In an interview with ERR, Mayor of Narva Katri Raik said the city authorities will not move the tank monument dedicated to Soviet troops. Raik said most people in Narva are against it, and that Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has warned against dividing society.
"Neither the city administration nor the city council are planning to move the tank," said Raik responding to an EPL (Eesti Päevaleht) editorial on Tuesday.
"We have no plans to either paint the tank pink or transport it to the Narva Fortress," she added and pointed out that Narva Fortress is a medieval fortress museum and the twentieth-century battle tank does not belong there.
"The tank is not Estonia's biggest problem. The tank is not Narva's biggest problem. Housing, the cost of power, employment, and the transition to all Estonian education [are the problems]," Raik said on Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" on Tuesday.
In response to the idea that people in Narva could be asked to sign a petition calling for a referendum on the tank's fate, Raik said Narva city officials will definitely discuss the issue, but she does not see the need for a vote because the outcome is very clear.
"Personally, I don't see the point in a poll. It's almost as if you're asking if the weather is nice today. Yes, the weather in Narva is pleasant, and that is also clearly visible. In any case, we are aware of what the locals say about the tank," said the city mayor.
Raik added the tank is a part of the identity of the Russian-speaking population of Narva: "Part of the pride that lingers stems from the fact that, as Russians here, they represent those who liberated Estonia from the fascists [Nazis] and rebuilt Narva. So the tank is a small token of that identity and pride."
Despite the fact they bring flowers to the tank and support its preservation, people in Narva are fond of Estonia, Raik said.
"I understand today's Narva residents, who are mostly at a crossroads regarding their future and identity. However, the people themselves are very clear about their love of Estonia, and I have faith in it, seeing many of them on February 24, as well as on June 23, the Estonian Victory Day. We lit our city's Midsummer Night bonfire from the Victory Flame — it was solemly lit by the Young Eagles [a youth organization of the Defense League]. So, the population of Narva sincerely loves Estonia. This is something I'd like to emphasize to all radio listeners at this time.
"Narva is an Estonian city, Narva is part of Estonia, and this ends most of my tank-related discussions with Narva residents," Raik said.
Raik added there are about a dozen other Soviet monuments in the city, some of which bother her more than the tank memorial.
"I have to be honest, the plaques in St. Peter's Square, with the names of military units named after Narva, are far more eye-catching to me. /---/ Or the obelisk in Castle Park. So we're not just talking about the tank in Narva, but about 20 different memorials and name plaques honoring Soviet troops," she continued.
"I do, however, understand those who disagree with what I'm saying right now," she added.
Raik further explained her unwillingness to deal with the dismantling of the tank memorial by referring to an interview with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform), published in daily newspaper Õhtuleht last Tuesday, in which the head of government discussed Russia's imperialist ambitions to divide the societies of other nations.
"Looking at Russia's actions in Georgia and Ukraine, the excuse for invading is often that there is tension and instability, and then they go to the aid of the so-called local Russian community.
"When we are divided and at odds with one another, we are weaker in the face of the enemy," Kallas said.
"And it is precisely this separation that I aim to eliminate in my day-to-day work as mayor of Narva, so that there is no division and we are more united. We agreed before May 9 that it was not the right moment for a large celebration, and we got through May 9 in Narva without incident. 22,000 Ukrainian refugees have passed through our city and no one has slept on a park bench," Raik said.
"In the end, I see it as my job to act as a peacemaker and mediator on the Estonian border. I can't say that this isn't sufficiently pro-Estonian," she said.
Raik also added that she expects the state, various ministries, and authorities to send clear messages about how they intend to deal with the Soviet war legacy.
Editor: Kristina Kersa