like to stress, that this is a time which demonstrates to people today, that when our daily lives are interrupted, when we have to keep our distance from loved ones, we cannot reach them, we cannot see them, we cannot hug them, we cannot get home, is something which is indescribably painful, is difficult to tolerate, and is difficult to survive. Hence why there is a clear parallel with the past," she went on.
At Vinni, in Lääne-Viru County, a triptych was unveiled at the Jaagupi Church, commemorating deportees from the vicinity – though primarily focused on the March 1949 round of deportations, AK reported.
The initial part of the triptych (see gallery below) was completed in 2014 and was the work of Estonian architect Kuno Raude, who himself was deported to Siberia with his grandmother when he was a first grade student, while the second and third components were installed last year – the unveiling was held off due to coronavirus considerations.
Other events taking place Monday include tours at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the occupations museum, Vabamu, in Tallinn.
While the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory (Eesti Mälu Instituut) is to announce the winners of an art comptition comprising works commemorating the June 14 1941 deportations.
Editor: Andrew Whyte