Narva residents want to hold referendum over Soviet tank monument's future
Almost 3,000 residents of Narva want to put the future of its Soviet-era tank monument to a vote. After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, similar statues have started to be relocated across Estonia.
Ministers, especially from the Isamaa Party, are demanding statues and monuments erected during Estonia's communist occupation that glorify the regime and those that died for it be removed from public spaces.
While many local municipalities agree and work is underway, the issue is more contentious in Narva, the eastern border city.
The monument, "Tank T-34", is located on the banks of the Narva river and marks the place where Soviet forces crossed the river to repel the occupying Germans from the city. The following 50-year Soviet occupation means the statue is unpopular with Estonians.
The tank is not considered as a symbol of aggression in Narva, but as a symbol of historical memory, Friday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported.
Council members and city residents think it should stay in place but agree the government will be responsible for the consequences if they demand it be removed.
AK said it is difficult to find a person in the city who will publically say it should be removed. This is why councilors are not calling for change.
Eesti 200 council member Denis Larchenko said removing the tank or another well-known monument could create a "social catastrophe" in the city.
"The city cannot onlybe responsible for this, the state must be responsible for this, because it impacts both our internal security and foreign policy. We cannot simply say that the City of Narva should now respond and do it," he said.
Residents consider the tank part of the city's identity.
"For the people of Narva, the tank is simply a good symbol. Some remember it from their childhood, some consider it a part of their history," said Tatjana Stolfat, chairman of the Narva council Center Party faction.
"The new government should go there and see what this tank symbolizes. That it is not a symbol of the aggressor, but one of memory. It is simply a symbol of the memory of the residents of our city," Stolfat added.
Mayor of Narva Katri Raik (SDE) has also said removing the tank will create unwanted tension in the city and that there are more important issues to solve.
Almost 3,000 Narva residents have signed a petition to hold a referendum on the issue. The city has a population of almost 60,000.
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Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Helen Wright