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Hiiumaa war museum offers to take on Narva tank

The military museum at Tahkuna, Hiiumaa, and its replica T-34 tank made for the movie '1944'.
The military museum at Tahkuna, Hiiumaa, and its replica T-34 tank made for the movie '1944'. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

A museum on the island of Hiiumaa says it would like to house a controversial tank monument slated for removal from its current location just outside Narva, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Tuesday.

The museum says it has not yet received a reply from city authorities in Narva; the latter say they are making a decision on what to do with the replica T-34 tank, which has come under scrutiny both because it appears to glorify Soviet militarism at a time when the Soviet Union's effective successor state, the Russian Federation, is prosecuting a war in Ukraine, and because removing it may spark civil unrest among the town's overwhelmingly Russian-speaking populace.

Back in the more placid atmosphere of Hiiumaa, Estonia's second-largest island, and with a smaller population (less than 10,000) than Narva itself, Ain Tähiste, who heads up the Hiiumaa military association (Hiiumaa militaarajalooselts) and museum, located in Takhuna, on the northern tip of the island, said that while the museum has a model T-34 already, the Narva tank would be a welcome addition.

Tähiste told AK: "We have half a tank but it's not really made of the real material, so we do need an authentic one."

The existing model in Tahkuna: "was created for the movie '1944'. It was made in 2013, and we obtained it in October 2014. It has been extensively repaired, and while we thought it would be with us for a month or two, it will be ten years old soon," he went on.

The museum has been renewing its selection of exhibits this year, with new examples including historic Estonian border guard uniforms and a section dedicated to the Ukraine conflict, while the remains of two German planes which crashed off the coast of the island in 1941 may also be added, if they have not deteriorated too much, Tähiste said.

The museum opened 15 years ago at a former border guard station - like all coastal areas in Estonia Hiiumaa was heavily guarded during the Soviet occupation - and says it attracts hardcore military enthusiasts and curious tourists, as well as locals, alike.

One visitor, Freddy, told AK that: "I have had a long interest in military history since I was a child, and studied all kinds of naval and other military history books, but today my wife and I are actually celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary here!"

While the Narva tank's future is the subject of disagreement between the national government, which wants it removed immediately, and local government, which says the process will take about a fortnight, the tank will likely eventually end up in a museum or similar, and will not be either left in an open public space, nor hidden away or destroyed.

"1944" is an Estonian war movie made in 2015 and directed by Elmo Nüganen, set during the Battle of Tannenberg Line.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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