Prime minister going to Narva Monday to discuss Soviet tank monument fate

Kaja Kallas on  'Aktuaalne Kaamera'
Kaja Kallas on 'Aktuaalne Kaamera' Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) is set to travel to the eastern Estonian border town of Narva, to discuss further a controversial Soviet-era tank monument located just outside the city.

The monument's presence has led to tensions following the Russian Federation's invasion of Ukraine and in the wake of the removal of other statues, monuments and similar which apparently glorify Soviet militarism. Narva's population is largely Russian-speaking.

Kallas said that: "I am traveling to Narva on Monday to talk with local leaders about the tensions surrounding these installations and to explain the government's decision as to why Soviet monuments must be removed from the public space."

"The government considers it crucial that local people can celebrate their traditions, but this needs to be done in a way that from an Estonian perspective is not either associated with the suffering of people under the Soviet occupation nor supporting the current war in Ukraine," the prime minister continued.

"Commemoration must not be used to justify or incite hatred and violence against other nations or people. No one bars commemorating the dead or holding their memory, but this must be done where at the right place, and where it does not hurt society," she continued.

Kallas will meet both with city government representatives and city councilors while in Narva.

The city's mayor, Katri Raik, told ERR at the weekend that the government office had informed councilors that the prime minister would be visiting on Monday to discuss the tank monument – a replica World War Two T-34, a common war memorial in many towns in the Soviet Union – following Raik's appeal, issued jointly with the city council vice chair, to do just that.

The meeting is set to go ahead from 1 p.m. at the city council chambers, followed by a press conference at the nearby Vaba Lava theater, from 3 p.m., it is reported.

Raik has previously stated that the majority of the city's residents would oppose the removal of the monument, which also displays a Red Star, while a crowd congregated at the monument site, just north of Narva on the main highway to the resort town of Narva-Jõesuu, following rumors that its removal was imminent.

On Thursday, the prime minister said that all statues and monuments commemorating conflict in a way which glorified the Soviet Union have to be removed from public as soon as possible, with logistics the only factor affecting the timing.

Under current Estonian law, monument removal is a matter for national government, unless human remains are interred at the site, for instance in the case of war graves. In the latter case, the matter is devolved to local government.

A Red Army howitzer was recently removed from outside a power station in nearby Auvere. The power station is operated by state-owned Eesti Energia.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

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