Government members will be part of new Soviet symbols removal committee

The five-corner Soviet star is still visible on some buildings in Estonia.
The five-corner Soviet star is still visible on some buildings in Estonia. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Members of the government will be part of a new committee that will decide on the fate of Soviet symbols still on public display across Estonia.

New legislation was submitted to the Riiigikogu on Monday which, upon adoption, will require symbols, such as the hammer and sickle and five-pointed star, to be removed within three months.

Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Madle Lippus (SDE) told Monday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" there are no more monuments glorifying the Soviet regime left in the city.

However, communist symbols on buildings are another matter as they have not yet been mapped.

Lippus said more than three months is needed to map and remove them all.

An alternative approach could be to decide how to approach Stalinist-era architecture more generally, she said.

The center of Sillamäe is an example of typical Stalinist architecture. Source: Visit Estonia/ Tauri Taal.

"We have Stalinist architecture all over Estonia. Certainly, the way in which we conceive of this approach should be based on a common understanding, because we are dealing with our architectural heritage," Lippus told AK.

Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa) said a newly created government committee will make assessments in situations where disputes arise. It will be formed when the corresponding legislation is passed by the Riigikogu.

The committee will include members from the Heritage Protection Board and the government, amongst others.

"I think there could also be an expert on security, people from the arts. But why not historians, the Institute of Memory, representatives of the repressed?" the minister told AK.

Art researcher Krista Kodres also said the three-month time frame is too short. Removing these symbols requires a meaningful discussion, she argued, and a lot depends on the commission's composition.

The five-cornered Soviet star. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"It is quite obvious that if there is only one expert voice it will very easily be outnumbered when a debate arises, and debates will undoubtedly arise," Kodres said.

Danilson-Järg said the final decision cannot be left to artists or those in heritage protection alone.

"It is also a security threat, and security is still the responsibility of the government of the republic. So clearly the government must also be able to influence these decisions," the minister said.

This summer a committee was formed at the Government Office to map communist monuments still on public display in Estonia. Dozens have been removed over the past few months, such as Narva's T-34 tank.

Danilson-Järg said the work of the new commission will not overlap with the old one, whose work is coming to an end.

The Narva T-34 in its former location, shortly before being removed. An identical model is now to be installed in Ivangorod. Source: Tatjana Gassova/ERR

The minister has previously said symbols that do not glorify the regime could stay put.

There has been pushback on the new bill from 14 creative unions which proposed amendments to the new legislation and called for a discussion about public space. The Ministry of Culture has also criticized the scale of the act.

After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in Feburary, politicians began discussing what should be done with the remaining Soviet-era statues, many of which glorify the regime that occupied Estonia for 50 years.

Similar discussions were held and decisions taken in Latvia, Lithuania and Finland.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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