The mayors of Narva and Narva-Jõesuu have expressed objections to President Alar Karis' suggestion that a permanent exhibition about the horrors of Russia's war in Ukraine should be placed at the only surviving red army tank monument in Estonia.
The 'Narva tank' is located on the highway between Narva and Narva-Jõesuu, and along with other Soviet-era monuments in Estonia, has become the subject of much recent discussion in light of Russia's war on Ukraine.
This week on Vikerraadio, Estonian President Alar Karis said that the tank should either be removed from its current spot or, an exhibition should be placed alongside it, providing information about Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.
However, neither Narva Mayor Katri Raik (SDE), nor Maksim Iljin, mayor of Narva-Jõesuu, are in favor of Karis' proposal.
Iljin told ERR that the current war in Ukraine and World War II were different things and that there was no benefit in mixing the two events together, with Raik of the same opinion.
"These things are different and I think there is still no connection between Putin and these monuments, especially not that tank. I think that we have to talk about these issues separately," said Iljin.
Narva Mayor Katri Raik said that she would prefer to leave the issue of monuments and commemorations for when the world is calmer again. "I would like to stress that I understand those people who would like to find a solution for the tank, but I also understand the people of Narva, who say 'hands off our tank, it is our tank'. And that's why I don't see a good resolution," added Raik.
Ivika Maidre, historian and head of the Vaivara Sinamägede (Blue Hills) Museum, believes that in the future, the monuments of Ida-Viru County could be collected to create an exhibition in the museum. Maidre also believes that any decision to remove monuments should only be made following discussions with local citizens, and should certainly not happen overnight. However, Maidre does not rule out placing an exhibition about the atrocities being committed in Ukraine next to the Narva tank.
"Public relations, in the best possible sense, needs to happen," Maidre said. "It should just be a propaganda trail, but things should be negotiated. At the same time, we should not succumb to any kinds of provocations, because there is always someone who is against everything," she added.
According to Narva Mayor Katri Raik, it is important to understand that the memorials commemorating victory in the World War II are an important part of the family histories of many people in the region.
"It's part of the identity of the people here," said Raik. "This year, May 9 was different in Narva. Whereas before we celebrated it as 'Victory Day' and 'Liberation Day', this year it was a quiet day of remembrance," Raik noted.
Raik also emphasized that, at present, citizens of Narva are more concerned about the current economic situation and the impending state of emergency, which is due to be declared in the city on Friday.
According to geographer Mait Sepa, who runs the portal monument.ee, there are now around 130 World War II monuments in Ida-Viru County. Over 50 of those are dedicated to the Soviet red army.
Editor: Michael Cole