Narva mayor: Better to leave Soviet-era tank in place than risk protests

The replica T-34 monument north of Narva, Ida-Viru County.
The replica T-34 monument north of Narva, Ida-Viru County. Source: Visit Estonia

A World War Two-era Soviet tank will remain in place just outside the eastern border town of Narva, Mayor Katri Raik says, citing social cohesion as a greater consideration, news portal Delfi reports.

According to Delfi (link in Estonian) Mayor Raik said that maintaining peace and cordial relations in the city of 57,000 people trumps the removal of monuments – in this case a replica T-34 situated just to the north of the city limits, and on the Narva river which marks the border with the Russian Federation.

The monument also includes a plaque speaking of the "liberation" of Narva by invading Red Army forces, Delfi reports.

Raik told Delfi that: "I will say this directly and clearly - I do not think it makes sense to remove the tank at the present moment," the mayor said. 

"In that case, the people would really take to the streets, and this is not necessary," the mayor continued, noting that the issue has not even been discussed at city government or council chambers-level.

"I understand all those who want to take down any Red monuments, but in the current, difficult wartime situation, the price of contentment and well-being in Narva is such that war monuments should be left as they are," she went on, noting that there are over 20 such monuments in and around Narva, but the tank itself is more of a local landmark.

Raik noted that the installation, put in place in 1969, was the only tank in the world which had an actual address, on the main highway between Narva and the resort town of Narva-Jõesuu.

The tank occupies a special place for many local residents, the mayor said – Narva is over 90 percent Russian-speaking, though Raik herself is a native Estonian speaker – and the birth of a baby, for instance, is often heralded by the draping of pink or light-blue ribbons over the barrel of the tank's "gun".

Last week, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said that Soviet-era war memorials would be systematically removed across Estonia, in the wake of the ongoing war in Ukraine which started in late February.

In the case of those monuments – including the Narva tank – which do not include the graves of those who fell during World War Two, the decision would be up to local governments, Kallas said.

One such memorial, in Lääneranna, Pärnu County, "disappeared" overnight last Saturday to Sunday.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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