Following a vote in Tartu City Council on Thursday, a prominent bridge spanning the Emajõgi River in Central Tartu has been renamed Rahu sild, or Peace Bridge. Plans to rename the bridge had already been in the works, but the process was expedited following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February.
Earning 21 votes in the city council, the winning name had been submitted by Tartu city government and the city council's own Culture Committee. The city council's Eesti 200 group had proposed the name Riia sild (Riga Bridge), which came in second with 13 votes, according to a press release.
The bridge connects Riia tänav and Narva maantee, two of the city's main thoroughfares, where they meet on the southern bank of the Emajõgi River.
Further upstream, another of the city's several bridges is named Vabadussild, or the Freedom Bridge.
"Tartu is a city of peace," Tartu City Council chairman Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) said. "The face of the world has been influenced here, when the Treaty of Tartu was signed here between Estonia and Russia on February 2, 1920, and the Treaty of Tartu between Finland and Russia that same fall as well."
The new name, Lukas stressed, symbolizes the most important moment in the history of the Republic of Estonia — its victory over the aggressor, Soviet Russia, in the War of Independence, which, following an armistice, was concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Tartu (Tartu rahu in Estonian).
The bridge, which began to be built in 1952 following the destruction of all of the city's bridges in World War II, was formally named the Victory Bridge in 1965 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II, called the Great Patriotic War by the Soviets.
In renaming the bridge, Tartu City Council stressed that the city of Tartu will not celebrate such victories, and that the heart of Estonia's second city is no place for landmarks of the Soviet occupation.
The renaming of the bridge was included in the Tartu coalition agreement at Isamaa's request last fall already, but Tartu City Council added the expedited completion of the renaming process to its agenda in March due to the current war in Ukraine.
The city announced a public name competition that lasted from March 18 through April 10. Over 200 name ideas were submitted, and the variants Rahu sild or Tartu Rahu sild were suggested a total of 66 times.
Editor: Aili Vahtla