Remains exhumed from former Soviet monument site in Pärnu

Removal of the Soviet monument in Pärnu's Old Park underway on Monday. August 8, 2022.
Removal of the Soviet monument in Pärnu's Old Park underway on Monday. August 8, 2022. Source: ERR

The process of exhuming human remains that had been reburied in Pärnu's Old Park during the Soviet occupation of Estonia was completed Tuesday. The Soviet monument that had been located at the site was removed on Monday already.

The exhumations began Monday morning and were completed by around 4 p.m. Tuesday. The monument at the site was removed first on Monday, after which the process of digging up the graves located there began.

A total of 80 coffins containing the remains of 83 people were exhumed at Old Park. The remains were transported to a secure location, where they are being prepared for reburial at Uulu Cemetery next week.

Located in Pärnu's Old Park, a monument "to the fighters who laid down their lives for the freedom of the working people," was erected on May 9, 1958 to mark the spot where the the remains of people who had died in "the historic events of 1905, 1917, 1924 and 1941-1944" were reburied on December 1, 1940 and on November 25, 1945.

The monument had been erected in part to honor participants in the 1924 coup d'etat attempt against the independent Republic of Estonia.

The identities of all of those reburied at the park were not known even at the time; of the 83 bodies identified upon exhumation, not a single person's remains could be identified this week either.

Among the objects found together with the remains unearthed in Pärnu were civilian and military clothing as well as Soviet coins minted in 1940, said Hellar Lill, director of the Estonian War Museum, which conducted the exhumations. None of the graves, however, contained any items hinting at the identities of those buried there.

Since Estonia regained its independence in 1991, the loved ones of those killed in World War II have on ideological grounds avoided taking ownership of the Soviet monument and graves at the Pärnu park; instead, they have marked May 9 by leaving flowers at a monument in Pärnu Alevi Cemetery more directly related to the war.

Pärnu city government and city residents alike had expressed interest for years in having the Soviet monument removed from the central park and the remains reburied in a more appropriate location.

The fences surrounding the site will be removed and the ground there releveled on Wednesday. The site is slated to be grassed over.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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