Friday marked the 73rd anniversary of the Soviet mass deportations of tens of thousands of people from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on March 25-28, 1949. Candles were lit across Estonia on Friday evening in remembrance of the victims of Operation Priboi.
An installation will remain up in Tallinn's Freedom Square through Saturday night depicting the former border of the Soviet Union together with the railway routes that took deportees to camps in Siberia. The railways and destinations are marked with red lights.
Starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, candles were lit up in the square in remembrance of the victims. A memorial ceremony was also held at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism in Tallinn's Maarjamäe neighborhood beginning at 4 p.m., attended by President Alar Karis.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are calling on residents of Estonia to light a candle in their windows at home as well.
"While this event had started to increasingly feel more historical in nature in recent years, as there are few people left who lived through this personally — then in light of recent events, remembering the March deportation is not only part of our collective memory, but is also painfully relevant today," Estonian Institute of Human Rights board chairman Vootele Hansen said.
People in Tartu were likewise invited to light candles in Town Hall Square again this year, beginning at 6 p.m. on the Friday.
Church bells in Estonia's second city rang at 6 p.m. on Friday in remembrance of the victims of the March deportation and the Red Terror.
Jõhvi ceremony at memorial stone
Around 50 people also gathered in the eastern Estonian city of Jõhvi on Friday, with wreaths and candles placed in front of the memorial stone to the deportations (see gallery below). Sixty-eight railcars were loaded up with the 1,277 people who were sent eastwards to Siberia from that town.
Within the framework of Operation Priboi, the Soviet regime forcibly deported more than 20,000 people from Estonia and a total of more than 90,000 from the Baltics to Siberia, among them many elderly people and children.
Editor's note: This article was updated to include galleries from Tallinn and Jõhvi of events marking the 73rd anniversary of the March deportations.
Editor: Aili Vahtla, Andrew Whyte