Historian: The monument resembles the old Päts who perpetrated a coup

A monument marking the life of former President and Prime Minister Konstantin Päts was unveiled in Tallinn on October 21, 2022.
A monument marking the life of former President and Prime Minister Konstantin Päts was unveiled in Tallinn on October 21, 2022. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

A granite monument to Konstantin Päts titled "Head of State" (Riigipea) was unveiled in the so-called New Market area behind the Estonia Theater on Friday. President Alar Karis said in his unveiling speech that Päts played an instrumental role in shaping Estonia's fate and his decisions continue to affect the country to this day.

"There is no argument in that Konstantin Päts was among those who created independent Estonia. He later recalled those pivotal times in the following words: "Declaring independence was like an oath and a pledge. It forced many to make sacrifices, shamed the weak and emboldened those in doubt," Karis said.

In 2016, setting up a monument to Päts in the Governor's Garden next to Toompea Castle was discussed.

"A long road to Calvary has finally ended. The monument has been over six years in the making, while its history goes back further. We said that the Estonian capital lacks a statute of the founder of the country 15 years ago," Said Trivimi Velliste, chairman of the Konstantin Päts Museum.

Head of the monument idea contest Rein Veidemann said in his speech that the Estonian state was Konstantin Päts' family.

"The monument tells us that we do not only spring forth and grow out of this land, are not merely intertwined with it, but also bear perpetual obligation and responsibility for this land," Veidemann suggested.

But the monument has sparked controversial reactions from historians. Igor Kopõtin said that the monument shows that the first period of Estonian independence that ended in disaster is over-romanticized, referring to Päts' later style of governance as dictatorial.

"I find Kontantin Päts' role in Estonian history to be controversial. It is clear that the so-called young Päts contributed greatly to the founding of the Republic of Estonia in 1918, while this monument rather resembles the "old Päts," when he seized power illegally through a coup and virtually destroyed democratic rule," Kopõtin said.

Art historian Aleksandra Murre said that things could have been worse, artistically speaking.

"From an artistic point of view, while it might seem peculiar to display this rough-cut and chiseled head on the backdrop of the national opera, once we are reconciled with and get used to it, I believe it will gradually become a landmark of sorts, and perhaps people will see in 50 years' time how the fact such a monument was erected characterizes the time," Murre offered.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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