'Neutral' marker to replace Soviet war grave monuments

The proposed new neutral grave marker.
The proposed new neutral grave marker. Source: Government Office.

A new "neutral" war graves marker was revealed by the Government Office's Soviet monuments workgroup on Wednesday. It will replace Soviet-era commemorations which glorify the USSR's occupation of Estonia.

The marker will be made of two types of grey stone and feature lettering which says "Victims of World War Two".

The first prototype will be completed in the near future, head of the working group Asko Kivinuk said at a press conference on Wednesday. The tablets will be placed on graves where soldiers' remains still lay.

"Why is this necessary? International law states that war graves must be marked," he said, adding the minister of defense and War Graves Commission (WGC) has already decided to move many of them. Their reburial will be carried out by the Estonian War Museum.

"And because of this, we are already replacing some of the grave markers in advance, so that when they come to be reburied it will be easier," Kivinuk said.

Of the 188 remaining monuments slated to be removed or replaced by the workgroup, 133 are related to war graves.

The WGC has decided it will rebury the remains from 54 of them but a decision has not yet been made about the other 79, he said. Soldiers' remains are usually reburied in existing cemeteries.

The development of the grave marker was handled by a five-expert subgroup within the working group, government media adviser Liisa Tagel told ERR.

"The experts were coordinated by the Estonian Academy of Arts and their task was to create a grave marker without symbols to replace memorials with occupation symbols," Tagel said.

Kivinuk said the database of Soviet-era monuments compiled by the group will now be handed over to the Estonian War Museum for preservation.

The workgroup will cease its activities at the end of the month. 

Its members were never made public for fear of reprisals, but Kivinuk said it included experts from the culture, defense and interior ministries and agencies under their control, such as the Heritage Protection Board and the Estonian War Museum.

State Secretary Taimar Peterkop said on Wednesday the members of the group will remain a secret.

Discussion about Soviet-era monuments glorifying the occupation of Estonia returned to the Riigikogu after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. The USSR occupied Estonia twice from the 1940s to 1991.


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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Helen Wright

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