Daily: Remains of nearly 250 people re-interred from Viljandi war grave
Close to 250 sets of human remains were excavated from a World War Two-era mass grave in the village of Viiratsi, just outside Viljandi, and re-interred in a cemetery 30km away, regional daily Sakala reports.
The mass grave at Viiratsi, is the largest of its kind to have been excavated in Estonia so far, even as a nearby monument (see cover image) states merely that "six Soviet soldiers" were buried there, Sakala reports (link in Estonian).
This bucks the trend for most Soviet monuments, which tend to wildly exaggerate the number of people – which sometimes may turn out to be zero – to have been buried at a site, whereas in the Viiratsi case, the remains of close to 250 people were found."
While local military historian Jaak Pihlak notes that the camp operated 1941-1942 in the vicinity of a present-day old people's home, Viljandi mayor, Alar Karu (Isamaa), points out that with over 240 people buried at the site, which was a POW camp whose victims generally died of illnesses and malnutrition, the Viiratsi grave is in fact even bigger than the Raadi grave in Tartu, whose remains were recently relocated amid much greater media coverage.
Monday's re-interring at the Kolga-Jaani cemetery 30km to the northeast and near the Jõgeva County line, was accompanied by a ceremony presided over by local Lutheran Minister Peeter Parts, while other, smaller grave sites have also been found in the region and are being treated similarly.
The original Sakala article (in Estonian) is here.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine from February brought the issue of Soviet-era monuments, installations, military cemeteries etc. in Estonia back into the limelight.
Due to the sensitivity surrounding sites which contain human remains, the matter is one for the state, via the war graves commission, in turn under the Ministry of Defense's auspices.
While the Viiratsi site as noted had a Soviet-era monument located nearby, the remains themselves date from the Nazi German occupation of Estonia, which lasted from summer 1941 to autumn 1944.
The excavation work started in September.
Sakala is part of the Postimees group of newspapers.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte