Leaders of a municipality in eastern Estonia have said they want to relocate Soviet-era memorials scattered across its administration to one location.
The Lüganuse Rural Municipality in Ida-Viru County says the location should be in an out-of-the-way spot in the forest, but at the same time, no further progress can be made without guidance from the state.
Marja-Liisa Veiser, Lüganuse district elder, told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Wednesday that: "There are still many loose ends. I would like more clarity and help from the state as well, because the official position is that occupation symbols should not be in the public space."
"Since we have the Küttejõu brothers' grave (Küttejõu vennashaud, Küttejõu Küttejõu is a district within the municipality's remit – ed.) which is not essentially in a public space but instead located inside the forest, the most reasonable thing would be if we could move a memorial stone which is on private property to that location, as well as the statue in the Lüganuse school park, and reinter those remains there," Veiser went on.
Sarkis Tatevosjan, owner of the private land referred to, told AK that: "If this is done with dignity, respecting the memory of the dead and burying them respectfully, then in my opinion this is possible. However, it should not be like what happened in Rakvere, where a mass grave was excavated with a bulldozer, because I think this approach is unacceptable."
The Küttejõu site is a mass grave (see gallery above) containing the remains of bomber crews and other military personnel who fell during World War Two; the stone memorial on private property is located nearby on Vabaduse 8, in the town of Kiviõli.
Tatevosjan said he had wanted to move the memorial stone (also see gallery) in the past, but was opposed by the now-defunct (since the 2017 administrative reforms) Kiviõli city government at the time.
A local resident,Kalev Piilberg said that people whose ancestral homes were bombed by the planes flown by those buried at Küttejõu, and their comrades, would also be satisfied with the transfer of Kiviõli stone as proposed by Tatevosjan.
Piilberg told AK that: "There is a plinth at the Küttejõu grave, where the stone could be place. It could be relocated there and set down nicely, then it will not be an eyesore within the cityscape."
Russia's invasion of Ukraine starting February 24 brought the issue of Soviet-era memorials firmly into the public eye, with several high-profile removals or relocations across the country taking place.
In Ida-Viru County, many of whose towns are majority Russian-speaking, the issue is a particularly thorny one, and the removal and relocation of a Soviet-made T-34 tank from its plinth just north of Narva, to the national war museum just outside Tallinn, had to be conducted under conditions of heightened security.
Current law has it that while a memorial which has no human remains associated with it or interred nearby is a matter for the local authority, the presence of human remains or war graves makes it the state's responsibility, via the war graves commission, in turn under the auspices of the war museum and ultimately the defense ministry.
The sheer volume of sites in question across Estonia has led to a bottleneck in the work, however, but, conversely, in the case of the Narva tank, the state had to step in after local government fudged the issue.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Aktuaalne kaamera