The Estonian government has decided to take the "Narva tank" and other Soviet-era monuments, which were removed from their locations in Narva last week, into state ownership. Previously, the monuments had belonged to the City of Narva, with some local councilors calling for them to be returned.
The government has given the go-ahead for the Police and Border Guard Board to transfer the tank and parts of other Soviet monuments removed from Narva and Narva-Jõesuu on August 16, into state ownership.
According to a statement from the government's communication office on Tuesday, the Police and Border Guard Board will, in turn, transfer the monuments to the Ministry of Defense, which will store them the Estonian War Museum in Viimsi.
The T-34 tank, which is already on display at the Estonian War Museum, will be joined by several other items transferred from Narva and Narva-Jõesuu on August 16. These include a red star and two plaques removed from the monument which stood in Narva Castle Park and a metal wall sculpture from the "Three Bayonets" memorial on the Narva-Jõesuu highway. A red star and commemorative plaque removed from the obelisk marking the collective World War II grave between the Narva River and the Victoria Bastion will also eventually be on display at the museum, along with an anchor and commemorative stone from the memorial to the Meriküla Landing, which was on Hiiemetsa mantee in Narva-Jõesuu.
"The removal of war memorials from public spaces in Narva and Narva-Jõesuu was aimed at ensuring internal security," said Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets in a press release.
"In the context of the war in Ukraine, these monuments were causing tension in society, so they were removed as quickly as possible in order to maintain public order," he said. "At the same time, they are a part – however regrettable – of Estonia's history and collective memory. For that reason, we have to find a place for them within a context that adequately explains the historical meaning of the monuments of a foreign power. The study and showcasing of Estonia's military history and cultural heritage is the task of the Estonian War Museum, which is why placing these monuments and items – which have so far been stored with the police – in state ownership before transferring them to the museum to serve as exhibits is the logical next step," said Läänemets.
On Tuesday August 16, the government removed six Soviet war monuments from public space in Narva and Narva-Jõesuu. Plaques were also removed from the collective World War II grave between the Narva River and the Victoria Bastion.
The government had previously made the decision, in principle, to remove Soviet war monuments from public space the end of this year.
Earlier this week, local politicians in Narva appealed to the government to return the tank and other memorials to the city.
Narva council opposition leader Aleksei Jevgrafov believes the memorials, including the tank, should be returned to Narva and display in a museum in the city. "We are not talking about putting them in the old places," Jevgrafov told ERR on Monday, "No, we are now talking about them as museum pieces.
Editor: Michael Cole