Monuments committee recommends keeping Tehumardi Memorial

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The Tehumardi Memorial in Saaremaa.
The Tehumardi Memorial in Saaremaa. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

The Government Office's Soviet monuments working group recommends that the Tehumardi Memorial and war graves in Saaremaa should be kept and renovated. The committee did not form a position regarding the fate of the Maarjamäe Memorial.

The working group attached to the Government Office mapped a total of 322 monuments of which it finds 244 should be removed or replaced. By today, 56 monuments have already been removed.

The working group deemed 74 monuments to be neutral. Four monuments located at the Defense Forces Cemetery and Maarjamäe require separate analysis and treatment.

Of the 322 total monuments, 213 were a combination of war graves and monuments, two were war graves plus artistic monuments, 96 were memorials, five were commemorative plaques, and six constitute other types of monuments.

163 were owned by municipalities, 60 by the state, 87 by private owners, five had shared ownership, one shared ownership of the local government and the state (Maarjamäe Memorial). The owners of six monuments are still being identified.

Tehumardi Memorial

The working group's report mentions the need to retain and fix up the Tehumardi Memorial for victims of World War II and its communal grave (remains of 330 people) in Saaremaa.

"M. Varik and A. Murdmaa's work to mark the site of a WWII battle sports very high artistic value. The Tehumardi site is an important modernist monument that should be kept along with its entire landscape solution and put in order. The design of the memorial and mass grave forms a holistic architectural and artistic solution. We recommend the owner consider replacing a plaque with text on the memorial.

Tehumardi Memorial. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

Maarjamäe Memorial

However, the committee failed to provide an assessment of the Maarjamäe Memorial in Tallinn, finding that a public debate is in order in which course alternatives for the memorial complex could be proposed.

"Defining the starting point is crucial for potential future debates. Whether the debate is over what to do with 'the best example of Soviet Estonian landscape architecture' or a 'ransacked cemetery'." The fact that the site is a despoiled German military cemetery that also holds the remains of Estonian soldiers should be kept in mind. The members of this committee refrain from shaping a position regarding the complex. That said, the committee finds that monuments to Red Army units that participated in the defense of Tallinn and bear the city's name can be separated from the rest of the complex and need to be removed. The plaques to Red Army units have been removed by this time."

Maarjamäe Memorial. Source: Anna Pavlenko/Raadio 4

Unknown Soldier Monument in Sillamäe

The working group finds that the Sillamäe Monument to an Unknown Soldier should be dismantled.

"It is a Soviet monument, an item of propaganda erected following ideological considerations. There is no historical background to necessitate a monument in that location. The architectural part should be dismantled, while we recommend moving the bas-reliefs to the collection of the General Laidoner Museum of the Estonian War Museum." The committee recommends removing another monument to mark the 40th anniversary of Soviet victory in WWII in the city of Sillamäe.

Soviet monument in Sillamäe. Source: Government Office

Bronze Soldier at the Defense Forces Cemetery

The working group also analyzed the situation of the Bronze Soldier Monument erected in Tõnismäe, Tallinn in 1947 and moved to the Defense Forces Cemetery in 2007.

The committee decided not to shape a position regarding monuments taken to the cemetery as it would require broader social debate as a separate concept.

Stone-Jüri (Kivi-Jüri) in Hiiumaa

The working group commented on several monuments that have already been removed, including the so-called Stone-Jüri Monument to mark battles on the island of Hiiumaa. The monument by Endel Taniloo and Ülo Sirp was unveiled in 1966.

The committee agreed with the decision to remove what it also deemed a Soviet monument.

Removal and relocation of the Soviet "Kivi Jüri" monument in Kärdla underway on Thursday. October 27, 2022. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

Regarding several monuments, the committee recommended removing grave markers but keeping sculptures.

Several grave markers were found to be neutral in tone and worth keeping, while their information plaques should be removed.

Here is the full list (in Estonian).


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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