Work began on Monday morning at 8am, to remove a Soviet-era war monument from Tartu's Raadi Park. The remains of those buried in the graves at the site of the monument will also be removed from the site for reburial in a more suitable location.
Before the work gets underway on the removal of the monument, prayers will be recited at the site by Ants Tooming, vicar of the Tartu diocese of the Estonian Orthodox Church, and Vadim Rebase, a priest at Tartu's Parish Church of St Alexander Nevsky. Once removed, it will be handed over to the Tartu City Museum.
On Tuesday, September 13, archaeologists from the Estonian War Museum will begin excavating the remains of those buried near the monument. The work is expected to last until the end of the week.
Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas said that, the city had made a proposal to the War Graves Commission in spring, for the remains in Raadi Park to be reburied elsewhere. "The final resting place of the war victims buried in the park must be in a cemetery," said Klaas. "The red army monument in the park, with its false message, does not fit into our memorial or cultural space," said the mayor.
According to the Estonian War Museum, around 250 people are buried in the park. However, Hellar Lille, director of the museum said, that the exact number will be revealed during the excavations. "So far, the practice of excavating war graves has shown, that the Soviet-era figures regarding the number of people buried may not always be correct," Lille said.
The Raadi monument contains the graves of those who were executed during the Second World War at Lemmats, as well as red army soldiers who fell in battle in around Tartu.
The remains of the war victims will be reburied in a cemetery, with the exact time and place to be decided after the excavation is completed.
To ensure safety and security, the police have imposed restrictions around the monument, meaning access the area is off limits to unauthorized persons until the work is completed. Some changes in traffic management around the area due to the works require road users to pay attention to temporary signs and instructions. However, no streets in the Raadi area will be closed to traffic.
Editor: Michael Cole