Soviet monument committee criticized for lack of transparency

A Soviet-era monument at Lääneranna.
A Soviet-era monument at Lääneranna. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

A Government Office committee tasked with removing Soviet-era monuments has been criticized for its lack of transparency. Experts believe the process must be made as clear to the public as possible.

The committee was founded last month by the Government Office and tasked with understanding the process of mapping and removing Soviet-era monuments from public space.

It is currently carrying out a legal analysis to understand how statues can be taken down, which will be completed next week.

But experts believe the government needs to tread carefully and tensions are already rising in some parts of the country, such as in Ida-Viru County. They told Friday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that the process needs to be transparent.

So far, only the name of the head of the committee, Asko Kivinuk, has been made public. It is not known who the other members are.

When asked why the names would not be released, AK was told the members are experts in the heritage sector and they must be given space to work independently.

"It is reasonable to guarantee them anonymity and peace of mind," a spokesperson said. "The commission's work is not classified, we will present both the working process and the final conclusions to the public, and we hope that the result of the work will be visible to everyone."

It is not yet known when the committee's work will be made public or in what format.

Minister of Public Administration Riina Solman (Isamaa) said it is right to grant the members anonymity so they cannot be threatened.

She highlighted the incident at Auvere Power Plant earlier this week where an excavator was set on fire at night after a Soviet-era howitzer monument was removed. Police and currently investigating the incident.

"Peoples personal lives are under threat and in danger — it is very reasonable that people can do their work peacefully and that the Estonian state protects them," Solman said on Thursday.

Historian and EKRE MP Jaak Valge said the discussion about Soviet monuments and their removal should be public.

"Actually, these are questions concerning Estonia's identity and they should be discussed completely publicly. And if there is some person on the committee who does not want to be [named in] public, then they should remove themselves from there," he told AK.

Delfi and Eesti Päevaleht editor-in-chief Urmo Soonvald also said the process needs to be transparent because it will create trust in the committee.

"Any such secrecy will, at some point, work against these decisions. I think that currently, we are in a delicate enough situation — maybe less so in Tallinn, more so in Narva and Ida Viru County — where we cannot afford blind, classified and incomprehensible commissions and their decisions," he said.

Earlier this week, Kallas said monuments must be removed as soon as possible to stop tensions from rising. It is believed between 200 and 400 statues will need to be taken down.

Politicians are trying to tread carefully as memories of the 2007 "Bronze Night" are still fresh in people's minds. The incident saw riots in Tallinn and the country was hit by cyber attacks after the removal of a Soviet-era statue, known as the "Bronze Soldier", from the city center to a cemetery on the capital's outskirts.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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