Narva city government opts to remove Soviet-era tank monument itself

The Narva monument, a replica World War Two T-34 tank.
The Narva monument, a replica World War Two T-34 tank. Source: Tatjana Gassova/ERR

Removal of a controversial monument just outside the eastern city of Narva will go ahead at the behest of the local, rather than the national, government.

The ruling coalition consisting of mayor Katri Raik's electoral list (Narva Tulevik) and Eesti 200 made the decision Sunday evening to instruct the city's administration to remove the monument, a replica World War Two-era Soviet T-34 tank, ahead of the arrival of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) in the town. Kallas had consistently stated that the monument has to go, in the light of its glorification of Soviet militarism at a time when the Russian Federation is prosecuting an invasion of Ukraine, while concerns have also been raised that doing so will lead to widespread protests and disruption in the largely Russian-speaking town of 57,000 inhabitants, which lies on the border with the Russian Federation.

The Narva coalition issued a statement which said: "Since there is great public interest in this monument, we will create a temporary committee within the Narva city council, which will make decisions regarding the future of all Soviet-era monuments in the possession of the city of Narva."

"The creation of such a committee was proposed by the residents of Narva, and we consider it the best step in a situation where we need to get clarity on everything regarding the fate of the Red Army and Soviet monuments within the territory of Narva," the statement went on.

Denis Larchenko, head of the Narva branch of Eesti 200, said the proposal is based on the desire to ease tensions surrounding the "tank".

He said: "We have to make decisions about the future of Soviet monuments in Narva, and the people of Narva have to do this for themselves. We understand very well the tensions the Narva tank issue has caused in society, and we do not want to drag out the process, because these tensions continue to rise."

"No one in Narva wants a repeat of another bronze night, and we will find a solution to this issue in close cooperation with local organizations. We sincerely hope that the opposition of the city council will also support our proposal and we can move forward with this issue," he went on.

Larchenko was referring to the April 2007 "Bronze Soldier" riots, which took place over several nights following the relocation in Tallinn of a Soviet-era statue commemorating the fallen, on the Soviet side, in World War Two.

The statue was moved from Tõnismägi in central Tallinn to the military cemetery across town, where it remains.

The Narva coalition says it will convene a city council session as soon as possible, to formalize the decision and instruct city authorities to go ahead with the monument's removal.

It would be moved and then stored in a safe location, closed to the public but within Narva city, the coalition says.

The prime minister is to give a press conference from 3 p.m. after meeting with councilors and city officials in Narva and nearby Narva-Jõesuu.

Mayor Katri Raik had recently appealed for assistance from the state in resolving the issue.

Since the "tank" has no known human remains interred at the site and as an integral part of the memorial, under current Estonian law its removal or otherwise is a decision for local government.

The news comes against a backdrop of Soviet-era memorials, statues and similar being removed both in Estonia and across the former Soviet Union and beyond, in the wake of the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began February 24.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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