Creative unions: Controversial past shouldn't be erased without analysis
14 Estonian creative unions signed a petition to the Government in response to the Ministry of Justice's proposed amendments to the existing Building Code and Planning Act. The purpose of this proposal is to make the removal of Soviet monuments from public spaces more efficient and to expand the scope of objects to be removed to include architectural and creative works. The creative unions believe that public space is a matter of public concern and that talks on the issue must be public, democratic and as inclusive as possible.
The fate of the sites in the event of a dispute, according to the proposed draft law, would be reviewed and evaluated by a committee, but its mandate and composition will be clarified only after the legislative revisions are adopted.
The appeal signed by 14 cultural associations states that under the proposed revision to the law, approval from the heritage protection authority is required prior to demolishing a protected object, but much of the post-WW II heritage is unlisted.
The creative unions recognize the need to address a controversial legacy, but the complex past should be addressed through substantive revision rather than simple destruction. One of the functions of culture, the statement points out, is to preserve history.
Creative unions' public appeal:
The creative associations address the Government regarding the Ministry of Justice's proposal to amend the Act on the Implementation of the Building Code and Planning Act in order to facilitate the removal of so-called "Soviet monuments" from public space and to broaden the scope of objects to be removed to include architectural and artistic works.
According to the proposed draft law, the fate of the sites in the event of a dispute would be reviewed and evaluated by a committee; however, the mandate and composition of the committee will not become clear until the law is revised. We are convinced that a single heritage expert on the Commission is insufficient and that this would violate the democratic principle of inclusive decision-making. It is necessary to appoint representatives of the cultural sector, i.e., professional associations, to the Commission, which would include a wide variety of professionals who are experts in their disciplines.
Public space is a matter of public interest, and debates about it should be as public, democratic and inclusive as possible. The planned law amendment requires obtaining permission from the heritage protection authority before removing or demolishing a protected object, but much post-World War II heritage remains unlisted. The complicated subject of the Soviet legacy has not been fully explored by specialists, let alone given adequate opportunity for a broader public debate in the new context caused by the war in Ukraine.
There is a need to deal with a conflicting legacy, but it is not the demolition of the "alien" heritage that will help to deal with the complex past, but rather meaningful work on this legacy and its signs [in public space] in the highly multi-layered history borderland. We believe that one of culture's main tasks is not to destroy, but to preserve the evidence of our past as a tangible and visual history textbook for future generations. We reject the notion that a contentious history layer should be expunged from cultural memory without professional and thorough research.
Estonian Association of Journalists (EAL)
The Estonian Association of Architects
Estonian Ballet Union
Estonian Association of Designers
Estonian Composers Union
Estonian Filmmakers Association
The Estonian Society of Art Historians and Curators Estonian Artists' Union
Estonian Directors' and Dramaturgs' Union (EDDU)
Association of Estonian Scenographers
Estonian Landscape Architects' Union (ELAU)
The Association of Professional Actors of Estonia
Estonian Interior Designers' Union (ESL)
Estonian Dance Art and Dance Education Association
Estonian Theater Union
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Editor: Kristina Kersa