Minister: Overly political choices on Soviet cultural legacy best avoided

Minister of Culture Piret Hartmann (SDE).
Minister of Culture Piret Hartmann (SDE). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE) has responded to a statement from cultural associations appealing a law change which will allow Soviet-era insignia, displays and decorations, saying that a compromise has been met on the matter, and expert opinion is welcome in such cases.

Hartman said: "The government's position is that Soviet monuments which incite hatred must be removed from the public space, and this is my position as well," adding that she has during the discussion about monuments constantly stressed the importance of giving experts more say in such matters, to avoid the adoption of overly politically charged decisions." 

The distinction between those Soviet-era edifices, ranging from large monuments to small details such as a red star atop a building, which do apparently incite aggression or idealize warfare or the Soviet occupation of Estonia, and those which do not and which have some aesthetic value.

"We need to distinguish monuments that incite or romanticize war from symbols or buildings that experts believe are of significant historical or cultural value," Hartman said, ERR's Kultuur portal reports.

"I fully agree with the representatives of creative associations that substantive and professional analysis is necessary in regard to objects of significant cultural value. The bill approved by the government stipulates that a government committee will be formed to evaluate objects which are causing controversy or for which a third opinion is also requested," Hartman went on, referring to the government draft legislation approved Thursday which will deal with the issue.

"The committee's task is to take into account various aspects and formulate an additional opinion. It must certainly include a representative of the heritage protection board, though it is possible to appoint other experts as members too," she stressed, adding that that the assessment given by the committee must be as multi-faceted as possible. 

"The position of the committee is not binding on the heritage protection board, but it is an additional input," she added.

Her ministry stands for Estonian cultural heritage, she added, even as this led to needing to negotiate with the justice ministry, which sponsored the new bill. "Finding a compromise with the Minister of Justice took time. I am glad that we reached a solution that incorporates the heritage protection board's expertise more clearly than ever before through the entire process, and gives the board clearer decision-making rights," she continued.

Fourteen creative bodies representing architecture, the arts and other related cultural spheres issued a public appeal Wednesday, criticizing the draft bill, which will amend the Building Code and Planning Act, and stating that cultural objects belong to the people as a whole and thus removing them, even if they are linked to the Soviet era, requires a broader-based consensus.

The justice minister, Lea Danilson-Järg, responded by saying that creative groups and experts are not competent to deal with issues of national security.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: ERR Kultuur

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