Growing tensions over the fate of a World War Two-era tank monument just outside the eastern city of Narva have prompted council chiefs in the town to call for a meeting with the national government to resolve the issue, and that of other monuments commemorating Soviet fallen during the war.
Narva's mayor, Katri Raik, told ERR that: "The common position was that we would like to meet with either the cabinet minister or the head of the institution responsible for the fate of the memorials in Estonia, as soon as possible.
"We would like a meeting, in Narva, to discuss, in conjunction with the state, what we can do together, and what the future of the World War Two memorials in Narva will be," the mayor went on.
The meeting would also allow local residents in the Russian-speaking majority town to air their views, which Raik noted was prudent given that about 150 people (reported at the time as around 100 – ed.) gathered at the monument, located just to the north of the town and on the main road to the resort town of Narva-Jõesuu, late afternoon Wednesday following rumors its removal was imminent.
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says the monument – not a real T-34 but a dummy and one of many which were installed across the Soviet Union – should be removed within the month, with MPs called back from their summer recess for an off-schedule sitting if necessary – to head off a situation like that in April 2007, so-called "Bronze Soldier night", when a Soviet-era statue commemorating the fallen was removed from its plinth in central Tallinn. While the statue was relocated across town, in the military cemetery, the incident resulted in several nights' rioting, millions of euros in looting damage and one death.
A Soviet howitzer replica was removed from outside the Auvere power station, to the west of Narva, on Wednesday. Eesti Energia says it has been relocated to a local war museum.
While the monuments in question date back to the Soviet era, which ended three decades ago, the recent invasion of Ukraine has brought the issue to the fore. The Reform-Center coalition ruled that while monuments and similar which were also the site of war graves should be relocated by the state, those without human remains at the site were a matter for local government – likely with the Ida-Viru County situation in mind.
Other legislation following the invasion include a bar on publicly displaying symbols which glorify Russian militarism, such as the orange-black Ribbon of St. George, or the "Z" character displayed by some Russian military convoys in Ukraine, for rendezvous and logistics identification purposes.
Editor: Andrew Whyte